I’d been having a good clear-out up the garage after a spending a fair bit of time over the winter hoarding bits, and out in the daylight it became apparent that there were pretty much enough knocking about to build another bike…
Words: William Bedford
Pics: Simon Everett
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I’d need to get my hands on another engine though, and about three days after that I got a call to say a bloke not far up the road had an 89 Sporty engine for sale – if that’s not a sign I don’t know what is.
The plan was to throw together a little bar-hopper for the summer months with what I had, and give me something to tinker with since my last project was finished. I skipped between ideas of which way to go with the bike, and one afternoon when I was catching up with a friend, he mentioned The Trip Out show that was coming up and said I should enter the bike in their annual Build Off contest. At first I thought he was crazy as the bikes at the show are another level but, if nothing else, it was a chance to get involved and motivate me to push myself and see what I could create. The Trip Out accepted my application, and that was it – time to up my game.
I had plenty of time so there was loads of mocking up done to get an idea of where to go with the bike. First thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to hardtail the frame (so much for using the bits I had), and I wanted to do it myself. With no jig I turned to the TC Bros weld-on hardtail kit because it uses the engine to keep the frame square when you weld it, and after its arrival a long Saturday was spent chopping the old frame and fitting the new weld-on rear section. I was chuffed with the result, and it allowed me to get a rolling chassis together and back to mocking up with some real intent.
I spent the coming months gathering parts and honing my welding skills – I wanted to do as much of this build myself as I could, and that meant I needed to practise. I settled on a tank and mudguard after trying many, and got them mounted, then made an attempt to tackle the ’pipes. I had some off-cuts and old downpipes I wanted to utilise so I spent an afternoon trying all kinds of combinations, trying to drop on something that stood out, but flowed with the rest of the bike.
I’m a sucker for high ’pipes, and these were no different – I chanced on using one of the angles I had as an upswept section and bingo! I managed to tack everything together after a good few hours messing with the positioning of bends and cutting some to shape, and I came up with the idea for the tips after sketching ideas and trying to incorporate the Ace of Spades somehow. From a side profile you can see what I mean, but it translated better into real life, even if it was a pain making a matching pair.
Casey at H&C Customs knows I’m a sucker for chopper bits as I’d got the tank and weld-on kit from him already, and he hooked me up with the awesome spool wheel I’ve got up front. Once that was in, with the shrouds I had about, I was getting really excited. It also egged me on to fit the jockey-shift and go real old school with the whole bike. I got all the warnings from the lads, but when it comes to choppers I always say the same – it’s not supposed to be comfy, it’s supposed to look good.
By now I knew in my head exactly what I wanted to build; as a kid I’d fallen in love with the crazy bobbers I’d seen in magazines and the Choppertown movies. After that the rear end sorted itself out in a way – I had some Moon discs on the wall from an XS650, and they sat perfectly on the standard Sporty rear wheel, lucky me. I drilled them for mounting after a long weekend, though, and messed up the holes. It’s still there now… not so lucky me. A ribbed Fenland mudguard seemed the only way to go, and it hugged the tyre perfectly.
Months’d flown by and before I knew it there wasn’t long left before the show. Dry build done, I got everything apart, and all bits away for paint and polish. I tackled the final welds on the frame and, at the last minute, decided all the factor gusseting for the headstock had to go, so removed all the old plating and shaped some of my own to weld back in.
It was round about this point that I managed to break my hand. After a couple of days backwards and forwards to the hospital, I got back into the garage and struggled on. Days were spent moulding the headstock, and prepping the frame for paint, and once it was ready my brother helped me hang it up and hit it with the rattle cans. I couldn’t have asked for a better result.
The engine was treated to an overhaul, and fresh paint and polish on the cases while it was out and, once back in the frame, it looked perfect. With the rest of the polishing back, a careful weekend was had putting everything back together. I polished the ’pipes myself, and wrapped them (which I hate doing at the best of times) – with one good hand it was a struggle. The tins had been tackled by my friend Ben Priestly and he absolutely killed it. I fitted them to the bike, piped up the oil tank, and took a step back. The past few months’d been a blur, but right there and then it was all worth it – every hour, every penny, neither could have been spent better.
For the show the bike needed a name. I came across a phrase in a book a long time ago that was used to describe bikers as ‘Ordinary Grease’, and it’s stuck with me ever since – my friend at Third Eye Signs painted it on to the points cover for me, and that finished the bike off nicely.
I’m not sure what I’ll do with the bike long term. I’d love to keep it for bar-hopping next year, and the jockey-shift and spool wheel combo really lets you know you’re alive. That said, I’ve got a few too many plans brewing for a couple more in the coming year so if anyone is interested in an awesome, but slightly scary, chop hit me up on 07934 347401.Enjoy more Back Street Heroes reading in the monthly magazine. Click here to subscribe.