California Cheese- Kustom Kruiser Ultra Glide
The Kustom Kruiser is made in Taiwan. This bike is not made in, or even imported through Southern California, as the logo would lead one to believe. No, the address on the back of the manual says Madison WI. Not a bad thing per say, no bikes are being made in Chicago or Nottingham these days, but let's be honest about it eh?
One of the first things I immediately noticed about the Kustom Kruiser Ultra Glide was the tank is plastic. Yep, plastic, susceptible to all the cracking, and deterioration in the sun that plastic provides. Give me tin any day. It may dent and rust, but it takes a lot longer to fall apart. The two piece tank was a pain in the ass to install, not a job for the impatient among us. Thumbs up on providing a tank, but thumbs down on the materials guys. For what it's worth, the white wall tires shown here came from my parts supply. The KK Ultra glide comes with blackwall Cheng Shin 26X2.125 tires. It deserves whitewalls. I do not know why they ship it without them. The old school round reflector up front is also my own. The bike shipped with standard square reflectors to attach to the handlebars.
The paint on the KK Ultra Glide was superb. The blue metalflake was deep and glossy, while the decoration was covered with enough clear coat that it took very close examination to determine that decals were used rather than actual masking and painting. This is heads and tails above the stickers found stuck on top of the clear coat on similar bikes such as the Raleigh Retroglide. Unlike the very nice Raleigh Retroglide seat, however, the Kustom Kruiser seat reeks of cheapness. It is covered in a single piece of heavy black vinyl with a molded in stitch pattern and a screen printed Kustom Kruiser logo on the rear. Chrome springs supply support from underneath. It is held in place by a clamp and one allen screw. I may swap that out later.
The KK Ultra Glide is a conglomeration of universal parts, some proprietary, others not. The rims are polished alloy. The hubs are Shimano. Oddly, acorn nuts were placed on the front, and regular nuts on the rear. The pedals are nice ovoid shaped retro styled rubber. I like them. The kickstand is of the old Schwinn type, with a tube welded to the frame to accept the kickstand.
The laid back coolness and swept back longhorn handlebars of the Ultra Glide have speed written all over them. I like the looks of the bike. It looks like speed sitting still. Unfortunately the bike is absolutely unrideable with the bars lowered. The bars hit the rider's knees, and maneuvering is impossible. To make the bike ridable, one must raise the bars up to an angle that absolutely destroys the looks of the bike and causes the rider to have to cock their wrists at an uncomfortable angle.
This bike needs either an elevated gooseneck, or apehangers. I think I will order apehangers. The stem requires a 7/8 inch handlebar. The grips on the handlebars are as cheap as the seat, with plastic chrome bling. Those will be tossed out for old school blue sparkle grips.
Even with all I would like to change, I do have to admit that the bike rides well. It does not rattle, and it is easily pedaled. Once the bars are raised, it is maneuverable and nimble, although I can tell my wrists would not enjoy a three hour ride. The bike does not easily mount on a standard Saris bike rack for a car. The double tubed support underneath the tank will not go into the rubber bike rack bracket. Multiple bungie cords must be used to secure the bike. This is not a bike to transport across the state on a bike rack.
So, to bring this bike up to where I would keep it, I plan to install apehanger handlebars with old school blue sparkle grips. Blue dice will be placed on the valve stems. A better seat will be installed. I've already replaced the tires and reflectors. When I'm done, I may end up with a bike that I am proud to cruise down the road on.........Even if the tank is plastic.
I ordered and installed ape hanger handle bars as well as an "S" seat stem on the Ultra Glide. A chrome crash rail made the seat a bit more tolerable to look at. I put on a old style revolving bell, and dice valve caps. The bike now fits me, and is smooth as ice.