How Hard is It to Customize a Motorcycle with No Experience?
While we love four wheels here at SixSpeedOnline, we also have a deep love for motorcycles. Contributing Editor Sam Bendall is quite familiar with the motorcycle industry and has worked for the last year as a motorcycle journalist. He is an an experienced rider and story teller but mechanic he is not. We thought it fun to let him tell his story on what it’s like for a newbie to customize a motorcycle and what one could expect in such an endeavor.
It’s hard to deny that the desire to customize your motorcycle creeps up almost within a couple weeks of buying a bike. Ride around for long enough and you’ll find yourself dismounting at the local cafe and staring at your bike while sipping a cup of overpriced java. The more you stare at it, the more you begin to think, how can I make my bike better? Perform better, look better, feel better. Simply put—be better.
Making your Bike Your Own
Customization can be a tricky notion in particular to motorcyclists because a relatively inexpensive part here and there can visually change the original design. I got that itch when I first bought a bike, but I never really chose to do anything because I’m not very mechanically inclined. I had other people do some stuff for me. That cycle ends now.
We all see amazing builds on Bike EXIF, Pipeburn, and the Bike Shed. Individuals like Roland Sands, Dustin Kott, Shinya Kimura, the list goes on. These guys are truly talented builders that fabricate parts, weld, design—I mean everything—but how hard is it to design and make a bike of your own with off-the-shelf offerings?
I wanted to test this theory for a while, and with “winter” coming—although that statement is relative seeing as I live in Los Angeles—I thought what better time to embark on that journey.
Luckily, local manufacturers that produce bolt on or custom parts are out there to help people like me. That is, motorcyclists that don’t have a lot of technical know how, but are eager to learn and also express themselves through their bike. Is it really as easy as they make it out to be in their marketing ads?
Some History on This Bike
The platform for my build will be a used 2004 Triumph Speedmaster I bought from MotoClub Di Santa Monica four years ago.
I walked into this shop knowing very little about motorcycles other than how to ride and that my pops took his bike here to get it serviced. I spied the Speedmaster nestled next to a Ducati Hyperstrada and 899.
I thought, “Triumph made cruisers, WTF?” I saw the price and asked Victor, the owner of MotoClub, who was sitting behind a desk, “Hey, what’s wrong with the bike? He said, “Nothing, it’s tip top. The owner just wants to get rid of it because he is moving.” It was almost too good to be true, but there was predator lurking around the shop in the form of an Italian couple. I could see them eyeballing my future bike, their body language told me they were were moments away from making an offer. I threw down some cold hard cash and told Victor I would be back tomorrow with the rest.
Little did I know that purchase would fundamentally alter the course of my life personally and professionally. After all these years and miles together, it’s time to give my Belle the makeover she deserves.
The Original Inspiration
One of the most beautiful builds done from a Triumph Speedmaster, in my opinion, is the Vintage Vendetta from British Customs. I have had the pleasure to spend a considerable amount of saddle time on this obnoxiously loud, firmly planted, awkwardly positioned beast machine, and I can say it’s one of my favorite bikes…EVER. My love story for the Vintage Vendetta will come at a later time, but it has served as an inspiration and vision for my own bike.
My build will be less refined, nowhere near as pretty or powerful, but it will be my own creation. The concept is a bobber with some cafe racer elements. Everyone customizes Triumph Bonnevilles, Thruxtons and Scramblers, and for good reason. They’re dope-ass bikes with looks that are second to none and they’re stupid easy to ride. However, very few show the Triumph Speedmaster or America any love. Bone stock, the Speedmaster is not that pretty, but even ugly ducklings have the potential to become become fire-breathing, sparkle-farting, pavement pounding unicorns. Yeah, I said it. Now I’m going to give it a go.
I don’t have a ton of tools, though that is likely to change as the build progresses. I have a wrench set here, a tool box there, and I just managed to borrow a lift from a buddy.
First builds bring about a lot of questions and problems. As a novice, I’ll let you know what’s possible and what is not. What are the easiest modifications and which ones should you leave to the professionals. Stay tuned as I’ll be featuring articles periodically as this bike takes shape.
In addition to featuring a number of comprehensive articles on this build, you can follow more behind-the-scenes content on Instagram @livemotofoto along with the hashtag #LiveMotoFotoSBSC #SBSCmoto #SBSCbuild. SBSC will be the working title for this build moving forward until inspiration strikes and I can name the final product something a little more badass.
Disclaimer: Prior to working as a journalist in the motorcycle industry, I previously worked as the public relations manager for Triumph Motorcycles America. Triumph Motorcycles America is in not involved with this build in any manner. I simply chose this motorcycle because I bought it prior to working for the company.