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When Is It Time To Customize My Motorcycle? (Part Two)

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  • When Is It Time To Customize My Motorcycle? (Part Two)

    reprinted from BB.com , May 2003
    copyright owned by author


    So you've had your sport bike (or standard) for some time now and after reading my last submission or watching all the custom cruisers go by you get a hankering to do something special to your machine. Trouble is, aside from a few performance mods there really isn't a whole lot out there when it comes to customizing a sportbike or standard. But that doesn't neccesarily mean you can't do it to yours. I've seen quite a few decked out sportbikes that looked like they should be in showrooms instead of race tracks, yet perform remarkably well in both arenas. So what can you do to yours to make it special? Anything you want. Without wasting any more time idling, slip your DOT approved head protection on and let's jump right into the possibilities.

    Performance

    First there's the obvious; Exhaust, jet kit, air filter kit, and for some bikes steering dampners and ignition advancers. Sprocket exchanges are another cheap way to get a little extra boost at take off or a little more on the other end, just be careful not to raise or lower the final ratio too far. Suspension tweaks are a good idea if you're into the aggressive canyon carving, progressive wound front coil springs and aftermarket replacement shocks will help keep that radical ride from getting away from you. And just like a cruiser, you can lower your bike as well.

    One thing that you might also consider, if you have one of those juicy phat rear tires, is dropping down to a tire more narrow in profile if you want a more crispy handler. Those fat rear tires (anything over 170 series) can require a little more force when going into a lean. Take it from a cruiser enthusiast, ever seen anyone riding one of those custom rigid chops with an Avon 250 tyre sitting at a stop with both feet still on the pegs? On the other hand, the wider contact patch of the fatter tire is preferable for braking and traction. It's all give and take in the modification world.

    And last but not least, a throwback to the glorious chopper and bobber days: weight reduction. Carbon fiber replacement parts can shave a bit of bulk of your sleek ride, and if you live in states without any safety inspections you can ditch some other OEM goods to shed a few more pounds. Even for states with such inspections, shelf that cumbersome centerstand and instantly shave five pounds off that bike. It's up to you how far you can go here, but the thing to keep in mind is if you need it daily leave it be. And if the owner needs to drop some poundage that will help in the long run for both parties.

    Polishing

    That drab stock frame and/or swingarm will look great once you polish it to a shine. Ditto on the OEM wheels. You can also polish up any exposed engine cases or covers, fork lowers, triple trees, footpegs and/or mounts, or any other piece you want to stand out a little more. And if you really want to shell out some coin get them powder coated to match the fairing or even dip them in the chrome bath instead.

    Bolt On Goods

    If it looks good on a cruiser chances are it'll look just as well on your bike too. Oftentimes the manufcturers use similar components across their line up such as master cylinders, calipers, lever mounts, and what have you. So that means you can snatch up a sweet custom chrome master cylinder cap, caliper cover, levers, and bar mounted mirrors to give the bike a nice bright look. Also look for items like triple tree nut and steering stem covers and other bolt/fastener covers. Of course there is a selection of model specific bolt on goods as well, ranging from windshields/flyscreens, frame sliders (the sport bike version of engine guards in a much less conspicuous shape and size), seats, and luggage systems are just a few.

    If you recall the section in my last submission on bobbing, here's a spin for sportbikes. One popular mod on sportbikes is the rear fender eliminator kits. If you can't find one for your bike you can still do something on your own, the self fabricated mods are quite rewarding too. Take a hacksaw to that unsightly mudflap, or better yet simply unbolt it and stick it on a shelf for resale purposes. License plate relocation is often needed but easily accoplished with a little yankee ingenuity. If you have a single muffler look into the swingarm or side mount license plate kits.

    Electrical

    Again there aren't many limitations here. Ditch those big bulky OEM directionals for some flush mount tear drops or chrome bullets. Universal dual headlamp kits and/or a spotlight rack on the front of a standard makes a nice impression (and adds some more visibility too). Underbody neon light strips is another idea that springs to mind if you're into that sort of thing. Or yank that fender top mounted lamp, fill the gap and repaint, and slip a Maltese Cross or Cats Eye light under the fender tip for a new look. Check out the swingarm mounted marker lights that fit over the axle adjustment end that are made for Dynas and Sportsters, measure the dimensions of your swingarm and see if one of them will work. LED options are an endless possibility for any machine these days.

    Paint and Graphics

    Once again a fresh coat of paint can do wonders to that "everyday/looks like everyone else's bike" factory paint job. If you went so far as to do any chrome plating as mentioned earlier, darker colors really make that chrome stand out, especially at night. Also take a gander at the various appliques available, there are companies that make nylon flame licks that can be stretched to fit any shape or size tank or fender, and why limit it there, hit the fairing while you're at it. Repeat the process on your full face helmet and you got a winning pair.

    Self Fabricated/Make it Fit Mods

    These can be quite rewarding tricks of the trade. If the price is too high or the availability is too low, then it's time to turn to self creativity. One option is finding parts in salvage yards or custom shops and making them fit. You'd be surprised how many difeferent OEM front fenders can be affixed to your bike's forks with minimal effort. With a little more work you can slip a retro valanced fender on the back too, or perhaps you want something shorter and sportier. Take a grinder or palm sander (depending on what the material is) and start bobbing the OEM fenders for a new shape and style. Once again the possibilities are endless, I once saw an old UJM Yamaha that was a spitting image of a Road King, aside from the obvious inline four powerplant...

    Frame Modifications

    While they're few and far between, there are sportbike choppers out there tearing up the pavement. But perhaps you're more into quarter miling, then a little extra rake and an extended swingarm will help the stability out for your straight lining high speed rides. Just don't go jumping blindly into this end, seek out some advice and help from the specialists that know what they're doing.

    Once again time and cashflow are the only serious limitations. That's it for now, until I figure out how to make a Dual Sport into a Tri-sport. I hope to see you in the next bike show. Keep it in the wind.

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