Budgeting Your Motorcycle Build

Budgeting is a key consideration when you decide to build your own custom chopper or motorcycle. It doesn’t matter if you are budgeting for a stock motorcycle or building a custom dream machine, you must be prepared with an idea of the budget you expect to spend or you could end up spending too much on some parts of your custom build and scrimping on other very important areas.

A budget area seldom considered by motorcycle enthusiasts budgeting for their custom build is the area of tools. It is impossible to build a custom motorcycle without proper tools and if you do not already have a good collection of quality tools, this would be the very first point on your budget. While a collection of tools can cost a small fortune, you really only need a good mechanic’s tool set which can be purchased for much less. This investment will pay off again and again. But, for our purposes here, we will consider that you already have a complete set of tools available, including specialty tools you might need.

2004 “Old School” Sportster

old school sportster

by Bobby C. (Rancho Cucamonga, California, U.S.)

This report is not meant to be an all-inclusive list of budget items, nor a budget worksheet. It is, however, intended to get you thinking about creating a realistic budget for your motorcycle build.

Now, let’s look at areas for which you must budget in order to build a custom motorcycle, whether stock or chopper.

  • Engine: You have to power your motorcycle with an engine. One of the most popular engines you can purchase for your build is an S&S show polished V-Twin engine. These range from about $7,000 to upwards of $11,000. If this is too rich for your build, you can purchase a used engine, either an S&S, Harley Davidson, or other model, depending on what you want your finished ride to incorporate. If you are going for the ever-popular V-Twin look, you are not limited to Harleys or S&S engines today. Some of the engine makers previously considered to produce only “rice burners” now market V-Twin engines that look great and perform well. Your engine will probably be the single most expensive item on your motorcycle build shopping budget.
  • Transmission: You’ll need a transmission and this will be another of the big ticket items on your budget list. You can expect to pay around $1,000 for a good 5-speed tranny, brand new from an after market supplier. Again, you can save a lot of money buying a used transmission, but be sure you know the quality and functionality of the tranny you consider. Be sure the tranny matches with the engine you are purchasing to avoid major problems in the build.
  • Forks: You’ll need a triple tree and down tubes. These are not as costly as some parts, but you need to plan to spend between $300 to $3000 or more in this area.
  • Frame and Fenders: Choose a motorcycle frame that suits your needs by selecting a stock frame or one that has been constructed for a chopper. Unless you know what you are doing, you do not want to take on bending pipe and welding your own frame. You will probably spend somewhere between $500 and $1,500 for a quality motorcycle frame. It is wise to avoid used frames unless you know the frame has not been involved in an accident because balance is everything when purchasing a motorcycle frame. Purchase fenders at the same time that are paint-ready.
  • Wheels/Tires/Brakes: You’ll need wheels and tires to roll on and brakes so you can stop rolling when you desire. Depending on your choices, you could spend as little as $500 or as much as $3,000 or more in this area.
  • Electrical: You’ll need a wire harness, battery and battery box, head lamp, tail lamp, turn signals, alternator/generator, and power for any other electric accessories you want on your motorcycle. These will total somewhere around $1,000 or more of your budget.
  • Gas Tank and Paint: You will want a great paint job on your frame, fenders, and gas tank. Because the gas tank is usually the canvas for creative art on custom motorcycles, the cost has been combined in this area. The fuel tank itself will not cost a great deal — probably less than $300 — but custom paint for your frame, fenders, and tank can be a really big ticket item, especially if you want custom art work, color-shift paint, or a great deal of detailing on your motorcycle. Budget about $750 in this area for basic paint with some art work but allow more if you want specialized treatments and extensive artwork.

Everything Else:

This area covers a lot of ground and your costs will end up being based on exactly what you want. You’ll need a saddle which can run from $100 up to hundreds of dollars. Nuts and bolts can be quite cheap or rather expensive if you choose custom designs with decorations. Rear view mirrors can be as little as $40 or much more for custom shapes — and you might not even want this option. Handle bars, foot controls, two to six foot pegs (depending on if you want street and highway pegs for the rider plus pegs for a passenger), switches, lamp housings, and little details such as decorative oil tank covers, decorative crank covers, and other options can add several thousand dollars more to your motorcycle build.

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