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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hey everybody. This is the first and only motorcycle I've ever owned. I bought it for pretty cheap as a starter bike. I have no experience working on bikes, but I use to work in a steel shop back in my college days, so I have some metal fabrication experience (not an expert by any means).

Anyway, after a few months riding and getting the hang of it a little, I decided to take a shot at customizing the bike a bit.

The idea was to do everything myself and do it about as cheaply as possible. I used cheap tools i already had, or could buy from harbor freight, walmart, etc. I tried to make everything myself where possible. I scoured craigslist for materials

Some of what I tried worked pretty good. A lot of stuff I tried didnt. I'm almost finished with it, (At least I think I am. It's finally rideable at least.) so I wanted to post a few pictures, maybe get some feedback from those of you with more experience, maybe share what I learned with anyone else that might be interested.

I didn't do a good job of taking pictures all along the way, but I got some of the major aspects of what I did. I'll post some better "completed" pictures once I'm actually done.
 

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Discussion Starter #2
As silly as this seems, I forgot to take a picture of the bike before I started messing with it. But this is pretty much exactly what the bike looked like. It was completely stock and had a pretty good size creased dent on the left side of the tank from the previous owner laying it down.
 

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Here is the dent in the tank and my hilariously failed attempt to pull the dent out. I tried using JB weld and some bolts I had laying around to pull the dents out. It didn't work. Not even close. I even let the jb welded bolts cure for over a week. They snapped off immediately when I started trying to pull the dent.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
For some reason I'm not able to upload any more pictures right now. I'll try again tomorrow. Sorry.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Chopped off the rear fender, cut off the arms that the fender mounted to. Was going to try to use the stock seat and just chop the passenger part off then shave down the foam with an angle grinder. I tried it. It ended up sucking. More on that later.
 

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After failing at pulling the dent using my JB weld and loose bolts method, I lucked out and found a guy on craigslist that was selling a stud welder used for body work. He agreed to let me rent the stud welder from him for a day for 20 bucks as long as I was willing to leave my driver's license with him until I returned it.

I drained the tank and filled it with water to flush out any remaining gas. Used the stud welder to pull as much of the dent out as I could, then I used a soft disc on my hand grinder to take the welded studs off. Threw some body filler on that I bought at NAPA, used a cheese grater tool for body work that I borrowed from a buddy to shape it, then I used sandpaper and block sanded it smooth. It took a long time and I ended up having to go back and redo a part where I had an air bubble in my bondo mixture, but it came out fine. Went ahead and hit a couple of smaller little dings with the body filler too while I was at it.

Next I used some duplicolor sandable primer in a rattlecan that I bought at O-Reilly's. Hung the tank from the ceiling in my garage using a shoe string and put a few good coats of primer on. After the first coat of primer, I let it dry then went back with 180 grit sand paper and basically sanded most of the first coat completely off. The primer that remained was enough to fill in most of the little pin holes that I wasn't able to sand out of the body filler. The second and 3rd coats of primer I sanded in between using 300 grit.

The original plan was to paint the tank flat olive drab and clear coat with rattlecans, but then I started reading about how regular rattlecan paint gets ruined by gas. So I decided to order some spraymax 2k clear coat from ebay. 20 bucks for a can, but it was well worth it. It is fuel resistant since it is a 2 part system in a rattlecan.

I ended up using Krylon olive satin rattlecan paint from walmart. 4 bucks a can. After getting the first coat on, I started thinking that plain olive would look pretty boring and since I was going to be doing this with cheap stuff anyway, I decided to try to get creative and attempt to do one of those Flying Tiger p40 warhawk paint jobs. They sell vynil decals for this, but I couldn't find any that were the right size to fit my tank, plus I felt like the design was simple enough that I could probably pull it off using paint.

Long story short, I used some spray paint that I already had laying around. Bought some thin masking tape to plot out my lines (cost about 2 bucks a roll from Grainger), masked it off and painted it. There are definitely some imperfections, but I think it came out OK. Better than a plain olive spraycan look anyway...
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Decided to try to paint some rivets on the tank. Went to harbor freight and bought a 10 dollar airbrush rig, then to hobby lobby to buy some white, black, and rust colored airbrush enamel. The little one ounce bottles were 3 bucks each I think. Ive never used an airbrush before, but youtube has a lot of how-to videos. I started on the plastic side panels so that if I screwed up, it wouldn't be as big of a deal. My first attempt came out pretty rough, so I sanded it all off and redid it. If I were going to do this over again, I would have opted to spend a little more money on a better airbrush. The one I used was about the cheapest one possible plus I used it with my air compressor that I use in my garage. I think I could have done a better job with a better quality airbrush rig, but regardless. A cheap rig is really all I could afford, so I did what I could. I don't think it came out terrible.

After practicing a bit on the plastic side covers and a shoe box, I went ahead and did the same thing to the tank.

I also ordered a waterslide decal sticker of a pinup girl off of ebay. Cost like 5 bucks.

After I applied the decal, I went ahead and put on a couple of coats of the spraymax 2k clear on the tank.

After the clear coat dried, I did a little bit of wet sanding with some 2000 grit sandpaper to try to get rid of some of the orange peel. Then I buffed it with some polish that I had laying around in the garage.

I still need to do some more wet sanding as there is still some orange peel, I am just worried that I will accidentally go all the way through the clear coat. I really should have ordered 2 cans of the spraymax clear so that I could put a much heavier coat of clear on it, but itll be fine for now.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Next I wanted to do something with the handlebars. I liked the look of some of the Z bars that Ive seen. I didn't want to have to replace the control cables, so I didn't want too much rise, but I did want a little less pull back than the stock bars. They always felt cramped to me. The bars that I actually liked, I could only find for around a hundred bucks or so on Ebay. All handlebars are is some tubing welded together or bent.
I have a little wire feed flux core 110 welder that I picked up from none other than harbor freight. Bought it a few years ago for a hundred bucks or so. It works fine for certain things if you take the time to set it up right and make sure that you bevel the edges of the metal you are welding and make sure you get good penetration. So I decided to try to make my own handlebars.

My friends that own the metal shop that use to work at always have some pieces of drop of various material laying around that they will usually just give me or at least sell to me for dirt cheap.

So I called them up and went rummaging through their scrap pile. Found a couple of pieces of 1 inch round ERW tubing that I thought would work. It was rusted up a little, but nothing a wire wheel and a hand grinder wouldn't fix. They gave it to me for free.

I used my hand grinder with a cutting disc to cut the angles in the tubing. Then I struggled for hours trying to get the pieces tack welded together and get them all square. Getting the bars even, then getting the pull back to be the same on both sides was a nightmare. But I kept at it and when I was done, the bars were dead nuts square and exactly the size I wanted. And completely free.

Took the stock bars off the bike. Bought a couple of 1" risers from a local motorcycle shop that sells stuff for Harleys. Had to drill out the holes in the triple tree because the Harley risers use bigger bolts than the stock handlebars. But that was pretty easy. Just grabbed the right size bit and my drill. Took maybe 5 minutes.

Went to mount the bars up and after all of that work, I realized something that never occurred to me. ERW tubing doesn't have very tight tolerances for the OD of the tubing. 1 inch ERW is actually about 1/32 bigger than 1 inch. So none of my controls fit the bars. The bars weren't sitting right in the handlebar clamps and the throttle assembly wouldn't go on. My free bars were useless.

I had to go back and buy some 1" DOM tubing. DOM, for those of you who don't know is the stuff that doesn't have the little seem welded on the inside like ERW tube does. My steel shop buddies didn't have any DOM laying around. So I had to order some online. It ended up costing about 25 bucks or so for around 5 feet of it.

Had to go through all that tacking and squaring and cussing and whining and welding and grinding all over again. It sucked just as bad the second time around. But they came out just fine. This time everything fit.

And I didn't have to do anything to the stock cables. My bars have about 8 inches of rise, and the stock cables were just barely long enough to work without having to change anything.

The attached pictures are of the first set of bars that I made before painting them. They were ones that didn't work. The second set, I forgot to take pictures of them before I painted them, but they are what you see mounted on the bike.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Ill get to the seat and tail/brake/turn lights later. Here is the bike as it sits at the moment. I still have a few things I need to do, but Its getting close.
 

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Got the seat covered this weekend.

I went to harbor freight and picked up a package of those foam anti fatigue floor mats for 8 dollars. Enough material in one of those packages to pad several seats.

Cut the mats to roughly the shape of the pan, leaving a little extra so I had room to shave it down to the shape I wanted. Glued it to the pan using gorilla glue. It was the only glue I had on hand. Worked fine. Probably over kill. Glued 2 layers of mat on top of the pan. Clamped it using whatever the heck I could find to hold it in place. Let it sit for a couple of hours while I went and watched the wolverine movie. Then shaped it using my hand grinder and a soft disc.

I went ahead and opted for a piece of thick, genuine cowhide leather to cover the seat. I was going to just use some inexpensive vinyl, but I didn't want the seat to look homemade AND cheap. Plus, I scored a piece of 8 oz "latigo" leather from Tandy leather for pretty cheap. The piece had a lot of surface imperfections on it. lots of scars and wrinkles and stuff so it was on sale. It was big enough that I could probably do 4 seats out of it (if I was careful to not waste any leather). And it only cost 25 bucks for over 8 square feet. I think I might try to make some saddle bags with what I have left.

I cut out the top piece with plenty of extra to wet form it to the shape of the seat. 8 oz leather is quite thick and difficult to work with. So I soaked it in warm water for about 15 minutes, then just sort of worked it into place. Then cut a bottom piece roughly the shape of the pan, glued the leather in place to keep it from moving, then hand stitched the top piece to the bottom piece. After I was down sewing, I used a carpet knife and my grinder to trip the excess leather off.

Im super happy with how it came out. It is just a little bit stiff right now, but I think it will soften up a little after it gets broken in a bit.
 

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Well, turns out that the 8 dollar anti fatigue floor mats from harbor freight really suck as seat padding. Ive put a few hours on the seat and its still hard as a rock. I think I am going to take it apart this weekend and see if I cant find something little softer. My wife has a foam pillow that she got from the chiropractor a few years ago that might mysteriously disappear in the next couple of days...
 

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Check and see if there is a place that sells foam near you. There is a place near me that will sell custom pieces of foam, memory foam, open cell, etc., and it's not crazy expensive. If you're planning on riding for any sort of distance your butt will thank you for getting the good stuff. I haven't done any 8 hour rides of my new seat, but whatever they put in that thing is awesome. If I were you I would call a custom upholstery place and see what they would use perhaps?
 

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Yeah, I think Im going to have to. Either my ass is hardening up or the seat is breaking in a little now, because its gotten a little better, but not enough. I have some foam I think will work a lot better that I wish I would have used in the first place, I just hate to tear apart the stitches on it. It took me a solid 3 hours of hand stitching and that's not including punching the holes. and whats worse is I glued the foam down to the seat pan, then glued the leather to foam to help hold it in place. And since I already had Gorilla glue, that's what I used and that stuff doesn't like to let go easy in my experience. So I have some work cut out for me.
 
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