View Full Version : '78 XLCH learning how to build, build.

04-27-2014, 12:14 AM
Ok, so a little bit about me. I have zero mechanical experience except fixing my car with my dad, and working on my bmx bike. I still canít figure out my mountain bikes. I started with an í81 Honda cb650c, fixed it a little bit and rode it for a year or two. Then got a í75 cb750k, which needed a lot of love so I was able to get my hands a little dirtier. Then I wanted to get into the chopper world, and picked up this í78 XLCH sportster from a guy who owned it for the last 25 years. This is what it looked like when I brought it home-


Got it in fall, rode it around a bunch and throughout the winter since I was pretty close to work at the time. took the apes off cause I really wasnít a fan. Girlfriend was a champ about it-


My opinion about bikes changes all the time as I get more into it. So the apes went back on. I think these forks are about 4 over, which I also wasnít super into


So I put on stock length (maybe?) and some fork gaiters.


then put some biltwell chumps on there, since I liked the look of the apes but not the big rise. then rode it around like that for awhile. took it to some riding spots


another view of the chumps


04-27-2014, 12:14 AM
wanted to start cleaning it up a bit, so I bought a grinder and started removing the reflector perches and fender mounts


after grinding I used some hand files and eventually some kind of sandpaper. could of been more anal about it but looked good enough for me


then I started thinking about hard tailing.. started collecting some parts and mocking it up. at the time I was stoked on how it looked


wanted to stop those pesky oil leaks, so googled how to take off the pushrods. and replaced the cork seals





04-27-2014, 12:15 AM
in may I finally had enough cash to order the hard tail. went with the david bird because I really liked how it looked as a bolt on, and I had never touched a welder before. 5-6 week turn around time, so it arrived 3rd week in June. Strange Days was a few weeks later. time to start hustling.


new stuff


old stuff


well, time to start chopping




04-27-2014, 12:15 AM
went on without too much persuasion, and I started laying parts on it again


rolling around


got a seat which I canít remember the brand, some 3Ē springs, biltwell tongue thing and some spring mounts


started trading bottles of jack to my buddy to borrow his mig for a week at a time. this is literally one of the first welds Iíve ever done, in hind site I probably should of practiced for an hour or so, but I was too excited and just went for it. oh well


starting making a fender support to weld to the frame








04-27-2014, 12:16 AM
had to cut away part of the hard tail to fit the tongue for the seat far enough back



more weld attempts


bent some metal to weld onto the frame for the first support, tried to match the contour of the trailer fender I got from lowbrow



fender mounted to frame at the chain stay and seat stay (hopefully those bike terms transfer) and spring posts and seat thing welded on


had to buy a tap for the sissy bar support


04-27-2014, 12:17 AM
friend had a tank laying around, thought it looked much better



license plate bracket time


complete with walmart trailer light


instagram shot of welding



attaching the thing that the license plate bracket will attach to


04-27-2014, 12:17 AM
my bike is turning into a storyboard of my welding technique progress




exhaust pipe was hitting the new frame, so I dented in that section by squishing it around some 1/2Ē round rod. I think I just ended up using a hammer, it was easier


clears just enough, more than it looks from this angle



04-27-2014, 12:18 AM
made a sissy bar by putting 1/2Ē mild steel in the vice and just pulling on it real hard. donít have the heat capabilities. used the lowbrow kit



almost there


then I had to move. that didnít help the building process. borrowed the welder again and my girlfriend played with it


had to make exhaust support, so welded on this piece and cut it off above the lowest hole


now weíre supported, front and back


itís together, and the test ride felt awesome. this was thursday night. Strange Days started the next day, Friday. phew.


04-27-2014, 12:18 AM
rode it to work Friday morning, and it made it there and back. good enough, time to pack up for Strange Days




it was a blast to ride, and was tuned super well. started up first kick all weekend, and I was all smiles that it didnít explode. kept riding it all summer, didnít come without issues


let the girlfriend take it for a ride, sheís only ridden my hondas before this. she got kinda hooked



04-27-2014, 12:19 AM
relocated my coil. in a very ghetto way


attempted my first set of handlebars. pretty much just took the specs from the biltwell H bars, figured no bends was in my ability



the next big thing was Gypsy Run. never done a trip that long, but this was the week before. scrambling to get everything sorted again. chopped the springs and lowered my forks another 2-3 inches


got it together. replaced my bald back tire, which is bigger, so had to make a new sissy bar. also made that bigger.


packed and ready for gypsy run. my girlfriend is joining on my cb750


it was super fucking awesome. great time.


04-27-2014, 12:20 AM
until I broke down. I was at the back of the pack we were with and no one saw me drop out. luckily they didnít get too far and came back. the guys from lowside tried to help me out, but my bike was toast. it was having problems all day, so I got a lift to the final camp ground. my girlfriend continued on with them, without me, with less than a year under her belt. gnarly.


so what happened is on day 1, my points went. luckily I had an extra set with me, but while I was changing them out I knocked the positive wire off my battery. I have no electrical experience so I pretty much had the worst electrical harness ever, and just mashed everything into a plastic box with electrical tape. my generator must of somehow became unpolarized, and my bike stopped charging. and it was way out of timing because the new points, and me not knowing how to set timing on the road without the internet. a guy Nick was nice enough to loan me his extra battery so I could try and ride home the final day, and it didnít fit into my tray. so we got a little creative with zip ties. you can also see how bad my wiring was


it got me an hour towards home before it ran out, and luckily my buddy was hanging with his truck at the final night so we threw it in there


however, my girlfriend successfully rode the whole way home


the next week I got my generator rebuilt, got a new regulator, and was back on the road for brooklyn invitational. my bike was fine, but the cb750 fouled a plug and while we tried to get it out with needle nose vice grips due to lack of tools, we shattered the ceramic. the bike stayed in brooklyn and we went home at got the truck. the bike then sat until this spring when I finally got around to it, since my girlfriend picked up her own í96 sportster.


new biltwell seat, so much more comfortable than the other one


04-27-2014, 12:21 AM
had some sweet fall rides, with little to no issues except the bolt that holds the advance mechanism broke off in there, but that was an easy fix, just took me out of commission for the next few days. I proceeded to show up to the secret bike show on the back of my girlfriends sportster. everyone thought I was rad.


this is how she ended the year


so now it’s cold.. and I’m thinking longer forks. found a good deal on some 6 over tubes


girlfriend got me the sweet throttle addiction tank. I picked up a new solo seat


got my hands on my own tig welder. way harder than mig. I suck at it.


mockups of my new stuff and my old parts on my girlfriends new bike


well better than my first tig attempts


cleaned the garage, and got to work. started by chopping off the posts on the spring mounts, but left the fatter area of the bungs for the seat to sit on since the frame isn’t a straight line


04-27-2014, 12:21 AM
engine came out, time to work on the frame


new seat


I dig the forks




wanted to try and make the david bird section look more naturalÖ





04-27-2014, 12:22 AM
what I donít have photos of, I put a 1Ē bar across the seat spring perches to support the seat, and used a bit of bondo to kind of mold some of the areas around the seat to make it look more flowy. on to paint


nothing fancy, just flat black grill paint. maybe Iíll do it right someday, but not today


cleaning, and grill paint on the jugs


first time using scotch brite. canít believe how well it works


starting to reassemble


made bungs to weld into the frame to mount the new tank in a more solid manner





04-27-2014, 12:22 AM
fixed the honda, and rode it to work while this thing was in pieces


progress, all painted up


new coil that didnít have cracks on it, mounted it properly and new plug wires. maybe should of taken care of that lower gasket while the engine was out. oops.


relocated key right under the right side of my seat so I can turn it off with my hand on the clutch


drew wiring diagram based off of numerous threads on here


old army box thing, and some bed liner for the battery box


the dividers separate the circuit breakers. probably could of done it better but, you canít see it.


04-27-2014, 12:23 AM
also not pictured- removed the oil cooler mounts and oil cooler. relocated oil filter to above the battery box. itís kind of in the way for taking off the lid now. will do something eventually. managed to clean up the wiring a good bit and have 2 wires to coil and 1 to headlight. took it for a test ride, felt awesome, but made a horrible noise. not stoked. turned out a pushrod seated or whatever and I readjusted them and the noise went away. phew. welded kickstand to itself because the spindle was stripped. doesnít spin anymore.



got rid of the swing out kicker arm, and put a brass pedal on. pedal fell off in the first 5 minutes, so I got a new brash washer, bolt, and lots of locktite. seems ok now. also chopped the end of the pipes off and put small baffles back in. bikes much happier now.


got some stainless, and my girlfriend and I made new handlebars. on easter.


more pulled back since my seating position is farther back now


also, that matte black paint isnít that matte black paint everyone has. its chalk board paint. I can make my bike look ridiculous whenever I want now, and when Iím over it hose it off. been riding around with electric blue for a week


I will probably be a bit more subtle with the chalk in the future. but Iím excited about the possibilities. Iíve learned a whole lot so far with the project, and I've used this website as a resource for most of it. itís far from perfect, but at least I know I touched every part of it.

the things I have left to do are- machine front axle to accept drum brake wheel that I have. mount new tail light. buy new headlight, preferably a rectangular one and mount that. and make new/buy new foot pegs. maybe also get a smaller air cleaner, and a different oil tank. but Iím super happy with where itís going for sure. Iíll try and update as it goes forwards.

04-27-2014, 12:40 AM
Good job man and way to jump on it and learn.

04-27-2014, 12:48 AM
Awesome. Makes me feel like I have some hope for mine next winter

04-27-2014, 8:19 AM
Awesome thread. Thanks for taking the time to post this. Very cool.

The chalkboard paint tripped me out at the end. Interesting idea.

04-27-2014, 8:27 AM
Cool bike and nice write up. Thanks for taking us on the journey.

04-27-2014, 8:51 AM
Great job

04-27-2014, 9:12 AM
Cool story and support from your girl, gives me hope on my own project.

04-27-2014, 12:21 PM
Cool looking bike man. I like that the bike has progressed as your skills have progressed. Also cool that your Ole Lady is right along for the ride. Trust me, it makes life a lot better!

04-28-2014, 3:19 AM
Has this been posted before? Not to this extent, but I had a sense of deja vu going on here.

Regardless, Cool story and pictorial. For some one that knew little, You've done well.


04-28-2014, 8:34 AM
bikes always look best with a pile of camping gear strapped down.

04-28-2014, 8:55 AM
cool thread man. i think a lot of us have had similar experiences learning.

04-28-2014, 11:01 AM
thanks to everyone. Dan, I've posted a before/after photo from when I got it to where it was last summer, you may have seen that floating around.

04-28-2014, 6:30 PM
wow this is a great thread. Props for really just jumping into a building. You've done a lot more than I have and it seems to have worked out pretty well.

04-28-2014, 7:16 PM
Wicked! Keep the updates coming

04-29-2014, 8:29 AM
Wow. Neat story about the build. Your welding skills are much like mine--crappy starting out...and just serviceable now. Keep it up!

01-09-2015, 11:16 AM
well my bike keeps on changing so I thought I would update this a little.

rode it around all summer with different chalk all the time, mostly from other people drawing on it, which was fun-

but then I started to not like some of the "flashy" stuff on it. so I took of the brass kicker at put the stock one back on, took off brass rocker nuts, changed bars, put on some reasonably priced 900cc rockers.

and now that it's winter again, time to start doing more stuff. on my list is- high pipes, I put new headlights on (thanks girlfriend), needs rings, front drum will go on, and I'm going to attempt my own oil tank that hopefully works. started on pipes-


(my girlfriends feminine chalk work, not mine)-

first time welding pipes, it's been super fun so far. made it follow the lines of the hardtail and sissy bar. hopefully matching pipe number 2 will go smoothly, although I think it'll require more time.

01-09-2015, 1:21 PM
Looks good. Thanks for documenting your progress; it's good to read/see what you've done to your bike.

01-09-2015, 1:25 PM
Cool bike! and you've rode it the whole time, mine sits for a long time before I get back on it.

You don't still have the 4 over tubes by chance?? I've been lookin for a '78 shovel, I really should ask before I forget.

01-09-2015, 1:38 PM
I do have the 4 over.. I think they are in the background of the last photo. either those are the 4 overs built up, or my 2 unders. either way yes I have them. they are on the list of things I should sell

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01-09-2015, 1:50 PM
Sweet, could ya PM me the part # sometime? no big hurry

01-09-2015, 1:57 PM
sure will do. should be back in there this weekend

01-09-2015, 5:32 PM
Awesome! You also have a keeper too, hang on that that rad chick of yours.

01-09-2015, 10:49 PM
Bad ass! Never thought of using chalkboard paint. Coolest idea I've seen on here in a while!

01-10-2015, 1:12 AM
This is awesome. Great write up and insanely motivating.

01-10-2015, 2:32 AM
Very cool thread. Good call on the 6" over tubes they look awesome, I think i see a set of them in my distant future..

01-10-2015, 3:16 AM
This is a super motivating thread! I'm undertaking a similar project with similar skills so it's great to see it is achievable. I prefer it with the low pipes but I'm sure you'll make it work. Look forward to the next update!

01-10-2015, 4:09 AM
Good thread and real motivation to get out into the workshop this morning.


01-10-2015, 11:51 AM

01-12-2015, 8:38 AM

https://fbcdn-sphotos-d-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-xaf1/t31.0-8/1522460_10203637814049496_7625215739207795211_o.jp g

https://scontent-b-lga.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xpa1/t31.0-8/10911499_10203637814089497_713679539529862204_o.jp g

https://scontent-a-lga.xx.fbcdn.net/hphotos-xpa1/v/t1.0-9/10931442_10203637813929493_1775590343010252617_n.j pg?oh=4898db197c56960754dadaaceffbf4d8&oe=552A4815

http://instagram.com/p/xvF8Aby9uf/?modal=true (video)

got the other pipe built up, I made it go up at a different angle so I didn't cover the upper fishtail in exhaust soot but my friends agree it just looks off so I'm going to straighten it out and make it parallel, but I'm happy with the progress. just have to build all the supports now and start grinding down all the welds.

01-12-2015, 4:55 PM
Dude you are fuckin killing it, nice work, bike looks great. I like the chalkboard paint idea.

I'm in the middle of my first build so it's always inspiring to see someone else succeed their first time doing something. Hopefully I'll have a similar success story soon. Keep it up!

01-13-2015, 9:21 PM
thanks man

tonights progress, straightened out that pipe, and took my old 12" apes and slimmed them up, pulled them back, and made them riserless. Just tacked so far, but I like the feel. I'm also slowly getting happier with my welds






01-14-2015, 12:47 AM
Is that the dual voltage longevity? How do you like it? Bike is looking rad.

01-14-2015, 8:48 AM
it's the longevity 200sx, not sure if this is what you mean but it can run off of 110 or 220. I have it hooked up to only 110 at the moment but installing a new plug is on my to do list.

I don't have much to compare it to, it's the only tig welder I've ever used, and before that I used my friends lincoln mig. but I also have nothing to complain about, seems like it's got plenty of adjustability, and it's doing what I need it to do. plus the price was nice (relatively speaking)

01-14-2015, 11:30 PM
Yea that's what I meant. (110/220) I'm trying to decide of what to get for my first tig setup as well. I'm sick of cleaning spatter from my harbor freight flux core. haha. Thanks for the info.

01-15-2015, 6:15 PM
badass build man. Hopefully one day my welding skills will progress like yours lol.

How do you like that Weld on hard tail? I've wanted to hardtail my ironhead but my fab skills are minimal and the last thing I want is a crooked rear section. I've just been leery of a bolt on tail though. Any stretching of the bolts or anything?

01-15-2015, 8:02 PM
looking good.where are you in jersey? im in jersey Westville.if you need some shit text me...

01-16-2015, 9:08 AM
badass build man. Hopefully one day my welding skills will progress like yours lol.

How do you like that Weld on hard tail? I've wanted to hardtail my ironhead but my fab skills are minimal and the last thing I want is a crooked rear section. I've just been leery of a bolt on tail though. Any stretching of the bolts or anything?

thanks, I feel like with how the david bird is setup its pretty hard to get it crooked. I've never tested it on a jig to see if its straight but it feels good to me. I think they were grade 8 bolts and I've never checked to see if they stretched but I more pictured them as a backup to my crappy weld job at the time. If I were to do it again I would go straight for the weld on, they look a lot better I think. maybe someday I'll hack apart the top triangle section of my bolt on and make it cleaner.

looking good.where are you in jersey? im in jersey Westville.if you need some shit text me...

I'm in blairstown, so pretty far north west. thanks for the offer, shaping up pretty good at this point but who knows

01-16-2015, 11:55 AM
Cool cool cool. I envy you!

01-17-2015, 12:30 PM

snagged this king and queen off chopperswapper, always wanted one, zip tied on for mockup. it now shows the top triangle from the david bird tail (between seat and tank) so I'm thinking of cutting all that off and extending the tail tubes to my backbone tube.

03-17-2015, 8:43 AM
Cool build man. What stretch and drop did you go with on the hardtail? Also, I noticed you didn't use that round oil tank you originally had mocked up, and went back to the original. How come?

03-17-2015, 10:43 AM
loved watching this evolve.

thanks for posting.


03-17-2015, 8:10 PM
Awsome story, even better sled, hard to believe you started this without ever working on bikes at all.

Hope your putting a ring on that finger, gotta keeper there.

03-25-2015, 8:58 AM
Cool build man. What stretch and drop did you go with on the hardtail? Also, I noticed you didn't use that round oil tank you originally had mocked up, and went back to the original. How come?

thanks, 4” stretch 2” drop. stayed with the original because at the time I felt routing oil lines was over my head, I had no idea how it worked. now I see it’s simple. I plan on trying to make my own horseshoe tank at some point

loved watching this evolve.

thanks for posting.



Awsome story, even better sled, hard to believe you started this without ever working on bikes at all.

Hope your putting a ring on that finger, gotta keeper there.

thanks, just have to stop spending money on my bike before that can happen. wait until you see her bike, it’s going to be awesome.

03-25-2015, 9:37 AM
my front brake project. I found through some searching a company that makes a 40mm OD 3/4” ID bearing, so I could keep my 3/4” axle with the hamburger drum. All I had to do was bore out the backing plate to 3/4, and make a new spacer for the inside (which I got help with).

my buddy Cal at Retrofit helped make some spacers to fit my drum onto my 35mm legs. he had these need bronze pieces laying around and I have a few brass things so we decided to use em.



I was so excited about his lathe I decided to buy one. a 9x36” south bend from the 20’s. old but works. first project I did on it was turning down my fork legs. previously I just used grinders and files but this method is way way cleaner. I also ended up shaving off the oil screw hole and filling that in.

Cal also made me this brake stay, which turned out pretty rad

did a few practice beads on a flat piece of metal, its my first time welding aluminum. all went well. tried to tack on the brake stay. all went horrible. little different trying to weld vertically, the filler kept running off like water. eventually got it tacked, and it wasn’t much easier to do on my beach. I eventually said fuck it and just globbed on an excessive amount of filler and figured I’d clean it up with a file and sand paper afterwards, which I did.

so now I have front brakes for the first time in over a year

also, here’s my girlfriends project-
’96 1200c with a 47 industries hard tail, shovel triple trees with ironhead 4 over forks, going to make her stock caliper work on the front so the bike still stops well. 21” evo wheel looks good inside those forks.

03-25-2015, 4:59 PM
great work cleaning up that brake stay weld - looks killer. just bought a lathe myself... 1960 delta/rockwell - they're so fun. keep up the good work dude

04-07-2015, 10:30 AM
Pretty awesome transformation. cool watching your skills evolve. Never seen a chalkboard bike, way to think outside the norm.

07-15-2015, 2:58 AM
Just read through the thread after reading through the feature on the front page. I think this is my favorite thread I've ever read on CC. Everything about it is awesome. Killer bike, and I can't help but love people that just decide to go and do something like build a bike, and not just talk about it.

p.s. you need to marry your girlfriend before somebody else does. holy shit.

07-15-2015, 4:30 AM
Yeah cool write up! Made me like the bike even more. Post up your updates so we can all find some motivation!

07-15-2015, 8:59 AM
ha thanks, glad to hear people read it. I have some more changes I can update this with soonly.

Until then, my girlfriend just finished her sportster project, which unforunately does not have quite as much documentation. I am making a video about it though. Here is her, the bike, and a couple of lady friends-


07-26-2015, 9:41 PM
This bike and journey is so cool, how can i meet up with you and go riding up in north jersey one weekend coming up? Trying to find more people in Jersey to ride with!