Liam – If you frequent this site and remember an article from awhile back, a beautiful XS by the name of “Dale” graced the fine pages of this website. I had the opportunity to buy it off of the very talented builder Jordan Epp as my first chopper project and had the chance to take on Dale and all the challenges he threw my way. Jordan’s version of the bike was absolutley perfect in my eyes and nothing needed to be changed aside from some mechanical kinks, but I found myself wanting to make some minor aesthetic changes which turned into some more major aesthetic changes as time went on.
In the beginning of things Dale wouldn’t charge a battery, so I would ride it for 45 minutes and constantly be checking to see if my headlight was dimming, which it usually was, which usually meant I was about to be stranded or pushing. I would put the battery on a trickle charger for a few hours each night if I was lucky enough to make it home from my ride, then the next day I’d ride it again. The bike was so fun that often I’d lose track of time, and before I knew it Dale would be calling it quits whether I was at a red light in heavy traffic, or driving in heavy traffic, or any other time (it somehow always seemed to be in heavy traffic).
Thankfully choppers look cool so pushing it never embarrassed me too much. Well, the she-devil known as “Canadian Winters” was creeping in steady and I was almost excited for the snow to hit the ground so I could get Dale charging and maybe make a couple of changes. I also made plans to finally make the trip out to Born Free with a friend, and I bought a ticket as soon as they were available. I figured if by summer I had Dale dialed in I could truck him the 27 hours up to Born Free and pretend I was a cool guy for a few days. This thought kept me going through what turned into the worst and longest winter I’ve ever experienced in South Saskatchewan.
In January I brought it over to a friends garage where I would have access to welding equipment and other power tools that my broke ass can’t afford. He was out of town a lot so sometimes weeks would pass until I could get in there and work on it, but it didn’t bother me too much because in the meantime I had started drawing a few (100’s?) of sketches of what I wanted to turn Dale into. My idea changed a few (1000’s?) of times before I had something I was set on, and then came the part of saving up the cash to track down some of the bits to make my idea a reality. I ate kraft dinner often enough that I’m suprised I wasn’t sweating yellow, took on odd jobs whenever I could and generally put the bike first before my well being, much to my general health’s + girlfriend’s dismay. I started by modifying the pipes, then the sissy bar, then changed up the headlight and tail light, then the seat, then the tank, then the bars (10000 times) until the look I was aiming for started roughly coming together. I scored a killer rusty 6 over front end at our dump of a motorcycle salvage somehow which carried on my constant boner for my bike. Spring was now re-appearing, but I still hadn’t tackled the most important task at hand (priorities amirite?), getting Dale charging! I guess I got so wrapped up in the aesthetics of the bike I forgot that in order to enjoy your motorcycle, it helps to be able to ride it. SO! I scraped for a few months more and eventually ordered the PMA kit from Hugh’s.
Progress moved extremely slow due to being pathetically broke and busy, and by the time all was said and done the snow had melted and Born Free wasn’t too far away. I spent the next few weeks, every night I could finishing up all the loose ends necessary to get Dale running right! The PMA showed up and I threw that badboy in, with the precision of a drunk sailor (as I was to find out). The first time getting Dale fired up in the garage again was a glorious sound for the ears, it was charging and I couldn’t be more excited. Which was good timing cause the Born Free trip was only a few days away.
The shakedown miles were pretty tough on old dale and most of everything broke/vibrated off. With each fix I sweated a little more and got a bit more concerned for riding it in the states. As timing would have it, the night before leaving for the states I lost my passport AND Dale stopped charging. I said forget it and decided I would truck it out there and fix it once I showed up. I managed to find my passport after 8 hours straight of mind melting torture, got 4 hours of sleep and headed onto the first leg of driving to California which was a cozy 19 hours on no sleep. Slept in a hotel that had an actual bloodstain on the sheets, and woke up the next morning to continue on to California. I figured I could fix it in the parking lot at the Show Class pre-party, so I held off until then.
The amount of people I met at that party was insane, how helpful and friendly everybody was towards me was mind blowing and it was a trip to meet so many like minded people at one time. One guy came up to me and suggested that maybe one of the three wires coming from my stator had got snagged. I kept that in mind and kept checking everything else. I ended up making some friends and two of them suggested that my friend and I stay at their place in Long Beach, that they had a garage and said that we could get it fixed up there so I could ride to Born Free the next day. Well, time/intelligence on my behalf ran short that night and I couldn’t make it happen. I ended up driving the chase van to Born Free on the hottest day in the earths history, but I wasn’t too bummed because Born Free was full of enough distractions to keep me occupied (obviously).
The next day we took it a guy named Bob’s shop in Costa Mesa. Bob is an ex formula one mechanic and is the craziest/scariest/most unintentionally funny person I have ever met. Bob proceeded to look at my bike, tell me everything was “BULLSHIT” and that this part had to be changed, or this piece needed to be somewhere else and so on. Without really formally asking he started cutting into my frame and making all of these modifications. I sort of just went with it, sort of out of excitement and sort of because I was terrified and didn’t know what to say otherwise. We worked all day and into the night on the bike, and finally pulled the clutch side cover off. Turns out that two of the three wires that come from my stator got snagged and ripped due to a routing mistake on my part. Bob yelled “THIS IS BULLSHIT” again, then proceeded to solder the wires back together. We buttoned the case up and kicked the bike over, holding my breath all the while. Well wouldn’t you know it, we checked the voltmeter and Dale was charging once again! FINALLY!
I wheeled the bike out of Bob’s shop and we said our goodbyes. It was 1 in the morning and I was about to ride my bike for the first time ever in the states. And after seeing all the people at the show class pre party, and at born free I was itching to ride my chop. The first few blocks rolling were the best feeling in the world, Dale was running like a champ and ripping more then he ever had before. I got even more excited when we pulled up to the Pacific Coast Highway as it was a beautiful road and such a cool spot to be riding at night time. Well, within 20 feet my headlight decided to go out, so all of a sudden I was riding in the pitch black. At this point I had been through so much in the past few months with Dale I had to laugh and keep riding, which made for the perfect combination of sketchy exciting fun. The next day I fixed up the headlight and even though the carbs somehow came loose twice I still had a solid day of riding.
Once I got back to Canada, I put the miles on Dale big time. I had fixed just about everything there was to fix and finally had it dialed in. Soon the option for another project came up, so I regretfully put Dale up for sale so I could fund it. The bike was an amazing learning experience full of constant ups and downs but I am grateful for the experience as a whole.
Huge thanks to my Dad for spending late nights when he worked the next day helping me finish the bike up, thanks to Elias Klein for the help with the fabrication, Jordan Epp for selling me the bike/always giving me super helpful advice and Brian Jessop for helping me out with advice and parts as well. Choppers rule! Thanks for reading this small novel of a write up (sorry also, hahaha)