Friday, 14 November 2008

The customizing bug hits...

People buy motorcycles for a wide variety of reasons. For some, a motorcycle is simply inexpensive transportation – cheap to buy and operate, easy to park, and if it’s a bit of fun too, then that’s a bonus. You can thank this crowd for the recent increase in scooter sales. For others, their motorcycle is a means to get out and enjoy the ride. Function trumps form for these riders – their bikes are generally purpose-built to meet their individual riding styles and preferences whether that is off-road, back-road, or twisty road. Then there is the third group, the group of riders for whom a motorcycle is simply a blank canvas upon which one makes one’s personal mark. Of course they ride their bikes – a lot – but when the buying decision is made the anticipation of what it could become often eclipses the reality of what it currently is.

While there are always exceptions, this latter group can most often be found looking at, modifying, or riding Harley-Davidsons. And whether it was customer demand or H-D marketing that caused the customizing craze to explode – the classic chicken and egg scenario – there’s no doubt that the mother ship has fully embraced the concept, publishing a 600-plus page dream book of “genuine Harley-Davidson” accessories that will allow you to customize your bike to your heart’s content, or until the money runs out, which usually comes first. Then there’s J&P Cycles’ Catalog – 1100+ pages of geegaws, doodads, and whatsits, all designed to give your ride that personal touch. And there are hundreds more suppliers out there, all jockeying for your customising dollars, all sending catalogues to any H-D mailing list they can get their hands on.

For someone who comes from the Brit bike world where accessorising involved deciding whether to go flat bars or clip-ons, or if feeling really adventurous, adding an oil cooler and an electronic ignition module, this is all somewhat overwhelming. Especially when flat bars or clip-ons was a major decision, mulled over for days (I went with flat.) So now I have this – except for a back rest, rack and windshield – stock ’07 Low Rider and an urge to do something with it. I don’t know why, I guess it just goes with the territory.

Now I know the money will run out long before the ideas do, so prioritizing is essential. A rational plan would have rideability and comfort at the top of the list, performance somewhere in the middle, and “coolness” down at the bottom. But rationality has nothing to do with it, so the coolness factor keeps creeping up the list, forcing decisions between options such as buying a Tallboy™ seat to make the ride more comfortable or installing chrome switch box covers. Forward controls or custom paint (I think the factory Metallic Gold was created just for the Low Rider!). Saddle bags or ... Well, you get the idea.

Of course, the downside of all of this is that with so many choices, the easiest decision is to do nothing thus saving yourself the agony of making a choice and not an inconsiderable amount of cash in the process. But that doesn’t satisfy the human desire for change, so you leave yourself open to the temptation to simply trade up to something newer and/or bigger and certainly much more expensive.

So on second thought, perhaps I’ll go with the seat -and- custom paint. Or maybe, saddlebags -and- forward controls. I wouldn’t mind replacing the hand grips.....


  1. Job Opening - CNC Programmer / Machinist

    OCC has an immediate opening for a qualified candidate who would be responsible for the following:

    Experienced Tool & Die Maker/CNC machinist
    MasterCAM experience a must
    SolidWorks experience
    Experienced on using HAAS Machining Centers & CNC Lathes
    Please e-mail or send resume to the following:

    Orange County Choppers
    Attn: Machinist Resume
    14 Crossroads Court
    Newburgh, NY 12550

  2. I could be famous! If I knew what half that stuff was :)

  3. I'd be one of those folks in the third group who believe a new Harley is just a "starter kit". I've spent more money customizing the bike than I paid for the bike.

    Regarding the two prior comments...I dunno about Famous:) Heck, most folks who ride that I know don't watch OCC anymore. Maybe OCC still has a huge following in the mainstream. Besides, I couldn't even tell you the name of the old HAAS or CNC mechanist. So I'm guessing he wasn't very famous.

  4. Mr. M.

    I expect you're right about OCC. It was certainly fresh and different when it started airing a few years ago - swept up in the whole Monster Garage/reality fad.

    I haven't watched it in quite a long while, ever since the focus shifted from the bikes to the personalities. A little bit of the Teutels goes a long, long way.

    But it's still on the air, so someone is watching.


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