Significant Other: 1997 Suzuki Savage

A cheap and fun ride

Old news: the economy is sucking more than a new Dyson. But the good news is you can still have a fun ride without spending much dough. In fact, when I started looking for a bike, I considered money to be my enemy, since I lost my job earlier this year. $2000 can buy a lot of accessories, but that would be the budget for the entire bike I wanted to build.

I once saw a bobbed Suzuki Savage, and I've had a fondness for big singles since my early dirt biking days, so it seemed like a good place to start. A couple of weeks scouring Craigslist netted me the perfect bike-a 1997 vintage Suzuki Savage, with only 6,000 miles, for a mere $1500. Among the changes I was planning were new pegs and handlebars, so the fact that the bike's owner had tweaked both in a tipover was of little concern.

The Savage, which Suzuki has built since before dirt (the current S40 is basically the same bike that debuted in 1986), is pleasantly simple, compact, and is dominated by that Big Single. I have to admit that I was hoping to go in a Manx Norton styling direction, but laying a photo of one bike over the other proved that the Savage's frame was just all wrong. A cafe racer was not in the cards, but a bobber sure was.

The Savage's fuel tank is surprisingly good-looking, and I decided to keep it, although swapping it for a Sportster peanut tank would have been the obvious choice. But it was money I didn't want to spend. The fenders had to go: there was no need for a front at all, but I wanted something out back to keep the dreaded vertical dirt trail off my back. I was surprised by the bike's rear end; the Savage's frame ends just under the rider's butt, and everything aft of there-fender, lights, passenger seat-is attached to the main frame using only four bolts. This was going to be easy, since a bobber doesn't have a passenger seat anyway. All I needed was to find a fender approximately the same width as the stocker. Fortunately, a local monthly motorcycle swap meet that caters mostly to enthusiasts of American V-twins proved bountiful. A $15 fiberglass fender was soon mine.

Front end mods required even less thought; a set of fork boots came via eBay, and Woodcraft, a fine purveyor of racing equipment, provided the 36mm clip-ons with a one-inch handlebar to accept the bike's stock controls. This also allowed me to get away with only one new Galfer front brake line, 8 inches shorter than stock.

When it came time to replace the exhaust system, I got lucky. I wanted a canister-style muffler, and quickly found a new FMF dirt bike can on eBay for a measly $100. The hanger bracket that now comes off the rear shock's top mount came from Vance & Hines; at $50 it was pricey, but necessary. The head pipe is stock, but covered in header wrap for an old-school look. Once I had the muffler and header installed, I brought the bike to a local custom tube bender who charged only $45 for a beautiful, stainless steel midpipe, complete with spring hook tabs welded on, sportbike-style. Very clean!

Once major parts were sorted, there were details that needed addressing. Kuryakyn footpeg adapters ($25) allowed me to install stock Harley footpegs, which were a buck each at the aforementioned swap meet. The leather tool pouch adorning the top triple clamp was $5. A sidemount license holder ($25 on eBay), LED taillight ($50, eBay), and a recovering of the stock rider's seat ($40, local upholstery shop) and I was finished. Well, not really- because a bike like this is always a project, which is part of the fun. -Tom Monroe

Parts List

Bike $1500
Fender $15
Brake line $30
Handlebars $150
License mount $25
Footpegs/adapters $27
Muffler $100
Midpipe $45
Wrap $15
Bag $5
Rear bag $100
Seat $40
Total $2052

1997 Suzuki Savage