We started the year with only 1 product, which was our PMA Adapter Ring for the XS650. With its huge success, we were able to start designing and building more products and offer more exchange services...
We started off the year with some work on my Father In Law's Chopper project, modifying the off the shelf fuel tank into something a bit more of our own.
Mounting the tank provided another problem that allowed us to develop a simple new product. Our DIY Tank Bungs were born out of necessity as no one on the market offered them at the time...
We don't even make money on those things after production and shipping, but they make peoples builds that much easier, so we continue to keep them on the shelves. We were starting to learn more about what keeps this industry alive. Yeah, cool parts and shiny paint are great during the summer, but what we were finding, is people like you and I were having the time of our lives building our projects during the off season. We don't have a "motto" or anything like that here at HHB, but we have been making huge efforts to keeping that "Do It Yourself" tradition alive and well.
Not everything here in the shop has been about making money. Trust me, we are no where near reaching Fame and Fortune (so keep on ordering parts/services!!) yet... But without pushing ourselves to do new things, we could never share with you folks our "How-To" and Tech articles. And it goes without saying, here at HHB, sometimes we are even proud to show you our mistakes, so you don't have to repeat them.
They say there is "Nothing new under the sun" and I agree to an extent, but doing something yourself for the very first time is still just as rewarding as you would ever think. We did a quick article using a bit of tech help from Jay at Special 79' on how to re-work a trailer fender. I've had so many emails this year about that little blog post from people doing this themselves, that I expect to see a TON of modded fenders at the shows this next season...
We weren't the first to do it by any stretch of he imagination, but it still looked cool!
So as more and more work continued on the FIL Chopper project, it came to my attention just how badly the stock rubber bushings in the triple trees were for anything with tall bars on an XS650. I even went so far as to just order new rubber replacements for them, and they sucked just as bad. So again, out of necessity, another HHB product was born.
Our Solid Riser Bushings were originally scheduled for small production runs, but since then, we have had soo much demand for them, they are now a regular item we keep in stock. Everyone from Cafe' Racers, to Chopper and Brat Bike builders have been installing these things and love the results in handling and steering, as well as just cleaning up the front end. We can't brag on ourselves, we just let you folks do it for us... And for that, we are always thankful.
We started offering frame services due to overwhelming demand... It was a tight squeeze in our shop for an 8' long frame jig to stay in operation, but somehow we made it happen...
Of course, all this time we were offering our famous 277 Rephasing Service for crank and cams. Keeping with the DIY crowd, we were the first shop to ever offer Rephased Crank and Cams so that most anyone could enjoy the benefits of building a Rephased XS650 engine for themselves...
Of course, along with offering great parts at a reasonable price, we had to start offering even more tech advice and articles. We have been slowly finding that Customer Service is very lacking in the motorcycle industry, and have kept at it to keep you folks happy. I spend almost 3-4 hours a DAY answering phone calls, emails, PM's and forums to make sure that my customers get every bit of attention they deserve while building their projects. It's not easy, but it is something we have come to take great pride in.
Quick articles like this have seen amazing amounts of traffic here on the blog: Rephased Goodness
Along with video's and other quick little tips to keep interest, we have stayed busy!
In February (thats right, all of the previously mentioned stuff happened in January! Talk about busy, I can't even believe the amount of stuff we have been able to do!!) we started to take a look at a few different things. One of which was a write-up on my wife's Honda Rebel Build that has apparently gotten many folks convinced to build their better halves a bike of their own. I can't say thats a bad thing! We love seeing family get involved in this hobby/lifestyle...
My Father In Law's Chopper was coming right along, and not quickly enough! Trust me, some of this Quality Time can really test ya - but as we were working on that we found another much needed solution to a very common problem. "How do I install the rear brake linkage and pivot?"
Our extremely simple and cost effective XS650 Rear Brake Pivot Kit has answered a problem that most folks didn't want to spend $100 fixing. And again, it was completely DIY friendly if you have a welder at hand (and you should, you'll wonder how you ever lived without it once you know how to use one...)
Starting to see a trend here? We love the DIY stuff, thats what building motorsickels is all about!! Well, that and a good 6 pack of beer to share with some friends while doing it, and then you've really got it made...
Ok, enough about boozing and hanging with friends, lets get back to the bikes, and what HHB has managed to get done this past year. By mid February, our PMA Swap Brackets were in such high demand that the market for used parts to finish the swap was completely tapped out. In response, we started carrying Complete PMA Swap Kits so that more of these bikes are out there killing the pavement, reliably... We've since added timing tabs, more tech, and higher quality components at an even substantially lower price than our original $399.00 asking price.
We've worked VERY hard with our suppliers, taken huge risks with buy-ins and had to test every component to our liking before offering the kits to you. And after all that work, we managed to bring the price down too - most people would think we've lost our minds! We were able to bring the price down to $319.00 shipped in the US! Lots of work, mostly behind the scenes and un-noticed, goes into making the XS650 market happy with our products. We work really hard behind our desks and in the shop, so that you don't have to spend any time on the side of the road with nothing more than a paperclip, an old shoelace and some bread ties trying to fix your charging system (another story for another time).
Realizing that $319.00 is still a chunk of change for alot of folks, why not do a $1.00 Cheap Trick tech tip? A quick write-up on a starter delete has been very popular as well, and at only a buck, its definitely budget friendly.
After all that time doing paperwork, talking with supplies, fighting over pricing and trying to get the best products available to market for you folks, I must have been feeling a little suicidal. I started the first link to my latest build, working on the Death By Wheel part of my Digger Project...
The jury is still out on the long term testing of these, but I can say they look killer!
Later that month, my best friend and his dad were bitten by the "Bike Bug" and hard... We had spent many nights, days, and weekends building Rockcrawlers and such together, so it only made sense to tackle a bike project together as well. Not alot of progress was made that weekend, but we did manage to ruin a perfectly good sportster.
We had grown large enough my March to hire my first employee. Tevan got on with us, and has been killing it ever since. He really learned the ropes turning some ugly OEM parts into the shining beauties you see here. Plus, if I could get him to polish parts for 8 hours a day without any complaints, I knew he'd be a keeper.
I started taking on a few engine builds for those who were patient enough and willing to pay me... I really enjoy building these engines, so this was a pleasant process for me. This engine was one of the first I ever wired up to run on it's own stand...
It turns out the work we were doing in our tiny "shop" was inspiring others to do more with less. I found this picture online, and it really put things into perspective. This dude actually has a "shed" that is soo small he has to open the door just to work in it. If you look closely, he has a shot of my first bike on the wall. Thats rad, and to see others getting passionate and building bikes on their own is what it's all about. Guys like this are keeping it true to Backyard Builders everywhere.
With all the reviews and such on our 277 Rephased Engines, there was always someone stating that there is no need to do some of the things we do to these engines. So I drug out a stock crank to show the weaknesses inherent to ALL XS650 engines... Building a Proper Crank has had over 20,000 views by itself here on the blog alone..
Later that month, I started a new friendship with John Dills. A relationship that has proven to really be a pain the ass. I only say that, because JD would appreciate it... Dills Paintworks does all the paintwork for Wheels Thru Time Museum, so I felt pretty honored to have him spray the tins on the FIL Chopper that was getting near completion. (On another interesting note, I have seen this tank in more magazines than ANY of my other works, but only once has it appeared on the actual bike... )
Speaking of making friends. This new job was taking me places, and letting me do things I had never though possible before... In building the engine for one of these bikes, I have made more roadside croanies than you can shake a stick at... Some cool cats, with some really wicked tastes in motorsickels...
The above bike was the first totally stock 277 Rephased Engine I ever got to ride... It was soo quick and smooth, that I started to realize that even a "stock" Rephased Engine was a total blast to ride... We must be on to something here - haha...
Jason took this quick video:
We met up with Wesley Ashley from The Carolina Rider, who did a nice interview on the shop. Since then, I've hung out several times with Wesley, and I look forward to it everytime...
The interview might give a little more insight to what HHB is, in case you still need a dose of the obvious... Still a cool article anyhow: The Carolina Rider's Interview on Hugh's HandBuilt
My Birthday is in April, so I got a little selfish that day, and built myself a new frame. This frame has been in the work on napkins, sketchbooks, and in my head for about a year... So I treated myself to some bent tube and a few welding burns.
Realizing that I was being a bit selfish in building my own frame, I decided to throw a "Hugh's Birthday Discount" on the blog, which held our record sales for the whole year! I'll probably do that again, so stay tuned.
Since we did so well with sales that day, I celebrated by getting a bit of a mock-up done on my latest project. I was in love!! I am learning that if you are in this business, you don't get time to work on your own projects. So every now and then, I'll shut down the phones and turn off the computer to get some work done... Sorry folks, gotta do it from time to time, or I'll forget the true joy of why I do all this in the first place... But onto that killer mockup!
May came, and that meant the BMR was just around the corner! I will miss alot of events during the year, but I will NEVER miss a BMR if I can help it... That being said, I took a week off and went riding... The BMR is what riding and building cool ass bikes is all about. I usually travel with my good friend Joel, we break down about a dozen times, sleep in the rain under tractor trailers, visit the same gas station 6-7 times, and have a damn good time... So yeah, plan on seeing me there!
Since we took so much time off, we hit June with a vengeance. While keeping up with normal orders, engine builds, rephasing cranks and cams, we still managed to sneak in some time for a few new cool tricks.
The 8 Pack Clutch was machined and fitted to one of our engines (and still being tested successfully in a race bike up north)
My friend Staton Carter came over and did a nice photoshoot on the FIL Chopper.
And yes, I like wheelies, even on choppers!!
We managed to drop the prices on our Solid Riser Bushings, and then release the new XS650 Speedometer Deletes all at once...
Then we took a weekend, and headed to the Smoke Out East with a few new found friends:
That trip wasn't without it's own mechanical failures. Lessons learned, NEVER install your wiring/switches in the most obscure place to work on... But thats the fun of it all, if you can't hang out on the side of the road with friends, then where can you hang?
After getting home, we started selling Lectron Carbs... These carbs are badass! You'll never understand until you've run them, so trust me on that..
I was pretty sure Tevan had the Biker Bug itch too, after hanging out at the Smoke Out, so we found him a project all his own... Man, what a mess to start with... At least it was cheap!!
Tevan would go on to tearing this thing completely down to the frame, and making some sweet mods to the chassis while rephasing his very first ever engine build. People keep saying I spoil the kiddo, but I can't have him rolling around on a boring stock bike, so there ya go... He's keeping this one very old school Cafe' while giving it a few modern tweaks to make it really stand out from the "Clubmans and an Off-The-Shelf Seat Section" builds you see so often... It's gonna be sweet!!!
Once we had soo much work, we were turning away customers, I knew I could get a bit picky. My Engine Rebuilding Services were being officially offered to the general public, but only if the General Public could meet my demands... Read them, and enjoy. I get more comments on "Hugh's Engine Building Philosophy" than you would imagine. Even larger shops have called and said "I wish we could get away with that!!" - well at least I started it early in HHB history, no going back now!
Then the biggest news of the year hit - we would be moving shops!!! Life was grand - and by grand, I mean 3X larger than my old basement "Shop"
It's all been a great ride until this point, and since I know no one likes long blog Posts, I'll continue this on another day... Until then, stay tuned, and thanks for all the continued support