What style of bike are you building? That’s often the easy part. Whether or not you can articulate your vision using proper design language, you probably have a mental picture of your ideal bike.  

In fact, you’ve likely collected photos from the internet that feature elements of the design that lives in your head. Most people start this step long before their build. If you have too, that’s great! You’ll need this collage later to design your own bike.

The next step is to draw. Take those ideas you’ve collected and sketch them out, starting with the major lines of the bike. Building out your bike on paper (or on the screen) is part of the planning process. This virtual construction will help guide your decisions during the build.  

If you happen to be artistic, or have a career as a designer, then get sketching! Building out your bike on a two-dimensional plane is part of the planning process. This virtual construction will help guide your decisions during the build. But if you’re more skilled with a hammer than a 2B pencil, there are other options.

You might find a drawing or photo of the frame of the project bike and trace over it in a drawing app. This will confirm the proportions and lines of the project before you start cutting steel. This chapter of the book will dive into design sketching and give you skills and tools to confidently articulate the bike you want.

Whether you plan the proportions with a pencil, digital tools, or cut the shapes out from paper, it doesn’t matter. Once you get the shapes right, stick this picture on the wall above your build table.  

It is the start of everything.

Now, it's very likely that the fact you’re reading this book means that you’ve already got all the inspiration you need. But if not, here are some research tips to get you started.

  • There are numerous popular custom motorcycle websites that are always pumping out the latest new designs. Some are style-specific, other are not.
  • The Ride and The Ride: 2nd Gear are two great examples of the numerous coffee-table type books that compile outstanding photographs of bikes from all styles into one place.
  • Use hashtags in social media searches to unearth the bike you own or the style of bike you want to create.
  • Search for YouTube channels by other home builders. Many users post regular content and explain their methodology.
  • Search ‘custom [your bike’s make and model]’ in your favorite search engine for specific images to your bike.
  • Track down model-specific web forums for a group of like-minded hobbyists who likely own the same project bike as you.
  • Attend bike shows or visit automotive museums and take your own inspirational photographs of the bikes that catch your eye.

Drooling over inspirational bikes is easy, but it's also important to get as much information from them as possible to use in your own design creation.

  • Be specific about what type of components are used, such as rims, mufflers, and lighting.
  • If you already own a bike, compare images you like against your bike to see if major frame modifications or other changes have been made, is the tank similar, as complex changes require more work and may be out of scope for a novice builder.
  • Note where components like the tank and fenders are relative to hard points on the frame to understand the proportions to your bike.  
  • When you see custom bikes in person, it’s important to stand back to take in the general aesthetics, then get in close to understand how the builder may have hidden wiring and mounted parts. Imitation is the best form of flattery, so don’t be afraid to use those ideas yourself.

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