Laying out pieces and props throughout the build helps to ensure that your paper design is actually going to work and that your dimensions are workable.
Laying out pieces and props throughout the build helps to ensure that your paper design is actually going to work and that your dimensions are workable.
I frequently lay out pieces and props during the build process to help visualize the end product. Doing this also allows me to catch (and rectify) problems that might arise further down the line.
Tack weld the outside corner. The will allow you to make adjustments to square each corner as you move from corner to corner.
I leave a small gap for the weld.
A corner clamp is a must for frame making …as is a square. Use your square(s) judiciously throughout the build.
This pedicab bottom frame measures 40″ wide by 45-1/2″ long. I mitred the corners with 45° cuts. [Hint: I read a tip on the internet that recommended cutting the miters at 46°, rather than 45°, in order to leave a small gap for welding purposes.]
Before making a single cut plan and design your build to as much detail as possible. I start with an idea. I then sketch rough drawings where I play with the design and modify the measurements as needed. Then I place my final draft and measurements into a design tool in order to render a scale drawing. [Note: I use Google’s free design tool, called SketchUp.]
When cutting off the end pieces try to salvage as much of the angle iron as possible.
Prepare the metal. Remove the bed frame wheels, corner braces, clamps and brackets. Whether you cut them off or grind them off, try to salvage as much of the angle iron as possible. Throw the wheels, brackets and braces in your scrap bin. These may be used later for other projects.
Raw materials. Bed frames are a good inexpensive source of metal for various projects. The angle iron used on most bed frames is typically 1/8″ thick steel. I pick up used bed frames from thrift shops and Craigslist. I’ve found them ranging in price from $10 – $20. I even found one for free on Craigslist’s “Free” section. [Hint: keep a magnet handy in your vehicle so that you can ensure the metal you are acquiring is made of steel. You want it to be steel so that you can weld it.]
I would also like to acknowledge Rat Rod Bikes and all the bike builders who contribute to the forums. Thank you for providing useful tips, ideas, and build advice.
Special thanks to AtomicZombie.com for great info and advice on custom bike planning, design, parts salvaging, and building. You guys rock!
The Pedicab Trailer was my biggest build to date. More planning, design and build time went into this build than anything thus far. I built the pedicab trailer for the purpose gifting rides to citizens of Black Rock City during Burning Man 2014.
The pedicab trailer build was started in April 2014 and completed in June 2014. After completing the project I immediately began work on a tow bike in order to pull the pedicab trailer. You can view the tow bike build here: Gitche Gumee Tadpole.
The complete Gitche Gumee Tadpole. The intended use of this machine is as a tow bike for the pedicab trailer that I built the previous month.
Incidentally “Gitche Gumee” is the Native American name for Lake Superior — meaning “big water”. #TheMoreYouKnow
No bike build project is complete without painting. Here’s the front end painted to match the pedicab trailer that it will be towing.
In order to strengthen the front end, trusses were added connecting the top tube to each head tube. I repurposed the original fork sides from the Gitche Gumee’s fork for the tadpole’s trusses. [I thought it only fitting.]
With the steering linkage installed, it was simply a matter of installing the front wheels in order to perform a quick rolling test ride. 🙂
Using a piece of string to determine the angle of each fork’s tie rod connector plate in order to achieve an “Ackerman” steering geometry to the steering linkages.
What is Ackerman steering geometry and why is it important? Click here.
Use a straight rod to align the forks. Place the forks in a straight-ahead position.
Tie rods bolted onto the the center steering tube’s mounting plate.
Center steering tube with the tie rod connector plate welded to it.
Pieces of flat iron (salvaged and cut from used bed frames) used to connect the tie rods to the forks and steering tube.
The tie rods for the steering linkage are pictured below. Sourcing an economical pair of these proved more challenging than I had anticipated. Ultimately I found these online through Northern Tool and Equipment [Item #13811 – Plated Steel 13″ Tie Rod Kit].
[Since building the Gitche Gumee Tadpole i’ve learned that Northern Tool no longer carries this part. However I see that they do carry individual tie rod end bearings; so one could make her own tie rods. – Ed.]
The center fork’s left and right fork sides are cut from the fork’s crown; leaving only the steering tube and crown. Tip: Save the side pieces for later use. The crown is then ground clean and smooth.
While I had the front wheels installed, but not yet the steering linkage connected, I took a picture of the wheels in a position in which they will never ever be (hopefully) after the tadpole is complete.
After the left and right head tubes were welded to the center head tube, I removed the center fork, and temporarily installed the front wheels to get a visual. The tadpole is taking shape!
Welding each (left and right) head tube to the center head tube. Note: the center (orange) forks are in its tube simply for alignment purposes. The center (orange) forks will be removed after the welding of the left and right forks. Note the use of a rod to align all the forks.
Tack welding the cross members to the head tubes. Proper alignment is critical here.
Using a template to mark the “fish mouth” cuts on the ends of the EMT crossmembers. Fishmouth cuts are used when welding round pipe together at right angles.
Laying out the parts of the front end in order to visualize things. This is done prior to any welding. The cross members are cut from 1″ EMT electrical conduit.
Two matching head tubes ground clean, sanded smooth, and ready to weld.
Salvaging and prepping one of the needed head tubes tube cut from a donor frame. The head tube is then ground clean and sanded smooth.
Collecting parts. Two matching forks found at the Reno Bike Project. One read Huffy, one read Roadmaster, however they were equal in size, and length — a critical requirement for the front end of this trike’s design.
The main frame and drive train of this build came from a 1998 Gary Fisher Gitche Gumee mountain bike. 26-inch; rigid suspension; 21-speed.
And a shout out to the Reno Bike Project for being an awesome source of super low-priced salvaged bike parts. You guys rock!
This build began in May 2014 and finished in June 2014. The idea for the build arose from the need of a tow-bike for the Pedicab Trailer that I built earlier that year.
Together the two (pedicab trailer and tadpole bike) created a very nice system which I took out to Burning Man that year in order to gift rides to the citizens of Black Rock City. The Gitche Gumee is also fun to ride by itself.
To see the steps for a specific build in chronological order select any build under the “Mutant Bicycle Builds” menu item above. The steps for the selection chosen will then be sorted and displayed in chronological order so that all you need to do is scroll down.
Again I’d like to thank AtomicZombie.com for providing the plans, tips, techniques, design advice, and confidence that allowed me to build this bike. Their webisite has several plans for download; including plans for the “OverKill Phat Ass Extreme Chopper” — on which Chupacabra was built. They also have a book, Bicycle Builder’s Bonanza, which I recommend. Tips ranging from where and how to salvage bike parts to planning and designing your bike project.
The (almost) completed Chupacabra Custom Chopper. [Need some grips]
Kickstands to make a center stand. Handlebars to make “ape hangers”.
This photo shows the offset between the rear hub and chain ring; hence the need for a jack shaft.
Because of the width of the rear wheel, the rear sprocket was offset very far from the chainring creating an alignment issue. Therefore a jackshaft was needed in order to transfer power from the chain ring to the rear hub.
I fabricated this jackshaft using the freewheel sides of two rear hubs.
Completed frame with head tube.
Laying out the frame’s bottom tube and bottom bracket.
Rear triangle, with dropouts, attached to rear wheel.
EMT conduit was used to construct the frame. 1″ EMT for the rear triangle and fork extensions. 1-1/2″ for the main frame.
Left: Salvaged forks. Right: Chopped and extended.
Top before and after: Rear dropouts chopped and ground uniformly. Ready for welding.
Bottom before and after: Head tube chopped and ground clean. Ready for welding.
Update: My colleague who purchased the trike from me to take to Burning Man 2015 sold it back to me (at a discount) after his burn. Apparently the mods I had made to it were not a good fit for traversing the playa.
Obtain a bike (or bikes) from which you will salvage the additional parts needed. I chose this Schwinn O.C.C. Stingray Chopper Jr. for the sacrificial bike. This poor little bike will be chopped and parted out for my Chupacabra build. The rear dropouts will be cut out and utilized on the new frame. As will the bottom bracket. The triple-tree front fork parts will be utilized and extended. The handle bars will be utilized and extended. The head tube, the seat, rear fender, and anything else that I can salvage will be also be repurposed.
With the tire mounted, the rear wheel is now complete. Now the frame building can begin. I must say, the build of the rear wheel takes a bit of time, but it is well worth it. [After the forks] The rear wheel is the focal point of the chopper. Spend the time on this one component and you will be incentivized for the remainder of the bike build.
A fully laced and true wheel. Now it’s time to mount the tire.
With the hub built it is now time to lace the wheel. The Atomic Zombie plans I downloaded has great step-by-step instructions on how to do this.
Extend the width between the flanges by welding a piece of pipe the desired length. Then repack the bearings and reassemble the new elongated hub using the extended axel. This photo shows the difference in length between a stock rear hub and the extended one.
If you don’t have a long piece of threaded axel rod laying about, you can create your own by cutting in half the stock axel and then adding (welding) a piece of rod to create the desired length. Hint: I used a piece of angle iron to clamp the pieces to in order to insure alignment when welding.
Making the hub for the rear wheel. A steel rear hub is cut into halves to make the new hub for the chopper’s rear wheel. The hub must be made of steel in order to weld it. Hint: use a magnet to determine whether the hub is made of steel or aluminum. Then drill additional spoke holes on the flanges to match the number on side of the rim. In my case I doubled the original number of holes.
After removing the insert from the wheel spoke holes were drilled. [Hint: Use a 20″ bicycle rim as your template for the placement of the holes.] [Another hint: Have extra drill bits on hand.]
After removing the tire from the wheel (easier said than done), the insert was cut out from the wheel leaving just the rim.
I began this chopper build by starting with the rear tire (picked up for free from the “Free” section of Craigslist.com. As you will see I then built the bike’s frame around the tire. This chopper uses a 15″ automobile tire as its rear tire. A 15″ automobile rim is the same size as a 20″ bicycle rim — something that will prove useful when building (i.e. lacing) the chopper’s rear wheel.
I would also like to thank the Reno Bike Project for having a huge inventory of used bike parts at super low prices. I visit their shop frequently to pick up parts for my custom bike builds. Without the RBP my bike projects would cost ten times as much to build. Plus the staff is awesome and the proceeds go to a good cause. Check them out here, or better yet become a member.
I would like to acknowledge and thank Atomic Zombie for providing step-by-step instructions and tips to aid me in my first custom bicycle build. Check out Atomic Zombie’s website for a wealth of information and tutorials on bike hacking and building.
Note: The Atomic Zombie plans I used for this build were for the “OverKill Phat Ass Extreme Chopper“.
I sold this mod to a co-worker who purchased it to take to Burning Man 2015. Letting it go was a little bittersweet. The trike had served me well throughout the years, but there’s only so much room in the laboratory, and there are many projects in the queue.
These steps chronicle the process of my first major custom bike build. I say “major” because it was the first project of mine that involved welding. I attempted to learn how to weld as I went along, so you’ll have to cut me some slack on how ugly the welds look. 🙂
This bike build was started in February 2014 and completed in April of 2014. The steps follow below, but first a couple Thank you’s…
Lastly, the old 26″ front tire I had on the trike was looking a little ratty due to the flecks of orange paint on it from having been painted orange at one time [long story], so I swapped it out for a clean, black Schwinn 26″ wheel and tire.
The stock Torker Trike came with a 36-tooth chain ring, which worked well for the stock 24″ rear wheels. However, after swapping those out for 16″ wheels, I needed a larger chain ring to achieve the same travel when pedaling. Pictured here is a 44-tooth chain ring I installed.
Newly built 16″ rear wheels mounted on the trike. Lowered, but still plenty of clearance to pedal.
I couldn’t wait to see what the new wheels looked like on the trike, so I slipped them on the axle before mounting the tubes and tires. Looks pretty sweet!
Pictured are both rear wheels laced up. As an added bonus the new spokes I sourced were silver and matched the new hubs nicely. [The original Schwinn O.C.C. Chopper Jr. rear wheels had black spokes and hubs.]
I was able to source the spoke size I needed from a few little kids bikes I found at the Kiwanis Bike Program [Btw, Reno’s Kiwanis Bike Program is an awesome source of inexpensive used bikes and parts.]
Another option would’ve been to cut and make my own spokes, however I do not have a spoke threader,
Because the flanges of the new hollow hubs were taller than the flanges of the original Schwinn coaster brake hub, I needed shorter spokes in order to lace to the rim.
Next was to locate hollow hubs with the same spoke hole count as the chopper wheels (28 holes) and the same bearing size to fit the trike axle. I found these at Niagara Cycle. Here’s a link to the hubs I found.
By building the new rear wheels with new hubs I was able to retain the Torker trike’s stock rear wheels as replacements, or to be used on another project.
First thing was to dismantle the Schwinn O.C.C. Chopper Jr.’s wheels. With the wheels dismantled it was easy to remove the decals, and clean and polish the rim.
However, one cannot simply slap on a new set of wheels. The stock rear wheels of the trike utilize hollow hubs with bearings that slip over a 15mm (~5/8″) axle.
These 16″ wheels are a full 3″ wide. The idea came to me that they would look pretty sweet on the rear of the trike.
In 2009 I removed the wire basket in order to install a platform to which to mount a mobile sound system. [See Torker Tristar Mobile Sound System.] This DJ rig entertained the citizens of Black Rock City for many years at Burning Man.
Over the years I had made a few minor mods to the stock version I picked up on Craigslist. For example, I swapped out the 24″ front fork and wheel for a 26″ front fork and wheel. I also added a taller seat post to give me more room in the cockpit.
The stock Torker TriStar had 24″ tires all around and a large rear wire basket. It came in both a single speed and three-speed version. I owned the single-speed model.
[This most recent incarnation of the Torker Trike was started and completed in early 2015. – Ed.]
I’ve had this Torker adult-sized tricycle for a few years. I purchased it in 2009 [I believe] from a guy off Craigslist. It has suited me well since that time, but now I felt a modification was due.