Morgan’s – First Bike Budget Build

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Anyone in Denver wanna go for a ride?

Morgan – Well, let me preface this by saying this was my first build… and my first bike. I had looked at motorcycles – especially choppers – from afar for a long time but never really considered getting one. My Dad never had one. I didn’t have an older brother who had one. My Mom hated them, So did my wife.

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Probably in mid 2009 I started to obsess over them, especially the DIY, garage built rat bikes – many of which I saw on this site. I ended up wearing down my wife, promising to always wear a helmet, and the following year a friend of mine ended up getting his hands on an ’82, totally bone stock. That ended up becoming mine on trade for some tattoo work. I got it not even knowing how to ride a motorcycle.

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I knew I wanted to chop it, but didn’t want to rush in not even knowing how to ride the thing.  It ran, but I didn’t want to ride around on it with all the stock crap still attached.  I’m an electrician by trade, but have never been a car guy.  Thankfully, I’ve got the ego to assume I’ll learn everything as I go.  I bent up a homemade set of drag bars, bobbed the rear fender, made a half assed solo seat, and stripped off the turn signals, stock air filter, bulky plastic bits, and chopped off the mufflers.  What I ended up with was something ugly and ratty…but it was becoming mine.

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Skipping over learning how to ride and a huge fiasco with an out of state title, I finally had it Colorado plated and was on the road. Being an inexperienced rider, I was too intimidated to ride with friends and many other people, so I spent the fall and early winter of 2010 exploring Denver and the surrounding cities on two wheels by myself.  Thankfully, despite it’s Rocky Mountain reputation, Denver stays particularly mild most of the year, and was able to ride comfortably all the way up to Christmas Eve. I called that one my last for the year, and finally retired the bad bitch to my garage that would become both it’s tomb and place of resurrection.

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In late December I started disassembling.  By the beginning of this year it was down to the frame and I was ready to make my first cuts.  I was moving along at such an easy pace, I figured I’d have it done by March.  Yeah right.  My wife and I had our first child on top of me being out of work for 6 months (which meant no money to buy parts) brought things to a screeching halt for weeks or months at a time.

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But finally I got on my feet and on my way.  I wanted it to be a budget built from the get go – not just because I’m cheap, but I wanted to start off knowing what it was like to build parts and come from the ground up.  There was some stuff I obviously ordered, but I wanted to be able to end up with a badass bike, and know it cost me very, very little in the end.

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I built everything in my long single car garage with nothing more than a 120v MIG welder, cordless drill, angle grinder and hand tools.  I didn’t even know how to weld when I started so that was yet another learning curve and part of the process.

Here’s how everything broke down:

  • Frame – TC Bros hardtail
  • Tank – Ebay find peanut tank
  • Fender – Repurposed front fender to be rear
  • Pipes – Homemade using TC Bros pipe kit
  • License/Tail Light Bracket – Homemade and hand hammered from scrap steel
  • Pegs – Repurposed original peg brackets – hand-me-down rigid passenger pegs
  • Seat – Generic solo seat and springs from TC Bros
  • Seat Pivot – Homemade from scrap steel
  • Battery Box – Homemade from scrap steel
  • Electronics Box – Homemade from a piece of 4″ conduit and scraps
  • Bars – Homemade from scrap 1/2″ rigid electrical conduit
  • Headlight – Generic garage sale find
  • Grips/Throttle – Garage sale find and generic “old school” grips
  • Front Brake Master Cylinder – Slimline from MikesXS
  • Mirror/Clutch Lever/Key Switch/Air Filters – Generic

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Everything else is stock and otherwise moved and/or adjusted. All in (after getting the donor bike on a trade), I’ve probably only got about $700 or so into this. Once it was “done” I went through a few pairs of homemade bars before I built these and was happy with them. As well, somewhere along the line I had the classic charging system problem. By that point, I was so burnt out on troubleshooting that I had to ask for some help. Had the reg/rec replaced along with the brushes and battery and she was on the road.

I put some rattle can rust/brown on the frame and otherwise haven’t put much thought into paint before getting her running steady. That’ll be this winter’s project – I’m just enjoying riding her for the time being. Huge thanks to xs650chopper.com for the endless inspiration to finish this heap. Anyone in Denver wanna go for a ride?

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Comments

  1. Nicke says:

    You should be proud man.

  2. Morgan says:

    Thanks dude. I know there will be plenty calling me out for the sporty tank and TC tail, but I wasn’t really going for originality for my first build. I just wanted something functional with a hint of style – even if that style has already been done a million times.

  3. cruzboos says:

    Good going dude! We all have to start somewhere and you’re on your way. Keep on tinkering and you’ll end up with something that you’ll really be proud of. Just keep her rollin’!

  4. Geezerman says:

    Nice job !!!

  5. Wild Man says:

    Nice!! I’m realy digg’n those pipes!

  6. Barney says:

    Way to overcome adversity!

  7. Marco says:

    Very cool man! I’m in the same boat, owned a bike, but never worked on one, have an 81 stock sitting in the basement ready to be chopped, this is definitely inspiration. Great job!

  8. greg says:

    You learned and did it all yourself man, thats what counts. It has to make YOU happy. Personally, I like the look.

  9. Dennis says:

    Morgan – good job on the bike, and a great write-up. A back-story like that brings it home for me. helluva job on the exhaust, I love the way you brought the left side over.

  10. Ben says:

    Always liked those double spoke wheels. Check your frame welds regularly.:) I learned to mig weld by shortening a VW single cab pick-up. Since then have hardtailed two bikes. I still go over my welds once a week or so. Nice first bike.

  11. Mark says:

    Lovin the exhaust, looks great. Great job.

  12. Jake says:

    You did a nice job, congrats!

    Anyone who says anything negative about a TC bros tail and sporty tank need to give that spiel a rest. It’s only the guys spending too much time on the TC Facebook page customer rides pics that make that statement anyway.

    That tank and that hard tail look great together. For a first build, it worked out well for you.

  13. davethewrench says:

    Good Job !!! I love the sporty tank on the XS chop’s…It’s like the jap’s designed the bike to put peanut’s on them
    Nice Bike !!!

  14. Morgan says:

    It’s true. I guess it’s become a common combo for a good reason. I toyed with the idea of narrowing the peanut, just to change it up a little, but this bike is a rider. It’s already only 2 gallons.

    Thanks everyone for the feedback! Much appreciated!

  15. Phill Kenoyer says:

    Awesome build! I’m doing the exact same but spent way more. License and first bike about a month ago.

    Got my bike already chopped and I’m just finishing it. I don’t really like the hard tail so I’ll probably chop it off and redo it next year. Just finished my battery box last night, and now I’m working on redoing the wiring. Still have to do the rear fender brackets/struts, license plate bracket and light, and a bunch of other stuff. But it’s going well.

    Your bike looks pretty sweet!

  16. ghostshadow says:

    Looks great! I’d be proud to ride it. Congrats on the first build, it looks very clean.

  17. Jeroen says:

    Love the story,
    great build!!

    Jeroen

  18. Chuck Jones says:

    Great first build!

  19. john says:

    Morgan,
    Thankyou very much for an extremely well written and interesting story of your first motorcycle build. You should be proud of the job you have done. Well done, sir.

  20. luke says:

    nice write up and cool bike

  21. Sherwin Haas says:

    Nice work, very impressive. I love these stories of people with no prior experience jumping in and building a cool bike, inspiring!

  22. Morgan says:

    Thanks again, guys. I forgot to include it in the write up, but here’s a short video of start up, just to prove it actually runs haha

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zPxR78QzkRg&feature=youtube_gdata_player

  23. redbyron says:

    Nice first bike man. Enjoyed your story and list of parts used. I just bought an old xs650 beater to start my dream chop. This site is great for inspiration. Happy riding.

  24. Dennis says:

    “Morgan’s Rebellion”

  25. micke says:

    Really nice bike. Follow my xs650 projekt on this blog: http://xs650bobber.wordpress.com/

  26. El Gaucho says:

    Look, I’d normally be the first to pass of the bike with a sporty tank, BUT, for a first build, you nailed it man! The lines and proportions are spot on, and I’m totally in love with that exhaust. First builds (and even 2nd and 3rd’s) have TON’s of learning experiences. Can’t wait to see what you do in the future.

  27. Tijuana Bumpersticker says:

    I don’t live near Denver, and my bike’s not done, but yeah, I want to go for a ride:)

  28. Jason says:

    As a fellow tc bros tail and sporty tank guy I must say you nailed it…

    That exhaust is nuts.. I wanted to do something similar but couldn’t find the inspiration. Good work.

  29. Chuck Jones says:

    Great low budget build. Could not have done it better myself.

  30. pickles says:

    Killer bars and pipes…fuck the naysayers, one look at your exhaust, and if the love custom bikes, they’ll dig it. What’s your next build gonna be?

  31. Morgan says:

    I’ve got plans to redo some stuff on this one this winter – new peg mounts, redo some booger welds, shave the front forks, and some cosmetic stuff including paint. After that, I dunno. I’ll probably go for another metric. I’d like to give a Harley a go, but I won’t have the money for that any time soon.