The manufacturer that built your cruiser bike did everything they could think of to make it look cool, and then they slapped an awful looking license plate holder on it, almost as an afterthought. On my bike, a 2006 Yamaha Roadliner, the license plate stuck up almost like a miniature drive-in movie screen! I decided to do something about it, and constructed my own fender-hugging chrome frame, and it cost me all of $11. It took about an hour and makes the bike look MUCH better I think.
Step 1: Get the Stuff You'll Need...
The list of things you'll need is very short:
- Chrome motorcycle frame. The one I bought is a Bell brand. It was from Autozone and cost $5.99. You could use about any style. Just make sure it's metal, as you are going to have to bend it.
- A piece of steel to make the supporting bracket from. I used a piece of scrap steel that I bought from a local steel supplier who sells scrap by the pound. It should have been about 40 cents, but since they have a $2 minimum, I paid $2 for it. The piece I got was 3/4" wide and about 1/16" thick, but the dimensions aren't that critical. You just have to be able to bend a curve into it.
- Chrome bolts. The ones I bought were actually plastic, with plastic "chrome" caps on them. These worked well because I had to cut them off some, and the plastic bolts cut very easily with wire cutters. The bolts were $2.99, also from Autozone.
- I also used some primer and black spray paint that I already had in the garage. You could really use any color paint, since the bracket won't really be seen. It's mainly just to keep rust off.
Step 2: Remove the Existing Bracket...
Step two is to remove the existing bracket. In my case there were three bolts holding it on. Once the bracket is off, you can clean the area good. We will be using the top two holes to mount our new frame.
Step 3: Bend the Chrome Frame to the Contour of Your Fender...
Once you have the old bracket off, carefully bend your chrome frame to the contour of your fender. You do this by hand, bending one side a bit and then the other. It works best if you bend at the middle first on each side, and then work out to the edges. Repeatedly hold it up to your fender, see how close it is, and then bend some more. Keep repeating the process until the frame has the same contour as your fender. Keep in mind the frame will be raised off the fender surface about 1/2". (This step sounds harder than it is. I've actually built three of these now, and the frame always bends nicely.)
Step 4: Cut and Fit the Frame Supports...
With the frame curved to the contour of your fender, lay the frame down on its face and measure and cut two vertical support members (approx 4" long). You want them to be long enough to stay inside the top and bottom edges of the frame, and long enough that you can drill holes that match those on the frame (See picture). Since my frame has rounded corners, I rounded the outside corners of my vertical members as well.
Once you have the vertical members cut, lay them inside the frame (see picture) and then bend your horizontal cross member to match the contour of the frame. It's easier to bend if you use a longer piece of steel to get the contour correct, and then lay it on the frame and mark the length you want before cutting (again, see the same picture, noting the black cutting lines I have marked). I cut them about midway through the vertical members to give me a good area to weld.
Step 5: Weld the Horizontal Member to the Vertical Members...
To make it easy to weld, start by drilling the two holes in each vertical member. These should line up with the holes on the frame (which should also match the holes on your license plate). Then bolt the two vertical members to the frame. This will hold them in place for welding.
Next, place the horizontal member on top of the vertical members. I used a length of rubber fuel hose woven through the assembly to hold the horizontal member in place while I welded it. You don't need a lot of weld, as this isn't going to be under a lot of stress. And if you weld as bad as I do, don't worry, because the welds won't show!
Step 6: Finish Drilling and Paint...
Once you've got it welded, clean it good, grind down any burrs or rough edges, and then measure and drill the two holes in the horizontal member to bolt it to the bike.
Finally, prime and paint it to keep it from rusting. Since it won't show, it doesn't have to be a thing of beauty, but paint will keep the rust away.
Step 7: Mount It Up...
I cut a couple thin plastic washers from a thin plastic margarine lid to protect the paint finish on the bike, and added a couple of thin steel washers between the bracket and the plastic washer to stand the bracket out a tiny bit from the fender.
Using the bolts that held the original bracket in place, mount your H-shaped bracket to the bike. Once it's mounted to the bike, secure the chrome frame to the steel bracket using the chrome bolts you purchased. You may need to cut the bolts to length so they don't protrude into the fender. If you purchased the plastic bolts, they cut easily with wire cutters.
Step 8: Admire Your Work!
Once you get done, stand back and admire your work! You've just built a custom formed chrome license plate frame to your cruiser for $10-$12. Great job!