Do it your­self AN EX­PERT GUIDE

Tak­ing on your first project can be a big step, so ex­pe­ri­enced cus­tomiser Adam Kay of Un­ti­tled Mo­tor­cy­cles shares his top tips to get­ting started

Motorcycle News (UK) - - Retro Special 2017 -

Afew years ago Adam Kay de­cided it was time for a change, so with the help of friendly me­chanic Rex he set about cus­tomis­ing his first bike – a BMW R80. Look­ing back it’s a lit­tle crude com­pared to his lat­est cre­ations but Midlife Cri­sis (as it be­came known) set Adam down the path to be­ing a full-time bike builder. The friendly me­chanic is now his busi­ness part­ner and to­gether they run Un­ti­tled Mo­tor­cy­cles in London, which has been so suc­cess­ful it’s spawned an­other work­shop in LA and they’ve pro­duced over 50 cus­tom bikes. These are his tips to suc­cess when cus­tomis­ing a bike.

Choose your model care­fully

“Lit­tle bikes aren’t al­ways eas­ier to work on, so don’t be afraid of jump­ing straight in with a big Guzzi or some­thing. BMWS are pop­u­lar be­cause of the re­mov­able sub­frame. You can even buy af­ter­mar­ket sub­frames, seats, mud­guards etc and cus­tomise a bike over a week­end. That said, steer clear of the K-se­ries BMWS un­less you like work­ing on cars.

“You have to be care­ful with some mod­ern bikes like KTMS and Du­catis as the steel in the trel­lis frames has been treated, so if you start weld­ing it willy nilly you can make the frame go re­ally brit­tle.”

Buy a de­cent run­ner

“I al­ways say to peo­ple when they come to us, get the best bike you can to start. What­ever you do don’t buy a box of bits be­cause you don’t know what you’ve got – you could be miss­ing some­thing that’s im­pos­si­ble to find, or costs a for­tune to re­place. If it has an MOT when you get it, you can also ride it first.

“Be­fore we start cus­tomis­ing bikes we tell peo­ple to ride them for a few months be­fore­hand, so that they know what it is they want to change.

“You might also find lit­tle me­chan­i­cal things that need do­ing too, so you can start learn­ing about how to fix the bike be­fore you cut it up. It’s one thing be­ing able to make it look pretty, but it’s an­other to know how to make it me­chan­i­cally sound.”

Set a bud­get and time­line

“De­cide how much you want to spend and map

the build out. It’s so easy to spend a bit of cash here and there without re­ally notic­ing. But it all adds up and be­fore you know where you are, you’ve spent a for­tune that you might not get back.

“When I cus­tomised my first bike I would come into the work­shop a few days a week and I did it bit by bit over eight months. Ide­ally you need to take the bike off the road, rather than do one bit, then ride it, then an­other bit. It saves you time and money in the long run be­cause you might change the bars, then de­cide you want to change the yoke, so all those new bits have to come off again. The other key part of this is ide­ally hav­ing an­other bike to get your­self around on, which means you’re not rush­ing to fin­ish it so you can ride to work on Mon­day morn­ing.

Take it slowly

“When you get a new bike it’s tempt­ing to rip into it and end up with a jum­bled up box of bits. When­ever you take any­thing apart, pho­to­graph ev­ery sin­gle step. If it’s com­ing off the bike, bag it up and la­bel the bag. If you’re tak­ing apart a loom, la­bel ev­ery sin­gle wire. All this stuff might sound a faff and it does slow you down, but that’s no bad thing. In the long run it’s quicker too, as you won’t be work­ing out how to re­assem­ble your crank from a grainy photo in an old Haynes man­ual.”

Go for­wards not back­wards

“Some­times I see peo­ple who’ve put drum brakes on a fairly fast mod­ern bike and I think ‘What the hell are you do­ing?’ – it might look beau­ti­ful but you can’t ride it to its full po­ten­tial. You can buy lovely master cylin­ders and great­look­ing reser­voirs these days. Even some mun­dane ones pol­ished up look nice – we use the master cylin­der from an SV650 on a lot of our bikes.

“Also don’t put those tubes on in­stead of the reser­voir. If you work out how much you ac­tu­ally need, it would be two feet long. When the fluid heats up it ex­pands and it will hit the end of that tube and put your brakes on. Lastly – fit good tyres. Fire­stones may look cool but they’re ter­ri­ble to ride.”

Give it to an ex­pert

“Some­times the best pol­icy is know­ing when to stop. If you’re un­sure about some­thing, stop and take it to a pro­fes­sional. Weld­ing is the other one – any­one can weld, but badly. MIG seems easy as it’s al­most like a glue gun but peo­ple don’t like the welds, so they grind it back to make it look pretty and there’s noth­ing left hold­ing it to­gether. Next thing you know, the lovely hoop you’ve welded on snaps off and it (along with your pas­sen­ger are sat in the road).”

UMC-036 uses lac­quer over raw me­tals UMC-028 Bol d’or is a homage to clas­sic en­durance rac­ers

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