Custom Chrome Forward Controls: FAIL

Last week I picked up a set of Custom Chrome forward controls for the ’77 Ironhead. I bought the on eBay from a reputable dealer for about $200, and while I didn’t expect them to be the fanciest forward controls, I did expect them to be good basic controls.

The forward controls I bought we’re made for ’78 and up Ironheads, but looking at the photos on eBay, I knew I’d be able to fit them on the bike with just a few tweaks.

After doing a “Buy It Now” in eBay, it only took a few days for the controls to arrive. The eBay description said I was purchasing a complete forward controls “kit”, but my idea of complete and Custom Chromes idea of complete obviously differ.

The box was missing instructions, but I’m mechanically inclined enough that I was able to assemble the controls on my kitchen table. I had no problems assembling the kit until near the end, when I started hunting for the brake peg. After a bit of head scratching, I realized the box had three fold-up foot pegs and a shifter peg, rather than two fold up pegs, a shifter peg and a brake peg.

I contacted the eBay seller via eBay’s messaging service and tried to track down the company’s phone number. I did manage to find a possible number via Google, but the mailbox was full.

A bit frustrated, I tracked down Custom Chrome’s contact information and left a harried message on their voicemail.

i admit, I threw my weight around as a crack motorsports blogger, letting them know the product review I was working on probably wouldn’t be that great if they or their dealer didn’t get their act together.

A few hours after my flurry of emails and voicemails, I got a call back from the eBay seller, who apologized for the problem, saying these packages drop-ship from the manufacturer. He arranged for a footpeg to be rushed out to me. In our brief conversation, I did find it odd that he mentioned how cheap the Custom Chrome forward controls are that I selected compared to some of their other, pricier options.

He did send me some basic instructions for installing the forward controls. I was a bit annoyed that they called for me to cut down and drill my shifter knuckle rather than just including the part in the kit. The brakes lacked any real instructions.

Shortly after I got off the phone with the eBay seller, I got a call from a business development executive at Custom Chrome. I told him about the Oden Motor Shop blog, the Ironhead project, and the review I was writing on the forward controls. Like the eBay dealer, he mentioned the low quality of the forward controls I purchased, saying they were actually the product of a company they acquired several years ago.

So, after all of my parts arrived, my expectations for the Custom Chrome forward controls wasn’t too high. Because of my low expectations, I wasn’t too upset to discover just how crappy these forward controls actually are.

On the plus side, they bolted on easy.

And that’s it.

Once they were on, I mocked up the positioning and saw that the shift lever was too close to the peg, and the brake lever deflected so far forward that it hit the front fender.

Essentially, these forward controls are too far forward and too high.

Modifying these controls wouldn’t be too big of a deal (if you don’t mind trashing your existing controls) to make this kit work with the ’77 Ironhead, but it would be nice if Custom Chrome just mirrored the left controls to the right rather than providing a fancy bracket with mount points for a master cylinder.

But I didn’t bother modding the Custom Chrome controls. When I got on the bike to test the positioning, it became clear that it was made from seriously cheap components. I would feel unsafe with these on my bike.

I’ll give CustomChrome the benefit of the doubt and assume it’s top-dollar forward controls are top-notch, but they should really ditch this “value” line altogether.

And until someone comes up with a good quality “budget” forward control kit, I guess I’ll have to keep hunching over to ride my 1977 Ironhead Sportster.

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Project Bike: 1986 Honda VT1100C

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In April, I picked up another broken-down mid-1980s Honda Shadow, hoping to restore it to glory just like I did with 1984 Honda Shadow VT700C Bobber Project. This “new” bike is a 1986 Honda Shadow VT1100C, and I’m hoping the extra horsepower will give me an opportunity to enjoy it a bit before selling it. The VT700 was very peppy, but it was a bit underpowered for a big boy like me.

The VT1100 is in much better shape than the last Shadow. I was able to get it running today after reinstalling the air box and connecting a new battery. The fuel line to the rear carb is leaking, but this is any easy fix. I’ve also resealed the gas tank, and I am now waiting the requisite 96 hours for it to cure.

I ran the bike today off of the reserve tank today, and it started up fine, putted at low RPM, but when I gave it a bit more gas, it died. I suspect the fuel leak is causing the carb to suck in air through the fuel line. Again, it’s an easy fix, except I have to remove the air box again.

I’m hoping to have this bike ready for sale by the end of July. If you’re looking for a good “budget” cruiser, let me know.

Project: 1977 Harley-Davidson Ironhead Sportster XLH 1000

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Some opportunities are too good to pass up. When I saw this 1977 Harley-Davidson Ironhead Sportster, I knew I had to buy it. Fortunately, I just sold the 1984 Honda Shadow VT700C Bobber, so I had the funds.

Mechanically, the Ironhead is in great condition. There’s a minor fuel leak at the petcock, which I plan to fix with a little torque and fuel resistant thread sealant.

When it really heats up, the clutch makes a loud whirring sound when the bike gets really hot. Some have suggested it’s a bad bearing, while others think the primary chain gets some slack as the bike warms up. It’s great under normal riding conditions around the neighborhood, but I’ll need to fix it before any longer rides.

I’ve already purchased forward controls and nine inch throwback risers. I’ll post install photos as the come.

Sparks Will Fly

Every step of this 1984 Honda Shadow VT 700C rebuild has been a battle. Many of these challenges result from the previous owner’s attempt to dress out the bike with some truly hideous bling. Some customizations, like remounting the speedometer and tachometer on the riser bracket are both aesthetically offensive and an obstacle to restoration.

I admit, welding the head of two bolts together to create the instrument mount point on top of the riser bracket was a highly creative solution, but destroying the hard-to-find riser bolts in the process didn’t help me.

SOLD: Honda Bobber – Retro Army Air Core

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Built from a 1984 Honda Shadow VT 700C, this Army Air Core inspired bobber is a fun ride and real head turner.The bike has 40,600 plus miles, but the rock-solid, well-maintained Honda V-Twin has another 60,000 miles in it before the next overhaul. It has a new Virginia safety inspection valid until May, 2014, and is registered in Virginia with a clean title. The tires have 10,000 miles or so left in them.Over the last six months, I rebuilt the bike from the ground up. including carbs, clutch master and slave cylinders, front brake calipers, clutch, pulse generators, alternator, ignition system, and more. It has a fresh oil change, and brakes, forks, and cooling system have been recently serviced.In addition to being converted to a bobber, I’ve made the following customizations:

  • Custom leather sprung solo seat
  • Ignitech ignition control unit
  • High performance Keihin carburator modifications and jet
  • High performance air filter and intake modifications
  • Transparent glass/chrome fuel filter
  • LED marker light and turn module (currently wired up only for marker lights)
  • New battery
  • 12vdc accessory / battery tender port
  • New stator/alternator
  • Custom drag pipes with titanium heat wrap, mini baffles (so it’s loud but not obnoxious) and chrome tips
  • Burly Slammer Shocks
  • “Streetfighter” fairing with internal mounts for GPS, iPhone, etc
  • Custom fabricated forward controls and floor boards
  • Aftermarket handgrips
  • High-visibility mirrors
  • 2.5 gallon gas tank
  • Aftermarket clutch hydraulic line
  • Custom fabricated retro-style side-mount tail light and license plate bracket.
  • LED wheel rim lights
  • Cammo Green Plasti Dip paint job (leaves original paint intact)
This bike is ready to ride today.

View the eBay Auction.

Photo Gallery: 1984 Honda VT 700C Bobber Project

This 1984 Honda Shadow VT 700C is being rebuilt from the ground up, and then chopped back down again to create a bobber.

Replacing the Brake Switch on a 1993 Heritage Softail Classic (FLSTC)

When cars behind me started laying on their horns every time I slowed down for a stop light, I was at first a bit pissed, but after three horn blasts in a five minute ride, I new something was wrong. My 1993 Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail Classic is in pretty good shape for a twenty-year-old bike, but things do start to wear out, usually at the least opportune moment. In the spirit of sage riding, I pulled into a parking lot to try an figure out why drivers suddenly hated me.

It only took me a moment to figure out that my front hand brake switch had failed. the rear foot brake pedal worked fine, causing the tail light to shine brightly, as expected. Upon closer examination of the front brake lever, I found that the switch was jammed in its housing. I tried loosening it with some electronics cleaner and tough love (aka pliers), but the switch button wouldn’t budge.

I rode over to Patriot Harley-Davidson in Fairfax, VA (making sure to use my rear break in conjunction with the front brake) and picked up a replacement switch for about $30. It took about fifteen minutes to replace the broken switch . For the sake of posterity, I photographed the steps involved.

Post-Apocalyptic Zombie Bobber?

imageThe 1984 Honda Shadow VT 700C Bobber project has definitely taken on a post-apocalyptic flavor.

Last week, readers voted to mount the chopped trailer fender I mocked up. I was worried that it might make the bike look a little too finished, but the galvanized steel fender seemed to fit with the side mounted tail light and license plate holder I picked up. I suppose it doesn’t hurt that the tail light is actually a trailer light.

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Overall, it seems to fit well together, but I’m still torn over how I should paint it when I finish wrapping up the last of the mechanical issues. Here are a few ideas I’m kicking around:

– Post-Apocalyptic Army Retro in the spirit of the Fallout game franchise.
– Zombie Bobber with inspiration from Walking Dead, Resident Evil, and zombie maven Jesse Petersen’s Living With the Dead series.
– Mandalorian Bounty Hunter (if you have to ask, you don’t deserve to know).

As always, I want to here what you think, so please, join in the conversation!

Trust Counts In Online Vehicle Sales

A few years ago, my wife was in the market for a new vehicle. Her 1997 Chevy Silvarado was in great shape, but with the recent addition of our daughter to our family, a pickup truck didn’t quite meet our changing transportation needs. When we took the vehicle to the dealer, we got a low-ball offer on a trade-in. We had paid off the truck the previous year, so any cash would work to bring down the note in the new car, but the dealer wasn’t offering half of what we felt the car was worth.

After researching the estimated value of the vehicle on Kelly Blue Book and Edmunds, we gave it good detailing, took dozens of photos, and posted our Chevy on Craigslist. We considered posting on eBay, but back then I wasn’t as avid a user as I am now, and I didn’t feel comfortable with their auction format or commissions. I avoided the auto classifieds altogether because of the upfront listing costs.

The most important thing about Craigslist is to know your geographical market. While many of the good folk up in Elmira, NY (where we lived at the time) drove pickups, four wheel drive was a necessity due to the long, snowy winters. Our pretty two wheel drive Silverado just didn’t meet the needs of the local drivers (another reason we were looking to sell).

Ultimately, selling high dollar items like cars and motorcycles comes down to trust. We ended up selling the truck to my brother in Tennessee for a fair price, a little above Blue Book value, and a lot more than the dealer trade-in.

Today, I probably would ave given eBay more of a chance and taken full advantage of the nation-wide market that comes with posting there.

Video: It’s Alive!

After six months spent rebuilding the electrical system, the 1984 Honda Shadow VT 700C bobber project is finally running. It took a few shots of ether to wake it up, but it’s rumbling along. I’ve removed the baffles and replace the air box with higher air flow cone filters, so it runs a lean. Next week, I’ll try rejetting with a Stage 1 and Stage 3 jet kit. And then, maybe, I’ll start cutting.