Become A Confident Custom Motorcycle Builder
So you want to be a custom bike builder? The best motorcycle advice when considering building your first bike is to have some confidence in yourself. That may be some of the best advice in this beginner motorcycle guide! You would be surprised how many people out there are into building custom bikes. Not every builder out there is a dude, and many of them come from completely different backgrounds and environments.
Custom motorcycle bike builders vary in creativity, style, and skillset. Just like a painter or a musician, custom bike builders tend to have their own way of doing things. One thing is for certain, all of them started somewhere.
If you have an interest in building your own custom bike, we hope to answer some of the common questions you might have concerning the process, and needed tools for you to work on and build your own custom motorcycles.
Emmi and Jeremy Cupp starting a Triumph build. Photo by Harleigh Cupp
Get the Best Hand Tools for Your Motorcycle Tool Box
One of the common questions is what kind of tools do I need? Well, there is a saying out there, “There is more than one way to skin a cat.” (Sorry cat lovers). No matter what you are trying to do, there are often different ways to approach the problem. If you are just getting started, you can easily build your first bike without having much more than a basic set of tools.
Just a few of hand tools can do a lot of jobs on a bike but the more the merrier.
Common hand tools will do a majority of the work that needs done. A good set of wrenches and Allen keys (both SAE and metric) are a good thing to have. Pliers, wire cutters, a dead-blow hammer, Phillips, and flathead screwdrivers are also a must-have. No matter what bike you are working on, these common hand tools will be needed from time to time.
If you don’t already have these tools, we recommend buying a decent brand to get things rolling. Do some research and determine what the best hand tool is for your budget. Really cheap tools will not serve you very well. We suggest spending a little extra to get something you can rely on when you need it.
Todd using a 3/8 Torque Wrench on these sprocket bolts to the right torque specification.
Make Effective Use of Torque Wrenches for Motorcycle Work
Many of the fasteners on a motorcycle require you to tighten them to a specified torque spec. This is why you need a set of torque wrenches. Usually, a single foot-pound torque wrench will suffice, but from time to time you may need something smaller like an inch-pound torque wrench. These two wrenches will be needed to get certain jobs done correctly. They are a little expensive, but getting a decent set of torque wrenches is worth the spend. These are motorcycle tools you really don’t want to cut corners on. Having the right speciality tools is part of motorcycle basics for beginners, it makes a big difference!
Timmy Fiorucci TIG welding up a Lowbrow Customs Hardtail onto this Sportster.
Welding to Take Your Motorcycle Customization To The Next Level
If you are not a skilled welder, don’t let that stop you from building your first bike. The majority of the build can be done without welding. If you determine that some welding needs to be done, you can proceed a couple of different ways.
● One option would be to reach out for some help. Often times getting something welded for you is not that expensive. Also recommend you reach out to your group of friends. Chances are one of them knows how to weld and can give you a hand. These are great opportunities to learn something new, so if you do get help, ask them to show you some things along the way.
● Option number two would be to go out and buy a stick or MIG welder. These are a lot less expensive than you might think, and with all the information available on YouTube, it won’t be long before you will be able to do some of the basic welding you need to do. If you do choose this route, we recommend picking up a grinder as well. You will figure out why as you go through the learning process.
Tyler's home workshop is super organized, making it easy to find the exact tool he needs.
Creating a Clean and Organized Motorcycle Garage
Having a place to work on your bike is pretty important. Over the years I have seen guys build show bikes in living rooms and kitchens, but that is not always the best idea. (Most of these guys didn’t stay married too long) Find a room where you can get organized and get set up for your build.
If you observe a few professional race teams you will notice that they keep things clean and organized. This is usually the best path to use as it will save you from unnecessary frustration during your build. Losing a bolt or spending an hour searching for that wrench you set down somewhere is going to happen. Being organized can limit the number of times it does. You want this to be an enjoyable experience, so take some time to make sure things go as smoothly as possible.
Fully stock Yamaha XS650 we picked up for really cheap.
Choose Good Starter Motorcycles For The First Build
There are a couple of things for you to consider. If this is your first build, pick something that is inexpensive. A Yamaha XS650 is a popular first build for this reason. Another top choice is an older Sportster. Picking a bike that is fairly inexpensive will take some of the pressure off. Just take your time. Spend some time looking at other custom bikes and get a good idea of what you would like to build.
A stock Harley Sportster we picked up for really really cheap and low miles.
Once you have some decisions made, start looking for the bike. There are a lot of Sportsters out there, so with some patience, you will find a really good deal.
With a little vision and willpower you can make the bike of your dreams!
You Can Build Your Own Bike
No matter what your skillset is, building a custom bike is really easier than it has ever been. There is so much really good information and instruction on the internet to help you along the way. It’s not like it was back in the day when you basically had to figure everything out on your own. There is a ton of information and motorcycle guides on the Lowbrow Customs website that will help answer many of the questions you may have. Also, you can visit our store anytime if you ever need motorcycle parts and tools.
So many tech tips available on our YouTube Page like this 1200cc big bore kit install on a 2003 Sportster.
Visit the Lowbrow Customs YouTube channel, a great source for figuring out how to get things done. Keep a positive attitude and enjoy the experience. I have built quite a few bikes over the years, and every one of them was worth the effort. Give it a try, you will not regret it!
LOWBROW CUSTOMS USA MANUFACTURING SCHOLARSHIPS
Here at Lowbrow Customs we believe strongly in supporting US manufacturing. We have created multiple annual scholarships, one with the Lincoln Electric Welding School and another with Tri-C (Cuyahoga Community College) for students in financial need who are pursuing workforce training. From TIG welding to machining, this is the backbone of manufacturing in the United States. Want to learn more about information on Lowbrow's USA Workforce Training Scholarships?