Virago on the loose!

Our friend and mechanic Jaxon came through for us!  We dropped the Virago off with him a couple of weeks ago to sort out what we thought was starter and carburetor issues. Despite the fact that the carb parts he ordered didn’t show up until the day before our moto show, he managed to get the Virago all back together and running so I could ride it to the event.  Jaxon rules!

It turns out the starter issue really wasn’t the starter.  It’s true that the Viragos have crappy starters of a legendary nature.  But mine actually works as well as a Virago starter can work.  The problem was simply a weak battery.  We hadn’t thought to charge the battery up after we got through the wiring process.  So, after countless tests of the headlights, turn signals, brake light and spark plugs, the battery was simply weak.  That was a pleasantly inexpensive fix.  The 8-cell Anti Gravity battery was more than up to the task of turning the big Virago V-twin over once it was properly charged.  Ya-hoo.

The carbs were a different story.  They were in rough shape, someone had really bunged them up.  Jaxon ordered up all new needles and most of the brass screws.  He had trouble believing that the bike actually ran when I bought it, but it did.  It looked like a large insect of some sort had lived and died in the right carb.  Weird.

Anyways, once Jaxon was done working his magic, the ol Virago fired right up and purred like a kitten.  Or, well, more like an angry hell cat.  The straight pipes with V&H baffles make an incredibly deep, gurgly rumble.  I love it!  They’re loud, but definitely not too loud. The bike sounds like a very mean v-twin, just as we had hoped it would.

Here Jaxon is putting some finishing touches on the bike.  We installed a mini brake fluid reservoir at the last minute.  I had doubts that the little tube option would actually work, so I decided to bag it immediately in favor of something that had a chance of actually functioning.

And here I am receiving my now standard lecture from Jaxon on all of the things I did wrong.  I learn a LOT every time I visit him.  He likes to poke fun at our naivete, but he likes our bikes.  He has taken to referring to us as ‘the Rookies’.  We kind of get a kick out of that, as it’s very true.  Jaxon is thankfully very willing to share his knowledge with us and help us become more competent mechanics & builders.

Here I am, about to embark on the maiden voyage of the machine that has been lurking in my garage since last August.  We all wondered if it would ever come back to life.  And considering the fact that I had hardly tinkered with, let alone attempted to rebuild an old bike, the fact that I was about to ride away on the old girl was a pretty momentous occasion.

We got the bike to the show just in time.  You can read about that elsewhere on our blog.

The next day after wrapping up all of the hard work on our show, it was time for me, Josh, and Forrest to get out on our new bikes.  It would be Forrest’s first real ride on his new CL450.  We (very bravely) headed out for a four hour ride north of town to the Smith Rocks area.  The bikes are awesome! They sound good, look great, are tons of fun to ride and get crazy looks everywhere they go.  Each bike has a very distinct character.  We had fun carving up some local twisties, opening ‘em up (a little tentatively) on some long straight sections, and generally getting to know our new machines.

The Virago has a small oil leak where the previous owner used orange gasket goo to re-install a small engine cover.  The new gasket will be ordered today.  Otherwise, we’ll fiddle with a bit of wiring, and then it should be ready for the summer season.  Josh and I already have plans for a weekend trip over the mountains and up to Portland.  The first truly big test!


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  • 21 June, 2012 at 6:33 pm // Reply

    Beautiful bike. You turned an ugly bike into a masterpiece, I applaud you sir. I just recently became aware of Virago customs, and now I’m completely hooked and obsessed. Your bike, along with Classified Moto are exactly the look I would love to achieve. I’ve read your build fully (twice) and each time I pick up a few more details I missed the first time. Once again, great job and keep up the great work.

    • 21 June, 2012 at 6:55 pm // Reply

      Thanks, AJ.
      We appreciate the compliments. The bike is a blast to ride and sounds fantastic. We’re working on getting some ride photos and video up sooner than later, so keep checking back.
      The bike was a lot of work, but at this point, I feel that it was well worth it. I LOVE riding it.

  • 6 September, 2012 at 3:02 pm // Reply

    Excellent bike, I’m curious how you protect steel tank from rust. Clear coat is directly on steel or if there is something done before. Great project!

    • 6 September, 2012 at 3:21 pm // Reply

      The tank has been clear powdercoated to protect it from rust and fuel drips. The thickness of the coat gives it a great look.

  • 25 March, 2015 at 11:34 pm // Reply

    I know this was from forever ago but I am doing a build and love your seat and tank. How was the tank raised? Did you only raise the back and use the stock rubber mounts in the front? Thanks

    • 30 March, 2015 at 4:28 pm // Reply

      Trevor, sorry for the slow reply, I was on vacation last week. Yes, the original front rubber mounts were used. The back of the tank was raised about 2 1/2 inches (roughly). I welded a tab on top of the frame, and created a mounting point on the back of the tank. You can probably see the new plate we welded across the back of the tank to attach the mounting point to. That made just enough room to locate the battery and other electronics under the tank. It is a very tight squeeze, it took pretty careful planning to get everything under there.

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