So Painfully Close

At the end of last week we set our sites back on the Virago.  It was time to get that puppy rolling.  We decided we’d camp out in the shop for as long as it took to wrap up the last details and get the Virago wired.  That bike got us started on the path of bike destruction, so it hardly seems fair to let it languish in the background while the other bikes were getting all the love.  The Virago must live!!

And camp out we did.  We devoted three solid days to wiring that beast, mostly two people, sometimes three.  The amount of wiring that could be removed was truly impressive.  There are so many idiot lights on the more modern bikes that it’s almost painful.  The require ugly body work just to hide all of the switches and relays they’ve added over the years.

Thankfully Josh had acquired some mad wiring skillz during the course of wiring his XS.  His new found ability to read the hieroglyphics that constitute an electrical diagram were extremely helpful.  Eric performed much of the labor on his personal ride, but Josh provided the direction.  If this diagram makes sense to you, you are one of those ‘special’ few people with truly valuable electrical competence.  I don’t have it.  At least my diagram had pretty little pictures of the light bulbs to make it easier to read…

This is what it looked like as we got started.  At this point we were mostly going through the harness and diagram and trying to figure out which pieces can simply be eliminated.  Lots of stuff like neutral indicator lights, kickstand indicators, and the clutch kill switch can go away.

Three days later, this is the relatively tidy little wiring harness that we managed to shoe-horn into the underside of the Virago tank.  Its not easy fitting ALL of the electrical components for an 80′s era cruiser under a fuel tank that has been raised by only about two and a half inches, at only one end. But we did it!

Along the way, of course at precisely the time that Josh left me on my own for a few hours, I managed to make a bad assumption on the color of a wire from the new tail light.  Ground wires are supposed to be black, right?  Definitely we have learned that is not always the case.  We spent a few hours chasing down an issued that ended up being inside of the rear taillight.  I hooked up a ground to power & vice versa.  It’s amazing how much that really screws up the system! Here is the taillight/turn signal assembly, torn all apart.  At one point, there were some doubts as to weather or not my tidy little set up would work, but once you hook the wires to the proper plugs in the harness, everything seems to work better.

On the final day, we decided to wire in the horn.  It’s a small detail, but a relatively large object that you need to find a spot for.  I had told myself that this bike would be completely street legal, meaning it would have a speedo, visible license plate, turn signals, rear view mirror, and a horn.  At this point, I would not necessarily call it 100% street legal, but it does feature all of those components!  Once we found a suitable spot for the horn, we realized we’d need to fabricate a new bracket.  We built a new unit that also doubled as the mounting location for the missile launch button.  It worked out great, but took all morning.

Here’s the rats nest of wires, sensors, switches, plugs, and diodes that was removed from the bike.  Now, shockingly, all of the lights do their blinky thing (when you want them to even!) and the spark plugs spark. I’d guess that we eliminated 60% of the original harness.

Wiring sucks, but it does offer a very unique sense of accomplishment.  Designing and fabricating the entire bike is a fun and rewarding experience, but getting through a custom wiring harness is rewarding on a whole different plane.  It may not ever be seen or appreciated by anyone else, but it probably offers the greatest sense of accomplishment of the entire project, which is kind of pathetic.

I would love to be inserting a video here of me riding down the alley on my new Virago, but it wasn’t to be.  Anyone who know Viragos knows that the starters are crap.  We had pretty much anticipated needing to rebuild or replace the starter, but we hadn’t dealt with it yet as it kind of, sort of, mostly worked when we got the bike.  We figured we’d see what kind of shape it was in once we got ‘er all assembled.  Unfortunately, it was in pretty bad shape.  It made lots of crunching and grinding sounds.

Also, we hadn’t sent the carbs off to Jaxon for a pre-emptive cleaning as we have on a couple of other bikes.  We reasoned that the carbs were in great shape when we got the bike 9 months ago, so they should still be fine.  Oops, wrong.  The floats were sticking, apparently, so gas pretty much filled the left carb to the brim and fuel started spilling out the vacuum and breather lines at the top of the carb.  Darn.  Clearly, the bike needed some mechanical love.  We phoned up Jaxon and dropped the bike off with him for (hopefully) the last significant step before I can ride it off into the sunset.  And break down somewhere over in the Willamette Valley…  Cant wait.


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  • 16 May, 2012 at 2:09 am // Reply

    Hi Eric, There is talk on Pipeburn today about a fix for the Virago starter problems.

    Good luck for the Art in Motion show. Pics please :)

    • 16 May, 2012 at 5:44 am // Reply

      Thanks for the tip on the starter motor, I downloaded the article, it should be helpful. I haven’t forgotten about getting you some pics of the bike(s). We haven’t actually seen the finals yet. Alan said he should have proofs to us tomorrow. We’ll be excited to share them as soon as Alan’s ready. We’ll also post photos friom the show.

  • 19 February, 2013 at 3:17 am // Reply

    Did you just go in and cut out what wasn’t needed using the manual? My main issue is getting rid of the relays that were housed in the tail. I want to cut them out to rerout but there’s just so much it’s hard to keep track of where it’s all leading.

    Guess I need schematic class 101 unless you guys went a different route?

    • 20 February, 2013 at 3:51 am // Reply

      We did remove most of the relays based on the diagram and also just chasing the wires through the harness and seeing where they went. It is a scary process for sure, but it is not as bad as it seems. Shoot us an email at if you get stuck and we will help if we can.

  • 30 April, 2015 at 4:02 pm // Reply

    hey great build!
    I’m planning on doing some thing similar with a front end swap to a crotch rocket. What kind of speedometer did you use? and how did you connect it to the speed sensor?

    • 30 April, 2015 at 4:18 pm // Reply

      We used a Koso brand digital speedometer. It came with its own magnet and speed sensor. We ran the wire down the brake line, and mounted the magnet inside one of the brake disc bolt heads.

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