So we've seen a lot of variations on the chopper bicycle out there. I have watched many roll by with awe and jealousy. I finally couldn't take it anymore and set out to make one of my own. In order to avoid being derivative, I decided that my bike would be made from as few actual bike parts as possible. While a noble notion, this proved quite difficult, especially having no experience building bikes in the first place. I am a sculptor above all else, so I figured if the thing failed, it would still be art. Fortunately the project was a success, and is briefly documented here.
To see what the rest of my work looks like, please visit my website: www.nemogould.com
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Step 1: Frame
I think this thing first took off when I had the idea to use baseball bats for front forks. This would provide the ridiculously long stride required of a chopper and satisfy my interest in using found and recycled materials. The head tube bearings I confess were salvaged from an old bike.
The frame consists of sections from a curved railing that was cut and re-welded to mimic a bike frame.
Step 2: Wheels, Handle Bars
While the frame was built to accept standard wheels, I was relieved to find these old aluminum wheel chair wheels instead. I had plans to strip them to bare metal, but the anodizing proved too tough to compete with. I think the biggest challenge of the whole project was boring out the rear wheel rim to accept a bike hub.
Old school handle bars, and BMX pedal cranks were begrudgingly used, but some vacuum cleaner handles stepped in to keep things artsy.
Step 3: Test Drive
By splicing two bike chains together I was able to get things moving enough to test it. Amazingly enough, nothing collapsed, fell off, or caught fire. The big lesson learned was that the solid rubber wheel chair wheels did not afford much comfort. Some kind of suspension would be needed.
Step 4: Detailing
Emboldened by the first test drive, I decided to smooth the ride a bit with a suspension seat. A classic banana seat, handle bar bracket, and shock absorber were combined to achieve this. I really wanted fenders for a sort of vintage look. After a good deal of head scratching and searching I found a very large industrial cooking pot. By cutting the bottom off, and center out, and quartering the remaining ring, I had material enough to weld back together into pretty convincing fenders.
The output end of a meat grinder and an old glass brake light cover formed a nice head light. I used LED's for better efficiency.
Step 5: Final Touches
Now that I knew the bike could be ridden, and the rough seat problem had been addressed, it was time to consider how I was going to stop this thing. Borrowing a trick I picked up from my friend Wendell, I decided to use a circular saw blade as a disk brake. It was a bit of a hassle to accomplish this with the wheel chair wheel, but it had no rims to speak of, so traditional bike brakes were out of the question.
A pan lid, pipe section and some sheet metal yielded a nice chain guard that echoed the other lines in the frame.
For the brake light I used a totally unidentifiable thingy. All I know is that it looked as though it had spent its whole life under water. About 80% of it was torched away, leaving only the rocket shape at its very tip. A standard truck brake light cover was then mounted over some LED's.
Step 6: Voila!
While I probably only spent a few weeks actually working on the project, the whole process dragged out for over a year. At the end of it all I finally have a totally ridiculous ride to go get lunch at my studio. All the measurements were made to accommodate my longer than average stride (I am 6' 4") so the bike came out to be eight feet long. This basically means that it is much better at turning heads than at turning corners. The solid wheels and fixed gear ratio also mean that I won't be breaking any land speed records. All that being said, my shop is in a level part of town with restaurants only blocks away. Given those circumstances, I couldn't be happier with my results. I have a terrific looking bike that manages to be totally unusual and still functional. Mission accomplished!