Tuesday, June 27, 2006

After 4 years, it's finally DONE

From these humble beginnings To the chopper of my dreams

It's done. It's finally done. After four years of modding as the money became availible, I can finally look at my chopper and say it is finished. It feels like a very big part of my life has finally come to a close. The CX chopper is done, and there is nothing more to do except ride it. That is truly a great feeling!

As things turned out, this is not the bike I originally saw in my mind's eye. That image evolved and changed as I learned what works and what doesn't, and I am extremely happy with what I ultimately came up with. My blood, sweat, tears, and a whole lot of time and money have gone into making this result. The bike is complete. Every little detail is covered, and the whole bike fits together smoothly and it *LOOKS* finished.

While I am thrilled that the chopper is done, I also feel somewhat empty. I'm no longer working on a big project, no longer building something. In that respect, the chopper is not as much fun as it used to be when I was still building it. Also.... I'm sad I painted the bike. Yeah, it looks great... but I find myself riding it LESS because it looks so pretty. I worry about the paint and where I park it now, where I had no such thoughts when it was still flat black. But then, it's also really nice to park this bike at the local watering hole, and watch the crowds completely ignore the $30,000 cookie-cutter bikes and flock around my strange machine.

Overall I'm thrilled with the bike I've created, and except for a really sore ass, I really enjoy riding the bike too. This brings to a close my CX500 Chopper Project. I hope you all enjoyed reading my progress.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Finishing Touches

CBR fan bolted into shroud

Oil pressure adapter and detail on fan attachment
On/off switch for electric fan

Oil pressure gauge easily visible
Modified sportster seat
Details of modified sportster seat
Leather to guard frame from scratching

Sexy, sexy signals

Slick tool bag mounting location

The bike is nearing completion now. These are the last few finishing touches that I haven't made note of yet. First of all, there's the electric radiator fan, originally for a CBR600RR. I used the stock CX500 radiator instead of the CX650 radiator, because the 650's radiator did not fit nicely on the 500's engine hanger bracket. I'd have had to use a bunch of washers under the upper mounting fingers. I'd also have had to cut out a center support brace from the 500's engine hanger, so I didn't really want to do that. With the raked out front end, I figure I need all the structural support I can get. So I welded some tabs onto a stock CX500 fan shroud, and bolted the CBR600RR fan assembly to them. I wired the fan to a small toggle switch, which I mounted to a piece of aluminum and bolted to one of the bolts that holds the upper coolant pipe onto the heads.

I also found an oil pressure gauge on eBay for a Kawasaki Vulcan or something. It cost me only $30, and I was able to use all of the fittings that came with the gauge right on my CX500. I had to make some cuts in the lower right radiator mounting bracket, just to make room for the oil line, but otherwise it was a bolt-on mod. The mounting bracket is angled a little odd, but I can see the gauge just fine if I lean over a little while riding or at a light. The gauge works great.

One last finishing touch that came as a great relief was building a new seat. The original seat I made was less than an inch thick, and used ancient foam from an old CX500 seat. It was total MURDER on my ass. So I bought a Sportster seat off of eBay, and heavily modified it to fit. First I removed the staples that held the rear part of the cover to the pan, and peeled the cover back. I didn't remove it completely, but just removed about half the cover. Then I took my angle grinder and a cutting wheel, and cut the pan in half front to back. I pulled the back part off and threw it away. Then I test-fitted the seat, and used an electric carving knife to carefully cut away foam on the bottom of the seat, until it fit flush on my rear fender. Then I cut away just a little more foam.

After that, I covered the cover with plastic wrap so as not to get any resin on it, and bought a Bondo-brand Fiberglass Repair kit. The kit comes with resin and hardener, as well as woven fiberglass fabric. I bought extra fabric, and cut about 10 or so pieces into the rough shape of the new seat pan I wanted to make. Then I mixed up the resin and hardener, ran each piece of fabric through the mixture, and then applied it to the bottom of the seat layer-by-layer to build up a new pan. It worked great! After allowing it to dry for a day, I used my angle grinder (and cutting wheel) to shape the outer edge of the pan, so it was flush with the foam. Then I stretched the cover back over the seat, drilled holes in the new pan, and riveted it in place. The seat still looks stock!

After building the pan and reattaching the cover, I needed a way to solidly mount the seat to the bike. I took a thick steel plate, and welded two bolts into it so that they located into the two holes that are in the frame bracket that runs under the seat. I then riveted this plate onto the bottom of the seat. Because the studs are threaded, and the bracket under the seat just a thin piece of steel, friction keeps the seat from coming off. I also added a pair of conchos I had lying around, and some lace to hold them on. The right one covers a small blemish on the seat cover, and the left is there to match it.

One last mod was adding mini bullet turn signals to the bottom of the forward control bar that I built a few months ago. I just drilled holes in the bracket, fed the wires through, and bolted the signals on. I ran the wires under the engine along the back side of the bar, and then up between the clutch and the oil filter, around the fan, and finally to the wiring jumble under the gas tank. They look pretty sweet mounted low like that.

Finally, I polished up more engine parts. Clutch cover, both valve covers, the inspection port covers, the oil filter cover ribs, the coolant elbows, and more. I wore out a bunch of polishing wheels and covered the inside of my garage with waxy polishing compound residue. But it was worth it for the shine.

Parts Breakdown:
•  Turn signals $24 eBay
•  Tool Bag $Free  (I've had it a long time)
•  CBR600RR electric fan   $20 eBay
•  Sportster seat $45 eBay
•  Switch$4 Radio Shack
•  Oil Pressure Gauge $30 eBay
Total $123

Running total for Chopper: $2094

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Modified a Mac to fit the 650

The bike is approaching finished now. The biggest mod this time is that I got rid of the 2-into-2 exhaust that I built previously. It was too loud, and since I decided to get rid of the sissy bar there was no good place to attach a bracket to keep it from moving around everywhere. So I shelved that exhaust, and decided to use the MAC exhaust that I had from a parts bike I acquired some time back.

First off, the Mac exhaust for a CX500 will NOT fit on a CX650 without major modifications. The heads are about 1/2" taller, AND 1/2" wider. Add to that an extra 2" of oil pan sticking out the bottom of the engine, and there is no way the exhaust will fit. Fortunately, I have a wire-feed welder.

First thing I did was cut the muffler off of the MAC. The MAC exhaust system comes with the muffler welded in place, and it's a big megaphone that just screams "1970's Honda". Out comes the angle grinder with the cutoff wheel, and the muffler goes in the trash can. Next step was extending the exhaust headers. I cut the headers off about halfway down their length. I bought two exhaust pipe couplers from Advance Auto that fit over the cut-off Mac pipes snugly. Then I took my spare CX650 engine and flipped it upside down on the garage floor. (Note: Make SURE all the oil is drained before trying this!!!) I mounted the exhaust system with the couplers and once it was all in place and looked good, I tack welded the pipes in place. Then I took the headers off the spare engine, put it back upright, and got a bunch of paper towels to clean all the oil off my garage floor.

After I cleaned the oil, I went back and welded the pipes together properly. Then I test-fitted them to the chopper. Well, the bottom bracket didn't line up correctly, so I cut it off and welded it back on in a new location, so it now bolts to the bottom of the engine. Then I tried test-fitting the JC Whitney muffler I was planning on using. It fit perfectly, without any spacers or anything.... but the angle of the Mac pipe was such that the muffler hit the axle and swingarm. So I took the mac off again, and cut through half of the big 2" diameter pipe, right under the engine. I cut a slot about 1/8 to 1/4" wide through half the pipe. Then I bent the pipe to the right, which closed that newly cut slot. Then I welded it back together.

After I was done I wrapped the headers in header tape from JC Whitney, and attached it with stainless steel hose clamps. Then I painted the wrap with high-temp exhaust paint. Then I finally mounted it correctly to the bike, with the crush rings and everything. The muffler bolted right onto the pipe, but there was no support for it bouncing up and down. I welded a stud to the back of the pipe, and used a simple chrome bracket to hold the muffler in place. It looks great.

Now that the new exhaust was on, it was time to correct the jetting. The bike had always run a little lean, so when I installed the 650 engine I also installed #130 main jets. That really helped wide-open power, but it was still hesitant and didn't run well between idle and 4000rpm or so. I rode the bike with my new Mac exhaust like this for a while. I experimented with .020" shims under the needles, and that helped move the hesitation lower in the rpm range. Screwing the pilot jets out as far as they'd go also helped matters. This told me right away that I was running too lean just off-idle. So I repalced the stock #78 slow jet with a #85 slow jet. Instantly the bike ran PERFECT. It's been running that way ever since, though it may be a little rich in the midrange. Going to remove the shims and see if that makes a difference.

Parts Breakdown:
•  MAC Exhaust $Free (got it off a parts bike, been saving it for a while)
•  JCW Muffler $35
•  Misc jets $15
•  Clamps $10
•  Crush rings $20
•  Exhaust couplers  $8
Total $113

Running total for Chopper: $1971

Built Forward Controls!

This is the design I envisioned
The finished product was more elegant than the crude square brackets in my drawing

This linkage worked remarkably well

Not enough room to use Harley ends here, so I welded OEM ends together
The brake side flexed a little. I should have used a beefier rod
The shifter linkage was a straight shot of solid rod, so it didn't flex at all

The brake arm connected to a chopped up OEM brake pedal

Here's the one you've all been waiting for. Foward controls on a CX500. The CX500 is difficult to add forward controls to, because the shifter is rotated 90 degrees from what most other motorcycles. Where a normal bike's shifter rotates forward and backwards (with respect to the bike), a CX500's rotates left and right. For most bikes, attaching forward controls is a simple matter of extending the shifter arm and moving the footpegs forward. Not so with the CX500. Some way to change the direction of shifter movement is required. What's more, the CX500 has no frame downtubes to which one may bolt or weld mounts for footpegs or controls. The engine is a stressed member, and there are no supporting tubes anywhere around it.

My solution is simple. But the making of it was not. I went through many different designs for these forward controls. I started off with trying to use Ace 750 footpegs and levers, but could not come up with an adequate way of mounting them. I tried Yamaha pegs and finally decided my best bet was finding a set of foopegs from a sportbike, where the lever rotates on the footpeg mount. I found some controls from a mid-80's Kawasaki ZX600 on eBay that suited my needs.

I took a 1/8" wall 1" square tubing piece from Home Despot, and welded brackets made out of 1/4" thick 1" wide plate to the bar. The bar mounts to the underside of the engine, on the two unused nubs. I welded bolts to some square blockoff plates, and welded these plates to the end of the bar. Then I used drilled-out pivots from a ZX600 Ninja and welded them over the bolts. The levers pivot on these perfectly, and then a washer and a footpeg keeps the levers in place.

The shifter lever had the tab for mounting a linkage on the top, and I needed it to be on the bottom. I cut it off with my angle grinder and re-welded it on on the bottom. I used some silver paint to protect the cuts, and this blends in with the chrome so as to be almost unnoticable unless you look closely. The brake pedal is made out of aluminum, so I could not cut and weld it in the same manner. But fortunately it already had the tab in the proper place.

Setting up the brake-side controls was easy. I took a stock CX500 brake pedal and cut the pedal arm completely off. Basically I left only the spring mount, stop, and the part with the splines that bolts to the shaft. I then welded on a 2" long piece of 1/4" thick steel so that it hangs straight down, and then drilled a hole in the end. Then it was just a matter of connecting the pedal at the front of the bike with this new lever where the stock pedal used to be. For that I used a pair of early 80's Harley Sportster shift rod ends, a piece of hollow steel tubing from Home Despot, and some bolts from the hardware store. First I bent the bar into shape so that the bar clears the exhaust system and reduces the angle that the harley rod ends are forced into. Then I cut the bolt heads off the bolts from the hardware store, and welded them to each end of the bar. The Harley rod ends threaded right onto the bar, and bolted to the pedal and to the new brake arm I made. I painted everything black, and that was it.

The other side was much more difficult. I knew I wanted to change the forward/backward movement of the new shift lever to an up/down movement. My plan from the start was to make a pivoting "L" attached to the lower motor mount. I just happened to have an EX500 Ninja parts bike lying around, and noticed that the shifter arm was shaped almost perfectly, and had a nice bushed pivot. So I cut the shifter peg off the shifter, and drilled a hole in the end where the peg used to be. I welded the EX500's pivot bolt to my lower motor mount bolt, and bolted the EX500 lever on. I had to extend the EX500 shifter down about 3" with another 1/4" thick pice of steel. To make the linkage between the EX500 lever and the CX500 shifter, I welded together a bunch of EX500 ninja linkage parts. Then I made another rod using Harley ends, and bolted it all together. I gave everything a coat of wrinkle-black paint and that was it. You can see the results in the pictures on the left.

This all sounds easy, but in reality it took me several months to come up with a working design. I went through many different linkage ideas before coming upon one that actually worked, and I wasted a ton of steel and just about every weekend for a few months trying to come up with a workable system. All in all, I'd have probably been better off buying the $550 set of forward controls from Germany. But I have no complaints, these controls work flawlessly.

Parts Breakdown:
•  Square Steel Tubing $10
•  1/4" thick steel plate $10
•  ZX600 Controls $30
•  Hollow Tubing $10
•  Solid rod $10
•  Harley Linkage Ends $25
•  Can of wrinkle-black paint $7
•  Misc hardware (nuts, bolts, etc)   $15
Total $107

Running total for Chopper: $1965