Highway Pegs for Adventure Bikes

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One of the best additions I’ve made to my V-strom is the highway or forward pegs. Having the option of stretching my legs forward and resting them on foot pegs is a real relief when I’ve been riding for hours. Making the forward pegs is also one of the more difficult additions I’ve made. In all honesty I have to admit that the project of making the pegs was made difficult by the fact that I am a cheap bastard and instead of buying square metal tubing I used what I had, round pipe. To make the forward pegs for an “Adventure Bike,” I had to make them hinged so that they would fold up and out of the way in rough riding conditions and so they could easily fold back down when riding on the highways. To make them hinge with round pipe I had to heat the ends of the pipe until it was red hot and then hammer the round pipe into perfectly square ends. It gets even more complicated and difficult when one of the… well never mind, let me just tell you how to do this the easy way.

First you have to have a skid plate on your bike. For my V-strom I bought a skid plate. I had all kinds of ideas of how to make a skid plate, but I got such a great deal on the bike that I convinced myself that I could afford to buy the plate. Without a skid plate you might be able to attach to your crash bars, but you’ll have to buy crash bars. The forward pegs are three separate pieces, a long bar that bolts across the front of the skid plate and two shorter bars that are the foot pegs. The two foot pegs attach to the long bar at both ends with a single bolt that acts as your hinge pin. For my bike the long bar is 16” and the foot pegs are 6.5”. I’ve been pretty happy with those lengths, but you may want to make adjustments for your particular bike or riding style.

To make them out of square tubing you would cut the long bar at 16″, but leave a bottom tongue on both ends sticking out about 1″. The pegs are 6.5″ with the bottom corner rounded so it will hinge up and not drag the bottom corner. Cut four 2″ ears out of flat stock and weld them to the ends of the main bar with 1″ of the ears sticking out past the main bar. The ears will be welded to the tongue and main bar, one on each side. The other option is to buy foot pegs and bolt them to the main bar, but what fun would that be?

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I bolted my long bar to my skid plate with two “U” bolts. To make the foot pegs less slippery and to dress up the pegs I used a pair of rubber handlebar grips and slid them onto the pegs. They worked pretty well, but I failed to glue them on and they had a tendency to slid outward. On a trip to Glacier I lost one outside White Salmon, so I went into a hardware store found a heavy duty black rubber hose that would slide tightly onto the pegs and I’ve use that since. In my shop I found a couple of plastic caps off some kind of aerosal spray cans, probably brake cleaner, to cap the ends of the rubber hose to make the ends of the pegs look a little more finished.

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Like I said, one of the best addition I’ve make to my V-strom. I’m not young, have a little arthritis in both knees and being able to stretch out my legs is so nice.

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Anyway…for what it’s worth.

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PANNIERS MADE FROM SCRATCH

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Luggage Racks For my V-strom

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Like most people, my life has been made easier by computers and yes, better. In my job as a home inspector, WIN Home Inspection Salem, a computer saves me time and corrects my terrible spelling. A computer provides most of our TV viewing pleasure and keeps me in touch with friends and family. I know for a fact that I would have never written a dozen books if I hadn’t had a laptop computer. Most of my life of being a do it yourselfer has been spent in trial and error. I have spent many hours and lots of money making mistakes because I didn’t have the knowledge to do it right the first time. Now I just go to my computer and Google how to do what ever it is I want to do and I can find it on Youtube. Exploring the internet with my computer has kept me learning and growing like nothing else could have done. And even though I curse them sometimes, a computer has opened the world to me and enhanced my life. God bless you mister or misses computer inventor person(s).

Next to the computer, used plastic 55 gallon barrels would have to be #2 in making my live easier.

After I realized how much I enjoyed dual sport motorcycle riding on my Honda XR650L, I decided that I needed an adventure bike. An adventure bike is a step up from a typical dual sport in that it is comfortable enough to ride long distances on the highways, but when you see a dirt or gravel road that looks interesting, off you go. After a lot of study I decided that the Suzuki V-strom 650DR was the ideal bike for me. I couldn’t really justify the expense of an $5000-$7000 bike. Since I like to work on motorcycles I decided that if I could find a wrecked bike that was mechanically sound I could probably fix it up and make it, at the very least, interesting looking. I had just published a book, The Reincarnation of Joe Rocket. In the book the main character had fallen on hard times and his buddy, Two Stroke, bought him a V-strom that had been wrecked. He spent a couple weeks fixing it up and then rode it from Washington State to Maine. It occurred to me that if Joe Rocket could fix one up, I could too. I put an ad on Craigslist and a week later a guy emailed me saying he had a totaled V-strom that he wanted to sell. The bike was a 2010 with 4500 miles on it. Long story short, the bike looked brand new, except for a broken left front turn light and the shifter lever. There were also a few small scratches that I would have never noticed if he hadn’t pointed them out to me. The guy had been rear ended, tapped, at a stop sign and tipped the bike over. Since the bike was virtually new, he wanted everything with even a minor scratch replaced. By the time the insurance company added it all up, the bike was totaled.  I bought it for half the price of a new one and within thirty minutes I had fixed the turn signal light and shifter. So much for a fixer upper project. I love this bike.

I had sold my cruiser, 2002 Honda VTX 1800, the previous winter, so the Vee was going to be my all around bike. I would use for long weekend dual sport trips and my week long road trips. For long trips I needed some kind of  saddlebags, or for a adventure bike like the V-strom, panniers. Panniers are usually aluminum boxes that mount to each side of the back fender area. They are made of aluminum to be almost indestructible and watertight. I never liked the idea of big metal boxes mounted to the back of my motorcycle. I guess I have had too many close encounters with trees and boulders and knew I would end up tearing them off my bike or denting them beyond repair. As I searched the web for something I thought would work for me, I found nothing I liked or could afford. I kept thinking, why don’t they make a flexible plastic holder that you can just slip your luggage onto? Then I though, “Hey, I can make that!”

I needed to make a rack that would withstand crashes and that I could mount my plastic luggage holders onto. During searches on the web I had seen many different racks that would mount on my V-strom, but I felt I could do better or at least, as well. I made a rough sketch of what I wanted, found a 10’X3/4” piece of conduit in my shop, bought some 1/8”X 1” metal flat stock at ACE, got out my conduit bender, fired up the welder and went to work.

Showing complete rack with my stovepipe tool box attached.

Showing complete rack with my stovepipe tool box attached.

The first thing I did was bend the conduit so it would attach to the passenger foot peg frame bracket on one side, bend around the back of the bike just under the tail light and attach to the other passenger peg frame bracket. I carefully flattened the ends of the conduit and drill holes for bolts through the flattened part. The frame brackets for the passenger foot pegs on the Vee are large and there was plenty of room to drill a hole in the bracket to accommodate the conduit, bolt and nut.

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The Vee comes stock with a substantial back rack that sits over the back fender. It’s bolted on in four places, two bolts attach back rack and two more bolts forward about mid seat. In my opinion, it is always a good idea to use the factory bolts and brackets when ever possible to attach something not stock to your bike.

I cut and bent to fit, two pieces of flat metal stock that would bolt under the back rack front brackets and reach down to the conduit. For the back support, I cut and bent one piece of flat stock that ran from the conduit on once side, up and under the back rack and down to the conduit on the other side. Because of where I had to run the flat stock under the back rack, the bolts for the rack didn’t line up with the flat stock. To make the connection to the bolts I welded two small ears to the flat stock that would reach the two bolts.

Showing rack bolted under the bike's rear rack at mid-seat.

Showing rack bolted under the bike’s rear rack at mid-seat.

Showing the two ears I welded on to fit in the two back holes of the bike's rear rack.

Showing the two ears I welded on to fit in the two back holes of the bike’s rear rack.

The next step was to cut two short pieces of flat stock that would attach horizontally between the two vertical flat stock on each side and would give me something to hang my plastic luggage racks on. Once everything was cut, bent and fitted, I welded it all together and sprayed it with black spray in bed liner.

Now with the rack made and mounted, I needed to make luggage racks. After drawing some sketches of what might work, I made a pattern out of cardboard. I had in mind that I was going to use 20” carry-on luggage to fit in the luggage racks.

Now what I needed was a big flat piece of plastic. Here is something that you might not know. If you cut the top and bottom off a plastic 55 gallon barrel, then cut it down one side, heat it up with a weed burner blow torch until it is so soft it will lay flat on a shop floor and put a piece of plywood with some heavy weight on the plywood over the plastic until it cools, you will end up with a large piece of flat plastic.

Showing my pattern with measurements.

Showing my pattern with measurements.

After cutting the plastic to the pattern, heating the plastic and bending it to the proper shape I riveted so it would retain the shape and make it strong. To attach the luggage rack to the metal rack, the luggage rack needed a bracket system that would easily clip onto the metal rack and wouldn’t accidentally come off over rough road. Of course I used plastic barrel to make the brackets. The bracket is a kind of  “Z” shape and the top bracket is a flat piece riveted along the top. They are just wide enough to fit between the two vertical supports on the metal rack and slip over the conduit on the bottom and the horizontal bar at the top. To keep the plastic racks from bouncing off the metal racks, I made a “L” bracket out of plastic, then cut a slot through the back of the luggage rack and “Z” bracket attached on the back. The slot was cut just below the top horizontal cross piece on the metal rack. I attached the “L” bracket with rivets to the luggage rack so that the short part of the “L” bracket will slip through the slot, under the horizontal cross-piece and though the “Z” bracket. The plastic “L” bracket is kind of spring loaded and stays through the slot until you’re ready to remove the luggage rack.

Showing brackets on the back that slide onto rack. Note the slot in the upper bracket for "L" bracket to slide through and secure the luggage rack to the metal rack. Note that everything is riveted and hot glued on.

Showing brackets on the back that slide onto rack. Note the slot in the upper bracket for “L” bracket to slide through and secure the luggage rack to the metal rack. Note that everything is riveted and hot glued on.

Showing "L" bracket that slips through the slot, over the horizontal rack bracket.

Showing “L” bracket that slips through the slot, over the horizontal rack bracket.

20” carry-luggage is pretty typical and I was able to find one at Goodwill for a $5. The other one I bought a matching one at Walmart for $20. I removed the wheels on the bags and they slipped perfectly into the plastic luggage racks. I added two straps on each luggage rack to hold the bags securely in the racks.

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The carry-on’s looked pretty good, but they weren’t waterproof or dust proof. We had acquired some bright yellow material that school crossing flags are made out of when we owned a screen printing business and I had some left over. Using that and some water resistant material I bought at a fabric store, I sewed together some slip on covers for the bags (see top picture). That’s right, I sewed. Gentlemen, if a sewing machine is not part of your power tool assortment, your assortment is not complete.

I have used the racks and panniers for three years now and they have worked great. They are light weight, durable, flexible, inexpensive and not too bad looking. I never remove the metal racks. They act as rear-end crash bars and have saved my bike from damage more than once.

Anyway…for what it’s worth.

The Reincarnation of a Hawk

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Honda Hawk Hits the Dirt Roads 

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To stay busy and to keep my mind on motorcycles and off the weather, in 2010 I customized a 1978 Honda 400cc Hawk T Type II, converting it to a dual sport bike. I had been looking for a second dual sport bike for sometime. I wanted a second bike to have around for my two sons to ride. They both had street and dirt bikes, but no dual sport bikes. I looked for some time, but couldn’t find a second bike I could afford, or at least, that I could justify the expense of buying.

A few days before Thanksgiving, I found a Honda Hawk for sale  in Mill City, up in the Santiam Canyon. It didn’t run and looked like hell, but the guy said that it had run last year and everything worked well then. After some negotiation, I traded an old farm .16 gauge shot-gun for it. I had never fired the gun and probably never would, so I figured with the trade the bike was cheap enough that if I couldn’t get it running, at least I could part it out and make some money.

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The first thing I did was clean out the carburetors, charged the battery and to my delight, it started right up. After I got the clutch unstuck, probably stuck from sitting too long, I ran it around the field and up and down the road. It ran great! The tires were almost new, the brakes still had at least 75% left and it only had 50K miles on it. I bought a new horn and one back light bulb and with them in place, everything worked. I decided it would be worth my time to fix it up and try to convert it to a dual sport.

My youngest son and I stripped it down to the frame, cleaned it up, changed the oil and started making parts for it to try to make it more dirt-road-worthy.

Our first project was to make new fenders out of plastic. The metal fenders on the bike would be too easy to damage. For the past few years be had been replacing broken dirt bike fenders and side covers with ones we make out of plastic from 55 gal. plastic barrels. The plastic can be cut to shape, heated and formed into about any configuration. The stuff it is unbreakable. We made our patterns out of cardboard and once we had them right, we traced them on the barrels and cut them out. We then heated them and shaped them to the bike. The front fender was tricky. We had to shape it to the wheel in two directions, one big arc to follow the curve of the wheel and concave to curve around the tire. As you can see in the photos, we mounted the new fenders high over the wheels like on most dual sport bikes.

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We had to manufacture several brackets out of plastic and aluminum plate to attach the fenders to the bike. On the back of the bike we installed a hidden heavy, ¼”X1”, steel flat stock bar attached to the old fender mounts, that is bent to run under the fender/side covers on each side and over the mufflers to protect the mufflers if the bike went down.

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The finish is spray-in truck bed liner. The stuff is tough and will sticks real well if you sand the surface of the plastic before you spray it on. The red paint is just good old Krylon over the bed liner.

The mufflers were the fun part.  New mufflers would cost a couple of hundred dollars, which wasn’t in the budget. I have repacked a few mufflers, replaced baffles and mufflers didn’t seem that complicated. I did some research on the web and decided to try and make my own.

I made the mufflers out of 3” type B gas vent pipe and some 1 ½” steel pipe for the baffles. Type B is a double walled gas vent pipe use for venting things like gas water heaters. In the baffle pipes I cut 4 rows of ¾” long slots across the pipe with the rows running from one end to the other on four sides of the pipe. Then I took a chisel and pounded down the cut pipe one side of the slots, so that as the exhaust and noise runs up through the pipe, some of the exhaust and noise will be funneled into the type B vent pipe. I bought some muffler packing and wrapped the baffles, slipped the wrapped baffles into the gas pipe and capped the ends with aluminum that had 1 ½” holes in them for the baffles to run through. Since we would be using the bike in the forested areas, I installed screen spark arrester that I made from bathroom sink strainers.  That is basically it. They sounded great, looked good and were not too loud.

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We wanted to get the mufflers up and off the ground for clearance. For that, we used 1 ½” pipe from an old trampoline frame to make the extension pipes from the headers to the mufflers. We cut it and wielded it to the configuration we needed to get the mufflers pointed up to the back fender. Fortunately, the extension pipes slipped right on the original chrome header pipes and I was able to use the old header clamps. The muffler baffle pipes slip onto the extension pipes because I used pipe with a bell on one end to make the baffle pipes. I welded some knobs on the extension pipes and baffle pipes and used a spring to keep them snug tight together. I could have used clamps, but I thought the springs looked cool.

The gas tank was rusted on the inside and had a dent on one side. We figured we could fix the dent, so we cleaned it out, but discovered that it had a hole in it. I found a motorcycle recycle yard in SC and ordered one from them for $45.00, including shipping. After spraying it with bed liner  and panting it, it looked great.

The suspension was a concern since the bike was designed for street use. I did some research on the web forums and found that guys with Hawks did actually use them as dual sports without modification and the bike did real well. Our only modification was that I made a bracket for the top of the back springs to lift the bike an additional 2 ¼” for better clearance.

I did also replace the seals on the front forks. The back struts in side the springs were weak. The springs compressed nicely, but the strut banged on the rebound. I solved that by adding trampoline springs, attaching them to the swing arm and frame. The springs were light enough that they didn’t affect the compression springs, but stopped the banging on the rebound.  Without dual sport tires, the bike had 8 ½” clearance, which would get better if we had add tires with knobbies.

Of course, when you raise the back of the bike up 2 ¼” the kick is no longer long enough. I had to cut the original one in half and made it 4” longer with a smaller pipe that I slipped inside original stand and welded in place. The bike stood fairly upright, but the idea was that when we put dual sport tire on, it should have a slight side tip to it.

The hand guards were easy enough. I took these off my XR650L when I added bark busters to the XRL. I had to modify hand guards a little so they would fit, but with the modifications, they bolted right on with the break and clutch levers bolts. They aren’t bark busters, but they will offer some protection to the hands from wind and brush.

The front windscreen was made from plastic barrel and a piece of 3/16” plexi-glass that I had lying around. The plexi-glass was cut, heated and bent, then bolted to the plastic. To trim the hole for the headlight I used some old black rubber hose that was a washing machine water supply hose.

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The front turn signal lights were mounted to the front headlight with some very rigid chrome pipes. I wanted something more flexible in case of a tip over, so it cut the pipes in half and slipped some rubber gas line hose over the pipes. To add some additional rigidity to the pipes and to reduce vibration, I sipped some .10 gauge wire down the center of the pipes with the power wires. If the bike goes down the rubber hose should flex at the cuts.

The back-turn signals are mounted with the license plate on a bracket my son made from plastic barrel. The license plate light was salvaged from a broken sidelight off my trailer. The tail light was an old tail light off a trailer that was kicking around in my garage. It is mounted under the back fender with a plastic bracket.

The seat was in bad shape. We removed the old cover and foam from the steel base. The base was rusted, so we wire brushed it and painted it with stop rust paint. The foam was still in good shape, just wet, so we dried it out and reused it. We use the old cover as a pattern and cut a new one out of black leather-like vinyl.

The rock guard under the motor was a challenge. We made the bars out of some scrap ¾” black pipe. Our first attempt didn’t work out. We made the bars too short and we were probably over thinking it. My oldest son “the engineer” came by for a couple of hours one day and helped me rethink it. We ended up using the bars we had made, but attached them differently to the underside. The guard was made out of plastic barrel and attached to the bars with conduit brackets. Notice that I didn’t call it a skid plate. It’s not that heavy duty, but will keep rocks from flying up and putting holes in the bottom of the motor.

I like having saddlebags to keep emergency items, maps and my lunch in when I’m out riding. I had bought some nice bags for my XR650L on closeout for $20.00. They look a lot like two small carry on or duffel bags strapped together. I stopped at Good Will one day and was lucky to find two black carry on type bags that were almost identical. The only difference is the zippers on the sides are slightly different, but you would have had to look hard to tell the difference. They both are 14”X10”X6”. I cut the handles off on one side and removed the shoulder straps. I cut the other handles in half, put some Velcro on them, ran them under the seat and stuck them to the others bag’s handles that are cut and have Velcro attached. They look just like my other dual sport bags and only cost me $2.99 each for the bags and some Velcro.

There really was a lot more to it than described here. This is literally a “long story short”. It was a fun project and like my youngest son said, “These projects are so much fun. It doesn’t even really matter if it works in the end; I just like doing the project.” That’s true for me too. Over the past several years, some of the best times I have had were doing these “Home Grown Engineer” projects with my boys. It is nice though, when they actually work.

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