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  1. #1

    Default Not really sure where to start.

    I'm planning on having a bike for the spring/early summer and I have an Idea what I want. Ive always been a huge fan of chopped sportster hardtails. the look and the feel always struck a nice chord with me.

    I'm looking for advice here on what would be a good plan for me. Should I try and find a converted hardtail already as I don't have any welding experience / much motorcycle mechanic experience. (ive worked on Hondas and atvs growing up etc.) Or Should I try and find a used sportster (which years would be good to keep an eye out for) and ride that, and bring it to a shop to do the conversion for me? I feel lost with it all as I don't want to spend more money than I have too. But I also don't mind spending the extra cash if it will net me a better bike.

  2. #2
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    Hey Garbagewoman,

    Welcome to the CC, first of all!

    It looks like from your profile you are in Canada. That said, I am not sure of the market up there, and I also know your currency is in the shitter so buying a bike from the states may be cost inhibitive.

    That said, if you can find a sporty chop done decently near you in the 4-5K range (that's US dollar typical cost) you will be paying the same as if you bought a decent sporty to start and then purchased the hardtail, oil bag, seat, and other trimmin's which it would take to convert a stock sporty.

    This will also save you from having to pay someone to weld a hardtail on, and you won't have to paint it, and you know that everything is going to work as it is.

    This also all depends on how deep you want to get into modifying your own bike though. If you are down to spend a ton of time learning, buying new tools, and fucking things up the first (or second, or third) try, then building a bike from a stocker would be the right choice.

    If you just want something that you can ride ASAP, then buy a bike already done.

    Hope that helps!

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by dirtygrotonscoundrel View Post
    Hey Garbagewoman,

    Welcome to the CC, first of all!

    It looks like from your profile you are in Canada. That said, I am not sure of the market up there, and I also know your currency is in the shitter so buying a bike from the states may be cost inhibitive.

    That said, if you can find a sporty chop done decently near you in the 4-5K range (that's US dollar typical cost) you will be paying the same as if you bought a decent sporty to start and then purchased the hardtail, oil bag, seat, and other trimmin's which it would take to convert a stock sporty.

    This will also save you from having to pay someone to weld a hardtail on, and you won't have to paint it, and you know that everything is going to work as it is.

    This also all depends on how deep you want to get into modifying your own bike though. If you are down to spend a ton of time learning, buying new tools, and fucking things up the first (or second, or third) try, then building a bike from a stocker would be the right choice.

    If you just want something that you can ride ASAP, then buy a bike already done.

    Hope that helps!
    Yea I see them on local shop websites so they do exist, but just finding where they sell them seems to be the tricky part. Kijiji and CL doesn't seem to yield a whole lot in my province AB. I tried searching for Canadian chopper forums but everything seemed to be US based.

    I'd really like to get into the mechanics and trial and error side of it but im worried if I bought a stock bike it would be too overwhelming for me at the beginning.

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    Buy one already done if you don't know how to yourself it can get pricey, if the shops selling them are far away make a road trip out of it, as far as mechanics go get a manual for whatever you buy and start slow then customize whatever you want

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    91-03 sportsters were the best years. Carbed, 5 speed, frame mounted motor.

  6. #6

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    Great advice so far, thanks everyone.

    Quote Originally Posted by Blackbetty View Post
    91-03 sportsters were the best years. Carbed, 5 speed, frame mounted motor.
    Im seeing a trend here that people don't seem as concerned with year and how old a bike is. Unlike with cars/trucks generally you'd want something newer because of repair costs and reliability. If that's the case why is that? Just cheaper repairs? or easier to work on yourself or something?

    Also where would be some good sources to start looking for Canadian classifieds other than kijiji and autotrader.

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    Bikes don't rack up the miles or suffer as bad with obsolescence as cars do. I just bought a 22 year old Road King with 17,000 miles on in near mint condition. I love skinnier bikes so love sportsters, 5 speed evos are solid bikes, and better value than big twins.

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    Ive noticed at least a few other Canadian members on here so hopefully they will chime and and help out. My first build was an Evo sportster, started with a stock running bike, did it almost all by my self. Quite a learning curve. After a couple years and considerable mistakes, Ive got a decent looking, reliable bike thats fun as hell to ride! As Blackbetty said, try to stick with a 1990-2003 sportster. Good luck and ask a lot of questions!

  9. #9
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    2004 and newer are a rubber mount (For vibration) for the engine and they dont chop as well,, plus around that point they also went to fuel injection which is okay if you know what you are doing but for a chopper its adds complexity and more plumbing which is against the grain of a chopper, CHOP=Remove and simplify for performance and bare minimum, Some people get hung up on STYLE points for a chopper or bobber not realizing in the old days it was all about performance. If it doesnt make it faster,stop better or handle better then "Chop it off". Nothing wrong with style and poser value, but just be aware of the difference.

    (Some get pissy about this, but its always young guys, but SOME of the styling mods that make the bike handle worse IE: NORCAL style, Suicide or jockey shifters, or no front brake are all about style points, and some people like to suffer for their art and thats okay, but for a rider getting into the groove, I would err on the side of good handling and not T-boning grandma Ethel when she left turns in front of you. Drag pipes are also a prime example. Drag pipes are for racing and you give up a lot of power running them converting fuel into noise)

    IMHO,, I believe the best sporties are 1998 to 2003, My wifes scoot is a 2000 883 and its a sweetheart, Great little bike. (Wifes pretty nice too, she puts up with me after all). Its not hard to find a "Lifestyle" biker scoot that someone lost interest in, or a lightly wrecked one that needs a little wrench time. This time of year is best IE: Cheaper and even better is now till end of Feb so consider running WTB ads on CL or other forums. Never know what opportunities pop up.

    The problem as I see it is, most of the already built scooters I see, MOST are "Aggressively priced ahead of the marketplace". Either someones ego says its worth $xxxxx or, they are trying to recoup every last cent they spent on the bike. And thats okay to a point, but are you getting fair value? After running a shop for many years I dont have a huge amount of faith in other peoples work, so my attitude is always when buying is expect to have to rebuild everything someone else touched. If not, huge bonus but I always bid/pay accordingly to that formula.

    Just because a bike looks okay doesnt mean its safe, or not going to be a headache. Thus, low mileage wrecks (It ran to the wreck) or lifestyle bikes are the best choices in my opinion. You can pick up generally a low mileage scoot for $1500 to $2500 generally with the expectation to have to fully service it and possibly some parts. A decent bobber or chop is going to generally be start at $4000 and go up, and some of the prices are just silly.

    Not easy answers i realize, but thems the facts as I see it.

    Sometimes its worth looking up insurance auctions or dealers that specialize in wrecks, theres a shop near me, dont know the guy but he has a ton of very attractively priced projects that are all insurance wrecks. When i got clobbered by a drunk driver/texting,, My daily rider Evo Sporty got hit hard, but shes still a runner and I bought it back from the Insurance company for $800. They also paid a nice value for the bike as well,, so thats just choppin money in my book, But I felt it was a great deal for me to buy it back. I got another frame for it and ready for choppin

    My wifes scoot was a partial lifestyle bike and part wreck. The clown who had it didnt have a clue what he was doing and his wife didnt want to ride it. It had issues and he just wanted to dump it-sell it cheap and make it go away. He denied it was wrecked but I could tell. I paid $1800 for it and was johnnie on the spot with cash,, others were after it too. It had been wrecked and had some issues to correct and wrong carb jets in it and some other minor things to fix. But all told I am into it for around $2300 at the moment and its a great little bike. I got a 1200 kit and some cams set aside for it (Cheap) and a different set of fenders and tank I am painting this winter for it as well. Best mods so far was Super sucker air cleaner, 2>1 stainless super trapp exhaust and the CV performance carb kit and dialing it in. It was a bit of a slug before but it rips now. All done not counting my labor It will be under $3000 when totally done, but it rides just fine and just rode it on the toy run.
    Last edited by Dougtheinternetannoyance123; 12-07-2017 at 2:14 PM.

  10. #10

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    Thanks for the responses again guys. And Doug, huge response from you. Big thanks.

    This has definitely pointed me in the right direction. Lets say if I come across a stock Harley, and bought a hardtail kit, how much do you guys think this would cost to bring it to a shop and have them convert it for me. - Bringing in the frame vs bringing in the whole bike.

    Taking apart a bike goes beyond my current knowledge, but ive got friends that are into it and I know there is a plethora of information online that would be a huge help.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by garbagewoman View Post
    Lets say if I come across a stock Harley, and bought a hardtail kit, how much do you guys think this would cost to bring it to a shop and have them convert it for me. - Bringing in the frame vs bringing in the whole bike.

    Taking apart a bike goes beyond my current knowledge, but ive got friends that are into it and I know there is a plethora of information online that would be a huge help.
    That is a box of spiders (I love that line, I use it instead of Can of worms). I wont get into all of that
    but I can tell you doing it yourself with onsite gurus and online gurus will end up with a bike you can truly be proud of, you will LEARN a ton and best yet,, you also are then capable of MAINTAINING your own scoot instead of depending on others.

    But there is no lack of half finished projects out there people lose interest in, so try to avoid that.

    My advice is start reading build threads here, there and everywhere. (The XLH forum is excellent BTW) See: http://xlforum.net/vbportal/forums/index.php.

    Save and print PIX with notes about styles, and builds that appeal to you. I often set up a sheet of plywood in my shop with a dry erase board on it and take notes, post checklists and post pix for ideas or what direction to go.

    If you DO take apart a bike avoid a caffeine fueled thrash session, instead HAVE a parts book out for your build, take TONS of pictures of how each thing comes apart and label the shit out of everything.
    Even before my head impacted a speeding Audi sedan windshield I could never remember everything and dont assume you will either. take notes, sketches and PIX. Now...I have to keep notes on everything. I keep the post-it company in profits.

    Even while customizing the factory PARTS manual is critical. It shows a diagram of every single part as well as part numbers and how they fit together. I spend a lot of time with a magnifying glass figuring out where a spacer goes, or how the Whatzit fits to the Dangnabbit. I can send you a file for Pre-evo parts books and manuals but all my Evo stuff is hard copies. Well worth buying one. Maybe theres free downloads somewhere as well.

  12. #12
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    If ya run up on a Ironhead ...
    The 73 to 76 are good years ...

  13. #13

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    Yea reading other build threads is exactly what ive been doing. I used to be into the saltwater aquarium hobby and planning and research is from what I can tell just as critical in the custom bike world, and in some instances just as expensive ugh. Im glad its early winter right now so I can spend my time absorbing as much as I can. People don't get on their bikes out here until end of march so loads of time. But im sure itll come sooner than I want.

    I also came across full hardtail frames. From what ive read the downside to that is you lose the serial numbers for insurance purposes and insurance can go up. If insurance isn't too much more it seems like a good way to go, no?

    EDIT: I just saw on lowbrows website the voodoo frames allow you to keep the VIN numbers intact. so other than cost and shipping this doesn't seem to be a bad option.
    Last edited by garbagewoman; 12-08-2017 at 11:16 AM.

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dragstews View Post
    If ya run up on a Ironhead ...
    The 73 to 76 are good years ...
    good to know thanks.

  15. #15
    littledill
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    Quick question that I did not see asked yet; do you currently ride?
    If so what bike and for how long?

  16. #16
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    By 1970s and later standards no reliable Ironheads ever existed and it's IMO ISIS-level cruel to suggest a novice begin with one unless they are already a very, very, very, very, very experienced mechanic. Old bikes are shit, but we like them for their funkiness, much as I like my own crotch on a hot day. Like my crotch on a hot day, others may not be so fond of the funk. I collect Nortons and Triumphs too but I don't EVER pretend they aren't slow (unless you drop gobs of money into them) , crippled by design, unreliable, and delicate (not curable). Rose-colored glasses merit smashing.

    Does OP already own an utterly reliable motorcycle which will go anywhere without fiddling?
    If yes then explore chopping on a different machine so you don't become a pedestrian. If no, get a rider and RIDE the thing.

    Before modding a vehicle, know by riding others if you want to invest the time and money to make it function worse but look much better. Choppers are fun folk art. What they aren't is superior performers or comfortable by modern standards (unless they've effective swingarm suspension).

    I suggest keeping VINs intact to avoid bureaucratic hassles, however you accomplish that.

    Solid mount alternator-on-crank Sporties may be the best engine HD ever produced. Get one, ride it for a season, then YOU will know what YOU want to change! Nothing beats experience. You will know what will make you a happy biker.

    If you want to get the most out of your experience, study mechanics and welding. Knowing theory will help enormously and passes the time during the frozen hell of winter above the Mason-Dixon line.

    The xlforum is THE Sportster internet resource. This forum is a great chopping/customizing resource so enjoy and use both.

    Have fun, and if you don't know then ASK! The internet can make for a much quicker learning curve than in ancient times.

    This hobby is mind-expanding. Welcome to Chop Cult.

  17. #17

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    Yea I have a cb750. its my dads old bike which is theoretically his based on his principle of being against customizing it. It's in great shape and very classic looking. I don't blame him.
    edit: but to answer your question I don't have much riding experience other than growing up with dirtbikes/atvs etc and riding the cb750 now.
    Ive always loved the bare bones style of things. simple design and parts. not overly electronic etc.
    Last edited by garbagewoman; 12-08-2017 at 12:26 PM.

  18. #18
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    Since CBs are rather piggy stock (great motors though) I think you'll enjoy an Evo Sportster.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by farmall View Post
    By 1970s and later standards no reliable Ironheads ever existed and it's IMO ISIS-level cruel to suggest a novice begin with one unless they are already a very, very, very, very, very experienced mechanic. Old bikes are shit, but we like them for their funkiness, much as I like my own crotch on a hot day. Like my crotch on a hot day, others may not be so fond of the funk. I collect Nortons and Triumphs too but I don't EVER pretend they aren't slow (unless you drop gobs of money into them) , crippled by design, unreliable, and delicate (not curable). Rose-colored glasses merit smashing.

    Does OP already own an utterly reliable motorcycle which will go anywhere without fiddling?
    If yes then explore chopping on a different machine so you don't become a pedestrian. If no, get a rider and RIDE the thing.

    Before modding a vehicle, know by riding others if you want to invest the time and money to make it function worse but look much better. Choppers are fun folk art. What they aren't is superior performers or comfortable by modern standards (unless they've effective swingarm suspension).

    I suggest keeping VINs intact to avoid bureaucratic hassles, however you accomplish that.

    Solid mount alternator-on-crank Sporties may be the best engine HD ever produced. Get one, ride it for a season, then YOU will know what YOU want to change! Nothing beats experience. You will know what will make you a happy biker.

    If you want to get the most out of your experience, study mechanics and welding. Knowing theory will help enormously and passes the time during the frozen hell of winter above the Mason-Dixon line.

    The xlforum is THE Sportster internet resource. This forum is a great chopping/customizing resource so enjoy and use both.

    Have fun, and if you don't know then ASK! The internet can make for a much quicker learning curve than in ancient times.

    This hobby is mind-expanding. Welcome to Chop Cult.
    Farmall, thanks for the chuckle! Well put.

    OP: Like everyone says, find an Evo Sporty and ride it. Research what you want and start collecting parts. When winter comes you'll be ready with all your parts and knowledge to attack it. Spend the rest of this winter tracking down an Evo Sporty. You should be able to find one locally for about $4k if you shop around. You should easily be able to find someone local to hardtail your frame as well.

  20. #20

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    My first build was an Evo Sporty. I had some general mechanic experience from years touring around the country in shitty vans but nothing serious.
    Follow the advice of riding it for a year and keep doing research. Find a local place that teaches basic welding and then get after it yourself. You’ll learn a lot as you go and I find once I got into it, it wasn’t nearly As hard as it seemed from just reading about it.
    Having your frame cut in half on the ground in front of you is good motivation to figure the rest out, too.

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