Before we get into the cool little Honda Shadow bobber spread out in these pages, there are some things you should know. When you follow a how-to article or series in any motorcycle (or car) magazine, there are a few different types of writers and editors out there – two of them are the doers and the haulers. The haulers are the most common. What they have is a truck and a trailer. They haul project bikes (or cars) from point A to point B and almost always have someone else do the work for them. Then, as the hired gun does the work, the writer shoots the pictures and follows the project. Now in some cases, a writer can’t help but be a hauler. He doesn’t have the necessary tools or skills to get the job done. Fair enough.
The other type of writer is the doer. One who rolls up his sleeves and gets his hands dirty. Let me tell you from experience, it’s not that easy. For example, when you’re working on a how-to article, you regularly have to stop and take a series of photos and take notes. For every photo you see in the magazine, the writer might have “bracketed” four or five more. So basically you stop working on the bike, clean your hands, set up the camera (most often on a tripod), shoot the multiple photographs (often using a timer so you get your hands in the photos to show how it’s done), take notes so that the work you’re doing is coordinated with the photo, and then start working again. If that all sounds like a long, drawn out process, you’re right. But it’s a satisfying assignment for the writer, and from a reader’s perspective, you can truly feel the vibe because the person penning the how-to is the one who actually did it.
So what does that have to do with this bobber in particular and RoadBike magazine in general? Plenty. The editorial staff around here is jam-packed with doers. RoadBike Editor Steve Lita is one of them.
If you’ve been following the Blue Collar Bobber series, then you know that Steve was the guy who built this bike, and he’s into hands-on motorcycling. Not only does he steer the helm of this magazine, he also teaches motorcycle safety courses, and, in his spare time, works on and builds bikes. His home shop is filled with what has to be a dozen or more motorcycles — some new, many old, some running, and some projects. It’s one of those places where Steve must work on his daily driver truck outside, because there’s no room inside since it’s all reserved for tools, shop equipment, motorcycles, and motorcycle parts.
To recap the build, you’ll recall that in order to arrive here, the planets somehow became aligned. Steve and a young fellow named Tyler Gyenizs are both involved in the local motorcycle safety class program. Steve’s an instructor while Tyler is a range aid. That means he fixes crashed bikes, sets up the course pylons, and so on. During one class, Tyler was mentioned his new ride, a bone-stock Shadow. As it turns out, Steve recognized the need for a low-cost bobber build in RoadBike magazine, Tyler wanted a custom bobber, and the folks at Blue Collar Bobbers in Sandy, Utah (just outside of Salt Lake City), just so happened to have an appropriate kit to turn a stock ugly duckling into a black swan.
In the first segment of the build, Steve stripped the bike and almost immediately grabbed a Craftsman electric saw to bob the back end. There was no turning back after that. Fortunately, Tyler was in. He knew from the get-go that some cutting and changing of parts would be necessary. By the time the first segment ended, Steve had the back fender fitted and was ready to hand off the plastic and sheet metal to Tyler for paint. (Tyler looked after this part of the project, finding an auto body shop that was actually willing to do the work was not exactly an easy task.)
With the arrival of the second portion of the build (December), Steve cleaned up the cuts from bobbing the back of the bike and installed the cool, little sprung solo seat. The seat supplied by the Blue Collar folks featured a big Maltese cross laser engraved on the leather cover. The little Honda was gaining some much-needed attitude.
By the time the third installment rolled around, editor Lita had reworked and rewired the taillamps and signal lights and installed the Model A taillamp as well as the side-mounted license plate. He also swapped out the huge front turn signals for the smaller, more appropriate, bullet jobs from the folks at Blue Collar Bobbers.
In the March issue, Steve went to work on the handlebars. It’s likely no secret to anyone reading this that the stock Honda handlebars were ugly. Here, a complete drag bar setup from Blue Collar Bobbers fixed the unsightliness and simultaneously added a bunch of street cred. Now the rider’s fists would be where they should be: pointing straight out in front.
And that brings us up to speed. In this issue, turn to page 86 to learn how Steve installed the bodywork and modified the exhaust. As you can clearly see here, the transformation from street cruiser to bobber proved to be colossal, but the parts costs were well under $1,200. Factor in the buy-in cost of the low-mileage (read “cream puff”), basic bike, and you can still be styling for way less than the down payment on a new piece of iron. How long does it really take? Since Steve was cutting, fitting, wrenching, taking photos, and writing notes, it probably consumed four to five weeks working on it in his spare time. He figures if you just set to work on the project full time, you’d get it done in a week (!).
So, was the job difficult? Heck, no. The most time-consuming part of the entire build was waiting for the bodywork to be done. The hardest job was wrapping the exhaust. The proof of a build isn’t time, effort, or dollars spent. It’s how it rides. And in Tyler’s case, the Blue Collar Bobber is about as perfect as you can get (almost). Both Tyler and Steve have actually had some time in the saddle, and the little Honda is pretty much a hoot to ride. Your fists are in the wind, and the bars are wide and offer huge amounts of leverage. You can stretch your legs out. The seat has proven far more comfortable than anyone ever imagined. And almost as important, the little back-to-basics bobber regularly attracts a crowd. Few even recognize the bones it began with. Who’d-a-thunk?
Like any regularly ridden, custom streetbike, the project is never really over. As of this writing, the bike is up on a stand with its wheels removed. They’re going to be knocked down, dechromed, powdercoated, reassembled, trued, and shod with new Kenda Kruz rubber soon. That story will run as a standalone this summer. But what you see here is the final version of the Blue Collar Bobber conversion. And guess what? We hear editor Steve is on the prowl for another donor bike — this time maybe a bigger Vulcan or V Star for a future build-up. Just like this bike, it’ll be a project anyone with hand tools and enough patience can copy. And if Tyler’s Honda Shadow is any indication, it ought to be a gas. Keep your dial set right here, folks.
Originally published in RoadBike, April 2011