Custom Bikes: Why You’re Probably Not Cool Enough (Part 1)

Just kidding, you’re totally cool, especially if you’re one of my many customers who rides custom bikes…

This is really intended as a buyers guide to help you navigate the world of no-longer-stock motorcycles to find one that actually suits you.  Which is really the whole point of a custom anyway, isn’t it?

Before I get any deeper in to this subject, I need to get some things off my chest:

  1. If you have never ridden a motorcycle before, DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE BUY SOMETHING CUSTOM/VINTAGE/BLING/FAST.  Buy the ugliest stock bike you can find that runs and rides, pay no more than $1500, and sell it next year for the same price.
  2. Do not ask me to build you a replica of someone else’s custom bike.  I can do it, but I will multiply my normal price by 5.  Pictures for inspiration are great, especially when you point out features you like.  However, asking me to assemble a copy of another bike is both extremely boring and unfair to the builder I’m plagiarizing. If you like what a particular builder is doing, you should probably be talking to them.
  3. Many custom bikes you see on the fancy motorcycles sites are either rolling advertisements for an aftermarket parts company or were built by people with a huge surplus of disposable income and/or free time.  The results can be cool to look at, but they often don’t make any sense as motorcycles.  They are customized for the sake of customization rather than to achieve some coherent design goal.  Buyer beware: many custom bikes are in fact completely unridable.

If I have not yet succeeded in scaring you away, let’s get down to business.

It should be obvious from the preceding discussion that I’m seriously offended by custom motorcycles that are not basically functional. If a completed build cannot navigate a parking lot without endangering everyone in the area, I cannot call that build successful.  The large number of bikes that are uncomfortable to sit on, extremely heavy, overpowered, with no ground clearance and evil handling should be immediately disqualified from consideration.  Anyone who would buy a bike like that has more money than brains.

To my mind, the core of building a custom bike is tailoring the machine to its intended use.  For me, that means creating something that is nimble and light enough to maneuver in traffic, with enough suspension and tire to rip the occasional gravel road, enough motor to reach 100mph flat out, and a riding position that allows me to corner aggressively. All the bikes that I build and sell are basically set up to do this.

If you are commissioning or building a bike, think long and hard about how it will be used – for real in your actual life and not in your fantasies about being in a motorcycle gang.   Let that thinking drive the design.  I love the look of old stripped down hardtails, but I’ll probably never own one because it’s just never going to be any good for what I use my bikes for.  Too many potholes where I live, and not enough long straight roads.  But maybe that’s the perfect bike for your needs.  The point of customization is that everyone’s situation is different.  It’s the builder’s job to balance the performance goals with cost and coolness to create a motorcycle that fits the rider’s needs.

(Part 2)

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One comment

  1. Pingback: Custom Bikes: Why You’re Probably Not Cool Enough (Part 2) « Street Spirit Cycles

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