Zero Fighter

Hello all, here’s what I did and how I did it.

I wanted a trike but the scratch build that I started was a wash-out. What to do now?

A bolt-on bike/trike conversion, the ideal starter project! Should have gone this way first!

I got hold of a Yamaha Virago XV535 for a reasonable price and after much thought, off I went.

I needed to raise the rear of the bike so that I could remove the rear shocks. I’m fortunate to have an engine hoist and a few axle stands, so I hoisted the back of the bike into the air and placed a couple of axle stands under the engine. I also left the hoist in place as a safeguard.
My son-in-law, Bikerpsycho, steadied the bike while I was working. It’s probably not a thing to do on your own. The bike is likely to fall over and we don’t want any more expense, let alone accidents.
I was then able to disconnect the rear shocks. That was the easy bit!

Next step was to remove the rear wheel, bevel box and drive shaft, not forgetting the rear brake rod and drum stay, (the really thick rod that stops the rear wheel hub turning when you put the brakes on). The exhaust system had to come off too.

Don’t forget to drain the oil from the bevel box. It’s sticky and ‘orrible. Mistake number one! Then you have to clean it up, like I did. I managed to catch some in a handy ice cream tub. I won’t make that mistake again!

I then removed the swinging arm. It looked like to view larger image

I cut a piece of 4mm steel plate to the same shape as the centre section of the arm. I mean the bit that’s in the middle at the front end. (Hope you're with me on that one).  My mate's a professional welder so off he went and welded the plate on for me.

Then the fun really started, I cut the original middle bit out and threw it away!
I knew that I wasn’t going to shorten the axle so the driveshaft had to come out of the side near the front end, (motor end), so I cut a slot out of the inside of the leg.

Next job please. I cut the legs off the swinging arm so that I could attach the new tubes that make up the conversion.

Off I went to the steel man and bought some tube. Mistake number two. It didn’t bend without collapsing in the pipe bender. Well there’s the rub- it’s probably called a pipe bender cos it’s for bending pipe and not tube, unless the tube happens to be a good tight fit in the former!

I found a bloke locally who had the correct size former for my tube and he bent the tube to the required angles, for a small fee. 

I made some inserts that fitted inside the remains of the swinging arm and the shaped tube. I made them a little big and heated the swinging arm to expand the holes and when it cooled down it was as tight as a duck’s proverbial. I did the same to the tubes.

The welder-man welded round the joints and button welded the tube to the inserts as well. Better safe than sorryclick to view larger image. Then another piece of 4mm plate cut to shape and welded on the other side of the arm. Now there were two 4mm plates sandwiching the two tubes that make up the swinging arm.
The reason that I did it this way was so that the mounting points on the new swinging arm are in exactly the same place as they were when I took it off, so no buggering about trying to get things lined up when it came to refitting the converted swinging arm.

The swinging arm now looks like this at the mounting points, not the best of pictures but it should give you some idea of how it’s refitted.



Nearside mounting

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Offside mounting

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Nearside top view

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Offside top view

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It’s finished!

I’ve sent the MOT and V5c off to the local DVLA Orifice to see what they want to do regarding changing the V5c to Trike. Hopefully just a walk around inspection, I’ll let you know.

Well I’m happy with it now and it rides like a trike. That’s a result anyway. I’ve only ridden it around the car-park so far -it’s private land so no trouble with the local Police!

Can I give any advice? Well the best I can say is to enjoy what you're doing, try not to get too stressed or fed up or you'll end up abandoning the project. It may take ages but it’s worth it when you’ve built/converted something.

Would I do it again……………….?
Well that’s the $64,000 question isn’t it.
The answer is Yes……..I’ve got an XS1100 frame and front end that’s just crying out to be triked. I’ve also got another 535 swinging arm ripe for conversion….just in case.
Am I mental?.....Probably! Am I hooked on the new hobby?....... Definitely.

Would I do anything different? That’s got to be a big YES. 
The frame to axle mountings will be as suggested elsewhere on this site, a two part clamp.
I’m thinking that the next one, (blimey, this one is barely finished, I must be mad!), will have double tubes on each side, one above the other, set about an inch, (that’s 25mm for you young ‘uns), apart.
I think it would look nice that’s all. It may not, but it’s an idea. Next!


I took the trike for the M.O.T. It had to go to "Darmech" in Dartmouth, cos it’s the nearest place to my home in Torquay, Devon. My mate Dan, Bikerpsycho and I loaded it into Dan’s Transit van. Bloody good laugh that was. Three scaffold planks and three other planks, (us,) trying to get a trike into a van. It went in eventually and off we went.
The bloke at Darmech was great. He spotted a couple of minor, but potentially lethal things, to my great embarrassment, that I had overlooked. A couple of split pins on the ends of the handbrake cables. He wasn’t phased at all and as calm as you like he put them in for me. Good Man. I felt a total pratt and won’t ever overlook anything like that again. The best of it is that I’d had a good look over the trike before it went for the M.O.T.  One hurdle jumped and painless but embarrassing.

I had to fill in a great big form for the ministry, and I must say that at first sight I was at a dead loss as to what had to be filled in. There were loads and loads of questions that I didn’t have a clue about. A quick phone call to the local DVLA office helped a lot. When I rang I got through to a call centre. I was told that someone from the local office at Exeter would call back within two hours. Yeah right. But to my amazement, they did. I was told that the form was a standard form for all ‘one off’ vehicles and to fill in the bits that were appropriate to the trike. That meant that I only had to answer about half a dozen questions. Frame number, Engine number, registration, capacity etc. That took about ten minutes. No sweat!

I posted off the form and just had to wait for the Man from The Ministry -no, not a priest, to arrive. They reckon that it takes up to 6 weeks for a home visit.
The man from the Ministry came along for a look at the trike after about 4 weeks. I explained what had been done and all appeared to be well. Then he said the dreaded words “It’s bad news I’m afraid, it needs a full MSVA”. I was shocked, stunned and a little surprised to say the least. “You’ve welded the swinging arm to the frame”.  I think what had happened was that when I explained about welding bits to the swinging arm he thought that I’d said I’d welded the swinging arm to the frame.
I explained once again what I had done and bounced the back end up and down saying “Look, it’s definitely a soft tail” while he looked at the pivots on the frame. He was very apologetic and agreed that the trike was indeed a soft tail conversion. He did want to see the original back wheel bevel gear etc though, to confirm that it could be converted back to a bike.

The confusion was caused, it turned out, because he’d been to see an alleged soft tail conversion that turned out to be a hard tail. The photos that were sent with the application weren’t even the right trike. It was a mate’s trike with his number plate stuck on. That one had to have the MSVA. The bloke had tried to ‘pull a fast one’ but got caught out.
I was surprised when the inspector asked what I wanted to call my trike. It turns out that you can call it anything you like, nearly. I wasn’t ready for that question so just said to keep it as a Virago Trike.
The Man from The Ministry checked out the other paperwork and after apologising once again, off he went.
I insured it and sent off the certificate and £36 and a few pennies for tax to DVLA. A few weeks later all the paperwork was returned. There it was in black and white……..Virago, Tricycle, the magic words.
It was quite a painless process, apart from the bit of confusion, the Man from The Ministry was a nice fella, quite ‘chatty’ and not at all what I expected. He told me that a few people he knows have trikes. They ride as trikes in the winter and convert them back to bikes in the summer. Now why didn't I think of that. It seems that the best of both worlds is available if that’s what you want.

- Klogan