Old school motorcycle modification

Once upon a time motorcycles came in basically one shape. (For brevity, I’ll forego discussion of Harley-style bikes, which are a bit different.) Today we have several classes from cruisers to sportbikes. But back in the day, one would modify a standard motorcycle to fit one’s needs. For example, if you wanted a trials bike you’d take off or relocate the fenders, remove unnecessary components, maybe change the shocks, and put on knobby tires. If you wanted a café racer you could take the same bike, lighten it, change the handlebars, and maybe add a fairing. If you wanted a tourer, you’d add saddlebags, a fairing, and maybe a more comfortable seat. Or your ride could be ‘chopped’ for a cruiser/chopper.

I wonder if anyone modifies modern standard-class motorcycles anymore? The result would be inferior to a purpose-made factory bike; but still, it might be a fun/funky exercise.

For example, the Royal Enfield Bullet can be modified with the Café Racer Kit, to which you can add a fairing to make it into a classic race bike. Or you can make it into a bit of a cruiser style or a scrambler/trials bike.

??? ::: shakes head and wanders away :::

There are several cable TV programs which are entirely based on motorcycle building and custom mods, ranging from the mundane to the outrageous. Discovery’s Biker Build-off, to name one. Clearly, there is a significant audience for this sort of thing, and there are quite likely a large portion of those viewers who enjoy doing it for themselves, too. I don’t know any personally, but obviously they are out there.

As for quality, much like Gus, I rather doubt that factory workmanship is necessarily superior to that of a skilled backyard craftsman.

I tend to avoid shows with Biker in the title. To me, ‘bikers’ are Harley/chopper/cruiser types, as opposed to motorcyclists. Just my perception.

I was talking about the design, not the execution. A purpose-designed race bike is going to outperform a standard with speed modifications.

At any rate, I know that there are a lot of people customising cruisers. Rather than ‘custom motorcycles’, which I perceive as making one type of motorcycle into a more lavish (for want of a better word) version of the same type of motorcycle, I was thinking of turning one type of motorcycle into a different type. e.g.; standard into scrambler or standard into a racer.

Look up ‘streetfighter’ bikes, there is plenty there

Oh, try out ratbikes too, I’ve seen trikes, old wings and the occasional Beemer done up this way.




Johnny L.A. isn’t talking about custom choppers or rat bikes. You see, at one time motorcycles wern’t so specialized. Motorcycles generally were of a type that today would be called “standards”. Pretty much your basic, no-frills generic motorcycle, like this Triumph Bonneville. If you wanted to go dirt riding, you’d start with a bike like that and put on some extended forks, knobby tires, welded on a bash plate, tune the engine for low-end torque, and end up with a bike like the Scrambler. You could be competitive on a bike like that because all dirt bikes were built that way. If you wanted to go road racing, you started with the same Bonnie and added clip-on handlebars, rearset footpegs, a solo seat, open megaphone exhaust, tuned the engine for peak hp, and end up with a bike like the Thruxton. Again, race bikes were built that way.

But motorcycles evolved. Manufacturers saw how riders used and modified their bikes and started doing it for them. For example, the Honda Goldwing started out as standard. It was a heavyweight bike with lots of power and a low-maintenance shaft drive that made it ideal for long-distance touring. Owners added accesories such as fairings, luggage, radios, heated grips, fancy seats, etc., to make them better tourers. Honda followed their lead and started incorporating popular modifications in the base model, turning it into the premier touring bike it is today.

People don’t really do those sorts of modifications anymore. Modern bikes are so specialized, there’s one ready-made for just about any sort of niche you can think of. A guy working out of his garage would be very hard-pressed to turn that standard into a sportbike as good as a Yamaha R1, for example. Even if he had the tools and the knowhow, he would end up spending a whole lot more money than if he just bought the R1 in the first place. Nowadays people usually just tweak a bike to tailor it a little better for the way they ride it. Take my V-Strom for example. Riders who never take it off-road often go up a tooth or two on the front sprocket, giving up some bottom-end that they never use for a more relaxed feel on the freeway. OTOH, guys who do lots of off-roading mount knobby tires, engine guards, and a bash plate.

That’s excatly what I was talking about.

Not really a standard, but the new Ducati GT1000 looks right up your alley.

What Johnny L.A. is talking about really isn’t done anymore. The only thing I can think of is taking a dirtbike, putting road tires on it, and racing it on a road course. Voila, Supermotard!