THE BIKE IS BASED AROUND A 1985 KAWASAKI KX500 B1 MOTOCROSSER


This is how it looked when I bought it around 1990.

I made it road legal maybe early 1993 and used it on the road for a while, it only needed a plastic cover for the front sprocket and wiring up the lights which didn't work.

So it was still all green plastic as above, I then decided to customise it ready for the 1993 Kent bike show, which was on in four weeks time.





During the four weeks of building, on three occasions I worked right through the night (in my living room) without stopping for food or drink.




My goal was to make the bike good enough to be featured in a magazine, and to approach the magazine people at the Kent show.

At Kent quite a few people asked if I was putting in the show. I was a bit surprised by this, but very chuffed when the organisers accepted it.




I set out to make the bike look good, different and also much more like a road bike, hence the indicators, road bike wheels e.t.c.

I didn't set out to build a supermoto, just a customised road bike. At the time of building it I had never seen a motocrosser with alloy wheels and thought it might look good.

I know there are loads of motocrossers about with alloy wheels now (or supermoto replicas), but at that time it wasn't so common.




The first few people I spoke to about it (companies that sold alloy wheels at the scottish motorcycle show), said that it was impossible to put alloys on a motocrosser,

but I spoke to quite a few people with a "you can't do that" attitude whilst building this bike. That just made me want to do it more.




It has a 2 inch screen colour television where the speedo usually sits. I'd like to think that I'm the first person stupid enough to put a TV on a motorbike

(I would be interested to find out otherwise), but I must surely be the first person to watch top of the pops on a motocrosser.



WHEELS AND BRAKES


The wheels are from a Kawasaki KR1S. The front wheel just needed a small spacer made, but the rear sprocket needed to be moved inwards about 5mm.

I got a friend of a friend to do the machining on a lathe for �10, but as neither of us had done that kind of thing before, I had to make a drawing for him.

I decided on machining 2.5mm from the inside of the sprocket carrier and 2.5mm from the wheel. This took a fair bit of working out, what parts to machine.

If you're thinking of building your own street motocrosser I would suggest taking accurate measurements from different wheels before buying them.

Or buy ready made wheels from a supermoto specialist. The KR1S wheels were not a particularly good choice, it was all I could afford at the time.

I had to make a spacer/mount for the front brake calliper (also KR1S). This was reasonably easy to do. At first for a while I used the original KX500 master cylinder.

I stripped the paint off it and polished it. This looked good and seemed to work very well until I got round to refurbishing the calliper.

It's a four-pot calliper and it turned out that only one pot was working, so when I freed up the other three it turned out that the KX master cylinder wasn't big enough to push all four pots.

Thanks to the Chiappa brothers at Dunfermline motorcycles for help with that problem. After that I used a master cylinder from a CX500 (I think), which doesn't look too good, but works ok.

The original KX rear wheel had a drum brake, so I had to slightly alter the rear calliper mounting bracket to fit in-between the wheel and the swinging arm.

I got big Roy Burke from Rosyth to weld on a mounting bracket for the rear master cylinder.

Roy has a lot of experience of building trikes, choppers, fabricating welding e.t.c., he was a great help and inspiration in building the bike.

He has the same very open mind as me when it comes to ideas and we had loads of good brainstorming talks about customising.

Roy also introduced me to stainless steel, which is maybe not such a good thing because it is an absolute nightmare to cut, file or polish.

It looks good polished though and will stay shiny unlike alloy. The stainless parts on the bike are as follows :


STAINLESS STEEL PARTS


KX side plates : A mate who works in a stainless steel supplier/fabricator cut these to a template that I roughly copied from the original alloy side plates that were on the bike when I got it.

I designed the KX logo on paper then scribed the shape onto the metal and went about drilling the shape out. I must have lost about a stone in weight after 3 days of hard graft.

I went through about 6 drill bits as they just kept glowing red hot and wearing out. I have since learned that a proper upright drill with adjustable speed would cut through it no problem,

but I did almost all of the work on the bike with quite basic resources and not much cash. After drilling a few starter holes I then used a hacksaw with a round profiled blade

which can cut round corners to cut out most of the KX shape. Then finished it off with small round and flat files.

When the bike was in custom bike shows I would hang around when the judges were going round the bikes. I watched one judge looking closely at the side plates then shouting out

"They've been made with a punch". A few years after building the bike, I worked in a factory that had huge machines, which would punch holes of any shape effortlessly through sheet metal.

If I'd only known that at the time I would have told the guy about my 3 day nightmare. All of the stainless parts were hand formed by myself using metal that had a very rough finish.

So I had to start off with quite rough sandpaper (maybe 120) to get rid of deep scratches, then go down almost one grade at a time to slightly finer sandpaper to remove the scratches from the grade before.

After fine wet and dry (maybe 500 to 1200) , I moved onto a coarse polishing buff with coarse polishing compound, then to medium then fine. It took absolute ages to polish,

and you couldn't jump from rough to smooth or it would take longer. I couldn't afford to pay for them to be polished, but it would probably have been done in a day with an industrial buffer.


Rear mudguard/tailpiece : I originally made the tailpiece with two pieces of stainless. One shaped under the seat and sticking out on top of the rear lens,

and another underneath this part which enclosed the bulb holders, came out underneath the lens and carried on outwards as a mount for the number plate.

The underneath part eventually broke off through constant bending at the top of the number plate, so I made another separate number plate mount out of thicker stainless.

Later on I added a plate under the seat going down towards the front of the swinging arm. This has a very neat cut out for the rear shock swiveley thing (official Kawasaki part description) to pass through.

This plate replaces the original plastic guard to stop dirt getting onto the shock. I didn't think it would need done but it looks great and really tidies up the back end.


Left side panel : This was put on basically to cover up the plastic air filter cover (shown below) which never looked too good even when shined up with silicon spray on polish.

There was a fair amount of work in this as each of the round holes were made by drilling small holes then using files to bring them out to the right size.

Another task that would be very easy in a machine shop with a punch or milling machine.

All the edges were cut by hacksaw then filed smooth and the whole thing polished stage by stage.





Instrument panel : Made out of stainless and polished, to mount instruments.


FRONT MUDGUARD


I bought the front mudguard from a breakers, I haven't a clue what bike it's off.

I got it chromed in the local dockyard, drilled 4 holes in it and bolted it on.


LIGHTS AND ELECTRICS


The electrics were never great on the bike, as I didn't know anyone with experience of wiring a bike from scratch.


Power : While I was in Dunfermline motorcycles getting one of my magneto coils rewound (for about the fifth time), I pointed out to Raymond (one of the famous Chiappa brothers),

that the magneto backplate had a space for another coil. He then leaned over, picked up a coil that was lying on the ground next to him, tried it and it fitted!

So I still don't know what bike the coil was off, but it did power the lights reasonably well, although you had to keep revving the engine at traffic lights or they would give out as much light as a candle.

A separate wire coming from this coil was supposed to go to the battery to trickle charge it. I connected this to the battery, but doubt if it ever worked as it's probably supposed to have some other circuitry involved.


Battery : I originally used a standard, but very small 12 volt battery, but after a wheelie or two (hundred), all the acid had leaked out and it quickly died. I then used a yuasa sealed lead acid battery, which worked great.

I cant remember the model number, but if you're fitting one yourself I would basically get the biggest one that you can physically fit in what space you have.

That battery would last about four hours with the lights on, but if you needed power for a long journey you had to ration its use. Like only indicating when somebody could see you or driving with no lights on deserted roads.

Only joking, but I did get caught short in Blackpool. On the way back from the photo shoot for Superbike magazine I stopped off in Blackpool, parked the car and trailer then headed into Blackpool for a while.

After a few wheelies along the promenade I decided to head back, but couldn't find the car. I had to head right out of town then back in to remember where I'd parked it.

By the time I found it I'd been driving around in the dark with no lights for about half an hour.


Front light : The original was a standard acerbis enduro model with twin plastic lights. I cut these out and fitted a headlight from a Triumph acclaim (quite old and crap british car).

I then filled the gaps either side of the headlight with pieces of indicator lens that I picked up at the local car scrap yard. I managed to mount the indicator bulb holders

onto the side of the headlight. The front light doesn't look too good, it could have been done much tidier and I'm not too keen on the fairing anyway.

I intended making a fairing of my own design out of 10mm thick alloy, but never got round to it.


Rear light: It took a fair bit of working out how to place and secure the bulb holders (which were also picked up from the local scrapyard), Also how to secure the lens.

The indicators also have separate small pieces of metal to shield the light from the bulb so it doesn't light up the red tail-light lens. These had to be cut to shape and squeezed in too.

The lens was made from a Vauxhall chevette (quite old and crap british car) taillight lens. Two of these originally sat vertically either side of the cars rear number plate.

The lens originally had a white or clear part for the reversing light (on the right above), so I filed down about 1mm off the front of this and glued on a thin piece of yellow lens.

The whole lens, which was originally rectangular was then ground down and filed to fit the shape of the tailpiece (I still remember the smell of plastic being ground and heated by the grinder). I had to keep adding rubber mounting everywhere to stop bulbs blowing and lenses cracking with vibration.

There is also a clear peice of plastic under the lens which used to light one side of the car's number plate (when it was vertical). By luck this worked perfectly to light my number plate.





PAINT


I did all the paintwork apart from the frame, which was resprayed silver by Broonie. The side panels and fairing are plastic so the paint was always peeling off. I found out about special paint for spraying onto plastic,

but it was very expensive even for enough to paint a bike. I've resprayed the side panels a few times and the mural is starting to peel a bit.

I designed the Craig Hood logo on the tank when I was about 18 and just adapted some lines to fit the shape of the tank. I covered the tank with masking tape, drew the design with pencil, and then cut it out with a scalpel.

(That isn't a blemish near the top, it's the dot from the letter i)

It took ages, but I think it was worth it. The paint also fades from dark to light at certain bits, like where a line changes from the outside to the inside.

It's not too noticable in the photo above, but the outside stripes are dark metallic grey and the inside stripes are medium silver.

The mural took about 4 days altogether, but is maybe about 10 to 12 hours work. It was copied from a photo that I got a mate to take. It wasn't easy getting a photo where the front wheel was right up,

and at the same time the bike being directly in front of the camera. I wasn't too great at wheelies at that time. I got the photo blown up to the size I wanted then traced basic outlines of the bike onto frisk film

(Frisk film is like sticky backed plastic that's used for masking). I then cut out individual parts with a scalpel and sprayed them with an airbrush. I used a lot of the same paint that is actually on the bike.

The wheels are powder coated white and are a nightmare to keep clean as they have lots of tight spots to get into. I usually take about two or three hours to clean and polish the bike before a show or trip.


SEAT


The seat is just the original KX foam covered in black by a local upholsterer. I designed and cut out the grey material and got the upholsterer to stitch it on.


TANK

The tank is from a Kawasaki KLR 650 and was on the bike when I got it. It is metal and, at the time of buying the bike, plastic tanks were illegal for road use in the UK. That has since changed as I think a lot of car petrol tanks are plastic.


EXHAUST


The original KX exhaust is ridiculously loud for road use. I was told by Paul Chiappa that most of the sound comes from the wide part of the expansion chamber and that exhausts on road bikes have an inner perforated skin wrapped in fibreglass.

So I drilled loads of holes in the original exhaust then got a mate to weld a second skin over a layer of fibreglass. This was noticeably quieter, but didn't look good, so I drilled loads of holes in the second skin and got my welding teacher

to make a third skin over a second layer of fibreglass(I was doing a welding course at the time, but wasn't too great at it). It is now a lot quieter but it weighs a ton.

Another tip from Paul was to seal round the exhaust where it enters the barrel with silicon sealer. Do this the day before you use the bike and it makes a huge difference to the noise but usually blows itself out after a few days.

I cut about 4 inches off the end of the exhaust and about 2 inches off the length of the silencer. This was just to make it look neater with the short rear tailpiece.





ENGINE


The engine hasn't been altered in any way. I bought an identical KX500 from my brother for spares. I stripped both engines completely then rebuilt one good engine using the best parts from each.

I've had the engine out of the frame a few times but mostly to repaint it.


GEARING


When I first tried the bike on the road with standard gearing it would lift the front wheel in top gear without much coaxing, but you'd be going along a dual carriageway at about 50mph with the engine screaming it's head off.

So I then tried the smallest sprocket I could get for the rear (which was ridiculously small, the chain was just about touching the sprocket mounting bolts), this was good for motorways, but the bike would hardly wheelie at all.

I settled for somewhere in-between where the bike would sit at comfortable revs at 70mph, but still wheelie. (I will add the exact gearing the next time I look at the bike)

With the highest gearing I managed 115mph, but this was sitting about 2 yards behind a mates car which would obviously decrease drag loads. I reckon it will do about 100mph top as is.


INSTRUMENT CONSOLE


The first console I used had a digital clock from a car, a key/ignition unit from an unknown bike and a round mechanical speedo that I picked up second hand.

The cable drive broke after a while so I started using a digital cycle speedo mounted on the handlebars. I then replaced the round speedo with a 2-inch LCD screen colour television (like you do).

I also added "idiot lights" either side of the panel with small bulbs that light up when the indicators, high beam e.t.c. are on. When I first finished the console I thought it looked ok, but it could be loads better.

I wanted it to look futuristic or high tech. I thought about using the console from a Vauxhall astra GTE (fairly old and not crap british car) which is pure black till you switch it on, then it all lights up in red led.

It looks great, and I could have got one for �10 but it would have been very hard to wire up properly. I'm sure it could be done though, even fitting an electronic rev counter, low oil level sensor e.t.c. to the engine.


TELEVISION


The television was partly for the futuristic look I mentioned before, partly for originality and partly for pure stupidity.

When I first fitted it I went up to Paul Chiappa at Dunfermline motorcycles and asked him if he could have a look at my bike. I told him I wasn't getting very good reception.

He said, "What are you talking about reception, you better get Raymond to look at it he deals with electronic stuff". I said no, just come and have a quick look.

He looked at it and said "%$�&*#@ I've seen it all now", then called everyone out of the shop to have a look. I like watching people's reaction at shows,

as most of them have a look at the speedo on a bike to get an idea of top speed. They usually get closer and closer and then move back totally shocked,

then shout at their mates "It's got a *$%!& colour television on it!". A couple of times I caught some arsehole trying to pull the TV out of it's mounting.

I think this and vibration from the bike eventually caused the TV to stop working. It is now completely empty, and has a small photograph of the bike inside the screen


WHAT'S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?


It's absolutely great fun to drive. It just begs for you to wheelie it at every opportunity (see wheelie issues further down the page). I never felt too confident going round corners at speed with it,

but this was mostly because I had fitted the wheels myself with no prior knowledge of wheel fitting. During a rally I took the bike to at Aberfoyle, I went for a drive heading north.

It was a hot sunny day and that road has some amazing hairpin bends. The road surface was also like a racetrack. I felt confident leaning it over that day and the bike was exploding out of the corners.


WHEELIE ISSUES


I used to wheelie the bike everywhere, I used to pray for a red light at traffic lights so I could wheelie away from them. It was inevitable that I would get caught sometime. I was stopped doing a huge wheelie along

Princes street in the centre of Edinburgh on a hot sunny Saturday (the busiest day of the week). It was traffic cops that stopped me. They just gave me a warning, admired the bike for a while then let me go.

I got stopped another time on a dry road with good visibility and no traffic or pedestrians about. This time it was two young cops in a police van. One of the cops was going absolutely crazy at me.

I was charged with dangerous driving, and after a year of trying unsuccessfully to find a solicitor that would help me with the case ,

I got banned for a year, a �250 fine and ordered to resit my test. In Scotland (I'm not sure of the law in England),

if you are banned for dangerous driving, you have to resit every test that you've passed. I had to resit my car test, but since then I have not resat my bike test because it costs a fortune.

Loads of motorbike magazines have people wheelying bikes on the cover, and it's seen by lots of us as a bit of fun, but I suffered badly when I got caught. I would only recommend it on private land.


TRAILER ISSUES


Although the bike was accepted for the Kent bike show, it was not allowed to be voted for because it was brought to the show on a trailer.

The Kent show was the first custom bike show I'd been to and I couldn't work out why the guy on the main gate asked me why my bike was on a trailer.

I soon found out that bringing a bike to a show on a trailer is very much frowned upon.

I've only worked out the bikes miles per gallon once. 21mpg which was driving on the roads taking it easy.

The trip from Rosyth in Fife to Kent and back would be at least 800 miles, which works out at roughly 40 gallons.

Adding the price of two-stroke oil to the petrol would be very roughly �200 (I'm not sure of the price per gallon at that time).

At that time there is no way I could afford that much for petrol. That's the bike in the Kent show below.

Also my particular KX500 was not too reliable, the magneto coils would regularly break. It has two coils, one low speed and one high speed.

This either meant the bike only revving to 4 or 5 thousand revs, or only revving from 4 or 5 thousand and upwards.

So if the low speed coil broke, as soon as you dropped below 4 thousand, the bike would stop and wouldn't start again.

It also went through spark plugs regularly, which would just stop working. For those reasons I never ventured very far on the bike,

and I also used to wear a back pack with spare coils, spark plugs and enough tools to completely strip the engine.

This was very heavy, but probably made wheelying even easier.

The furthest I travelled to was a bike rally at Aberfoyle (Can't remember the rally name, enjoyed it though), this was probably about 80 miles there and back.

The bike was chosen for the "Best bike in Scotland contest" shown above (I can't remember the date, must have been late 90s).

You had to send photos to the show organisers, they then chose 6 bikes to go into the show.

Because the show was in Livingston, about 30 miles away, I was looking forward to driving the bike there.

At 10am the day before the show I got the frame back from a mate who was spraying it silver.

I worked on the bike (rebuilding, polishing, painting e.t.c.) in my living room and kitchen ,from 10am that morning right through till about 9am on the morning of the show without any sleep, drink or food.

Occasionally telling myself I must stop for a break, then picking up a full freezing cold cup of tea that had been lying for hours.

At 9am I ended up having to leave for the show, but as the brakes hadn't been bled I couldn't drive it so yet again it was reluctantly trailered late to the show.

I got the bike on the stage in the show and was still giving it a final polish when a very well mannered and intelligent gentleman came up behind me and said.

"DID YOU TRAILER THE BIKE TO THIS SHOW?" I said yes and was just about to explain the reasons why when he said

"YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO BUILD A BIKE TO DRIVE IT!" and stormed off.

I can understand people not being happy about the trailer thing, but I never took my bike to shows to win a trophy, just to let people see it.

It's a very unusual bike and attracts a lot of attention wherever I take it and it never fitted into any trophy category anyway (streetfighter, lowrider e.t.c.).

I was told at one show that I should have taken it off the trailer round the corner and drove it in.

Going by the immaculate condition of some bikes at shows that have supposedly travelled from other countries, I reckon that is the way to do it.

I had a few occasions at shows or rallies where people who had never spoke a word to me before, hated my guts and were offensive towards me.

I've never worked out the true cause of this behaviour, but I'm sure it wouldn't happen if I had a perfectly normal bike.

It must be something to do with the attention my bike gets, as I'm a very quiet person and don't attract attention to myself.

I read an article in a bike magazine a few years back about this subject that mentioned a lot of people with customised or unusual bikes had been picked on.

The article mentioned a similarity with having a Lambourghini countach. Some people just want to hate someone with a car like that.


I've said for a long time "even if you travel to the other side of the world there'll be an arsehole waiting there for you", they are unfortunately a worldwide organisation.


I built the bike to my own tastes so it won't be everyone's cup of tea, but 99.9 percent of people who spoke to me about my bike

were very complementary, decent and supportive, that alone made all the effort worthwhile.


WHERE IS IT NOW?


The photo above was taken in August 2008, the alloy parts are pretty white and dull, and some of the steel parts that I polished (rear spring and kick start) are rusty.

Since being banned I have only started it up once. It has been sitting since around 1995 either in my spare room or in a garage covered with junk.

I haven't any immediate plans to get it back on the road but if I decided to, I would give it a complete going over again. It is looking slightly tatty in some areas.

I have no intentions of ever selling it. It always gets loads of attention anywhere I take it, and the only person that deserves that attention is me.




For more photos of the bike check out :


And, to view all of the bike's motorcycle magazine articles check out :




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