Keep the workplace clean

At the end of each day’s or evening’s build session get in the habit of cleaning up your work area. In that way you are able to start fresh and clean for the next session. I always pick-up, sweep, vacuum metal filings and weld splatter, and even put back my tools at the end of a day’s build. Depending on the size of the project and your available time, it may take days (or even weeks) to complete. A clean workspace is a happy workspace. ūüôā



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.


Visualize along the way

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

Tack weld the outside corner. The will allow you to make adjustments to square each corner as you move from corner to corner.


Laying out the bottom frame

This pedicab bottom frame measures 40″ wide by 45-1/2″ long. I mitred the corners with 45¬į cuts. [Hint: I read a tip on the internet that recommended cutting the miters at 46¬į, rather than 45¬į, in order to leave a small gap for welding purposes.]


Plan and design

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.]



Prep the raw materials

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

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.]


The Pedicab Trailer

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.

pedi 1

pedi 3

pedi 2

rig 1


No bike build project is complete without painting. Here’s the front end painted to match the pedicab trailer that it will be towing.


Strengthening the front end

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.]


Roll test!

With the steering linkage installed, it was simply a matter of installing the front wheels in order to perform a quick rolling test ride. ūüôā


The tie rods

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.]


Chopping the original fork

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.


Tadpole taking shape

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 the head tubes

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.


Same sized forks

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 Gitche Gumee Tadpole

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.

gitche gumee tadpole

rig 1

rig 2

The steps of my builds and mods

To see the steps for¬†a specific¬†build in chronological order select any build under the ‚ÄúMutant Bicycle Builds‚ÄĚ 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.

Atomic Zombie rocks!

Again I’d like to thank¬†¬†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.

Bicycle Builders Bonanza

Homemade jackshaft

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.


The sacrificial bike

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.

[Note: The rear wheel of this bike was used in a subsequent bike mod. See Lowered Adult-Sized TricycleEd.] [Here’s what remains of this bike today:¬†The sacrificial bike – redux.]


The wheel with tire mounted

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.


Super-wide rear hub

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.


Elongating the axle

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.


Fabricating the rear hub

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.


Drill, drill, drill

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.]


Start with a 15″ automobile rim and tire

I began this chopper build by starting with the rear tire (picked up for free from the “Free” section of¬† 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.


Sunsetting the Torker Trike

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.


My first major build — The Chupacabra Custom Chopper

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. ¬†ūüôā

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…

And a new front tire

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.


Let’s put on a larger chainring

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.


Wheels mounted

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!


Hurdle #2

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.


The first hurdle

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.


My Torker – pre-lowered

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.