8 Ball In The Wind

Saturday, April 13, 2013

What Kind Of Builder Is "Best"?

I was going through some stuff here in the house, when I unlatched and opened up a large plastic storage container to check out the contents.  It was full of motorcycle magazines.  Most about six or more years old.  Back before the economy too a big shit, and it seemed like everyone and their brother was 'building' bikes.

I pulled one of the magazines out to read at random. Then checked out a featured review on one of the bikes inside.  I won't mention the builders, other than to say their TV show seemed to always feature a lot of dispute between father and sons as they pieced together their builds each week.  The article was actually a review of one of their "production" bikes.  It was while I was reading the article that I began to think about the types of builders around.  There aren't as many by far as before the bottom fell out, and it seemed like almost anybody could build a line of "custom" bikes.  But, there are still a few out there.

As I read the review on the bike, I realized just how little of it was actually "built" in house.  They simply bought a frame from one company.  Modified it with off the shelf components from another company.  The power train, as well as most of the other components, were also bought from other suppliers and bolted into place.  Mainly the 80 spoke wheels, and a few minor cosmetic items where the only things "built" by these "builders".  To me, that doesnt count as being a "bike builder".  That's more of a high dollar bike "assembler".

Don't get me wrong, there is skill involved even in "assembling" a bike properly.  But it just doesn't seem, to me anyway, to be in the same class as someone who starts with virtually nothing but an idea and a limited budget and finishes with a sweet bike.

Building a frame on a jig from scratch.  Or modifying an existing frame with their own fabrication skills.  Taking an existing, and probably well used, motor and giving it a new lease on life as a well thought out and executed powerhouse.  Having to plan ahead and fabricate or modify as much as possible.  Simply because your wallet wasn't deep enough at the outset to buy new bolt-on high dollar components.  Or, your own sense of pride, and integrity (Yes, "bikers" have integrity.  But something tells me you already know that.) just won't let you just bolt together the latest chrome widget or billet doohickie and call it good to go.

To me, it is the builder who can look at let's say, an 80 inch Evo motor, and know they can get it to perform better than the factory did.  They just need to "lighten" things up in the cam followers.  Or use a different cam grind.  Or turn it into a stroker.  Or any number of things the "assembler" would have had someone else do for them before being shipped the motor to bolt into their frame.  Those are the kind of 'bike builders' I think are truly worthy of the name.

The guys building something in their own garage.  Out of a pile of loose parts.  Repairing cases, and massaging the pieces together in a way that fits their own personal vision of how a bike should look.  Not just like five hundred others with a slightly different paint scheme on the tins.  People (not just guys) who build their bikes from the crank on up if necessary.  Not because they "have" to, but because they can, and want to.  Because they have grown dissatisfied with how the bike handles, or looks.  Or just want to change things up once in a while.  

But they did it themselves.  Those are the "bike builders" I truly admire.  Those are the ones who come up with the truly original ideas that end up being copied by other riders.  Or who have other folks bring their rides to "build" for them.  To me, those are the best type of bike builder.

I have a feeling, if you really sit back and think about it, you probably know someone like that.  Or maybe you are that person.  

I certainly know I'm not, but I do know a few who are.  It has taken me about 4 years to get my 91 Evo to where it is, and probably another 4 before I can say I am "finished" with it.  Even then, I have had help from friends and Brothers several times during teardown and assembly.  Personally, I consider myself one of the "assemblers".  But, with a VERY limited budget, and no pie in the sky dreams for a show bike.  Just something I can ride the Hell out of, and if it craps out, I can generally repair it.

Catch ya on the road sometime...

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