About the Handbook
Many people have written in asking how and why the Handbook came into being and I'm fairly sure I've touched on that subject lightly in other sections of the site but here's the full story for those of you who are interested.
As many of
you know the origins of 'Handbook' site started with an old dial-up bulletin
board service back in the early eighties called 'Neatstuff' that was a
hodge-podge of off the wall 'stuff' that ranged from Independent Living off
the land Hippie architectural how-to's all the way through porn, hot rods and
choppers and grow your own info that we'd been accumulating since the sixties.
Once Al Gore claimed to have
'invented' the Internet the Bulletin Board was replaced with the 'Neatstuff'
depository that was basically an ancient old Unix server that hosted sites
nobody else would touch with a ten-foot pole. One of these sites was the
original 'Neatstuff' Chopper library, which contained a lot of our original
drawings and write-ups about chopper building.
The impetus for creating the
'Handbook' came directly from Big Daddy Ed Roth who back in the sixties
first suggested I write about the work I was learning how to do so that others
could share in the exchange of information. His idea was to create a three-ring
notebook or workbook where documentation for different techniques could be
stored, copied and distributed via photocopies. He taught me how to do
photo-documentation needed for tech articles. At the time I was using an old
Yashica camera fitted with a close-up lens that I still have. The original
'Handbook' was actually called the 'Chopper Builders Guidebook' that we
tried to get published back in the early seventies but nobody was interested in
doing it since the 'rage' then was the new Chopper magazines that only
wanted pictures of finished bikes. Ed was one of the few guys still willing to
actually do 'real' tech articles in his own magazine.
To make a long story short
coming into adulthood and having to make a living interrupted my publishing
endeavors for decades until a friend came over to the house one night and asked
if I had drawings of Harley motor mount dimensions that could be posted on the
Internet. He told me that people were asking for this stuff on some of the
boards he visited. I had some drawing converted into jpegs so we posted them one
evening and within hours had hundreds of emails asking if we had more images
with dimensions that we could post. The key here was that I had images with
'real' dimensions which apparently nobody had ever posted before.
This actually surprised me as I
assumed that by now the dimensions for most chopper stuff had been published
long ago but apparently this was not the case so we began posting or emailing
one jpeg after another until the process got completely out of hand and had
literally become almost a full-time operation just answering mail messages.
At the time I no intentions of ever
running a web site as my long term objective was still to eventually publish a
'real' book but as the material began to accumulate and expand in complexity
I finally decided to start making a few simple web pages just so it would be
easier to organize the countless pictures we were having to email around the
To make another long story short it
was actually Indian Larry who first suggested that I start to consider
converting the old 'Neatstuff' material into a useable web site. The rest is
history. We ran on the web for a few years still using the old 'Neatstuff'
banner under my home computer IP number. Eventually in 2003 we registered the
domain name for the Chopper Handbook and basically went public on the World Wide
eight years later I've still only published less than half of the materials I
eventually want to get organized and distributed.
One of my biggest disappointments has been the failure of other builders to create similar technical sections at their own web sites and even more disappointing is the complete lack of 'realistic' hardcore tech info being provided by the Chopper magazine industry that seems to be caught up in doing 'teaser' articles that don't really cover the details of any particular operation. When did a chopper magazine ever publish frame dimensions? They never have and never will.
Even though I've had some disappointments I've also had some rewards in seeing and hearing about the five hundred or so new bike projects that have started to date as a result of this web site. I personally suspect that many of these projects will eventually become show winners or at least good well balanced road worthy scooters since they're being built by totally involved owners who want something better than the mass-produced cookie-cutter clone bikes on the market today.
At the end of 2005 we had received mail from over 500 builders who had projects
in progress and as of late 2010 this number had grown to over a thousand and
these projects were located all over the globe.
When we look at the access logs for the site we've found that there are about 3,000 unique access's to the site's home page every month which isn't great by Internet standards where some porn sites get 10,000 unique hits per day but most importantly our little site has a 'core' following of about 5,000 regular or recurring visitor IP numbers every single day. In other words about 3,000 new visitors discover the site every month but we're maintaining a regular following of about 5,000 visitors at all times which is remarkable. If this were a membership type of site will minimal annual fees we'd be making well over $125,000 per year which is probably why we've had so many inquiries from so-called 'commercial' enterprises about 'helping' us out with web operations and building an e-commerce storefront.
Out of this 'core' number of visitors at least 1000 of you, based upon your return mail, have started building a custom chopper. This again is a remarkable number. 1 in 10 of the site regulars have already embarked upon their personal projects. Most do-it-yourself sites have a ratio more like 1 to 100 of active participants. Hopefully this means that what we're doing is useful, helpful and constructive to those of you wanting to build a chopper but we won't really know until more time goes by and those projects start to get into their more complicated stages of construction.
The Chopper Builders Handbook will continue to expand in size and depth but it will do so over along period of time involving many iterations in content and format. I also suspect that eventually somebody else will have to take the helm and steer the site into new as yet uncharted waters to keep abreast of our visitors. If the site ever does become a 'membership' type of operation the 'members' will share in the proceeds. This is always going to be a not-for-profit operation no matter who is sitting in the drivers seat.
Since I originally wrote this section I've also had some email asking who I am and what makes me think I can show other people how to build choppers and in reply I'd like to offer the following:
First of all I can't show people how to make choppers. A real Chopper is a unique personal piece of work that can be derived from several different sources. That's why cut down motorcycles came to be known as 'choppers' in the first place.
As to who I am, I'm just like every other guy out there trying to make a living and build a bike at the same time while trying to juggle the bank account and pay the bills. I am not by any stretch of the imagination an 'expert' in building bikes. I suffer through trail and error experimentation like everybody else but I've been messing around with chops a very long time by today's standards so I'm trying to pass on what I've picked up over the years. If you've 'been there and done that' then this little web site is probably not where you want to be as all we'll cover here are the 'basics'