Motorcycle building is one of the very few endeavors that combines both artistic
and technical skills to create a piece of art that is also a machine or is it a
machine that is also a piece of art. The result of this effort is even more
unique in that the object created is utilitarian in nature but to be used
efficiently the human rider and mechanism must almost become a single unit.
Unlike Hotrods, Kit cars and factory stock motorcycles you will seldom ever see
any two custom built bikes that look the same. Each scooter tends to reflect the
individual riders personality, which is what makes cycles so interesting in the
motorcycle builder must combine the talents of a drafter or sketch artist, a
welder and metal fabricator, mechanic, electrician, sculptor, painter and
businessman or businesswoman which is a rare combination of combined talents
that few people possess. This is one reason why so many of the better-built
bikes are the results of collaborative partnerships or even building teams.
This guidebook was prepared to provide the novice bike builder or new small shop
owner with basic technical information that we do not believe has been published
elsewhere. It attempts to answer the most commonly asked questions one would
find posted at the typical internet motorcycle tech forum. This is an ongoing
project and will remain a work in progress indefinitely.
This is not a comprehensive "how to do it guide" and the reader is urged to use this material in conjunction with the factory shop manuals, our Internet links and other technical publications and technical discussion forums on the Internet that address in detail the processes of welding, metal fabrication, wiring and painting, jig building and general frame fabrication.
As many of you know this site originated from one simple jpeg that we posted in an attempt to answer a question posted at the Horse Magazine board. That one jpeg grew until there were dozens and then the jpegs became an html page and then that page became even more pages until it was necessary to actually build a site. We had help from dozens of people in the chopper building industry, several who run chopper web sites and initially we were encouraged to make the Handbook a pay-as-you-go membership site. We elected to make it an open free site and time will tell if this was the correct course to take.
I was cautioned to make the site an anonymous entity and leave my own personality out of it. Again I took a different route. When I was coming up a lot of people took a chance with me. I was taught the ins and outs of building choppers. I didn't have to pay anybody for the information. When I made a mistake I learned the hard way what the repercussions were. To my way of thinking this site had to be a personal site if it was to be credible at all. I personally don't know of any anonymous chopper builders. I put my name on it, my address and my phone number so that if anybody had a problem they knew who to blame.
bought my first chopped Harley in 1967. That bike was a 1936 EL that had already
passed through dozens if not scores of previous owners in its thirty-one year
lifetime. At the time I was working at Jay's Enco station on the northern
outskirts of Las Vegas covering the graveyard shift filling up cars and small
buses full of people on their way to work at the Atomic Test Site up the highway
in Mercury Nevada. One of our regular customers came in one day and just
happened to ask if I knew anyone who might be interested in an old motorcycle he
was thinking of selling cheap. Every square inch of that old bike had been brush
painted yellow including a good portion of the tire sidewalls. It was
unregistered and untitled and very likely made from bits and pieces of dozens of
other bikes. If you looked closely you could count dozens of small parts and
jury-rigged fittings that had been made by her previous owners. She had been
chopped down almost completely and I seriously doubt if it weighed over five
hundred pounds with me on it. She was wickedly fast especially coming out of the
hole, incredibly loud, so loud that I could barely hear the occasional female
passenger screaming if I really got on it. You sit just a little over a sixteen
inches off the ground so the sensation of speed was amplified threefold. I
couldn't get it registered so I only had the nerve to ride it at night on back
roads until it finally gave up the ghost a few years later. Over the years I've
had dozens of other rides but nothing has ever come close to giving me the same
sensations or evoking the same emotions. The last I saw her she was propped up
against a work shed at a friends house out in the desert. I imagine that she's
still on the road somewhere today being just as wicked now as she was way back
I've been trying to recapture the essence of that scooter and those old original feelings with every bike I build.
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