Tag Archives: NSU

  • How to Build Custom Cafe Racer Motorcycle Handlebars

    I've had my hands full with my four wheeled projects lately and I haven't been giving my little "cafe" motorcycle; a DKW RT125 much attention. I recently decided to build a set of clubman style drop bars for it. My problem with off the shelf parts are that I usually end up modifying them or they just aren't quite exactly what I want for my projects. I decided rather than wasting $100 or more on a set of bars I may not like the dimensions of, I'd build my own from scratch. Below is the cliff-notes version of the build. Hopefully this can give you some guidelines to follow on your own build.

    Above you can see the riding position on the bike with the original handlebars and the custom seat we made in the last tech series.

    I started by taking some 1/2" round steel bar and bending two identical halves into a rough shape that I liked and welding them together in the center. I took dimensions from some other bars that I liked and tweaked them to my liking. I decided that I wanted a pretty aggressive drop and a slight sweep forward to get into a sportier riding positon. This concept is the same basic way I'd be building the real bars.

    We started with 7/8" DOM tubing for the bars. DOM tubing is a seamless piece of tubing and is the strongest option for making something structural like a set of bars for your bike. DO NOT skimp and try to use thin conduit or anything like that, you're putting yourself and others at risk! We then took a piece of TIG filler wire and recreated the first bend in the tubing we needed from our round bar template. This allowed us to use the filler rod as a guide when we were making the first bend. We marked out the length of material the bend would take up and set the tubing with the starting line at the center point of the bottom roller in the Eastwood Pro Former Tubing Bender. We then pumped and bent the tubing until it was just a little further than the bend we needed on the TIG rod guide to combat the spring-back of the metal when the pressure was relieved.

    Once we had our first bend we slide the tubing into the stem and checked to make sure that it had the drop I wanted. Here you can put the tubing back in the bender to tweak it a little further if need be. We then marked out the length and center of the next bend to give us the first half of the bars. Depending how close your next bend is to the first you may need to spin the tubing around and come from the opposite direction as the first bend (just remember which way you want to bend!). At this point you also need to make sure that the tubing is set so that your next bend is parallel to the first bend. If you want some slight forward or backwards rake to the bars you could make this second bend just a little off from parallel, but it's tough to replicate multiple times. Again I bent the tubing to match our guide and we test fit it again to make sure that the we had the shape we were looking for. This is where you can stand back, squint your one eye shut and get an idea of what your bars will look like. Take a break, grab a snack, crack open a drink and get ready for the tricky part of this project next.

    This is where it gets tricky and I'll admit I ruined some material and had to start over a couple times. When you begin marking out your next bends they need to be perfect to allow for them to match AND you need to make sure all bends are parallel. With a good measurements, a helper to keep it all straight, and a little bit of luck, you could make a set of bars out of one piece of material. I decided after a couple attempts to make the bars out of 2 separate pieces and then sleeve, and weld them together. This also allowed me to keep my bends as close to the side of the forks as possible since I could trim them to size. I chose to shave down a piece of tubing that slipped inside the 2 pieces we bent and used the MIG 175 to join them with a plug welds, followed by butt welds with the TIG 200 DC . I left a gap so that I could get the TIG torch into the gap and melt the inner sleeve to the bars and also enough room to add filler to make it a seamless joint.

    After I had the pieces welded together I test fit them on the bike and marked out where the levers, throttle, and grips would sit. With everything marked out I could cut the extra length off of the bars. For most modern bikes the throttle is all one piece and you can just slip it over the bars and fix it in place. On my bike I needed to cut a seat for the throttle slide to sit in (the little aluminum parts seen in the pics above).

    With the bars welded and cut to length, I installed my throttle, grips and levers. The final look is exactly as I wanted and the riding position is how I wanted it. The bars still allow for full turning radius and fit me pretty well, so I'm pretty happy with them. Now that the bike is just about how I want it to look I can button up some mechanical repairs the bike needs and then make a small rear bobbed fender and the bike is ready for the road! Stay tuned, I'll show you how to build a simple rear fender for your bobber or cafe racer from scratch with Eastwood Tools next!

    -Matt/EW

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  • How to build a Custom Motorcycle Seat

    The custom motorcycle hobby is HUGE, it isn't just Harley Davidsons that are being modified these days. Enthusiasts are building custom motorcycles out of anything they can get their hands on. One thing that everyone seems to have an opinion on is what their seat should look AND feel like. Some are ok with buying a seat out of a catalog, slapping it on and calling it a day, but if you're anything like me, the satisfaction comes from the process of building something custom myself.

    I recently shared the story about my adventure to get myself my first motorcycle project; a 1952 DKW RT125 and hinted at my plans for the bike. The other week I finally got some time between my other projects to do something about the "beach cruiser" seat on the DKW. After staring at the bike for a while, I decided that the seat that came on the bike was far too large for the bike and sat too high. I think the German designers may have had a rider in mind that had one-too-many servings of schnitzel and needed an extra large seat to hold them. Aesthetically speaking I think it really looked out of place. I plan to keep the majority of my modifications on the bike reversible, so I opted to remove the stock seat and make my own from scratch (using Eastwood Tools of course!). I liked the general shape of the stock seat, but not the size, so I decided to use the original seat as a pattern when making the seat frame up.

    I know some take a piece of sheet metal and bend it over their knee, drill some holes, attach some springs, and call it day when they make seat pans, but I wanted something a little more like the original. The old seat used round steel bar stock and some small diameter tubing to make up the frame. I started by stripping off the rubber seat cover and taking some measurements. I decided that the seat mainly needed some width taken out of the rear portion to make it the same width as the tank to look more proportional. I drew up a pattern for the seat pan and began the project.

    I used some 1/8" round bar to make the frame of the seat. I first tried to make the entire frame out of one piece, but it was extremely difficult to get the bends to all line up the same. So instead I opted to make each bend separate and TIG weld them all together to make the frame. I started by making the front "nose" of the seat first. I decided to use the bar grooves in the Eastwood Slip Roll to make the bends I needed for the seat frame.

    After a few passes through the slip roll I had my first piece matching the nose of the original seat. I repeated that process as I started working my way back on the seat. I like to bend with a piece of bar stock that's longer than what I need so I can cut the excess off to make the bends land in the same spot. As I made my pieces I laid them out on the pattern to make sure I was keeping the correct shape.

    Once I got all of the pieces made up to form the frame I taped them in place. I then worked around the frame and fusion welded each joint together with the Eastwood TIG 200. Once I had the frame welded into the shape I needed, I found I needed to put a slight curve into the center of the seat to get the overall curve shape I wanted. I ended up using a torch to heat the center and bend it a little to get the gentle curve needed.

    Next I cut out the pan for the seat using my manilla folder as a pattern. I purposely cut the 18 gauge metal a little larger than the pattern so I had some room for error. I then centered the pan over the frame and clamped it in place using a set of Eastwood Mini Weld Clamps. Once the pan was clamped I used the TIG 200 to lay a number of small welds to connect the frame and pan together.

    With the pan welded to the seat frame it finally started to look like what I had envisioned. I removed the excess metal off of the seat pan so that it was flush with the frame with a flap disc and an angle grinder. I then welded mounting tabs with studs on the bottom of the seat and attached the seat to the original seat bracket. With the seat mounted up, I decided to move the seat back. I used the front hole on the seat bracket and mated it to the rear hole in the frame. I then dropped the back of the seat bracket down to get the seat position a little lower. After mounting it all up I have made a custom seat that sits lower and looks more proportional without modifying the bike in a way that it would be difficult to return it back to stock.

    With the seat mounted up I checked my seating position and it feels a lot less like a bicycle and more like a motorcycle. I definitely will need to make a bobbed rear fender that will keep my rear end from getting caught in the tire, so that's one of the next projects. I plan to make a new set of bars with the help of the Eastwood Tubing Bender next. The new seat and the bars I plan to build should get the riding position more how I want. Slowly this old bike is taking shape. Watch this space for future updates.

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  • Restoring a Classic Motorcycle- 1952 DKW RT125W

    During the 40's and 50's, many motorcycles looked more like large bicycles with motors attached, and some were just that. I've always been a fan of the "stripped down" look from that era and I decided to take the plunge and find a motorcycle project.

    Recently I traveled to a very large collector car and motorcycle show and swap in northern Germany to find my dream motorcycle. I'm a classic German car enthusiast and it only made sense to look for a bike that shared the same heritage. DKW and Auto Union were companies that eventually became what we know as Audi these days. In fact each of the companies that merged are marked by a ring in the Audi logo. Back in the 40-50's DKW was one of the largest motorcycle manufacturers in the world and they had a huge impact on the looks of motorcycles at that time.

    I was after their bread-and-butter bike, the RT125W. This bike is by far the most copied motorcycle in history. I recently stumbled across an article on Vintage Veloce where they listed and detailed all of the iconic motorcycles that were direct copies of the RT125 and RT200. Even Harley Davidson used the RT125 to make its Harley "Hummer". Many other "big boys" like BSA, Maserati, Moto Morini, Kawasaki, Peugeot, Triumph, etc all copied The RT125 and made their own version.

    After some searching and some translation help, I found the bike I wanted and a stack of Euros were exchanged. The motorcycle I ended up with is a 1952 RT125W that has some light patina. A nice Dutch collector was selling it along with 5 other similar style vintage motorcycles and they all were equally as nice! Even though the bike is missing the key, has flat tires, worn out grips, and has been sitting for quite some time dry, I saw potential. The key elements for me were there- it's mostly original with all of the key rare parts still intact including the tank, badges, headlight with speedo, engine, and fenders. It was love at first sight!

    Once I got the bike back to a friends shop, we quickly tore into the bike priming the carb and kicking the engine over until we got it to fire to life. SUCCESS! Once we knew the engine was good, we began tearing the bike down and boxing it up to ship back to the states. I'm patiently waiting as I type and I can't wait to start doing a light restoration on it. The first plan of action is to clean and reseal the original gas tank with one of our Gas Tank Sealer Kit for Motorcycles. Then I'll move on to degreasing the engine and mechanical parts with Chassis Kleen and getting things mechanically sound.

    Stay tuned for some tutorials as I work on the bike, and be sure to ask questions and make suggestions along the way!

    -Matt/EW

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  • Vintage Motorcycles, small engines, but big addiction.

    Recently I took a hop across the ocean to visit some friends in Germany, and of course hit some car shows, swap meets, and junkyards. One of my destinations was a large vintage auto and motorbike swap meet in the "North" of Germany. Before the meet I'd been toying with the idea of getting a vintage NSU, DKW, or Auto Union Motorcycle or moped/scooter to tinker with, restore, and drive around town for fun. Previously I've never been much of a motorcycle guy, I didn't really get "it", but I've always appreciated the work that went into them. The ones that did catch my eye were always "out of this world" price-wise (I seem to gravitate towards expensive obscure stuff!).

    I really started getting interested in vintage motorbikes when I recently visited the local Boyertown Auto Museum and saw some early motorcycles in person. I instantly was intrigued with how simple they were, not much other than a tiny engine, some sheet metal and the bare basics. They essentially were bicycles with engines back then. Simplicity in motoring is one of my favorite things, no fancy computers, electronics, or creature comforts... just you, the engine, and your wheels on the road! After some research I was determined to pick up one of these lesser-known vintage bikes on my journey to Germany.

    After some haggling, and almost making a few brash purchases, I walked out of the swap meet without a bike of my own. Although after chatting with fellow enthusiasts and trying out a few vintage bikes.. I now get it. It's all the same love of vintage motoring as cars and trucks, just on a smaller scale! I am hooked, and now I've begun shopping for the right bike for me to add to my "collection" of restoration projects waiting in the wings. I'll update as I come across one, it should be fun to put all of the great Eastwood products to work on a small vintage motorcycle project!

    Until then keep building, restoring and discovering those vintage projects, and share your work with us!

    -Matt

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