Further Motorcycle Column IX
For motorcyclists there is not much more satisfying than riding, but designing, creating and building your own bike can be a joy beyond simply buying one and taking a spin. This doesn’t mean you need to start from scratch, or be like Roland Sands and make radical changes in design and structure.
Most every rider I know has made some modification to his bike to make it his own. That might include adding chrome and carbon fiber, or changing a windscreen or handgrips. Others have a more involved recurring dream.
My pal Neil recently bought a tired, old Suzuki GSX-R1100. He stripped it down to parts, had everything refinished, found a Hayabusa front end for it, added new forged magnesium wheels, and more.
He is thrilled to see this project start to come together, and not only will he save a bundle by sourcing parts and putting it together himself, he will have a sense of accomplishment and ownership that can’t be attained any other way. This type of project, however, may require skills and experience beyond the average weekend warrior, myself included.
As for me, I have always had an itch to make a bagger out of an old Honda Gold Wing Interstate. After years of returning to this idea, even in the face of getting to ride so many new bikes for Ultimate MotorCycling, I finally put it into play. I knew I didn’t have Neil’s skills, so my expectations had to be reasonable.
I first checked online to assure myself that I could handle the job. For old Gold Wings, as with so many popular models, there are countless resources available. Next, I sourced a bike in Fresno, about a four-hour drive away. I hitched up the trailer and collected a 1981 GL1100i with 31,000 original miles for $1500.
In SoCal, believe it or not, it was a rainy month in January of 2013. It poured all the way up to Fresno and back, as well as through the next couple of weeks of the project. There was something cathartic about working in the cozy garage while the rain came down steadily.
My vision was to remove about 200 pounds of excess that separated this colossus from my dream ride. Because I was able to find step-by-step directions, many of the most onerous tasks were simplified. I didn’t have to guess how to remove the heavy front fairing, and the Internet made me a pseudo-expert in no time.
Off came the fairing, most of the crash bars, steer-horn handlebars, and more. Then, I was off to the online auction websites for replacement parts. The only thing I needed help with was a complete front and rear brake rebuild, including new master cylinder and steel-braided brake lines. Ryan, at Jett Tuning in Camarillo did that deed—you don’t want to get brakes wrong — and the rest I wrenched myself.
Now with flat GP bars, heated grips, a power port, plus a modified rear bracket to support the bags and get rid of the top case, I’ve finished the job and it now sits in the garage, ready to roll at any time.
I ride it a couple of times a month for the joy of it and to keep the notorious carburetor jets free flowing. Friends, who normally see me on new test bikes, express their surprise that I still have the ancient Gold Wing and ask why I haven’t sold it.
They just don’t get it. It’s fairly slow, handles poorly by modern standards, and looks marginal, but it rides like a two- wheeled version of a 1981 Mercedes S500, is reliable, and is my unique creation. I don’t know why I love it, but I do.
Build something for yourself. You’ll never regret it.
Column from Ultimate MotorCycling magazine.