My shop is in an over-sized two-car garage attached to my home. My work is a calling, in the theological sense of the word. Ethical and moral questions arise every day – they are hard, sharp, unambiguous and unavoidable.

A few basic truthes about custom work.

Posted: July 22nd, 2010 | Author: Administrator | Filed under: Custom, Engine, Frame & Body, Motorcycle Repair, Wheels, Tires, & Brakes | No Comments »

It will take twice as long and cost twice as much as the initial best-estimate – even when you and your builder try to take this into account in the estimate.

Much of the work depends on outside expertise and suppliers; a machinist, a powder-coater, a painter,  a metal-plater, and so on.  A critical part is out of stock.  When it arrives, it is the wrong one and must be returned and exchanged for the correct part – which is out of stock.

Custom work is not simply a matter of bolting a bunch of cool components together – just about every component needs to be modified in some way to work correctly and look right.  A good builder is also a problem-solving engineer.

When the bike is apparently done – it’s not.  The first shake-down ride will reveal a number of problems, small and, possibly, large.  Correcting them often means undoing and redoing a lot of work.

Given all this, it is inevitable that the customer and the builder will have some fractous moments.  The customer can become frustrated/suspicious/angry about the delays and cost over-runs.  The builder can become pissed-off/angry that the customer expects miracles – no matter how diligent the builder is in explaining things to the customer.  The most important part of an, ultimately, successful customer/builder relationship is how they handle this.

There are, of course, many rewards in custom work.  A good builder enjoys the creative engineering and aesthetic challenges.  The customer has the pride and satisfaction of riding a bike she/he has brought into this world and which is unlike any other on the planet.  Despite the inevitable customer/builder conflicts, there are also moments when the collaboration results in something better/more pleasing than either one would have come up with on their own.


A lesson in the vintage bike biz

Posted: July 19th, 2010 | Author: Administrator | Filed under: Custom, Engine, Forks & Steering, Frame & Body, Fuel & Air, Ignition, Timing, & Electrical, Motorcycle Repair, Wheels, Tires, & Brakes | No Comments »

Adam,

I went out today to check out a lead on a bunch of old Hondas in a barn south of Hendersonville.  I haven’t yet decided whether to buy them or not – but if I do, I may have a very interesting proposal for you.

There are about 10 more or less complete bikes -  Honda 305 dreams mostly, and a couple of 160 Dreams, and a Super 90 – and a small mountain of parts inc. five complete engines and so on.  There are way too many bikes for me to rehabilitate/restore – and I don’t have room to store all the stuff anyway.  But if you are willing to sign on  to Ebay parts – disassembly/cleaning/pix/listing/packing and shipping – you can have a bike and all the parts from the pile you need to build yourself a 305 Dream.  And you can have run of the shop on your own time to build your bike with me as a technical advisor.

It would be a lot of work for you – all this stuff is in an open barn – what isn’t oxidized is filthy.  You’d be spending a lot of time in the parts-washing tank and the bead blaster.  And building your bike would take some out-of-pocket cash – maybe the original paint on some of the bodywork is good enough to bring back with rubbing compound – but don’t count on it – figure on a fitting new pistons and rings too.  Nicely restored 305 Dreams are going for around $2k.  Riding a funky/cool old bike that you have built yourself from the frame up – touched/handled/examined/thought about every part – every nut, bolt and washer – is priceless.

So this is not a sweetheart deal – you’d be looking at a month or two of pretty boring work, figuring you could work more or less three days a week.  And packing up parts and shipping them is deadly dull.

Think about it carefully – take your time.  If you say “yes” I want it to be a commitment on your part to see this project through to the end.  I’ll be laying out a fair chunk for stuff that I couldn’t do a damn thing with ’til the winter.

Cheers,
Chris
Existential Motorcycles
Alexander, NC

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This sounds like an awesome plan, I would love to help you with the grunt work and build a bike in the down time. Just let me know when and ill be there! Thank you for responding, – Adam

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Adam,

I’m re-thinking whether buying this lot is profitable or not.   Your assignment is to duplicate my research and give me your opinion.

Go to Ebay Motors
Click on Motorcycle parts
enter: 305 dream

Ignore the current listings – we are not interested in what someone thinks their stuff is worth.

Page down a screen or two and in a column on the left, click on “completed listings”

Now you get to see the prices that stuff actually sold for – shown in green – or did not sell – shown in red.

The price of the lot is $1.2k.

Think about all the work of cleaning/pix/listing/shipping a thousand parts.

Study on it and tell me whether you think it is a money-maker or not.

Cheers,
Chris

Existential Motorcycles

Alexander, NC