If you’re in the position to customize your ride, we wouldn’t be surprised if you were frothing at the chops and ready to get to it. When most of us got our starter bike we probably had to settle in shape and form to a certain extent, given that most of the time there are both budgetary and safety issues at play with a starter bike. (While most of us don’t want to admit it, it’s probably more often to hear somebody say “my first bike may have been a bit overkill in the power department” as opposed to a newbie complaining that 1500 CC just isn’t enough power on day two behind the handlebars.)
At any rate, once you’ve gotten the training wheels off, so to speak, and you’ve decided that motorcycling is for you, it’s likely a lot of your brain matter has since been dedicated to that dream bike.
And now you’re in a position to finance and customize your ride to your heart’s content.
Allow us to live vicariously through you as we go through the basics of motorcycle customization.
No matter if you prefer cruisers, cafe racers, or dirt bikes, all motorcycles have two wheels, and they can absolutely be customized. You may be constrained slightly by the type of bike you ride (some require tubed and others require tubeless tires depending), but the kind of wheels that you sport can definitely change the appearance and performance of your ride.
Where appearance is concerned, if you’re looking for a lighter, “leggy” look for your motorcycle, you may want to consider looking at spoked wheels, since wheels with solid hubcaps often give a heavier appearance since you can’t see through them. A wheel that’s larger in diameter also gives a bike more lift, and if you really want that skeletal look, then go with thinner tires.
Depending on your ride, you may have the option to even choose two different sizes of tires. For example, having a larger front wheel and a smaller back wheel gives the appearance of a bike about ready to leap aggressively through the air, which can be a hot look if you want a more “intense” persona for the bike.
Some of you might think that the “pounce” position of a bike with differently sized wheels is displeasing, however, and that’s also perfectly fine: the styles come and go with the times, and what one person finds attractive the other may find ridiculous. Fashion isn’t just for clothes… it absolutely applies to motorcycle tires!
Whether the frame applies to the visual impact of your bike depends on the bike itself. In some bikes the frame absolutely show and make a huge visual impact, and in others the components of the bike keeps it hidden.
Probably the biggest thing to consider with the frame is the use of negative space. Think of the difference between a stripped-down cafe racer and the beefier appearance of a Harley cruiser. With the cafe racer you get a lot more negative space, and the entire bike appears much lighter. With the Harley Cruiser the frame is going to be much thicker, but it tends to blend in with the body of the bike more so it’s less noticeable.
Again, what looks good to you depends largely on your personal aesthetics.
If you just want a basic rule on fenders, it’s this: try and have the fender follow the line of the wheel as much as possible. This is a very basic element of motorcycle design, and unless you’re truly looking to go out on a limb it’s what makes most bikes look their best.
Fenders in particular need to be carefully calibrated, otherwise they can affect the functionality of the bike. Obviously, the practical purpose of a fender is to protect the rider from getting debris from the ground kicked up onto them while riding (otherwise you’re going to end up with an unattractive line of dirt up the back of your jacket, likely), but they also have to have room for the tire’s natural growth and shrinkage depending on road conditions and temperature, and you definitely need room to adjust the tire axles as your chain wears out.
Other than this, some bikes choose to make the fendor a major design element (often people go with a “quick bob” fender that flares out at the end for some added ‘tude), and others try to match it as closely to the frame as possible to make it look unobtrusive and blend into the bike. “Blending” is more commonly chosen for bikes that have aggressive-looking tail-sections.
If your frame isn’t visible, it’s probably because of the bodywork that’s going on around it. Bodywork is getting more and more important these days, since newer motorcycles have more and more systems involved (computers, more advanced electronics, ABS pumps, etc) and thus the “stripped down” look of a bare fender can be hard to pull off. Thus, the body of the motorcycle acts as the sleek packaging.
Again, some riders prefer an “enclosed” look while others can’t get enough of that bare cafe-racer aesthetic. The art behind motorcycle bodywork could literally (and has) filled the pages of hundreds of books, but, at the end of the day, the ultimate decision comes down to the whims of the rider. Whether you prefer that sleek, modern, all-sewn-up look of encased systems or the raw, unspooled, open look you get when you peel the bodywork back to the frame, there’s no right or wrong, here.
Again, number the stars for this one. Accessories are a great way to add a custom look to your motorcycle if you don’t have a lot of money or time to spend. In fact, many of us started on our journey to custom bikes by simply adding a pair of handguards in an attempt to stave off frozen fingers.
Accessories that can easily change the look (and functionality) of your bike can include anything from sissy bars to backrests to saddle bags. Obviously, not all bikes can handle all kinds of accessories (a sissy bar might look a bit strange on a racing bike, for instance), but with enough care in selection they can produce quite a custom look for very little money.
Whether you’re looking for simple accessories or the best OEM motorcycle parts, you’ll have a fantastic time customizing your ride. We promise.