After a brief hiatus I am back on the “mini stroker” chopper project. I decided that it was the right time to make handlebars. The first step, for me anyway, is to make a wire form of what I want so I can hold it up to the bike and get a visual. This is not a precise thing, rather just a basic reference. I know roughly how much rise I want, and know roughly the whith, but that still leaves a lot of room for creativity.
I am making these bars out of 304 stainless steel, 7/8″ OD, .120″ wall thickness, seamless tubing. I will end up using about 4 feet of it, approx $80 worth of raw materials. This is opposed to the catalog bought, .049″ wall, recycled mild steel, chromed Chinese bars found on most “custom bikes”.
I start with the center bends and work outward. I have reference marks drawn on the tubing. This is so I can take the bars out of the bender, check them, then put them back in the exact same location for further bending. Speaking of bending, this is my bender. It consists of a typical bottle jack and various mandrels, a few of which I made specifically for tight radius handlebar bends.
For tight radius bends like these, I use two different mandrels, a gradual “starter” mandrel and a secondary tighter one.
The hardest part of making bars is keeping everything symmetrical. The exact location of the bends, the angles relative to each other, equal pullback on each side, etc. This is all done through bubble levels, angle finders, and measuring them against a flat table. There are a minimum of 6 mandrel changes, each of which entails some dis-assembly of the bender. Oh yeah, the material is springy, so I have to “overbend” each bend past the point I want, then let it spring back slightly to where I want it.
Almost done with the bending stage….
The next stage is polishing them. Sounds easy enough but keep in mind I cant just go straight to the buffer- First I have to sand them. The buffer can only take out microscopic scratches, not the deeper ones left from the manufacturer. For that I need my trust Burr King sander, set up with a slack belt, and a variety of sanding grits.
Not a great pic I know, but trying to simultaneously sand the bars and take a picture was not easy. Same for the buffing. Needless to say there were about 2 hours worth of sanding and buffing to get them to a mirror finish level.
I threw the grips on there to see how it looked. I am happy for now, but there is always the chance that they will need further modification as the bike evolves.
I’m sure I will get many comments on my “sweet chrome apes” from the local do-rag crowd. Followed by “how much for a set uh dem?”. Followed by a look of disgust and confusion…