One of the major disadvantages – not that there are many – of customising any kind of motorcycle is that the bike has to be taken off the road while you do the work.
Okay, so there are exceptions, in that some modifications can be done quickly and without pain. Changing the handlebars, fitting rearsets or a new exhaust can all be done in a relatively short period of time, so you could be out over-exercising your adrenal glands on the same day as you decided to make the changes.
Other modifications – let’s call them ‘proper customising’ – will mean a longer period without the wheels turning. After all, you’re not going to create and fit a brand new subframe for a new tail unit in an afternoon, and you’re not going to strip the motor for a rebore or to port and flow the cylinder head in just a couple of evenings.
So this means that you’ll be undergoing a period of time in which you can’t use the bike to practice your feet-up donuts or to grind knee sliders into oblivion. Or even just to pop out for a pint of milk and a loaf of bread. And, during that time, you will undergo withdrawal symptoms.
Those of us living in seasonal climes can reduce this pain by making any modifications during the ‘off’ season – here in Blighty the winter is grim enough to consider a few months away from riding, while some places have a summer so hot that the only option is to retreat to air-conditioned bliss.
However, there are plenty of places, and much of the Antipodes is included here, where you can ride a bike year-round, and just a single day away from two wheels is a day wasted. So you’ll be under a certain amount of self-inflicted pressure to get the bike up and running again in as little time as possible.
You can reduce this project pressure by having a runabout – a daily hack that can be used while the Sunday Best bike is being tarted up, improved and generally mucked about with.
While this isn’t an issue for the sort of people for whom procrastination is a malady that only affects other people, for those of us who perhaps struggle to get any kind of focus in our lives – and I’m very much including myself in this statement (as anyone who knows of my Kawasaki turbo project will testify), ensuring that you’ve got a daily rider that might prevent any undue stress on the build of your Best Bike might not guarantee serenity, peace and happiness.
You see, with a bike that you can guarantee that you can just jump on and ride, you’ll inevitably get that nagging itch to change something. Even just a little something. And then you’ll be straight into the same situation with two bikes off the road that need to be finished, and it’ll take a least twice as long.
The flip side of that is, if you can manage to keep the spanners away from the daily runner, you have a bike to ride. So there’s no rush to get the project bike finished, and you can take your time and do a Really Good Job. This, as I can vouch for, means that it’ll be in a constant state of change, forever evolving yet never getting quite to the stage where it’s a road-going machine. Just one more change…
Alternatively, with no pressure to finish the project bike, you just use your daily rider. Every day, for ever more. The garage door stays closed, the project slumbers under a cover as you enjoy yourself playing on the ‘stocker’.
But, as I have discovered, there is a way to remove oneself of this self-inflicted reduction in project pace. I’ve learnt the secret from a good friend – who seems to produce incredibly-engineered specials on a monthly rota – and I’ve brought in a new regime.
Now I simply force myself to get back outside after my evening meal and go into the garage, even if it’s only just to sit and look with a hot (or cold) beverage. Yes, I know that the two words “simply force” don’t really go together, but inspiration can often appear when you least expect it.
Just by sitting and chilling in front of your project, you’ll often find that problems are solved, ideas spring into life, and a spanner, angle grinder or welding torch appears in your hand without you realising it. Once you’ve accepted that, then the forcing becomes far easier.
The danger here is that attention gets focussed in the wrong direction, and that the daily rider gets work instead of the project, but that’s no issue as long as you keep reminding yourself that you need the hack the next day. And besides, mis-directed graft isn’t always bad.
If it means your workshop/garage/shed/yard gets tidied, or your spanners get set out in numerical order, or that you sort out what spare parts you’ll actually never use and can get sold on, or even just that your engine oil level gets checked, it’s all good.
You’re doing something that isn’t watching soap operas, and that is furthering your two-wheeled pastime. Do it. Force yourself.
Build more. Ride more.