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start with cheap jap or holdout for brit or harley

6962 Views 73 Replies 51 Participants Last post by  AndrewC
i dont really know if this will get a response or not. or if it will be a good response. i might just get told to go to hell. my basic question is this, im planning on building my first bike. i hate to give it a label but it will basically be a bobber. rigid frame solo seat. springer forks. nothin extra just pretty much bare bones. now ive seen some good looking jap bikes that were basically the style i want to build. im more into the triumphs and sportsters. the problem is like everyone else im short on cash. and a guy can get a honda for less than half the price of a trump. i guess im just second guessing myself on justifying buying a jap bike just to have one a lot sooner. im pretty new to all this but im assuming i can get some parts cheaper and easier for hondas. and i think the aftermarket is pretty strong for them. things like the rigid back frame. and bars and stuff like that. any opinions and advice welcome... even if you just tell me to go to hell haha
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Haha no to decide between a triumph or a sporty...
Sporty. Parts are cheaper, easer (in my opinion) to work on, go faster, and you'll probably get more miles out of it.

Brit bikes are for guys who love them.
I say save your money, but in the meantime, pickup a yamaha xs650 or cheap, build cool, sell and make some money for your HD. The key is smart purchases.
Buy running bikes that need cosmetics and a style change that doesn't require major part purchases.
It's called sweat equity and has worked for decades.
Generally speaking, it costs just as much to chop a Honda as it would a late model HD.
That said, most 'cheap' Ironhead Sportsters are completely ragged out and will quickly turn into a money pit. I picked up a 500 Triumph with frame and title for $400 a couple of months ago, you just have to be persistent with looking for what you want.
The good advice is to find the bike that runs just fine before you start.
From what I have seen the typical motorcycle evolution usually goes like this......small Jap bike ....semi custom Jap bike.....BSA bobber ......I/H Sportster chop......SPCN or cone Shovel chop......gen Shovel, Pan or Knuckle chop.......then finally ends up with two bikes, a classic Triumph and an Evo or Twin cam glide
I don't think you need to do much holding out. Just sit and comb the classifieds. I've seen 2 sub-$1500 ironheads and 3 sub-$3000 shovelheads in the last 3 months or so. One shovel was a torn apart bike with a resealed engine and trans with fresh paint on the frame for $2000!

If I wasn't broke as a joke I'd have bought every one of them and resold them in the spring for a decent profit.

And Englishman is right about the cost to chop. Labor costs the same for Honda or HD so if you are gonna pay a shop to do anything it costs the same. Actually in some cases customizing a Honda costs more due to fact that aftermarket parts don't exist as they do for HD and generally need everything to be custom made from scratch. Food for thought. Now if you can do it yourself then hone your skills on whatever you like.

I ride a Honda because I want a Honda. I've had HD and Triumph. I am starting another HD as a long term build but will always have the Honda. It's reliable and runs with most the HD guys I ride with without fail. I like it. You should like what you own and ride. Decide for yourself.
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listen well to what MIKE47 just said. there's NOTHING wrong with a sweet jap chop. i absolutely love a sweet 750 honda chop myself. it's all just a matter of what YOU want, and the chop you see in your head. whatever *that* chop is, do whatever it takes to get it.

There's a lot of good advice here. If I were starting from scratch today, I think I'd look for a running, complete evo Sportster. Hard to beat for reliability, and I've seen some really nice bikes built from them. You should be able to find a nice one in the $3k range, and quite a bit less if you're willing to settle for one that's beat up and needs more work.

One thing no one mentioned. If you're rusty at riding, there's an MSF rider education course available almost everywhere. I took it along with my wife when she wanted to learn to ride, and even with 30+ years of riding experiance, I learned stuff.
If budget is a problem, forget HD.
yup, go and get a jap bike, make it look cool for the discovery channel masses mindset and sell it for a profit and step up to the bike you want.
I have 2 customers that build cheap japs from craigslist and do very well with flipping them.
a couple years ago, I went from an 81 xs yami I paid 1,100 for, I chopped, sold and then to buell, chopped and sold and then to 05 harley.
and I likes the old honda chops too
Don't think for a second that they aren't out there, but you need to be dilligent in your search, have cash in hand & run when you find it... I just last week bought a 73 iron head with a new bottom end, blasted case, new rods, bearings bushings wheels etc with reciepts ready to be reassembled for $250.00 Thats a complete bike, not just the engine!!! a friend told me about a guy wanting to sell a basket & i followed it through 3 different people before i found the guy, but the effort was worth it.
Like it was said before, the deals are out there, as the economy sucks the ,"toys" will go first
There are scores of jap bikes on craigslist for 500 and down. However, if you buy any bike that cheap, you'll probably spend way more time working on it than riding it. I don't know your budget, but you could probably buy a jap bike for slightly over 5 bills and ride it while you save for an evo Sporty. Then sell the jap for what you paid for it. If the jap bike costs over a grand, just wait for an Evo Sporty. Especially this time of year. Since Christmas is coming, I see 90s Sportys with under 20k miles selling for under 2500 bucks. That's THE bang for the buck as far as I'm concerned, bar none.
Agreed the older sportys and triumphs cost more take more work and maintanance and a nice evo or jap might give you more riding time for less money. If its one bike your gonna have go for reliability. So many almost finished projects out there versus the complete restoration project that's costs a ton to do. Not to mention the time it takes. You spend countless hrs. Just on research when you do a project from the bottom up the work and assembly is.way less time than gaining the knowledge needed.
just picked up a shovel here in DFW for 1900.00 Keep you cash at the ready.
I can only speak for myself. I love old British shit. Its never deen easier to rebuild a 650 unit Triumph than it is today. Four Aces videos are great and address nearly everything. There are many suppliers making hardtails, oil tanks, seats etc. and there are alternatives to aging Lucas electrics. Unless you need a bike for transportation, I wouldn't rush into anything. The economy sucks and people are hurting for money, that means there are deals to be had. Start collecting images of bike you love, eventually you'll see a trend, thats what you need to build. Remember life is a Journey, not a Destination, the gathering of parts, making new friends, learning new skills, and pride of creating something with your own two hands is as rewarding and your first ride. Take your time and do it right.
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and have a different frame and front end structure that is good for nothing but being an electraglide.
have seen it done properly but there is very little left of the original frame but its still a cheap way to get a 1340 evo and all the associated parts, wheels brakes electrics etc
My experience was I grew up riding dirtbikes almost everyday. I turned 18 then moved around and didn't ride for 8 or so years. The first street bike I bought was a honda 350. I relearned how to ride and how to ride on the street. I didn't have a lot of money and just wanted a bike so it was the best option. Also if youre not the strongest mechanic a jap is a good way to start off. I then moved up to a trumpet tr6 which i rode a lot but it required a lot more maintenance and a new tool set. Now after riding for 5 years I'm putting together a 58 pan and making it exactly what I want. My dream bike. I also recently bought a 76 honda 400 just to keep me happy until the pan is done. jap bikes are fun reliable and inexpensive and if youre just getting into it again are not a bad way to start at all.
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Build what you can afford,, wind is wind
Sounds like I need to look harder I never find deals like alot of you have mentioned. Sounds like they're out there though. Thanks again everyone. I think I'm gonna hold out for a sporty doesn't really matter what year just depends on what I can find. I really like Brits but have always wanted a Harley. My dad had Brit bikes growing up and always wanted a Harley he never got one. He died six years ago from his third go round with cancer. The irony is the style of Harley I want to build is the exact opposite of what he would want. But he always told me to each his own. I still think he would agree the bike I see in my head is a bad ass machine. Of course I've built it a hundred times in my head. And ill probably build it a hundred more before buying one. But that's part of the fun
If a harley is what you see in your mind...get a harley, find a runner you can afford ride it a while gather parts ideas see how it plays out.

When you get all your stuff together pull it down and spend one of those dreadful missouri winters building your dream.

A honda/ yama / kawi is never gonna be the bike you want..youll be chasin the dream throwin cash at it and comin up short....and then youll end up selling it to get a harley anyway....dealin with creeps n tire kickers on a saturday afternoon when you could be ridin.

You may ask how i know this...personal experience... i now own a 48 panhead my dad had a 48 and he loved that bike( he lost his fight 16 years ago) 20 years later and countless bikes i have what i want
Get a running bike...don't start with a basket...fix it as you go...lots more fun...dudley
Totally Correct. I cant recommend this enough. I didnt listen .... cost me thousands.

There really is no cheap when we don't know your budget but let me tell you what i DO KNOW. Jap bikes (Post Chop) have really crappy resale. Remember it is made individual by you and after that ..... its lost its value monetarily. Most guys and gals want to start with a clean slate. I think Brits are cheap and if you're looking for something cheaper ...... you may not have the budget to build any bike. JMO. If you're serious about building something you'd be surprised what you will sacrifice.
Totally Correct. I cant recommend this enough. I didnt listen .... cost me thousands.

There really is no cheap when we don't know your budget but let me tell you what i DO KNOW. Jap bikes (Post Chop) have really crappy resale. Remember it is made individual by you and after that ..... its lost its value monetarily. Most guys and gals want to start with a clean slate. I think Brits are cheap and if you're looking for something cheaper ...... you may not have the budget to build any bike. JMO. If you're serious about building something you'd be surprised what you will sacrifice.
Above +10. When I reccomend getting a japper, I don't mean to chop I mean just to ride. I enjoy a nice small-cc jap bike, but when I see "chopped" XS650s on Craigslist for $1200, I just pass on by. I'm sure most of these guys have more than 1500 into chopping them, but I wouldn't consider spending half that to buy one. Shit, throw clip ons and a cafe seat on it and ride the piss out of it then sell it and buy your Harley. They're all correct. If what you want is a Harley, a Honda will never do the trick.
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