Our Honda Valkyrie Project From The Past Got The Full Custom Treatment

Full-on cosmetic surgery that is sure to turn heads

valkyrie
We turned our beloved Valkyrie into a head-turner with custom paint, anodized forks, and more...Kevin Wing

Those of us who succumb to the urge to modify our motorcycles tend to fall into two categories: those who plan a project down to the last detail and those who go where the spirit moves them. When embarking on our custom Valkyrie project, we fell into the latter group. The project started with a custom paint-job from Damon's Motorcycle Creations. Simultaneously, Todd Davis at Race Tech suggested anodized fork tubes. Once the colors (white, candy yellow, candy blue, and violet) for the paint and anodizing were decided on, the die had been cast; we were pursuing a bright, eye-catching, in-your-face custom.

A Colorful Cruiser
Since Damon's customer list reads like a who's who of motorcycles (with Cobra and ace builder Denny Berg being near the top of our list of favorites), we knew we'd get something special when owners Tom Prewitt and Richard Perez agreed to paint our bike. Prewitt, taking copious notes, interviewed us with a photo album of Damon's previous work, and by the end of our meeting we'd settled on a white background with a multi-colored 3-D graphic treatment. The $1800 paint-job took about three weeks.

engine
Located in plain sight under the ignition switch, the air compressor begs for relocation. Look closely at the brake pedal to see how little it can be depressed before the floorboard prevents further operation. We ended up using the very tip of our toe to achieve full application of the brake.Kevin Wing

Setting off the paint, the violet fork gets people’s attention. Nothing about the bike has caused more people to speak their minds than Race Tech’s anodizing work. People either love the color or hate it, but they are never indifferent. The thumbs-up came predominantly from women. The people who expressed their disdain for the color most often were men. (Who do you think we’d rather please?) However, Race Tech can anodize aluminum to just about any color imaginable. We consider the $175 cost as money well spent.

Andrews Powder Coating baked some color onto the wheels, calipers, and shock springs, helping to link the paint scheme to the rolling gear. See “The Best of Both Worlds” in this issue for the scoop on powder coating.

Functional Improvements
Race Tech didn't just make our Valkyrie look good, the suspension firm also made the front end work better. Our bike was one of the first Valkyries Race Tech had the opportunity to outfit with its Compression Gold Valve, Rebound Gold Valve, and high-performance springs. Although Honda sells the Valkyrie with a good front suspension, Race Tech's $230 Valkyrie Suspension Kit makes the fork work even better over the bumps that lurk in our urban jungle, while still providing the firmness we need when we head for the country. Of course, the front end isn't the only place the bike wears suspenders, and Progressive Suspension's 412 Series Shocks ($223) in the stock 13-inch length (also available in 12 1⁄2-inch size) deliver a firmer, more stable ride than the stockers.

exhaust
Two Brothers’ carbon-fiber muffler canisters stand out in front of the wheel and final drive housing, which were polished six times by Distinctive Metal Polishing.Kevin Wing

The nice folks at Targa helped us improve both the looks and performance of the Valkyrie's brakes with Goodridge braided stainless steel brake lines ($93 front and $52 rear). A slight but noticeable increase in firmness (which translates into quicker stops) resulted from fitting these nice-looking lines to the bike. To keep the look of the handlebar consistent, we also added a braided clutch-line ($57). Unfortunately, we couldn't find braided-steel throttle cables anywhere, but a couple manufacturers told us they would have some early next year.

Carbon fiber seems to be making the crossover from sportbikes to cruisers. Craig Erion of Two Brothers Racing has created a slick six-into-two exhaust system with long carbon-fiber canisters. The darkness of the carbon fiber adds a nice counterpoint to all the polished metal and chrome on our Valkyrie. Instead of blending in, the canisters stand out—before the bike is even started. Once the engine turns over, the sound is music to the ears of any gearhead. While louder than stock but not so loud as to offend our sensitive ears, the tone is so rich (sounding like a hopped up Porsche) that we found ourselves cranking on the throttle just for the aural pleasure. Our "seat of the pants" impression of the $1018 system ($968 for an aluminum canistered version) is that it gives a moderate increase in power from the mid-range that builds slightly in the top end. We'll soon be installing a jet kit to take advantage of the system's free breathing and unlock those hidden ponies.

floorboards
Rush Jaw’s passenger peg brackets and Cobra’s floorboards work well together, although you may want to chrome the bracket to match the floorboards.Kevin Wing

Our project sports the first production-seat Mustang shipped for the Valkyrie. The wide nostalgic touring seat ($319) fit the variety of buns we’ve placed in it with nary a complaint on short or long rides. The same is true of the pillion, which is easily removable. Unfortunately, if we want to take advantage of the removable perch and give the bike a roadster look, we’d have to remove the Valkyrie’s back rest, a process that requires a lift and an hour or so. Since Mustang knows how difficult it is to take the backrest off, they sell a matching Backrest Cover ($25) that slips easily over the pad. The seat is also available with fringe for $20 more. Completing the motif, Mustang’s studded Tank Bib ($40) dresses up the white expanse of the gas tank. A Fender Bib ($30) is also offered for those who decide they want to remove the pillion.

front end
Put on your sunglasses before looking at the front of this bike. Shiny stuff abounds!Kevin Wing

Let It Shine The tour of all things shiny on our project Valkyrie begins at the front of the bike with M/C Enterprises Front Fender Trim ($85). Since we were proud of the paint's graphics, we didn't want to cover the fender with a big bumper, but we did like the idea of adding something that would protect the fender. M/C Enterprises' chromed fender trim has one tube at the tip of the fender, keeping the paint visible from every angle. On the sides, a second tube sprouts following the line of the top of the fender, while the other continues along the bottom. The chrome stands out against the white of the fender's sides. The first fender trim we received skewed slightly to the left on the fender, but the replacement fit perfectly. The wheel, calipers, and caliper brackets were all polished by Distinctive Metal Polishing, as discussed in this issue's article about powder coating and polishing.

handelbars
The view from the saddle: Big Bike Parts’ mirrors, Rush Jaw’s reservoir covers, Mustang’s tank bib, and Cobra’s bar clamp, triple clamp cover, and light bar.Kevin Wing

Cobra’s Valkyrie Light Bar ($400) is a departure from the traditional method of mounting lights on a bar that runs under the headlight. One ball-milled, chromed billet bar curves out from each fork tube from the point where the factory turn signals mount. The turn signals relocate to the underside of the bars, below the driving lights. The ingenious shape of the light bar allows the fitment of Hondaline’s windshield and possibly some other brands. The Triple Clamp Cover Set ($90) also comes from Cobra and is one of our favorite additions to the bike. Big Bike Parts’ Turn Signal Grilles ($22 for a set of four) feature cut outs that look good paired with the light bar. Incorporating the screw holes in the turn signals, the grilles fit most three-inch round turn signals (Shadow A.C.E., Spirit, and Magna). Big Bike Parts also sells a matching snap-on Horn Cover ($10). The chromed ABS cover will fit over any 3.5-inch horn without interfering with the horn’s effectiveness.

Sitting atop the handlebar is a set of Big Bike Parts Chrome Mirrors. The $90 die-cast mirrors are 5.5 inches wide and 3.5 inches tall and fit any 10 mm threaded mounts—which means most Japanese cruisers. Once adjusted (a task that requires some patience), the mirrors give a good view of the road behind. A pair of Rush Jaw polished billet reservoir covers ($15 each or two for $25) cap the master cylinders and also fit Yamaha Royal Stars and seven other Honda models. A Cobra Bar Clamp ($70) holds everything together.

headlight
A beefy light bar on a brawny fork. The anodized stanchions break up the shininess.Kevin Wing

The engine bay doesn’t leave much room for add-ons, but we managed a few bits. Two Brothers’ ultra-cool Stainless Steel Radiator Hose Kit ($79) bolts on in place of the stocker and eliminates Honda’s biggest fashion folly. Right in the same neighborhood, Big Bike Parts’ chromed billet Oil Filter Cover ($89) is too good looking to hide down at the bottom of the engine. Two Brothers’ Billet Radiator Cap Cover ($26) brightens up the radiator. The TBR Billet Dipstick with oil temperature gauge ($75) is pretty and gives the rider important information. Unfortunately, the Air Horns ($146), which Two Brothers installed, don’t look as good as they sound. While the braided-steel covered hoses are a nice detail, the gray plastic on the back of the horn is lacking (TBR says its supplier recently changed horns and they are looking at other options). The suggested location for the air pump is out in the open under the ignition switch, instead of hidden under some bodywork. Shop foreman Denny Ladner is already pondering where to hide the compressor. Consider the horns a work in progress.

oil filter
The oil-filter cover from Big Bike Parts always draws compliments.Kevin Wing

Cobra’s billet floorboards ($300 rider and $200 passenger) look great and offer riders room to move their feet around. When combined with Rush Jaw’s polished-billet peg mounting brackets ($99) with their 1.75-inch height adjustability, Cobra’s passenger floorboards offer a flexible place to locate feet for the long haul. When the floorboards are folded up, they add some sparkle. Passengers who are short in the inseam will be glad to know that Rush Jaw also offers a billet bracket ($40) that, when combined with Rush Jaw’s peg bracket and Cobra’s floorboards, raises the floorboards four inches. What Cobra’s rider’s floorboards offer in good looks, they sacrifice in function. They use up so much of the available space between the engine and exhaust canister, that upshifting or applying the rear brake is an exercise in dexterity. Cobra told us that the floorboards we have are preproduction versions and that the production brackets mount the floorboards three-fourths of an inch lower, alleviating the problem. Since we haven’t tested the production floorboards, we can’t comment on whether Cobra has resolved the problem, but we’d only recommend installing the rider floorboards we currently have on show bikes that aren’t ridden. Also, riders should remember that the floorboards will slightly reduce ground clearance.

Rounding out the back of the bike are a Cobra Luggage Rack ($90), a Bumper ($220 front and rear pair), and a Billet License Plate Frame ($40). We like the versatility afforded by the luggage rack since we didn’t outfit the bike with saddlebags.

action
Our project sports the first production-seat Mustang shipped for the Valkyrie. The wide nostalgic touring seat fit the variety of buns we’ve placed in it with nary a complaint on short or long rides.Kevin Wing

Learning from Our Mistakes
Anyone who has ever built a pro­ject bike will probably tell you that there is one part of the project that they would do differently if they could—­or one item they would change after seeing it in place. During this project, we made one major blunder; we had the calipers, caliper brackets, and shock springs powder-coated yellow to match the painted graphics. Big mistake. The parts stuck out in the ugliest way and destroyed the unified look that the powder coating and polishing were supposed to achieve with the paint. If we had chosen to live with the color, we'd have gotten a lot less enjoyment out of the bike. Instead, we swallowed our pride and called back Andrews Powder Coating. Sometimes it's worth spending a little bit more to make sure the finished product looks the way it should. We applied this experience to other parts of the project, such as deciding to mix the M/C Enterprises and Cobra bumpers.

After a little less than a year of bringing the Valkyrie to its present form, we’ve declared the project complete—for now. We are still waiting for a few pieces that are in the works, such as Cobra’s chrome cover for that ugly swingarm-pivot area and the braided stainless steel throttle cable. Also, we’re considering ways to either dress up or hide the wiring from the switch gear. For now, riding a great-looking bike will be the reward for the work. But don’t be surprised if we hear the siren song of customization again. After all, we’ve barely considered the plethora of performance modifications available for our beloved Valkyrie. Hmm, how about a couple three-throat Webers? And some cams? Or a turbo? Or nitrous oxide…

This article was originally published in the December 1997 issue of Motorcycle Cruiser.