Saturday, June 29, 2013

The First Victim

After reading magazines, searching online, and browsing Craig's List for a few weeks, I finally decided where to start.  My first project was going to be cafe racer-ish and I was watching CL for a donor bike, most likely of Japanese manufacture, from the 1970s or very early 1980s.  Ideally, I was hoping for a runner that I could ride around as is for the first few weeks until I got a feel for exactly what I wanted to change.  I found a few that I was mildly interested in but nothing that really blew my skirt up.

There was a project bike that I had noticed in the metalworking area at TechShop.  It had been sitting there, next to the wall, for a couple of weeks and it seemed that no one was actively working on it.  Finally, I asked one of the DCs. (Quick aside: that's what they call the people that work at TechShop, DCs or "dream consultants".  Yes somewhat dorky but it goes with the TS motto: "Build Your Dreams Here.")  Anyway, I asked the DC who it belonged to and he told me that it was one of the instructors, a guy named Matt, who I happened to have taken a class from on angular sheet metal techniques a few months earlier.  From class I remembered that Matt owned a shop called Pipeworx so, with help from Google, I found his contact information and I got in touch with him about the bike.

After a few emails and a brief chat on the phone I found out that he had been building it as a shop bike for himself.  He had intentions of completing it but that work and other projects kept him way too busy at the moment and that didn't seem likely to change in the near future.  He said that he would be willing to sell it, provided it was to someone that would finish the bike.

Before we got to discussing a selling price, he started listing off the work he had already done to it as well all the parts he had purchased.  I was adding up the cost of the parts in my head as he spoke and already knew that it was going to be way out of my budget for my first project and we hadn't even discussed the cost of the bike itself.  I mentioned that to him and thanked him for his time but then he said, "If you will finish it, I will sell you for just the cost of the parts I've put into it."  How could I pass that up?

A couple of days later we met up at TechShop and he helped me load the bike in my truck.  Afterwards, I met him back at his shop where he gave me a box of additional parts and we discussed his original ideas and the direction he was going with the bike which was going to be a bratstyle build.  I'm already thinking of what I want to do a little differently.  In general, I like the direction already but I have to incorporate some of my own ideas.  I don't have anything specific in mind just yet but I do think I may add a little bit of a salt flat racer vibe into it.

The bike is a 1980 Yamaha SR500.  Here is some quick info on it and a brief list of the parts that came with it and/or work that has already been done:

  • Matt had already chopped and dropped the back of the frame using castings from a 90s era Sportster
  • The swing arm was lengthened 2 inches
  • The forks were internally lowered 3 inches
  • Rims, fork lowers, and upper and lower triples are powder coated
  • Woodcraft Clip-Ons
  • New Firestone vintage tires
  • New 36mm Mikuni carburator
  • 320mm Ducati rotor with a Brembo 4 piston caliper
  • Custom CNCed brackets and adapters from Pipeworx to make above work
The bad thing about the bike is that it's just a roller.  Matt also had removed the original gas tank mounts from the frame as he was planning to build a custom tank which I will now have to do.  Both of those mean that there is a lot work remaining to be done before it will be back on the street.  I think I may be in over my head already.  The amount sheet metal work alone is intimidating as that is a skill which I don't have.  Well... don't have yet anyway.  That was the point of this project, right? To learn new skills?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Hello. My name is...

... and I'm an alc.... oh wait, wrong meeting.

I've tried things like this before, keeping a log of projects or other ventures. It always starts with the best intentions but I seem to lose interest and fail to update it near as often as I should. So here goes another attempt. I'll try to keep the updates coming though, rest assured, they will be sparse.

A little about me: by day, I'm a computer engineer.  I went to a large university in Austin and used to work at a major computer manufacturer in the same area.  After tiring of the corporate world, I went to work for a smaller company with a really cool logo but still doing the same type of development and design work.  I specialize in the server and storage world, in particular transport protocols.  I really enjoy what I do and welcome the challenges it brings but, after doing it during the week, I found myself looking for something completely different in my free time.  It's fun to think and talk about communication protocols, transport optimization, and other esoteric concepts but when you get down to it, it's all 1's and 0's.  At then end of a hard day of work, there's a lot to be said about being able to hold the result of your idea in your hand.

Enter fabrication.  I've always been interested in building things with my hands.  Mostly it was woodworking at first but, more recently, the world of metal working has been opened to me.  I guess it started when a friend showed me a video of the Spin Cycle built by a guy named Brad from Atomic Zombie.  I checked out his website and bought a couple of his books ("Atomic Zombie's Bicycle Builder's Bonanza" and "Bike, Scooter, and Chopper Projects for the Evil Genius").  I was amazed at what could be done using nothing more than a stick welder, angle grinder, and a hand drill.

This interest was further propagated when they opened a Tech Shop location in my area.  If there is one near you and you haven't been, you owe it to yourself to check it out.  They work along the same lines as a fitness gym.  You pay a monthly fee for access but instead of treadmills, free weights, and aerobics classes they have milling machines, lathes, TIG welders, etc.  You have to take a basic safety class before you can use a particular machine but once that's done, you have unrestricted access to use it.  I spend most of my time in the machine shop or metal "hot shop" portion of the place but they have way more than that.  There's a full wood shop, laser cutters/engravers, and if your into textiles they have embroidering machines, commercial sewing machines,  and even a CNC quilting machine.

Anyway, this blog is primarily going to be about my little fabrication projects, mainly centered around motorcycles.  Keep in mind I'm an engineer (read: geek) and have no real experience with any type of metal work.  The items I post are just my feeble attempts at accomplishing a certain task.  I probably did not do them the best or "correct" way and they either worked or failed but hopefully I can pass on information to someone that may find it useful.  Even if it's just "how NOT to do something" which I feel will probably be the case more often than not.

So, why motorcycles?  I got into motorcycles several years ago and was initially interested in crotch rockets.  I like to go fast (who doesn't?) and that seemed to be the best way to do it.  Not long after that I attended my first track day.  That ruined me on street riding, at least on sport bikes, permanently.  When you're white knuckling a bike at 160 MPH and wondering why you can't go any faster.  Then you glance down and realize you're bouncing off the rev limiter and you're only in 5th gear with one more to go....  That's not something you can recreate ("safely") on the street.  Added to that, sport bikes just aren't that comfortable to ride around on so I put my last bike in storage.  

I found myself in sort of a transitional period.  I was looking for something that was just as much fun to ride at reasonable speeds as it was full throttle.  Having something that's fun and interesting to look at while it's parked was also appealing.  I picked up a few magazines including Cafe Racer, The Horse - Backstreet Choppers, and Hot Bike (among others) to get some ideas on the direction I wanted to go.  I know I want to build something or, at least, heavily modify something.  I'm not entirely certain which way I'll go but I do know it's definitely not going to be anywhere near those overpriced pro street choppers that were so popular five or ten years ago.  I also think I may avoid Harley's, at least for now, just because everyone seems to have one already.  It's probably inevitable though that I will end up with one eventually as both my father and brother are die hard HD riders.  We'll see....

Oh yeah, the name... I like beer.  A large portion of these projects are done out of my garage, during my off hours, and are typically accompanied by 1 to 6+ of my pint sized friends.