Tips on working with local tradespeople for custom mods

Discussion in 'Some Assembly Required' started by Castorp, Feb 12, 2017.

  1. Castorp

    Castorp Adventurer

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    Hi,

    I'm trying to modify my bike (an ex500) for more passenger comfort. Specifically, I would like a sturdy passenger backrest with a luggage rack attached. I would like to lower the rear footpegs and move them slightly forward. i would like a seat pad to raise the passenger an inch or two. And several other things.

    When I start pricing this stuff with on line stores, the bill runs up very high, very fast. In fact, I could very easily spend more than I paid for the bike. And some of it is not easy to find because the bike has not been made for a while.

    If I knew how to weld, or do upholstery, I would try myself, but I don't and these are not the sort of things I would want to practice on.

    I was considering going to a local tradespeople and telling them what I want and seeing if they can make it for me.

    I'm wondering, is this a bad idea? (for safety reasons or any other).
    Would it be more hassle and money in the long run than just buying the stuff online?
    Would I be better off going to custom bike shop (because they know about motorcycles)? Or just contacting individuals with these skills (even though they may no nothing about motorcycles)?
    How should I prepare? I have heard of people making models for rack and parts out of cardboard and coathangers.

    I realize there are many variables, but if any of you could give me any tips, I would really appreciate it.

    Thanks!
    #1
  2. Samtech79

    Samtech79 Two wheeled lunatic

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    If you can already buy what you want... buy it.
    Custom anything usually cost about four times as much off the shelf.
    Where are you? What do you want? What's the time line.
    #2
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  3. Castorp

    Castorp Adventurer

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    I'm in FL. I'm in no hurry. I said above basically what I want.
    I will give a more specific example. I want a passenger back rest. The only one made is corbin. Thats $250. But you must buy a seat for it to work. Add $450. So, $700 for a back rest, and that's with out the luggage rack I want. Ad two hundred for that (assuming I can still find one). So, $900 total.
    So you are saying that if I go to a local metal shop and ask them to make a simple sissy bar they're going to charge me $3,600?
    #3
  4. Samtech79

    Samtech79 Two wheeled lunatic

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    At my shop I charge $90 an hour for custom work, which takes longer as there's design and tooling set up. Yet only $30 an hour for things we do all the time.
    Actual custom seats (not Corbin) run anywhere from $600-1000. You're much better off with Russel or Bill Mayer. If you're gonna have a custom seat, get an actual custom seat that fits you. Not a over priced off the shelf, one size fits all seat cover with some mediocre foam.
    As for $3600... you can invent any obtuse scenario you like for all the what ifs but if you look through your butt it's gonna look shitty.
    Still if a rack cost $100, it's gonna be $400 for a custom one off. Volume is the the key to reduce per unit cost.
    You can probably got some kid to build you one out of angle iron for $50 but if you want something that looks like it belongs there I can see a sissy bar with a rack and some upholstery getting into the 700-1000 range real quick. Add a full set of custom seat(s) and your wallet is going to take a serious pounding.
    #4
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  5. Samtech79

    Samtech79 Two wheeled lunatic

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  6. shovelstrokeed

    shovelstrokeed Long timer

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    If you are a capable draftsman and know exactly what you want, for the mechanical things anyway, you can provide a machine shop with the necessary drawings and they can duplicate your drawing. Same goes for the sissy bar/rack only this time you need a welder/fabricator. If you design your stuff out of commonly available materials, you can do it much cheaper. That said, beware of things that are left and right specific such as brake caliper mounts. Be sure to indicate that any offsets must be mirror images.
    For the seat, spend the necessary money to have a motorcycle specific seat manufacturer build you a seat.
    It is often much cheaper to go the e-bay route and find a rack from another motorcycle that you can adapt to your bike. Just stroll around a couple of motorcycle stores and look at the accessory catalogs or the bikes themselves. Bring a tape measure or wooden ruler and check them out. Many of the cruiser style bikes come with both back rests and racks.
    #6
  7. GoGoGavin41

    GoGoGavin41 Qapla'!

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    Regarding the upholstery - I've done a few seats before and wouldn't say I know anything about upholstery. Shaving and gluing foam is pretty easy, cutting and stretching a new cover is probably the most difficult.

    If you don't have access to a welder that kind of rules out the other work, but honestly a backrest doesn't seem like it would be that hard to throw together or retrofit from another bike like shovel mentioned above.

    A common argument for doing things yourself is that it may take more time and $, but you've (usually) gained some skill in the process, and that's often more satisfying than buying something off the shelf.
    #7
  8. Castorp

    Castorp Adventurer

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    I've been reading some other forums here and I think I may be able make a rack out of pieces of flat steel. There would be no welding involved, just bending, cutting, and drilling the steel. i will also look at the retrofitting option. Still thinking things through at this stage, but the information is a great help. Thank you.
    #8
  9. Mayomoto

    Mayomoto Ultralurker perman00b

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    I made my first rear rack from a salvaged aluminium sign. Go buy a 4" grinder at HF. Then go buy a case of beer. Drop one 12 pack at your friendly local upholstery shop. Then find a place that does trailer repair, thats your welder, give them the other 12. As a contractor, prototyper, fabricator type, I have an affinity for anyone trying to help themselves. I have never looked at it as money out of my pocket. What im getting at is, if you want me to build you something and come to me with an idea, im going to charge you for head scratching, tool and material acquisition/invention, runnin around, etc. If you want me to build you something and you bring me parts cut to assemble and some plans/shop drawings, its gonna be a bunch less, often nothing. Do your own thinking, gathering, cutting, deburring, grinding, polishing/painting, and you might be surprised how affordable custom stuff is. Get your hustle going.
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  10. Castorp

    Castorp Adventurer

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    Thanks so much, Mayomoto. That is a fantastic idea!
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  11. Mayomoto

    Mayomoto Ultralurker perman00b

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    I finally broke down and bought a HF upholstery specific gun, and know a local saddle/boot guy with a chap/belt walking foot machine for complicated stuff, I stich it myself on his machine, I try not to interrupt his regular business, bring in my shit ready to go, and offer to pay every time, which he declines every time. I fill his mini fridge or bring donuts. No more seat worries. Just so you know about 90% of covers can be made from a single, stretchy piece, smartly tucked and tacked. Its really not that hard.
    My local trailer repair dude is the coolest. Sweet brake/shear in his shop among other wonderful things, his tig welds are amazing, he doesnt laugh at mine, never charges me anything approaching what I would consider fair, I leave cases of Gatorade when its hot, cookies/the occasional pecan pie in the fall...you get the picture. Bribery works wonders.
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  12. squish

    squish Out of the office.

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    Couple of things,
    I don't bring beer to my craftsmen any more, a lot of them are recovering and it's not very nice,
    I bring donuts, everyone loves donuts...

    Anyway the big cost is the design that's what eats up time, and it eats it up quick

    at $100 and hour it's quick to get a $200 back rest for $500

    First thing is to look around and see if anyone else has already solved your problem.
    http://www.ventura-bike.com/product/Kawasaki/GPZ-500-EX-500-D1-D7-E9-E10

    Seat work is pretty easy, locally there will be place that can add foam and re-skin a seat anywhere from $100 to as much as you want to spend

    Foot pegs, there's some options out there to lower foot pegs with either custom ones or finding ones from other bikes that fit.

    I'd take a look at Kawasaki's line up and see if there's anything that works

    Also hit up the EX500 forums, someone, somewhere has already done what you are trying to do.

    Good luck
    #12
  13. Wildebeest90210

    Wildebeest90210 Long timer

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    ^^^^^^^^^^^^
    Great tip, my welders love the donuts!!!! My main tip as an individual dealing with business's is never ever say you are not in a hurry, you'll wait for ever. Say anything 'I'm off on holiday on the bike next week' 'it's in a show next week' etc etc. With that and the donuts you're on a winner.
    #13
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  14. sonic reducer

    sonic reducer Been here awhile

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    It's one thing to show up with a small part needing a weld that is ready to go and requires no thought, cleaning, prep work etc. and humbly ask to pay in beer. reasonable and enjoyable transaction for all involved.

    It's another thing completely to show up with no drawings or measurements, half an idea, no material, and no hard currency to make it happen. that can get darn near offensive. face it folks, time is precious, fab equipment is expensive, metal is expensive and consumables are expensive. I don't work as a fabricator anymore but when I did, I had a fair amount of people come looking for something for nothing basically, and it's kinda lame.

    It's also known that not everyone is made of money. you may be able to improve your chances that said person will perform actual high quality work for you for a cut rate if your idea is either simple or innovative, well thought out, has good drawings, you aren't pushy, and stay respectful. lower levels of finish are much faster to build and require less thought. the shorter a timeline, the more demands, details and requirements you put into a project youre pitching to someone, the less likely you are to get a deal.

    trades can also be a good way to get pro quality work out of someone. hopefully you are a pro at something, maybe they need your services as well. trades are a grey area though.

    as far as the OP not wanting to learn on the ex500, if not on that then when? do some quick research on techniques and give it a shot. if your work doesn't turn out well cut it up and turn it into an art piece.
    #14
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  15. Andyvh1959

    Andyvh1959 Cheesehead Klompen

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    I have some fab capabilities, can do welding but I'm a better grinder. I can do plastics and fibreglas work. I've designed custom tail racks for my BMWs and five years back I built my own custom seat set for my 94 RS. They all took a LOT of hours of design, fitting and fab work. A skilled fabber with a great grasp of design from scratch is worth every dollar of $100 per hour, and I'd say that is a reasonable rate for what custom work entails. For any custom work the more details, design, function and expectations of the results you can provide the better. But again, back to $100/hour.
    #15
  16. portablevcb

    portablevcb Long timer

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    I was more like Mayo, but, I did my own welding with my old stick unit.

    Most of the time I fabbed stuff from Al, frequently from the hardware store stuff, but also stuff from signs and other stuff I have found over the years. Made small tool boxes from Al sheet, bent and riveted. Mounted my ammo boxes with 1/4"x1" Al strap, bent to shape and bolted to bike.

    Only time I welded stuff was when I needed a fairing mounted to the frame. Welded the mounting tabs to the stem tube. Again, mild steel strap from the hardware store. Nothing fancy. My welding is not good looking so I used the grinder a lot. :)

    If I wanted it to look pretty I would get the material, bend it the way I wanted, locate mounting tabs and such and take it to someone else to weld up.

    One last idea. Some of the small shops out there are willing to teach as you go. See if you can learn how to weld or use a milling machine. The university I went to had a nice machine shop but their time was limited. For the boring stuff, like running a surface grinder, I would offer to do the boring part if they set it up for me. I always got my jobs done first.
    #16
  17. Castorp

    Castorp Adventurer

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    thanks so much for the tips. The points are being taken.

    Sonic reducer, I just don't learn to weld on the sissy bar that's going to be holding my passenger up! I would start with projects where it did not matter so much if the welds are strong.
    #17
  18. Makr

    Makr I make my own rules

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    I look at everything I don't know how to do as the opportunity to learn and buy tools. As long as you rely on others to do stuff, you are limited in quality, time, creativity.

    Mistakes are the best teachers!
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  19. k-moe

    k-moe Long timer

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    Find a high school or community college that has the sot of trade programs that you will need to complete the work. Talk with the director of that program. Low cost work (usually materials cost) to get your project made, and you help future tradespeople learn.
    #19
  20. Mayomoto

    Mayomoto Ultralurker perman00b

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    Most of the craftsman I know need to be in recovery from donuts.
    #20