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Decade of Decadence (part 5 of 8)


  • Decade of Decadence (part 5 of 8)

    Customarily Minded
    December 17, 2008

    copyright owned by author

    PART 5 of 8 - Maximizing the Minimal: VLX-Max

    September 2000 --- Nearly a year has passed since I brought home a clunker and I had visions galore as to how it should look once running. Visions I had already applied, some yet to be realized, but I was getting antsy to say the least. Yet the beast was a long ways from road readiness.

    Enter the coworker looking for a bike. After a series of unsuccessful purchase attempts between private sellers and dealerships alike, he set his goals a little lower: a cheap fixer upper. Like the one I had. I came across a fair bike on the way home from work one day, a red 92 VLX with a for sale sign sitting in somebody's front yard. So I stopped to browse and talk to the seller.

    At work the next day I tell the coworker about this decent bike for sale, one that he could get for around $2000. Nope, he's dead set on a beater project. I continue to see the bike for sale each day on the way home from work, and an idea forms. I call up the coworker and bounce it off him:

    (me) Hey, man...I got an idea. That bike I saw for sale, it's still available.

    (him) Yeah, but I don't have that kind of cash anymore. I'm looking for a fixer upper now.

    (me) Right, but here's what I have in mind. I buy the $2K bike, swap all the custom goods from the beater onto it and replace them with the stock parts from the new bike, and you buy my fixer upper.

    (him) Hey, I like that...

    Bike #5 is soon in my garage, bringing the grand total to four VLXes. I get to work immediately, swapping out the 4" over forks onto the triple trees, adding the drag bar and 750 Magna risers, and installing the fabricated hardtail strut in place of the rear shock. A side mount tag holder goes onto the swingarm. The Cobra slash cut exhaust system replaces the stock pipes that came on the bike. So eager am I to try this out, I forget to take a "before picture" of the bike.

    about as close to a "before pic" as I have...

    ...which looks hauntingly familiar

    The stock forks go onto the clunker along with the stock handlebar, and the ameteur cut OEM shock that came with it is replaced. The other bike's stock pipes go onto the motor and frame, and the rest of the bike gets reassembled. I load it into my truck and call my coworker buddy to arrange for delivery, and soon I have the cash that I originally paid for the bike nearly a year ago.

    Back to three VLXes again, but that was the plan. I had my stock bike, I had my chopper, and I had this new to me dragger. And hoo-boy, was it ever a hoot! It was the lightest, it was the fastest, and it was simply the meanest of the trio. Suffice it to say, it quickly became my primary ride. For a while anyways, soon the bike began to sputter and backfire frequently, inidicative of something awry with the carburetors.

    But that's the beauty of multiple bike ownership, it was down but the others were ready and waiting. Besides, I had a long hankering to do something with a VLX intake and exhaust for some time, now I had a prime candidate. While those Cobra pipes had a gnarly sound, it wasn't the right sound. I had been researching aftermarket pipes for some time now, wanting to try something new on the chopper. So far the best sound came from a set of Vance & Hines Cruzers I had sampled at the dealership on another VLX. I liked the slash cut look, I loved the sound...but it was all wrong for my chopper. Would have worked well on the stock bike, but then I thought about it for the dragger. Nope, the sound is usually described as "deep, rich, and mellow" by others, and mellow is anything but what I was after with the dragger.

    Then I finally sampled another set of aftermarket exhausts on another VLX at the dealership, one that I had seen advertised for some time but yet to see in real life: the DG Performance HardKrome Double D Kickers. Try to say all of that in one breath. These pipes really looked good, fat drag pipes in style but performance pipes by design. I got the owner to fire it up, and man that thing just sounded M-E-A-N! I mean, it was mean in a nasty primal sense. A crack of the throttle and it went from mean to aggressively vicious. Color me sold, I went to the parts counter and ordered a set.

    Next up was the project for the other end, the intake. If I was going to need a carb rebuild/cleaning, I might as well have it rejetted for a new intake kit. Alas, even with the recently connected internet I had at the time, intake kits were few and far between. And to add insult to injury, I really wanted a hypercharger...which was light years beyond what little that was available. But fate has a funny way of lining things up for those that live a clean life. Being sober for two years now, I figure I must have been clean enough.

    I meet a guy at a local plater that does custom and one off aluminum fabrication. He tells me I can adapt a hypercharger to the bike via an adapter plate that he might be able to create for me, something he has done numerous times for other bikes. He looks at my bike, we begin to disassemble some of the air cleaner, he cocks the eyebrows a few times and finally says "If I can borrow this air cleaner to take measurements from I should be able to belt something out for you." Well, I couldn't ride it home as such, but since the bike I was doing it for was similar in design I told him I'd bring him the actual pieces from the actual bike.

    Soon I am in possession of a polished aluminum plate to replace the air filter/chrome cover and a metal connector tube to affix a standard Kuryakyn hypercharger. I order the hypercharger (yet another purchase from the aftermarket HD shop across the street frommy local Honda dealer) and I get it all bolted up. Okay so it still needs rejetting, but I had to fire it up. Once fired, I had to ride it. Yeah, it still backfired, but man that was a rush. Somewhere along the way a headlight visor and aftermarket grips make their way up front.

    Once the carbs were cleaned and rejetted, this second face lift on the bike was too fun. The diminuative VLX suddenly had the bark and bite of my former 1500 BUBF Vulcan, albeit lacking the top speed of the former bike, but it had the get up and go of that bigger bike. I had to train myself to ride with a light throttle hand. Alas, a year after acquiring the bike I was really happy with the direction it had taken. The finishing touch on the goes-fast end was a smaller front sprocket for snappier acceleration. The bike needed a name now, and having recently sampled a V-Max I took a play on that name by christening this mid-sized monster with the name "VLX-Max".

    But it was hardly finished. Fast forward to late 2003, I'd logged about 10,000 miles and three years on a rigid ride. My 35 year old spine wasn't exactly in agreement with the ride anymore, being born with mild scoliosis and suffering a back injury from an auto accident in late 1992 (about the time this bike was born). But I loved the low life, I was hooked on that much of the experience. A few key pecks on the internet via Delphi's VLX Rider Forum and I run into a member that does shock modifications along with lowering kit installs. He claims the total drop will be three inches, just an inch shy of my four inch rigid drop albeit with suspension.

    I pulled the dust covered OEM shock off the shelf, wiped it down and boxed it up. Off it went along with a lowering kit I ordered and soon I had a working shock that would permit a near-hardtail squatty stance. But that wouldn't be the only modification performed. Nay, I was reasearching raked trees at the time. Crunching the numbers I found that a set of +5 trees would work out fine for safe and sane trail dimensions, so I ordered a set. I won't get into the resulting ruckus of making them fit and work, this editorial is long enough so I won't include my rantings against a certain Italian aftermarket outfit, so we'll just leave it at the fact that sometimes things aren't exactly made to spec.

    Eventually the stuff was made to fit, after a lengthy run of several weeks' worth of trial and error. I even sent out the Magna risers to get polished, in order to match the billet triple tree. A set of flush mount fork caps from Sons of Thunder rounded out the clean and shiny look. My old side mount tag holder is replaced with a light and tag holdfer. The final touches to face lift #3 were color matching the fork lowers and grill.

    before: stock trees and solid strut --- tilted

    after: modified shock and raked trees --- more leveled

    And the ride? Ahhh, the ol' spine loved it. The shock is stiff in comparison to an OEM piece, but it worked, absorbing the bumps and bruises the roads threw at me without transferring that energy into my lumbar vertebrae. A set of billet oval mirrors is added, leaving the front wheel, levers, and switchboxes as the sole surviving OEM front end pieces.

    The new front end performed well too, very responsive like a sportbike. Alas, the extra wheelbase served to remind me that it wasn't a sportbike, but switchbacks became fun again. The bike was mean, it was clean, but I eventually wanted even a little more lean. The clunker was back in my possession again, so facelift number four went into action via the beater bike.

    I transferred the clunker's bobbed rear fender, I liked it but I was leaning toward something even shorter. The pillion would have to go. Likewise a similar treatment would have to be applied up front, so I pulled the clunker's front fender off and cut it down, tracing the leading edge onto the remainder and shaping it. I then cut the clunker's seat in half, removing the pillion and bolting only the driver seat to the bike. I rode around like that for a few weeks, primered fenders and cut seat. It looked ratty, but the desired shape was there.

    However, that rear was just sticking too far back for the look I was after, even without the pillion. I wanted to clip it some more. Alas, that would entail removing a chunk of the frame, all the way up to the driver seat mounts. One fresh disc on the cut off wheel later and I proceeded to perform a trial run on the clunker frame. Everything worked out, so I proceeded to repeat this ordeal on Max.

    Max's frame was trimmed down, followed by subsequent clipping of both fenders. The cut clunker seat went on, and I was loving the new look. It still needs some refinement, and even after all the rough edges are smoothed out thus allowing future plans for a new coat of paint, I'm pretty sure that I'll be far from finished at that point.

    Keep that tin in the wind.

    (to be continued...)

    PM or E-mail Shadow Shack through his profile to maximize your thoughts on minimal face lifts.

    Customarily Minded Wicked Wonder of the Week

    This week's work of wonder is a European custom job, starting with the Asian version of my unbiased favorite platform: a Honda VT600 Steed (rebadged as the Shadow VLX for us yanks). The bike recieved a triangulated rigid rear welded to the stock frame along with some generous raking up front. A broomstick handlebar leads the way and is assisted by forward controls on the bottom end. An outboard intake and a trick two-into-one sportbike muffler system rounds out the respiration end, and custom rims were applied sporting a trip to the dark side out back in the form of a car tire ( disclaimer: do not try this mod). It appears that this is offered as a complete kit from some Euro-customizer, judging by the equivilent job done on the red bike in the background.

    Then again, it could just be another person like myself that shares an equal passion with the same bike.
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