Creative decisions that are right for you.

Taking my time to find the right position.

Taking my time to find the right position.

Time to take a look at cutting and fitting the new rear mudguard. There is much talk in bike building circles about getting the stance of your bike right as a prerequisite for coming up with anything good looking. There is a school of thought that is very prevalent currently to have the line of the bike very flat. That’s to say, the visual line from the back of the seat running through the base of the tank to the front suspension should be pretty much parallel to the ground. Hence you see lots of bikes that are all starting to look the same and share the almost totally flat seat which is almost ubiquitous in its manifestation. This is all well and good if you’ve got the time, money and the need to go down this route. Personally I haven’t. As I’ve mentioned before, without resorting to large amounts of frame modification  (read expensive welding bills and jiggery) and spending a whole pile of cash on different suspension equipment, there’s not much one can do beyond a certain point. The creative challenge is therefore to move away from the standard look enough to create difference and come up with something that works with the proportions one is presented with. This can be a lot harder than you think, but it is possible on a very limited budget and is generally a case of taking ones time in positioning, cutting and mounting components. Once you’ve cut metal there’s very little you can do to rescue things, so it pays to exercise patience and adopt a methodical approach no matter how quickly you want the project to be completed.

Position set, holes drilled, just the light to mount.

Position set, holes drilled, just the light to mount.

Of course, what “looks right” is a purely subjective conclusion. Because these kinds of projects are pretty personal in their nature, the result must first be right for you, in your own eyes. That’s the most important thing really. Decisions you make in a build are always contextualised by a whole host of factors and compromises that one has had to deal with on the journey to the final outcome. Others may not like your final iteration but then invariably they have little knowledge of this context. As a maker, of anything, one has the luxury of knowing that you could change or modify things in future if the urge takes you, but it’s an option that you can reserve to exercise if you so choose.

When I first built this bike I made a pile of decisions about how it would look based how I felt about the life it would lead, about practical issues like comfort and durability as much as aesthetic considerations. I reserved the right to change things if I wanted to but generally didn’t feel the need to do much other than periodic tweaking. Now, some time later, it is time to make some changes  based on living with it and riding it for a few years. There are still certain things about the stance I can do little about, but these are not a problem. The bike started life as a factory custom and so caries with it some small legacies of that life which I’m happy to live with, like the long forks and the steep rake of the tank.

A rather blurry shot courtesy of my iPad, but you get the idea.

A rather blurry shot courtesy of my iPad, but you get the idea.

So here are some shots showing the process of getting the new rear mudguard (fender) sitting in the right place, at the right angle in the right way. Once I’d cut the bare rolled section I’d bought to roughly the correct length I spent ages with bits of foam, tape and cups of tea trying it in different positions to get the look I was after. Once I was happy I marked the mounting holes for drilling and returned to the shed for some hole making. The critical factor was getting enough section over the wheel without it looking overly long but still having enough curve available to support the light/plate assembly at the right angle. I didn’t think things had changed much until I held up the new piece next to the old one to see that I’d actually reduced the length by about 150mm, very satisfying.

The final shot shows the guard in place with the light mounted and everything else ready to go. The final piece of this refresh is painting the petrol tank, which I’m currently working on a design for and I’ll be posting about that very soon.


The 250 build, nearing the end.

A slight diversion today as finishing the story of the 250 build is way overdue. So some words and pictures of painted bits, metal bits and a nice piece of leather.


With three coats of base black applied, a series of white stripes were then masked and added. Everything was left for a couple of days to harden up before a very fine rub over with extra fine paper prior to the lacquer going on. For reasons of cost more than anything I’d elected to use rattle can lacquer rather than 2-pack on all parts apart from the fuel tank, which would be treated to a good couple of coats of petrol resistant lacquer, again from a rattle can. In retrospect I wish I’d gone the 2-pack route but it made the whole paint phase way too expensive, the petrol proof stuff works well but has yellowed in places and was quite tricky to apply evenly. With the lacquer all hardened it was time for a good polish and I can’t recommend Autoglym Super Resin Polish enough. Fantastic stuff and everything was just so shiny shiny.

Two important pieces of metalwork remained to be fabricated as all the painted parts made their way onto the bike for the final assembly. I knew the area at the back of the seat needed tidying but hadn’t been able to do much about it without the seat so it was stroke of luck that the seat arrived back just in time from being recovered. The first task was to make a piece to shut off the open area between the new mudguard and the seat mounting assembly. this then wrapped over the seat mount and formed an infill sitting below the rear of the seat base moulding.As before I worked it all out with thin card first which meant I could create a pretty accurate template for marking and cutting the sheet steel which was cut flat and then bent up in the bench vice.

For ages I’d been wondering how to finish off the rear of the seat. Knowing that there would have to be some kind of cover plate didn’t seem enough, there needed to be something else in there to give a more finished look. The answer came to me out cycling one day when I spotted and old bicycle with a little pouch hung from the back of the saddle. I ventured onto the internet to see what I could find for motorcycles. As it turned out, not too much unless I wanted something that looked like it had fallen off the back of John Wayne’s horse, and tassels are definitely not my thing. Taking the bicycle route proved more fruitful and in a fit of extravagance I splashed out on this lovely little number from Brooks the saddle makers. I quickly made up an angle bracket to fix the panel to, mounted to the seat base, and again using some card drew around the profile of the seat and transferred it to another template for cutting. A couple of holes and two slots later I had a neat little cover panel that the pouch straps attached to directly.


With these two new parts painted black final assembly could continue apace, my deadline for borrowing the workshop was looming.




Support your local fender.

Contrasting profiles.

Following my slight diversion to talk about that stunning Moto Guzzi, here we are back again to get started on the metalwork that’s going to hold my rear fender in place. Revisiting my brief again and looking at where I’d got to so far I could see that I was looking to make at least two pieces that would hold the fender on the one hand and then help to tidy up the back end on the other. So the first thing was to turn the piece I’d sketched in my notebook into 3D and see where I stood. I had the mounting plate I’d put onto the frame rails as one fixing point and I had the cross piece formed by the seat support as another, so I reckoned my next bit would join these two and reach back to support the fender behind the seat mount. You’ll see also from the picture above that I had a mis-match between the curvature of my rolled section and that of the inner plastic guard which sat in front of the rear tyre. I’d need something to deal with that too but for now I wanted to get on with the fender support.

Crisp thin card, lovely stuff.

It’s an age old adage, and you’ll here it from many a craftsman/maker, that it’s always best to measure twice and cut once. This simple advice has saved my bacon on many an occasion. In situations such as this where I’m working without any kind of formal technical drawing of a part I bring a second safety net into play and that is to make pieces in card first, change and modify things until I’m happy and then carefully replicate what I end up with in metal or whatever material I happen to be working in. Again you’ll hear it from all quarters that knocking things up in card is a great way to avoid time consuming, and sometimes expensive mistakes. I’ll say a bit more about card in the following post.

Holes added for visual lightness.

Happy that my card creation was what I wanted I marked out the resultant shape in flat form on my sheet of steel, making any final adjustments to dimensions  and hole positions. I did most of the metal cutting for this build with a jigsaw fitted with a fine toothed blade for metals. Working slowly and methodically it proved to be the best way to cut out flat parts that required the minimum of hand finishing by file. Cut out and finished, I bent the piece to shape in a large bench vice and positioned it to allow me to mark the hole centres for fixing it to my frame plate and the fender, which by this stage I’d shortened to close to the final length.

Tie bars in place.

I then riveted it in place on the plate and put a small bolt through the hole to secure it to the fender. This really went some way to eliminating the flexing I was worried about, particularly in the vertical plane but there was still quite a bit of movement in the horizontal. I decided that I needed to create some side supports and elected to put two thin tie bars between the seat support mounts and the sides of the fender part. I had some scraps of stainless tubing to hand and these worked perfectly after I’d flattened the ends of my lengths, drilled mounting holes, put a radius at each end and bolted them in place. Fixing things in this way, with nuts and bolts, meant that I would always be in a position to take it all apart should I ever need to mend, modify, replace or repaint anything in the future. At the same time I chose to make everything even more sturdy by drilling two more M6 bolt holes through the seat support cross member and the new fender support piece. At this point in the game everything was rock solid and I was more than happy.

Next up, finding a home for all the stuff that was going to be mounted on the fender itself.