Customizing on a budget: Making a bike unique without breaking the bank

Publish Date: 
May 20, 2014
By Bruce Steever

Many riders fail to realize how “functional” and “stylish” don’t have to be mutually exclusive, either. Saddles are a great example: typically, experienced riders only consider a new seat based upon comfort and functionality requirements, but with a bit of design work and different cover materials, a new seat can really update a bike’s look.

Consider Saddlemen’s Kevin Schwantz Brand 34 Signature Series seat for Suzuki’s GSX-R. For $314.95 retail, the rider can look forward to a more comfortable saddle built around Saddlemen’s split Gel Channel technology, while adding some racing heritage with Kevin’s famous #34 and signature embroidered into the gripper cover material.

Another great customization option is a new instrument unit. It’s more subtle to observers, but new gauges greet the rider every time he or she turns the key, providing a long-term upgrade.

Koso North America is the go-to supplier for custom instrument panels for both sport and cruiser motorcycles. Depending on the needs of the installation, a new Koso gauge not only can add a new sense of style, but  improve on the limited functionality of some stock dashes. In addition to the usual readouts for speed, rpm and trip meters, a full-function unit like Koso’s best-selling RX-2 ($379.95) can display speed warnings, multiple temperature readouts and peak values for speed, water temperature or rpm. Plus, new technology will provide crystal-clear data in an even more compact package, thanks to Koso’s upcoming D1 OLED (organic light-emitting diode) prototype gauge ($349.95 est.).

Finally, don’t forget that the old tricks are often still the best: powdercoating, chroming and similar finish options can provide an excellent custom highlight for any machine. But don’t fall for the idea that you have to refinish a frame, engine or similar large component (requiring a full vehicle tear-down) to get good results. While Triumph’s Tiger 800 XC SE shows how a unique colorway can create something special, similar treatments to ancillary parts, such as handlebars, crashbars or footpegs and foot controls, can yield great styles, and a quick look online finds a variety of providers willing to run powdercoat finishes on smaller parts for prices around $50-$100 per.

Customizing doesn’t have to mean $40,000 choppers or wild one-off sportbike builds by big name celebrity builders, but it shouldn’t just be a bunch of me-too bolt-on accessories, either. By providing customers with smart custom options, you can earn their sale while giving riders unique machines for their hard-earned cash.