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Decade of Decadence (part 3 of 8)


  • Decade of Decadence (part 3 of 8)

    Customarily Minded
    November 30, 2008

    copyright owned by author

    PART 3 of 8: Waking Up After the Dream

    October 1999 --- Bike #3 arrives home, replacing Bike #2 which was traded straight up title for title for the new acquisition. Or traded DOWN according to the dealership, it was a 1995 1500 Vulcan that I had for a year and swapped out for a 1995 VT600 Shadow VLX Deluxe. She came home fairly equipped in the way of goodies: "Live to Ride/Ride to Live" gold embossed air cleaner, mirrors, and master cylinder cover along with baffle-ectomized OEM pipes that offered a visceral sound that I have yet to outgrow, despite a long lusting for alternate styled boom tubes. The son of the dealership owner even claims the original owner of the bike had some internal work done, but I was never able to confirm that one. Didn't matter, the thing sounded bad and I had every intent of matching that bad azz sound with some bad azz style.

    As I mentioned in Part 2, a friend had let me ride his ironhead Sportster chopper a few months before all of this transpired and I had the time of my life riding it, thus was born my dream: repeating such a conversion on a modern metric bike. Mind you, this wasn't something that was easily or readily achieved in 1999, about the only rolling metric chop jobs out there were throwbacks from the 1970s. You just didn't see the modern bikes, metric or domestic, sporting crazy rake and lengthy forks. I attribute that to the fact that Discovery Channel had yet to recognize the likes of Jesse James or the Teutels at the time. Rather there were only two kinds of bikes at the time: Harleys and more affordable alternatives from Japan. Choppers were the things cops patrol from the air with.

    In other words, choppers just weren't vogue. Since they weren't vogue, there wasn't a wide array of techs out there willing to do a conversion. The few that did only worked on domestic iron. Apparently the laws of physics ceased to exist with foreign bikes. But that wasn't going to stop me. I had a vision, I knew what I wanted, and I was going to make it happen one way or another, once I'm out from under the Kawa-lemon-saki.

    Alias' 73 Iron Head Sporty chop, my first chopper ride

    So I begin to hit the local metric dealers asking the same questions. "No way, nobody makes parts for these bikes to do such a thing" was the answer given to me from each and every encountered automatron. "Even if they did, we can't take on the liabilitry of such a conversion" was the other. But that wasn't going to stop me. I had a vision, I knew what I wanted, and I was going to make it happen one way or another, and I was looking to get out from under the Kawa-lemon-saki.

    Much to my surprise, I came across a particular aftermarket Harley accessory shop where I was offered a completely different answer. I wandered in and looked around. I spotted a nice display of handlebars, and began to wonder why something like that could never work on my bike. So I asked the clerk (who happened to be the owner) about the feasibility of adapting a Harley spec ape hanger bar to my Honda. I was all set to recieve the textbook answer I got from all the other local shops: "Kid, Harley parts don't fit no Hondas." Instead the guy simply said "As long as your bike takes a 1" diameter bar, there's no reason why it wouldn't work."

    Wow! Much to my surprise, the laws of physics really did apply to foreign bikes! The owner followed through with "Feel free to carry a set out to your bike and see how it might look." That was promptly followed by a slew of other questions. Sadly they weren't a licensed repair shop and as such didn't do the kind of work I was looking for, but they did offer me a look through a metric catalog they had.

    Now imagine that: a metric catalog at an aftermarket Harley parts shop that was across the street from the Honda dealer that flat out told me how nobody makes parts for these bikes! Oddly enough that trend still carries itself out today: ask a parts counter droid for a basic OEM part for your bike and you'll be lucky if they can locate it for you, let alone get one ordered and into your hands before eight weeks rolls by. Suffice to say, with an available means I was now out from under the Kawa-lemon-saki and had my new bad azz bike to donate to such an undertaking.

    1995 VT600 Shadow VLX Deluxe, soon to be chopped...

    So back to this catalog. They had a +6 tree for the VLX listed for $269. It wasnt quite what I had in mind, but after hunting around I was unable to find anything else so I returned with some cash to deposit. Sadly, after a few weeks the part never came in, and after an inquiry it was discovered that the manufacturer was experiencing problems with their production facility and getting defective trees. So I waited it out, the new catalog came in with a $299 price on the same part. Still not bad, so I ordered one. As fate would have it, the production problems reared their ugly head once more and the part was put on back order indefinitely.

    Fate and clean living have a funny way of working out though. Shortly after this major disappointment, I came across an advertisement for a little company out of Knoxville TN that called themselves "Seeger Cycle Accessories" and their ad prominently displayed a radically raked out Intruder with upswept pipes and forward controls. Now that's what I was talking about! The ad had a toll free number and this wierd thing below with semi-colons and slashes...apparently some form of computerized informational search that I wasn't hip nor privy to at the time.

    So I call the number. A guy named Kurt (Seeger, owner and proprietor) answers the phone. Crossing my fingers I inquire about the goods he carries and what bikes he can get such cool stuff for. He asks what I have rather than ramble off the extensive list so I answer with "a VT600 Shadow VLX" and he says "Yeah, we can get all sorts of stuff for that bike." The divot in my ceiling still exists today!

    Kurt sent me some brochures and catalog xeroxes of some fancy components he imports from a company out of Germany. I had already done some number crunching the last time around, prior to my disappointing raked tree fiasco. And for less than twice what I was about to shell out, I could get five times what that would have yielded! One credit card transaction later and I was going to be the proud owner of a set of wide glide triple trees, 8" over fork tubes, longer speedo and brake lines, and adapters for the fender, caliper, and headlight.

    About a month passes and the kit arrives from Germany at Kurt's shop (there's a huge export tarrif and time delay that exists even today with German goods) and I get "the call". Kurt offers a bit of concern, this being the first kit he's ever sold for the VLX. He noticed that the triple tree had a 3½" riser spacing and that the VLXes at the Knoxville Honda dealers had 4½" spacing. It turns out that the European bikes had the different spacing as opposed to our yankee models, and just in case the risers were different overseas he throws in a set of aftermarket chromed risers that he knew would fit. Kurt's a cool cat, going that extra step to ensure that the kits he sells would live up to the "everything you need" that he advertises them as.

    A week later the package arrives at my door, Christmas came a month early at the Shack that year. I ripped it open like the typical five year old on Christmas morning, all wide eyed and bushy tailed. There it was, the dream: materializing! I took all the goods out to the garage and eyeballed them against the rolling stock. Man, if I only knew how to turn a wrench...but that wasn't about to stop me. After all, I had the vision, I knew what I wanted, I had the goods in my hands, and I was going to make it happen one way or another.

    Ah, but wait, there was one thing missing: I still wanted some of those crazy apehanger handlebars. Back to the aftermarket HD parts shop across the street from the Honda dealer. You know, the Honda dealer that told me I didn't have a snowball's chance in hell for making a VLX chopper. Little did they realize that hell was about to freeze over, and they were going to have front row seats. Said aftermarket HD shop orders a 10" medium apehanger bar for me, to spec no less. Okay so it happened to be the 3½" Harley spec riser spacing, but it was still to spec. The point is that I could have ordered it for Honda riser spacing if need be.

    Meanwhile, I had been getting rather chummy with the Honda dealer's lead tech (Mike Klein) across the street from the HD accessory shop. After all, he had been working on two of my bikes in the past, one of which was traded in for the next one he'd be working on. About this time I notice a 1500 Vulcan with the motor completely in pieces and he coins the phrase "That's my 1500 Vulcan rebuild of the week, you were wise to get rid of yours." Man, this deal just kept getting better. I bring in the parts and instruction sheet, he gives it a good look over, and finally agrees to take on the job.

    So I load the bike up into my truck, toss all the parts in, and haul it all down to the dealership. Mike helps me unload it, rolls it onto a lift, and proceeds to lay all the parts out on the floor nearby. Just in time for some of the sales staff to waltz by. You know, the same ones that told me "Kid, nobody makes chopper stuff for these bikes. If they did, we'd have done one by now." "Son, are you on DRUGS?!?" and something about snowballs survivng in hell.

    They were about to get one done, I was suddenly viewed as clean and sober by the sales staff, and hell was fixing to freeze over. After all, I had the vision, I knew what I wanted, I had the goods in their shop, their lead tech was about to throw it all together, and this was definitely about to happen one way or another. Which was quickly interupted by "Wait a minute..." It seems Mike noticed that there wasn't a longer clutch cable or throttle cables included, and questioned if the brake line was going to be long enough. What can I say, this was my beginner chopper...I couldn't have possibly thought of everything.

    Mike informs me he can install those last and get things started, that the big bear would be lengthening the electrical lines for the handlebars. He even theorized that the stock throttle cables could be rerouted, and simply had me acquire the brake and clutch lines. I carried the brake line from the kit back across the street to the aftermarket HD parts shop, and ordered one that was 10" longer to accomodate the taller bar since that one was made for a stock bar. Kurt Seeger was able to hook me up with a longer clutch line.

    Red Carpet Kawi/Honda lead tech Mike taking a break from my chopper conversion

    A few weeks pass, and soon Mike Klein rolls out the dealership's first modern chopper. I returned drug free to collect my prize, and snowballs were readily abundant in hell. See, I had this vision, I knew what I wanted, I was sitting on the bike, and I smiled knowing that I made it happen one way or another. Oh yeah, that brake line hadn't come in yet...I took that maiden voyage with just the rear brake. So the state of mind might have been questionable at the time.

    Maiden ride, sans brake line

    Other parts found their way onto the bike over time, starting with a rear lowering kit, a set of Jardine forward controls and matching rear pegs, a headlight visor, chrome handgrips, an aftermarket tail light, Maltese Cross mirrors, a sissy bar, and some restrained pinstripe detailing. Not to mention more smiles per mile. Thus was named bike #3: "the "Dream"...and the irony of naming it after Honda's first North American production motorcycle is not lost on me either.

    Yours truly, Kurt Seeger of Seeger Cycle Accessories, and the Dream

    (to be continued...)

    PM or E-mail Shadow Shack through his profile and let him know if you think he smokes more crack than rear tires.

    Customarily Minded Wicked Wonder of the Week

    Euro-styled VLX

    This stunning ride comes straight out of the catalog Seeger imports some of his wares from. This tricked out VLX sports fatter rubber front and rear, a 120 series hoop leading the way and a 200 series fatty dropping power to the ground. Replacement fenders cover both new tires, surrounded by chrome side covers, a solo seat, and a fatter tank with twin caps. A drag bar controls +5 raked wide glide trees, forward controls work the rest of the ride. And on the business end, a faux S&S air cleaner helps feed the beast and a two into one upswept slash cut muffler lets it exhale efficiently.
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