Custom Bobber Motorcycle - Bobber On A Budget

A Little Over $5,000 Goes A Long Way

1. First of all, I ditched the stock Sporty bars and went with this set of Burly Apes.

2. Test fitting the Ride Wright Wheels only added to the excitement. These things bolted right on and looked fantastic. The same could not be said for the fork legs.

3. H-D forks are not terribly complicated and come apart with only a few bolts. Lowers were sent to the powdercoater and the springs were swapped for a Burly Slammer Kit.

4. Fresh from paint and now sporting a 2+ inch drop, the frontend was ready for final assembly. Also note the short risers. No reason to have extended risers and tall bars.

5. Hand controls as well as other bolt-ons were sourced from J&P;'s extensive catalog. This complete set of chrome hand controls is a perfect example.

6. Even without bodywork, the red wheels, dropped suspension, and tall bars truly define the bobber look. A little elbow grease and polishing compound had the motor looking good, too.

7. Trimmed down and beat with a hammer, the old school fender was at home on the Sporty. The hinged rear section posed an interesting challenge, but a cleverly placed strap hidden on the inside seemed to keep things in place.

8. The parts store recommended heat paint for the body. Tougher and more tolerant of fuel, it was the perfect solution and actually sprays on very nicely. The fuel tank received the same treatment.

9. You gotta love the look of a set of fat apes. The Burly bars are dimpled and drilled for internal wiring and topped of with a set of chrome controls and vintage style grips.

10. Not bad for a crude garage build. Given a bit more budget, I might swap out the stock discs for something prettier, and forward controls might be cool, too. With that said, the bike far exceeded expectations and came together in a little over a month and with money to spare.

Inspiration often comes from unexpected sources. Most enthusiasts will impart muse credit to another bike, a car, or even a girl. The inspiration for this bike came from handlebars. Yep, bent tubing with a slathering of chrome set off what quickly became a bobber on a budget. Why the "Bobber on a Budget" moniker? Well, it turns out I'm just an average guy, with average skills, a set of average tools, and quite likely a below average wallet. With that said-and with a fresh set of Burly ape hangers on my workbench-I set off on a quest for the other parts I would need, the first of which was a motorcycle.

I've always had a soft spot for Sportsters, especially older examples, which are very reasonably priced. With a weekend of surfing the net and calling on potential donor bikes, I bought a pristine '86 XL 883 for $2,500. This early generation Evo was in good condition and included an S&S; Shorty carb and a brand new Vance & Hines Pro Pipe. It ran great and I could always bump the slugs up to 1200 at a later date.

I had the bike parked in my garage with a list of intended purchases drawn up. However, my significant other saw my list and I had to cut it short, but it did not impact the enthusiasm for the project (damn voice of reason). The Burly bars sat nicely on the bike and I could already see the transformation coming together. The next call was to Sam at Ride Wright Wheels. Sam knows his stuff, so we decided to go from the stock 19-inch to a 21-inch, and from the squatty 16-inch rear wheel to an 18-incher. Corona Harley-Davidson supplied the new rubber and balancing. Surprisingly, a lot of the crew members at Corona H-D were Sporty bobber enthusiasts (walking through their service area was sort of like a preview of coming attractions).

Ten days into the project, the bike was virtually unrecognizable. The big wheels now demanded a lowering kit. Burly makes a full line of low-buck lowering parts, so they seemed like the obvious go-to. Seems the Burly guys have been burning the midnight oil, and they had a prototype of their new Slammer Kit, which includes 10-1/2-inch shocks and a fork lowering kit that doesn't require the frontend to come off of the bike. The whole package fell under $300. The tattered fork lowers would require I pull the forks apart anyway, but the ease of the Slammer kit was much appreciated.

Sympathetic friends donated a generic Corbin solo seat and a few other small parts, and a little eBay surfing procured a stubby rear fender and a Factory solo seat to complete the rear of the bike. Now 15 days into the project, an abnormally rainy Saturday morning was reserved to spend some quality time in the garage. First, the Corbin seat was too big for a Sporty, the H-D seat just needed a bit of shaving to look right, and the fender was never going to look good on any motorcycle. My install day had now become a leaf through the J&P; catalog day. I had intended to get hand controls from them anyway, so maybe a fender would jump off the page as well. Controls, pegs, grips, and a nice chrome brake lever all came from J&P; and were reasonably priced. Their fender selection is endless, but none under the heading of Sportster seemed to strike my fancy. I noticed some knock-off vintage FL sheetmetal, hinge and all. A complete departure from my bobbed rear fender plan, the long and wide FL unit would add the visual weight to the rear that the big bars added to the front and perhaps bring balance to the bike. For $75 I couldn't go wrong, so I added it to my online order.

For us working folk, weekdays are for chasing parts and weekends are spent in the garage bolting them on. J&P; made sure I had the metal by Friday, and now, 20-odd days into the bobber on a budget, I was nearing completion and had stayed very much within budget. I had measured the cables I would need (throttle, clutch, and brake line) and placed an order with Barnett Performance Products. Then I hit a speed bump. What I thought was the perfect fender didn't come close to fitting in between the frame rails. It measured 7 inches wide, just like the book had said, but as it turns out, my frame rails where a bit over 7 inches, but other parts within the rear end were not. I knew there was only one solution: Tin snips and a big hammer. The front four or so inches of the fender trimmed off nicely and the sheetmetal-which fell behind the apparently narrower shock mounts-was "adjusted" with a sand-filled hammer. The end result fit nicely. I patted myself on the back, and then I installed the pegs and wired the hand controls. Next, I needed to decide on the Budget Bobber's paint scheme.

As it turns out, paint isn't cheap. My urge to ride was beginning to exceed my urge to build. By week's end, the answer was clear. Rattle cans were well within my budget, and a flat black paint scheme would fit perfectly into the bobber styling. The old guy at the counter of the local parts house pointed me to heat paint, as it's more tolerant to abuse. Four cans of 1200 degree paint later, I was done. By Sunday morning of the 36th day, I was riding my new bobber! And, with the pride of doing it all myself for just over $5,000 for everything-bike and parts-I can only hope this will inspire others to do the same.