I’ve been making mental notes of all the things I’ve done wrong on my first custom project and I want you to learn from my mistakes. Write these down, memorize them, print them and tape them on your wall because they are true and they will happen to you.
1: Do Your Planning Early
One of my biggest regrets/mistakes on the Bandit was not taking more time to make plans for the build. I should have done more sketching and ideating around the form and color schemes before I picked up a wrench. I was impatient and anxious to start tearing the bike down, It’s a lot harder and more time consuming to think of ideas when your bike is in pieces on a table.
2: Keep An Emergency Fund
This one’s obvious, things come up as you take apart a bike. You’ll end up finding dozens of pieces that need replacing like seals and gaskets, and you’re bound to make a couple mistakes that result in broken components. I feel like I was pretty lucky, but still paid around $400 in extras that weren’t budgeted for.
3: Ask For Help
Don’t expect to know what you’re doing when working on your first bike, actually expect to be pretty clueless most of the time. Find some good people you can run to when there’s a crisis and utilize them. Have a buddy come over and help for the day and buy them lunch and beers. There’s nothing worse than spending a full day in the garage alone and getting nothing done.
4: Stick To A Schedule
There were many days during the Chicago winter when all I wanted to do was drive home after work, jump into a cocoon and binge watch episodes of The Trailer Park Boys. Be consistent and force yourself to work, there will be weeks when you don’t feel like you’re getting anything done but you have to keep at it. This is what separates people who ride custom bikes from people who stare at a pile of parts in the corner of their garage.
5: Timing Is Double
Almost every single thing I did took longer than I anticipated, EVERYTHING. Even things that I had knowledge of and knew how to accomplish found ways of complicating themselves. I blame my lack of experience but in any case be realistic and set goals...but be ready for surprises around every corner and double your estimates.
6: Take Hundreds of Photos
Take photos of everything, even when you tell yourself, “this is simple, it only fits together in one way and makes complete sense to me”. You will forget, and you will wish you could look at a photo for confirmation. This was another thing that I learned too late in the process. I didn’t take nearly enough photos of the body and exterior during the first week of disassembly, and it cost me hours of time when rebuilding. Stay organized, take photos.
7: You Need The Right Tools
100% percent of the time I tried doing something with the incorrect tool, I fucked it up. Find somebody who has the correct tools, or purchase the correct tools. The results could be scratches, dents or even smashed parts of your bike. There are very few times that you can substitute a proper tool with a hammer and a screwdriver, spend the money and drive to the hardware store, you’ll end up saving yourself time and money in the end.
8: Work Slowly
Growing up I was preached endlessly about giving “effort”. When things go wrong don’t make an excuse, try harder and get it done. This is not at all the mentality I would recommend for a first time builder. When something doesn’t fit or go smoothly on a bike, you’re doing something wrong that could have fatal consequences. These machines are absolutely flawless in their construction and engineering, you cannot make up for accuracy by pushing harder. Take your time and do it right, replace the right parts in the right order, lubricate them correctly, torque everything down correctly and do your research. I had no second guesses when I finished the bike, it was a big relief knowing that it was as close to the the “books” as I was capable of. Peace of mind on the first ride is priceless.
9: It Will Not Be Perfect
I remember when I was in third grade art class, we were working on painting clouds and the sun with water colors. Everybody was done while I was still sketching where I wanted the sun to be located (not in the corner like the rest of those fools). My teacher made an example of me and called me a perfectionist, and yes I absolutely am. I’m a graphic designer by day and there’s no leeway in digital design...proportions, spacing and color can literally be perfect. Letting go of this idea of perfection was a big adjustment for me, I had to accept the physical environment I was working in and the tangible materials I was working with. I had to lower my expectations and realize that I would be miserable if I kept working for perfection (that and I wouldn’t have a finished bike for two years). No custom bike is perfect, there are without doubt examples that are as close as you can get, but not on your first go-round.
10: It’s Worth It
It’s such a great experience to build a custom motorcycle. You will have an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment, and the result is something you can sit on, ignite and propel yourself anywhere on the continent in which you reside. How incredible is that? There will be setbacks, there will be days you curse the machine...but don’t stop. Be patient and find solutions, keep chipping away. When it’s all said and done, fire it up, get on your go-to road and enjoy the surreal and emotional ride that follows.
View the original bike in all its horrible glory here.
Dan Feidt is the creator of Chase The Wild Air, he’s currently living out of his adventure-mobile with his motorcycle and traveling the U.S. – To see more visit ChaseTheWildAir.com