One day I want to build a hardtail. Can’t be that Difficult. It’s just a big jigsaw puzzle. One piece at a time. I said this for years.
Then one day, my friend Chuck called me, and said, “Do you really want to? Or is it just talk? Coz I have three for sale”… and that’s how it all started. I finally had to put up, or shut up.
I told him, I have no clue what I’m doing. He replied, “I’m here, I won’t leave you hanging” We agreed on a price on a 1979 XS650 Special. He had picked it up, from its original owner, after it had stood for about a decade.
Now it was in the back of my truck. I was excited and extremely nervous. Chuck had previously showed this complete novice, how to clean and service carbs.
As soon as we got her home, off came the carbs. A good thorough cleaning, a new battery and plugs, and she popped into life. I took her gently around the block, gradually increasing speed.
Then ran through the gears and got her to 90. (Not too smart on 20 year old tires, but I’ve never been accused of being smart) After making sure she could be registered, and knowing the engine was good, I got to cutting. I also needed to learn to weld.
Luckily, I have friends that do that for a living. Purchased TCBROS hard tail, which came with, all the instructions. A good friend of mine showed up to help with, install and checked my welds as I went.
With constant checking she was straight!.. A gift of a solo seat, and sportster tank, and this thing began to take shape. I had a vision in my head, of an end product.
But as I progressed, she began to take her own form, and told me which way to go. I found some bent Zbars at a swap meet that had been crashed. I heated them up, and bent them straight. As soon as I held them in place, it was a EUREKA Moment.
I knew how she was coming out. In an eager moment of impatience, I welded a seat mount, and tried to fit seat springs. Only to find, that I really needed the seat back about 3″!.. Luckily I found, the TCBROS Air ride seat mount, that mounts to the back of the crossbar, effectively moving the seat back.
This has to be one of the luckiest mistakes. Having used the airbag mount, I will never go back to springs. The main reason for building this baby, was to satisfy a lifelong dream, but also, have a play bike to take part in a motorcycle Rodeo.
I certainly was not going to use my harley. Chuck said if I was going to race it, and also use pod filters I would better off using round slide carbs, for quicker throttle response. “Hang on, I have some under my bench”
Out came a big box filled with all different carbs. “Need to find you a set”.. We eventually come up with a pair of mikunis that we think came off a snowmobile. Another good clean, and a guess on what size jets I should use, and they were mounted.
More TCBROS for the pandemonium ya mama exhaust. alve adjustment, and timing done. She’s running, but very rich. On to JetsRUs website, and a smaller selection… Simply kept working my way down, until she was running as good as I can get her.
The Rodeo was only a week away, and I still had not changed the tires. When the new ones showed up, via UPS, I made the decision that the older tires had more wall grip and bite for the mud, and as I wasn’t riding on the hiway to the Rodeo, I would risk old tires, for their grip.
I think it was the right decision. It was constant rain for two days before the event. When we got their, the track was waterlogged. There was talk of not running the race. The racers took a vote, and we decided, screw it, I didn’t do all this work to back out now.
The rain was splashing on my face, off the front tire as I had removed, the front fender, for the look. Luckily my son was coming later, so he brought me down the original fender that was still in my garage. I have never done any race before, and this was my midlife crisis.
I just didn’t want to make a fool of myself. As long as I made one lap, I was going to consider that my victory. I had built a bike, and raced it. Results did not matter.
As the race started, the mud was about 8″ deep, and people were sliding off everywhere, and I made the first lap. The mud was a real equalizer. Lap two I realized slow and steady with no crash may be the way to go, as people took longer to pick up there bikes.
Halfway through, I realized that somehow I was in the lead. I thought, if I can keep chugging and not fall off, I could actually win my first ever race, in my first built bike. That is exactly what I did. I have since ridden her all over, and taken part in other races.
I’ve been close to selling her, and had some very nice offers. But each time I’m tempted, I take her out for one last ride. Then realize I can’t part with her.
Huge thanks to Chuck, for pushing me and putting up with panicky texts, and bailing me out during the build. Also thanks to Bob Bartlett from Fast Fab Customs for teaching me to weld.
Submitted to us by TAPPS
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