As soon as I built my first boat, I immediately started planning my next. It’s a natural thing, I think, with anyone who’d build something like this, and the bike was no different. You immediately see things you’d do differently, changes you’d make, and usually they’re changes that go right to the basic design.
The Honda VF500F was a great chassis for a build, in fact it’s one of the most typical for a conversion. I’m not much into the frame design though, and it’s more a product of my breeding in motorcycling. I’m stuck in the ’70s. I like tube steel frames. I love me a good double downtube, and I immediately started thinking about a frame I’d like to mess with more than the ’84 VF500F square-tube monoshock. I came right back to my first build, a bored, ported, blueprinted 1975 Yamaha RD350. So, in my random travels, I kept an eye out for a chassis.
What I found is a frame, for $40, with no title and precious few parts.
The process of building this bike is completely different than what I went through with the Honda. First, it is a restoration of sorts. I’ve pulled together enough to get the thing rolling, actually safely, too. I know all about the handling modifications on this frame so I could pick and choose what I felt was most effective. Bronze swingarm bushings, roller bearings in the steering head, like that… all well known and time-proven.
The electric part of this was a no-brainer. I don’t have a ton of money, and I love this frame. The Honda is, frankly, something I got my mileage out of and didn’t have much interest in finishing up. The Yamaha, on the other hand, is so light and nimble, it seems a natural for the motor and controller I had. For that matter, it was all wired up. It’s painful to say it, but I scavenged most of the parts from the VF500F, stripping it pretty much bare, electrically. The motor mount just needed a little tweaking, and even on that score I’d learned a lot from the first bike.
It was really a totally different process. The first build started when I got the bike, which immersed me in the project. From there I developed the concept, researched the components and designed as I built. For the second bike, I started with the final concept fully formed in my mind. I have a pretty clear idea of what it will be, and what it will do. I also know what I want to do differently, and mostly, that’s about the batteries. I’m still determined to develop a battery system that’s somewhat universal, or, at least, versatile.
There’s another side of this, and that’s the fact that I have no title. The truth is, I could probably get it registered by some sleight of hand, but building a bike that’s not intended to be street legal is completely liberating. There are so many things on a bike that you tolerate, or build on, or try to get around, that are about making the thing meet the requirements of the DOT. When you let that all go, you can do simply whatever you want. You can cut off anything at will, you can configure the bike just as you want, with no constraints. It’s a joy.
Granted… it’s going to be a challenge actually finding a place to ride this thing, especially at it’s hoped-for top speed, but it’s well worth it.
This time, I’m not so much converting a gas bike. It’s more like I’m building a motorcycle, and it happens to be electric.
One of the cool things about it, additionally, is that the motor and associated components are pretty much interchangeable. I literally pulled them off the Honda and put them on the Yamaha. It’s a point worth remembering when you’re looking at a system for your first build: look at the purchase as something that could have a life beyond that first project.
I don’t want to give the impression that I have it all sorted out though… there are a few things that seem like they’re never solved particularly well. Yes. I’m talking the batteries. But more on that later.
Here’s how it sits right now… within a couple of months, a functional machine:
Interesting, too has been the aspect of the tools. I don’t have to run out and pick up all the sundry tools that I didn’t have, or couldn’t find, although buying tools is one of the fun things about projects like this. The only thing I needed to add to my tool collection was the sandblaster, something I now wonder how I lived without. I’ve been there, sorted out the fabrication processes, got the tools together and now don’t have to spend all that time and effort trying to figure out how to get something done. Partly it’s being equipped, and partly it’s having a little experience.
Now. If there only wasn’t a four foot snowbank in front of the shop door…