Nothing sets off a chopper like a custom set of handlebars that have been perfectly formed to follow the lines of the bike. Of course, fabricating a set of bars to get that desired effect is a little more difficult than one might first imagine. Plus, you need the right tooling and more than a bit of experience to create a symmetrical set of handlebars. Recently I took a trip up to Chicago to hang out with Rob Hultz, aka “Bobby Good Times,” and got a crash course on making custom handlebars from the master himself. While many of you may know of Rob from his critically acclaimed music career as a bass player with bands like Solace, Godspeed and Social Decay, he is also an extremely talented bike builder whose skills go well beyond making the handlebars I’ll be detailing below and you should definitely take the time to check out some of his builds.
For his bars, Rob likes to use thick walled 1” OD stainless steel pipe which results in a more rigid handlebar than your typical off the shelf piece made in China. As expected, the first step of the process is to cut the pipe to length using a horizontal bandsaw, making sure to add at least a few extra inches over the expected final length.
Next, Rob deburrs the ends and chucks the bar up in the lathe to give the stainless a quick polish before getting started. The bars will get a full professional polish when they are completed, but it is much easier to get an initial polish while the bar is still straight.
In order to make sure each set of bars fits correctly, both mechanically and visually, Rob has a collection of triple tree upper clamps and risers that he uses for laying out the bars. Once the correct set up is clamped to the table, the center of the bar as well as the centers of the risers are clearly marked.
Then it is time to make the first bend. Rob has a pipe bender set up with custom dies just for making his handlebars, so he can create repeatable precision curves which is absolutely necessary for fabricating a symmetrical set of handlebars.
Once the first bend is complete, the bar goes back to the triple tree clamp and Rob verifies the measurements one more time before going back to the pipe bender for the second bend.
Besides being a famous musician and chopper builder, Rob also has years of experience bending conduit as a commercial electrician and that particular skillset makes the next steps look a lot easier than they actually are. From here on out, every bend must be made relative to the first bend, otherwise the bars will not be aligned correctly. For the second bend, the bar must be placed into the pipe bender and leveled perfectly so that the handlebars will be even.
With the basic bar shape complete, the next step is to mark the desired height of the bar. Then it is back to the pipe bender for the final bends. Rob uses to digital angle gauge to position the bar correctly before making each of these last two bends.
At this point the bending is complete and the final step in the fabrication process is to trim off the excess pipe with the bandsaw.
Quality control comes next as Rob carefully measures the bars to verify that they are square and bent to the dimensions specified by the customer.
Rob’s work is done and this point and the bars and are ready to be sent out for professional polishing before being shipped to the customer.
If you are looking for a set of custom bars for your next project, Rob definitely is the guy you want to connect with for a quality set of one-off handlebars. He’ll also do mild steel bars and have them chromed if stainless steel isn’t your thing. A set a stainless steel bars will set you back $140 if you stick with the brushed finished and $180 if you want them professionally polished. Bare mild steel bars are $130 and if you want chrome, Rob can get you a quote based on the size of the bars. All prices include shipping, so that’s tough to beat for a unique set of bars for your chopper. You can keep up with Rob and all of his exploits on the Gram by following @bobbygt. Just shoot him a DM if you need a set of bars and he’ll get you set up.
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