Ten years ago, Brian Janes decided to design and build a custom chopper from scratch. eBay became an integral part of the project for the lifelong motorcycle enthusiast. “Every major component was an individual eBay purchase,” said Janes, who lives in St. John’s, the capital of Newfoundland, Canada. “It’s fundamentally an eBay creation.”
Janes started riding dirt bikes when he was a teenager. In 2006, he decided to build a V-Twin after watching televisions shows such as “Biker Build-Off” and “American Chopper,” and falling in love with Big Dog Motorcycles, a well-known manufacturer of choppers based in Wichita, Kans.
Unlike enthusiasts who ride their choppers sparingly, Janes had serious travel in mind. “When I was building this bike, I knew that I was going to have to sit on it and drive,” he said. “The rake and trail parameters determined by the bike’s wheelbase, steering axis angle, and fork offset was critical since the bike had a twelve-over front end. The wrong geometry can give you steering-slap at slow speeds and wobble at high speeds.”
The Hunt for the Right Parts
Janes found the frame he was looking for from a US-based seller who had purchased the component from Quebec-based Rolling Thunder. The engine is an 88-cubic inch V-twin. Janes changed the cams to put more torque to the bottom end since he was more concerned with power off-the-line than higher top speeds. The camshafts came from British Columbia.
Janes mated the engine to a six-speed transmission, also purchased from an eBay seller.
He converted the engine from chain drive to a three-inch open outer primary belt because he liked the looks of the set-up. Since he had increased the rear wheel size from 230 cc to 250 cc, he had to go with a smaller belt (1-1/8 inches) to the back wheel.
Two-inch open chrome-plated exhaust pipes give the motorcycle a growling exhaust note. The bike’s handlebars are a pullback style. Janes explained that he needed the pullback design so he could easily reach the handlebars, due to the bike’s front rake.
The motorcycle has a single seat, so there is no sissy bar. A license plate holder includes a built-in tail lamp. Janes also installed marker signal lights to make the bike safer to ride.
Hitting the Highway
“This bike is not just for show. About a month after the build, two friends and I took a road trip that covered about 6,000 kilometers (3,730 miles) around eastern Canada and the New England States,” Janes said.
Before the big journey, Janes gave himself a month to shake the bike down. He discovered a small oil leak that was easily fixed, and got some seat time, to ensure he would be comfortable riding long distances.
“The bike is a soft-tail, meaning it has an active suspension, unlike the traditional hard tail choppers,” he said. “It’s not as smooth as a conventional bike, but it’s comfortable enough to ride long distances.”
His experience designing and building the bike came in handy when Janes had to fix a mechanical problem during the trip. “At about 1,000 kilometers I noticed a crack in the gas tank caused by vibration when the tank was full.” Janes fixed the problem by installing a rubber spacer and some new brackets to better secure the tank. The rest of the trip was mostly smooth sailing and a real thrill.
Janes continues to enjoy his bike, with periodic road trips in nice weather. Every time he fires up the engine, he admires his custom chopper—what he sees as the ultimate expression of a life-long love of motorcycles.