The Harley Davidson Sportster is a common chopper platform for several reasons. First, it has a simple motor and transmission configuration that can be easily modified. Second, the motor is powerful, and there are several readily available and relatively inexpensive aftermarket upgrades. Harley Davidson offers several items in its Screaming Eagle line. Lastly, there are many aftermarket frames and kits designed with the Sportster in mind.
Things You'll Need
- Build plan
- Parts list
- Local title and licensing laws
- Motorcycle lift
- Basic hand tools
The Build Plan
Evaluate how much you want to spend, establish a budget and stick to it. This is one of the most vital steps to completing a build. It is easy to become distracted by parts and add-ons not accounted for in the original plan, and then to run out of money before the build is complete. Avoid this with careful money management and budget planning from the beginning.
Choose the components that you wish to incorporate into your bike, price them and include them in the plan. Pick frames, wheels, seats, bars, tires, lighting and other accent components. Be sure that wheels will work with your frame, tires fit the rims, and bars and other accessories will work with your controls. This will avoid returning items or having to purchase additional ones later in the build, resulting in costly delays.
Determine what work you can do yourself, and what work you will need to outsource. Decide who will perform the outsourced work. Get references and use reputable shops and painters. Get items to them in a timely manner so that they can get them back to you within the time frame you have for your build.
Acquire or build a motorcycle lift table. This will make the work go more smoothly. Purchase a good basic tool kit before you begin if you do not already own one. Ensure that you have all the tools you will need. Create benches and space where you can work in a safe, neat and well-organized area. Keep the area clean, and use it exclusively for this project.
Assemble all items according to instructions included with them, or use a basic shop manual for assembly. A good understanding of how motorcycles work will be helpful in overcoming issues as you build. Use torque specifications provided, especially for steering head bearings, axles and wheels.
Tape painted and chrome items to avoid damage with masking tape, and use great care when installing them. Get help if you need it, instead of attempting difficult tasks alone. Keep parts well organized, and document your build with notes and pictures as you go, in case you have to backtrack to fix errors.
Title and Licensing
Check local ordinances before you begin, and make friends with someone at your local motor vehicle department. Let them know what you are doing, and find out all local laws applicable to a custom build.
Keep all receipts for all items purchased, and if purchasing a frame and engine, keep Manufacturers Source of Origin (MSO) sheets. In all states, you will need these to register your motorcycle. If using used parts, get a signed statement from the owner who sold you the parts, or the title to the parts bike you used. You will need to prove that you legally obtained all the parts you use for your build.
Complete inspections required by your local area, have your bike emission tested if required and take these forms to the DMV. You will be issued a new VIN and new title. With these, you can license your Sportster chopper.
- "Billy Lane's How to Build Old School Choppers, Bobbers and Customs"; Billy Lane; 2005
- Photo Credit silver chopper image by Inger Anne HulbÃ¦kdal from Fotolia.com
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