Custom Motorcycle: Budget-built Yamaha Bolt

Custom Motorcycle: Budget-built Yamaha Bolt

Emulate the best without breaking the bank

There’s something about a fresh bike hot off the manufacturing line. Even if you’re someone who spends his time rummaging through barns to later restore a forgotten vintage beauty, it’s darn near impossible to ignore the alluring call of a brand spankin’-new motorcycle—especially if it’s part of a line that recently debuted and isn’t just the latest rendition of a pre-existing model.

But pursuing such a bike is gonna hurt your wallet. Waiting a whole year might help—but not that much. And we’re not just talking about the MSRP that’ll getcha. It’s what comes later when you inevitably begin lusting after aftermarket parts. Wilfredo Velez experienced this firsthand after buying this 2015 Star Bolt in 2015. At that point, the Bolt family had only been out for a year, so aftermarket parts were scarce. “After researching parts in the Yamaha accessories catalog, I quickly realized that I was looking at spending upwards of $2,500,” says Wilfredo. “That wasn’t counting the cost of labor on some items.”

That was not an option. It didn’t help that Wilfredo drew his inspiration from top-notch (read top dollar) Bolt bobbers Low and Mean’s modern and fenderless “Speed (Star) Bolt” along with SS Custom Cycle’s more classically bobbed “Slim Shady. Though minimalist, the parts the techs did have could break anybody’s bank. SS Custom’s builders decked out its creation with specially fabricated components and paint worth well over $3,000.

In addition to not having an unlimited budget, Wilfredo didn’t have access to a high-tech custom shop complete with a team of builders at his beck and call. He only had an old wood shed and himself. At least he owns a bike lift, metric tools, metal cutters, and paint guns.

Wilfredo immediately used the paint guns (and throughout the build), blacking out as much as possible, just like Slim Shady. But he also wanted to gain some power right away, which meant new pipes. “The one I wanted was $600,” Wilfredo remembers. “So I basically said ‘%^$@ it” and made myself one.” He did so by fabbing a straight 18″ slip-on and using the stock O-ring bracket to bolt it to the stock exhaust. Wilfredo then made multiple brackets and installed them about 8″ apart at the bike’s midsection to keep them in place. Wilfredo heat-wrapped, painted with 2,000F heat-resistant paint, and installed a universal chrome heat shield.

Altogether, this cost him about $100. “I still want those $600 pipes, but my slip-on worked out so great I just kept it,” Wilfredo says with a laugh. “The sound is loud as %^$@.”

Wilfredo found himself changing his plans again when he saw how much he’d have to spend on a coveted spring solo seat. “They were very pricey,” he comments. “An OEM seat from the Yamaha catalog was almost $400.” Pass. His next bet was installing a universal piece, but the ones he found looked poorly designed. Pass again.

Then he stumbled upon, what he calls a “beautiful” diamond-stitched spring solo seat for a Harley Sportster. Not only was it beautiful, but it only cost $100. More precisely, it was $120, considering Wilfredo had to purchase $20 worth of bottom seat brackets. “I knew I would have to use them somehow to make the seat fit the Yamaha’s frame,” he says.

He was right. Kinda. The installation required a lot more work than Wilfredo had anticipated. “The Harley seat’s bottom metal plate was wider than what my Bolt could accommodate, due to the Sportster’s frame being more or less about 2″ wider where the seat meets the frame,” he explains. To remedy this, Wilfredo cut the plate at the sides and rear so it would fit and follow the lines of his Yamaha’s frame. Next, Wilfredo centered the rear of the plate so it lined up with two predrilled holes. “It’s as if Yamaha knew their customers were going to do what I did,” he says. “And it worked out great!”

Similarly, the front seat bracket didn’t fit and, when installed, positioned the plate too close to the rear tire. “The seat was also kind of loose in the back,” recalls Wilfredo. So he cut the bracket until it looked as though it were made for Yamahas and drilled a hole to steady the seat with an extra bolt. “I get compliments for the seat all the time,” comments Wilfredo. “It’s not that comfortable, but who cares? It’s all about the looks, and the thumbs up I get regularly are worth it.”

For this, he saved about $270. Though Wilfredo fabricated many of his own components to avoid purchasing expensive aftermarket parts, he couldn’t fab everything. He bit the bullet when buying a Vance & Hines intake. But it was a good bite. It came with a K&N filter. The filter, however, didn’t have a cover, and Wilfredo wanted one. This didn’t mean he would fork over an additional $90 for a matching cover from Vance & Hines, though.

In search of a unique alternative, Wilfredo found someone on Instagram who used a license plate in a way other than for vehicle identification. “It just so happens that I collect license plates, so I decided to look through them,” Wilfredo says. “I was thinking of using a plate with the number 950 since the Bolt has a 942cc engine or, perhaps, something with a Y for Yamaha.” But he found an Arkansas plate with VT for V-twin. So Wilfredo measured it, cut it with metal cut pliers, drilled a hole through the middle, and put it on as a cover. “It fits perfectly and looks great!” says Wilfredo.

No matter how great that mod or the entire build might be, Wilfredo’s bike is now going the way of the café (which explains the clip-on bars). “The café racer scene is getting big right now,” Wilfredo says of this shift. One thing’s for sure. We have a feeling that as this bobber becomes a café, Wilfredo will find ways to do so without breaking his bank. RC