We're trying our best to get the site back up and running again so please be patient during this downtime.
The News (aka 'My two cents')
June 10, 2012
Just an update on the April news. As mentioned we're now located in Murphy Texas and expanding the scope the Chopper Builders Handbook operations back into a full-service shop mode. We've signed on with Paughco as a parts-supplier so if you see anything in their catalog drop us a line for the best prices. In some ways this was a huge move for us, having been in California for the past 35 years and having been retired for the past 10 years.
This is a snapshot of 'Move-in day'. Everything loaded onto a little trailer I built to carry the tools backed into the very small space we have.
This is two days later after unpacking and starting to get back into 'work-mode'. The front 'sales-office' is just bare concrete. It took us almost six weeks just to get phone service out here.
I'm looking for a good Tig man to work on our frames and Springers so if you live in this area drop me a line.
April 26, 2012
We have relocated the operations to the little town of Murphy near Dallas Texas. The address of the shop is 231 W. FM 544, Unit A110. It's a very small building but I think we'll be producing some nice bikes and parts. Our new email address, at least until we get settled in will be firstname.lastname@example.org
January 1, 2012
Well we're off to a new year and one that I hope will be a good for garage-based and small independent builders everywhere. The one thing I've noticed when looking at the stats for the site is that a huge amount of our overall web traffic comes from overseas. The Google translation machine is actually one of our biggest site visitors. In December Google translated our site contents over 18,560 times for a total of slightly more than 556,000 page translations. I think that's absolutely amazing considering that we're such a small spot on the web. If it were possible we'd do the site in several languages but that's a huge undertaking but I am considering doing that at some point in time. For technical articles the Google translator is not all that great.
Ontario Canada is still our largest visitor base. There must be a lot of degenerates living up there for some reason. Maybe they like Choppers. Good old California is our least place to receive visitors from which is ironic considering that's where Choppers started. I talked recently to a friend who observed that most California bike riders are 'boutique' biased and this might be true. I do know however that there are some hardcore guys out here but maybe they try to stay under the radar.
We're going to try and make the Handbook site the number one spot on the web for good solid technical information for bike and fork fabricators so I would appreciate hearing back from visitors as to what we can do better or more of. So far we've just scratched the surface but I think that we're providing good foundational information for prospective builders. Let me know you opinions.
I am still having a love/hate relationship with most of the popular so-called 'Chopper Discussion Boards'. Maybe I'm just to picky but for the most part I think that most of these boards are kind of lame as you never really come away from a visit with something that you can take to the bank, so to speak. I still personally suspects that about 85% of all board posters don't even own a motorcycle, let alone having ever ridden one. I also suspect that another 10% do own a Chopper but are afraid to ride it for one reason or another. I'll eventually get over my phobia about these boards but they still seem strangely out of touch with reality for a guy trying to put together a bike.
December 30, 2011
As we move into a new year we'll be making some changes at the Chopper Builders Handbook. First of all I'd like to welcome Chris Croft (Krymis) who will be the new second-in-command and handle the future expansion of some new programs we will be implementing. I'd also like to welcome Anna Bevacqua who is going to be the new Art Director for some pretty exciting new directions we are exploring. Anna did all of the new graphics for the site and will be streamlining the manner in which we put together our CD's as we try to get better at what we do.
We're off to a pretty good start so far. I'm extremely pleased to find that even after being off-line for almost a year that our visitors are still finding the material on the site useful. We've only been back up and running again for a little over a month and our traffic is already back to the same levels we experienced in the past. The really interesting thing however is that we are attracting a rather significant number of new visitors. For me this means that garage-building is starting to become popular again after a few years of trending down. I am a firm believer that the best Choppers are home-built and not mass-produced.
November 20, 2011
As many people are aware the old original Chopper Builders Handbook site suffered what we initially thought was a catastrophic hardware and software failure in early 2011. This 'crash' destroyed not only the primary data on the main server and raid disks but also all of the data on our backup server. We took the drives to a service shop in an attempt to recover the files and found that the 'crash' was most likely a deliberate hack of the site that somehow went very badly. The only data that was actually destroyed were the image files. A good portion of the html text files were still readable but moved into some strange directories apparently in some attempt to download the entire site to a remote server. Unfortunately a lot of the most recent files that we added to the site were simply to scrambled to bother recovering. As you'll note below all of the news posts between 2005 and today are gone forever.
As a result of this situation we're in the process of rebuilding the site from the ground up but that will take a considerable effort and most likely be a long and drawn out process. We ask all of our visitors to be patient with us as we start down this road. In addition I'd like to thank all of the visitors who have supported this site through thick and thin over the past eight years and especially thank those of you have taken the time to help us in this rebuilding process. I think that in the long run we have a much better and more helpful site than the original version.
February 4, 2005
Thanks to several of our supporters who do software and web work we'll soon be doing a major upgrade to the site and the discussion forum. This is going to be a long and painful process that involves moving the site to another server so over the next several weeks and maybe even months you can expect some downtime, glitches, hiccups and probably more than a few false startups until everything becomes stable again. We are rapidly approaching the point where the internet can't really provide the quality, depth and level of detail that we feel is called for when presenting the type of technical information that we want to post so we're looking at getting the hardcopy version of the manual in print. Print publishing allows us to add a huge amount of illustrations and photographs that just can't be done on the internet due to bandwidth and typical browser problems. What we've put on the site to date is only about 25% of what we intended to do originally so hardcopy is the eventual goal we want to achieve.
Once we do switch to hardcopy the main site itself will be instantly outdated and probably taken offline after a few months. The discussion forum however will be improved and expanded and become the principal place of information exchange between all parties doing self-built projects.
There are no hard dates set yet for when things will start to happen but we'll post a big note on the main site page and at the discussion forum before we start to mess with anything.
The free plan download section will expand exponentially as we've got tons of new drawings to post there for frames, jigs, fixtures, frame part patterns and a host of other tech sheets.
January 31, 2005
I wish to think everyone who has called and send in email supporting our decision to bring the discussion board back into the main Handbook web site. This was an extremely hard decision for me to make but it was not my decision alone and I think that in the long run it will be the best for all parties. I usually like to take the full credit (or the blame) for everything myself but in this case I can't.
Off course now that I'm gone it's been called to my attention that I'm being bad-mouthed even more than I was accustomed to when I was there as a participant. Apparently a couple of the boards members think our plans are pretty bad but I'd like to point a few things out:
It's been said that you can buy better plans for less money elsewhere but I have yet to find anybody selling such plans that has a website that is much more than a 'chopper-clothing' sales outlet. In fact if you visit these sites you'll notice that most of the links lead to 'to be announced' pages. No tech articles, no pictures of fab operations and I could good on but I think most of you have checked these operations out already. It's easy to hang onto the bandwagon that we started but it's pretty hard being out there by ourselves being the bandwagon itself.
The plans that we sell and plans that are provided for free are proven designs. Hundreds of people have finished their frames in just the last year alone and you can see the results of their work both here, at the ChopperWeb, in the Horse Magazine and at various builders web sites on the Internet. If it really becomes an issue we'll post the names and addresses of professional builders around the country using our plans. I think that many people would be surprised as to who some of our customers actually are.
Eventually all of the current and future plans will be free. The object of selling them in the first place was to support the development of the website itself which is totally free with no sponsors and no advertisers and no 'restricted' areas for 'special' members, no clothing line, no ebay sales outlet, no stickers and no chrome gadgets. In addition we support those who have supported us and we buy from Far North, Mechwerks and several others the very same parts that our visitors buy for their own projects.
People can bad-mouth me all they want but nobody has even come close to doing what we've done with the help and support of the visitors and fabricators that have supported this little low-key home-builder operation. We may eventually have some imitators but never an real competition.
January 30, 2005
We as many of you know I'm no longer participating with the ChopperWeb any longer due to a situation involving their ChopperWeb panhead motor project. I won't clutter up the threads with any more posts about it but the situation involved a lot of emails between various members of the site on Friday and then again on Saturday after the project was temporarily put on hold without an explanation until later that afternoon. I thought then and I still think now that to put the project into limbo, even if it was for only a day was the wrong thing to do and gave the impression to many, not just myself, that the project was getting a little shaky. Anyway I received enough mail from a variety of sources to convince me to bail out as well.
As a result we'll be reactivating our old discussion forum over the course of the next several days or weeks if anyone wants to participate, if not that's okay as well. There are no hard feelings on my part and I do hope that our visitors to this site also continue to support the ChopperWeb in their endeavors.
The old(new) board is located here but be advised that it may take some time to get it working.
January 13, 2005
The email situation is so bad now that our host mailbox (which is 100MB) is getting full and dumping mail before we even have a chance to download it. As of today our average daily download is very near 2200 messages. About 1000 of these are spam. If we give each real message about thirty seconds of thought this works out to about 8 hours per day just to sort through the mail.
If you haven't heard back from me this is the reason. It can take me five or six days to drill down through the messages to respond to what I consider are 'important' messages. This isn't to say that I don't think that all messages aren't important and I try to respond to everybody as soon as I can but sometimes it takes several weeks just to dig down through the message pile.
The site is getting so much attention, especially since we posted the softail plan that our little server just can't keep up with the demand so we're looking at upgrading sometime soon. On the other hand we're seriously considering making the entire site a 'members' only area. Of course at no charge, but visitors would have to register and that eliminates a lot of the casual visitors and non-sensical posts at the boards.
We've also had the monkey-business boys back at work again trying to change our passwords at some boards so they can post as us and they've tried to send email from our address or under the guise of the Chopper handbook and doing some other stupid things. We are pretty sure who this group of about four individuals are based upon IP's that we've tracked and we're disappointed since it appears that they were originally staunch supporters of the site early on who seem to have developed some grudge against us at a personal level down the rode. I guess that you can expect to piss off 4 people out of the 2000 or so that regularly support the site. Of course I piss off a lot of visitors but most are man enough to confront me face to face as it were on the board as opposed to resorting to hiding in cyberspace and doing childish pranks hidden by the net.
January 7, 2005
Michael Fleury sent in some pictures this morning of his finished bike which we posted in the 'Projects' section under his name. It's taken him almost a year to go from starting the welding jig to having the bike headed to it's first show and along the way he's picked up two sponsors for the project. He's about to start on bike number two which will be a hardcore rider but very radical in design. The pictures don't do the bike justice as there is an almost unbelievable amount of detail work in this machine with no part remaining 'stock' or 'as-purchased' but this wasn't a big dollar build and in fact it was built on a very tight budget, very tight indeed.
I'm extremely gratified to see the pictures of everybody's machines go from the jig to the final rollers and then onto becoming finished bikes. Hundreds of people said that this was impossible when we first started the site. Some big-name detractors laughed at the idea of so-called amateurs being able to even build a frame let alone an entire cycle. As I see more and more of these projects coming together I'm beginning to wonder who the 'amateurs' really are. Anybody can buy a frame and bolt together parts but it takes a real chopper builder to go from absolutely nothing more than thin air and some tubing and then go on to create a complete cycle.
To be very honest nothing pleases me more than to see chopper building getting back into the hands of the grass-roots riders and I can assure you that the old guys who taught me long ago are smiling down on us all today.
January 4, 2005
The final months of the year have been pretty hectic as evidenced by our lack of updates to the site. We're trying to get more time to spend on site maintenance but it's been very hard. Hopefully by this spring things will get back to normal and we can do some serious updating and revisions.
Site traffic is constantly increasing and I'm afraid that we've pretty much outgrown the little server that hosts the site at the present time which sometimes just chokes on the traffic so we'll be looking at upgrading over the next few months.
Email is still an ongoing problem and ever increasing. As it now stands we get a solid average of 800 legitimate messages per day and just looking at the message headers takes almost 2 hours out of the day so I've started a horribly random method of attacking the mail but even if I respond to only 50% of what we receive it is a 4 hour a day 'job' so don't be insulted if it takes a long time to get back to your email.
There are still a huge number of site visitors who drop in, take data, and then don't contribute anything even at the discussion forums. When we posted the free softail plans today we had 2017 downloads within the first thirty minutes but only three people actually entered a message on the discussion board about the plans. This is pretty pathetic and I'm not to sure whether or not we'll be posting any further free plans or sketches in the future only to see them sold on ebay. I'm sure we'll see the free softail plans being sold by somebody on ebay by the end of the week. What is sad is that buyers of these plans won't usually be aware of the updates and revisions we'll be making on this set of drawings over the next few months.
By and large the 'regular' visitors to the site and the discussion boards are a very honest lot but the so-called 'guest' can be virtually anybody so maybe the time has come to make the site or at least the boards a 'members-only' area. I truly hate the idea of doing this as it basically locks out a huge number of people who are casual visitors and stifles the free exchange of ideas between honest folks who are afraid that their ideas will be stolen by some of our less than honest drop-ins. We'll let this ride for a few more weeks and then decide what to do.
October 21, 2004
No sooner had we finished the last post when a friend showed up on the front porch after riding 120 miles in a rain storm just to say hello. Rickie Young and I had built a true Frankenstein bike back in 73 or 74 that was made from bits and pieces of dozens of other bikes. The frame was from a 65 swingarm that we made rigid and raked it out to 45 degrees, the forks were an extended stock Harley springer, the motor was from a 69 Shovelhead and this creation is still on the rode today. If you looked at the so-called 'mathematics' this ride would be considered 'unrealistic', it is ultra radical by anybodies standards but in the real world she's a dream to ride. Even though I'm a techno-freak I have to remind myself that the so-called 'correct' formulas for bike building are just guidelines and you just have to go past them in order to build unique cycles. Some of these experiments will 'work' and some won't. Every now and then you'll just come along the right combination of parts with just the right amount of weight and balance and that particular combination will produce an absolutely incredible bike even thought it doesn't 'compute' if you follow the so-called 'rules' of bike design. This is why chopper building is really an art form since you never really know what you'll end up with until you build it and ride it. Some bikes will be keepers and some will be disposal or at least recyclable.
While Rick was here we reminisced on the 'old days and in general we agreed that we both wasted a huge portion of our years on booze, drugs and loose women. We both agreed that the booze and drugs were a bad decision but we also agreed that the pursuit of loose women was something we should have notched up on the priority scale. We didn't to to bad however and if this wasn't a family type of site we'd get into that in more detail. Women and mean motorcycles just seem to go together. Maybe I should say motorcycles and mean women. Anyway maybe we'll set up a separate area on the site for stuff about our gals, good, bad, or indifferent. I'm just plain old tired about hashing over motor mount dimensions.
October 18, 2004
A little over a year ago last month when we first started this website there were only one or two sites on the Internet that addressed the technical details of building choppers and these early sites were pretty limited in scope. Since we posted the first small jpeg of motor mount dimensions we've had over 7,800,000 unique accesses to the site and at the last look this little site was in the top 10 on most search engines concerning choppers which is amazing since we're such a small site dedicated to such a unique aspect of chopped motorcycles.
Over the past year a little over 700 of our visitors have started to build their own frame jigs and at last look just a little under 500 of these folks had embarked on building their own frames and out of this number around 200 individuals were finalizing their bikes. About fifteen individuals have set up their own shops using our plans as the basis of their custom frame lines and so far they're doing pretty well putting out truly custom made motorcycles.
We've had our ups and downs. I had no idea how popular the site would become and I'm way behind on updating the contents. I am still buried in trying to get frame kits out to about 30 individuals, down from 42, who jumped on the early offering for kits.
Since I'm a one-man operation I truly appreciate the patience people have shown towards me in trying to fill orders, get plan sets mailed, build the frame kits, answer emails, return phone calls and in general fulfill my obligations but there are only so many hours in the day and I'm trying to cover all the bases as best as I can. In order to make this a better operation I'm calling upon the help of a few folks who over the course of the next couple of months will start to handle specific aspects of the site as we expand what we can offer our visitors. It may be a bumpy road but in the end I think that everyone will benefit.
We've promised a Honda 750 Chopper project for almost a year but nobody has followed up with a donor motor so we just finally decided to buy a complete bike which we did. It has a broken and badly bent frame but runs like a bat out of hell and I opened it up last week figuring that if it fell apart on the initiation run, it was ordained, but it held together and met the test so we're going to chop the little beast and put the results into a new series on the site when we get the time.
One reason I started the site in the first place is because I'm an old fart who has lived life to it's fullest extent which involved a whole lot of so-called bad lifestyle choices of using drugs, a whole bunch of booze, loose women, fast bikes, etc., etc. and to be honest I'm not in the best of shape nowadays but I felt that I owed the guys who taught me the ins and outs of choppers to pass on what I was taught, whether that was good, bad, or indifferent. Basically what you'll get at the site is pretty much straight in your face facts about chopped bikes but it's up to the reader to decide what works for them and what doesn't.
At the present time I have good days and I have bad days but as I mentioned a few months ago I have some health problems that I have to face and factor into what I do in the future but I'm not going to drop over dead right away and I'll be around to continue to grow the site for a couple more years at least and I think that the so-called 'home-builder movement' will be self-sustaining by the time that I can't actively participate anymore.
I will ride a new bike to Sturgis on 2005 if it kills me so get ready for the buildup series on that chassis in a few months.
Anyway this site is far from dead and we'll be updating it as time permits but right now time is limited but I do see the light at the end of the tunnel and eventually we'll grow this site into one of the most comprehensive sources of chopper info anywhere and I hope that our visitors stay around and check back in every now and then.
August 18, 2004
Last week was an interesting week as we had two young fellows from Pennsylvania here learning how to bend frame tubes and in a little over three days they had an old school frame bent, cut and tacked together ready to be shipped back home and we only wasted one tube with a bad bend which was my fault so I think we did pretty good. Phil and Luke will no doubt be registering at the discussion forum as they intend on opening their own shop someday. They've already attended the Fournier metal shaping workshop and will be attending the AMI school from December to May so they're really doing their homework in depth. I hope that what little I could show them helped them on their way.
On another track the email situation is getting totally out of control and it is virtually impossible for me to respond to each message within a reasonable time frame anymore.
I logged in twice today and received 292 messages initially and another 184 messages later in the day. I already have 281 good messages from earlier in the week that I haven't responded to yet. These counts are 'real' messages. Along with the good stuff comes a ton of spam so I literally have to look at the headers anymore before I bother to read a message.
If you don't hear back from me via email immediately it's only because I'm falling further and further behind every day and I have to spend far more time on catching up with the backlog of frame kits not to mention working on my own ride so I may be scarce for awhile.
August 10, 2004
How things work around here:
I've had literally a ton of recent mail and some hints from the discussion boards concerning who we are, what we do, why we don't do better, etc. , etc. and etc. so I thought I'd try to explain some very basic facts in one place and get it over with:
First of all we are not a business. We (maybe only me most of the time), just like to build scooters, restore old bikes, mess with choppers and in general have some fun messing with mechanical stuff suspended between two wheels. I've been in the 'performance' chassis fabrication field for over forty years, retired officially now for the past eleven years. My single source of income is selling frame plans and building pre-bent chassis parts which I'm months behind on since demand was about 1000% more than I ever expected. This site, if you can really call it a web site, grew from a single jpeg I posted a little over a year ago to answer a simple question at one of the chopper discussion boards. From zero to over 120,000 site accesses in about eleven months has taken me by surprise to say the least. I get a lot of mail asking about the 'staff' here at the site and our 'staff' consists of me, my wife, on occasion, my oldest son, every now and then, and an ever changing crew of people who stop buy to drip oil on my driveway, drink my beer and make passes at my wife. Every now and then this 'unpaid' technical assistance crew actually do something constructive. Since we went 'public' I spend about eight hours a day at the computer answering emails and another eight hours in the garage trying to build frame kits and to be honest it is starting to wear thin since we're months behind on everything including updating the site. What we've posted so far is only about 20% of what is still in the works and between doing constructive work I'm trying to get new articles prepared to post on the web.
Lately we've come under some fire for not providing more complete technical information for those folks out there building frame jigs and we're working on publishing a simplified 'how-to' article for folks who are just starting out and don't have any past general fabrication experience.
I've had some folks say that my plans suck and contain a lot of errors and I'm not saying they are perfect but here's how they work. The 'plans' have been out there since 1985-86 and a ton of frames have been successfully built from them but when somebody did have a problem we added more info and dimensions as might have been needed. Over the years these drawings have had tons of additional data added, mistakes corrected and things clarified to the point that today the single largest complaint I get back is that the drawings are far to detailed, complicated and over-dimensioned for the average home builder to follow, containing way more information than a fabricator needs to begin with. Corrections of errors are usually posted either here in the 'news' section or in one of the articles on the site or posted at the discussion board or at the Chopper web. I'm pretty pleased with the fact that only a small handful of people have had any problems building from the drawings so I think we did a fairly good job of putting together something that nobody else has bothered to do in all the decades that Choppers have existed. There are two small 'error's on the plans that have been placed there deliberately on the advice of our lawyers years ago and I've always objected to doing this but it has saved our butt on more than one occasion in court and surprisingly 99.9% of all the people who have legally purchased our drawings have caught those particular errors right off the bat. I shouldn't have been surprised that Weyland Smith caught it within two minutes of seeing the plans for the first time.
Having said all of that I still think as I've mentioned several times that other folks need to step up to the plate and start offering something like what we've provided. Where are the alternatives to our designs? Where are the other building sites? Where are the 'experts' posting their builder information, diagrams and drawings? It's been almost a year since we went on line and nobody has put forth anything to help the small shop owner or independent builders and in fact our own discussion forum has become one of the few area on the net where other builders can post their personal views on chopper building. I have nothing against competition and in fact encourage it but there comes a point in time when some of our 'detractors' need to find their own outlets to present their alternative views, ideas, techniques and design philosophies. Everybody is free to participate in our forum. Tam presented me with the option of making the Handbook forum a members only board but I've always felt that a totally open policy is best for all concerned and continue to do so.
The next few months are going to be rocky going. We're starting to send money back to people who simply can't wait any longer for me to get their frames shipped out and I can't blame them one bit. We're trying to make inroads into the kit backlogs, we're going to be adding some new sections to the site and revising some old sections so that less experienced folks can better understand the information they contain. We may issue a new set of drawings and jig plans specifically aimed at people who may be entering the field with no past fabrication experience. We will be posting some new frame plans that are free to download and we're going into some joint ventures with some folks on some interesting projects that will develop towards the end of year.
We're certainly not as interesting as some folks out there in TV land but don't be to surprised if you see a little ten part series called 'Chopper Builders' on the tube in a few months and we'll talk about this later once something concrete develops.
July 28, 2004
It has been a long time since we added anything here since we've been using the discussion forum to post most of the current day to day information but something happened a few days ago on the board which disturbed me. As many of you know there appeared to be a serious problem brought up by one poster concerning the tube 'cutting lengths' as opposed to the actual tube lengths used for fabrication. Somehow or another another poser got into the thread and started to make some remarks about how horrible our frame designs were and how poorly made our jigs were and it went on and on basically about how 'inept' I was and how the site in general encourages 'poor' workmanship and inaccuracy.
I have found out since that time thanks to email and PM's coming in that there is a small group of old original foundational members at the Chopper Web who don't especially care for 'home or small shop builders' and they appear to be bent on discrediting our work wherever possible. Unfortunately it seems that most of this small clique haven't even read the material here at the main site which is probably one of the problems to begin with but it is a problem inherent with people who become discussion board 'groupies' and aren't really doing anything material beside hanging around message boards to begin with.
Having to put up with these folks is a pain in the ass as it dilutes the real material in a lot of the posts but its something that we'll just have to put up with until they fade away. And they will eventually fade into the background again since they can't provide any material substance to backup some of their rants.
It still amazes me after all of this time that nobody else out there in cyber-chopper land has tried to at least make any attempt to bring their sites up to date and to provide good concrete technical data and drawings for their visitors. A lot of these guys take cheap shots at us but won't back it up with alternative 'info', tech info, pictures, diagrams or anything else. They just like to spout opinions and leave it at that. As this minor battle takes place I just want folks to remember that we usually back up our talk with concrete evidence in the way of snapshots or drawings and not just empty opinions.
July 3, 2004 Update
Today must be stay at home and play with the computer day for a lot of us as I've received a record 327 emails today from a variety of folks interested in building choppers. I've been noticing an upward trend in mail every day since the last episode of the Discovery channel build-off aired last week.
I've always made it a point to try and answer each and every email I receive and I especially try to answer mail from people who I know from past experience have at least visited and read the info on the site but there is a growing amount of mail from folks who apparently just get my address from other sites or just scan the main site without reading the articles we've posted to date. (There is a lot more to come on the site by the way).
I received one message today that went something like "I can't afford a stock Harley crate motor but I want an S&S 124 so what can I do?" or a better one from somebody who obviously hadn't seen the site was "I want to build a chopper and was told you could help me out".
Responding to everybody is almost a full time job now and many folks don't realize that it sometimes takes quite a bit of time doing some research or measuring something up and then preparing a helpful reply. The mail is presently keeping me away from other things, like adding to the site in the first place and finishing up peoples frames in the second place so if I'm slow getting back to folks for a couple of weeks it'll be because we're reorganizing and switching some priorities around and handing over certain responsibilities to other people.
July 3, 2004
My son and I went down to the annual Hollister Independence Day Rally on Friday and were supposed to meet up with some of the site visitors but we ended up leaving before noon. This is one of the better events on the West Coast and you do get to see a huge variety of bikes, including one electric chopper that was pretty unusual. After about four hours of poking around we both agreed that many of the stock and semi-stock 'riders' actually started to look more interesting than the 'customs' which are all starting to look alike except for fuel tanks. Even the custom paint jobs are all starting to look similar. Perhaps I'm to critical since I look close-up at a lot of bikes and pick out the details more than your average critic but to me the 'custom scene' is becoming a 'Battle of the Catalogs' since almost all the bikes are using 'bolt-on' customization to a huge extent. Last years hand made custom tank can be bought this year out of a catalog so true originality is fast fading. I've looked at so much stuff lately that I'm almost to the point of being able to recognize where specific parts are being bought and what the catalog numbers are. Some of the most interesting bikes and bikes having some of the best 'lines' were pretty simple basic choppers without a lot of frills and most of them were actually using mixed and matched factory parts and very little chrome.
This is a snapshot (click on it) of the Main Drag by 10:30. This is the end of the line and there are already about 3000 bikes stretching down another four blocks into the background so there was plenty to see and the event had a little under 600 vendor booths. Of course all the big name manufacturers were represented and unlike the EasyRider events this show hosted some builders, part makers, painters and other stuff beside clothing. However there wasn't a shortage of apparel and trinket vendors.
July 1, 2004
I finally caught part ten of the Biker Build-off on TV the other night and was amazed to see that the producers actually showed that a bunch of professionals could be stuck with some piece of crap pre-manufactured frame where the motor and tranny wouldn't fit. Of course this happens to us regular guys all the time. How the 'pros' 'fixed' that frame amazed me even more since they 'fixed' it with a bunch of butt welds and 'notches' and of course they didn't bother to make some kind of holding fixture to keep the headstock straight when they welded the 'signature' billet piece in-between the downtubes. Of course these guys are pros and the best of the best according to the television guys so who am I to comment. If a regular builder would have pulled that stunt on a paying customer for a custom bike I think the buyer would have had a legal claim for builder negligence.
What and Who the TV shows choose to feature isn't really as important as What and Who they don't choose to show. Very seldom do we see the shop support staff that actually do ninety percent of the work. We aren't shown the daily snafu's that come up, we aren't shown the problems almost everybody has with pre-manufactured frames, we aren't shown that about ninety percent of the parts for these bikes are 'donated' by manufacturers and distributors who get some free advertising. It's no wonder that newcomers to the field have a mistaken idea of what bike building is all about and think that it's just a matter of buying parts and bolting them together and then getting fifty grand for a bike every thirty days or so.
There are literally hundreds of very talented bike builders working out of small shops all across the country that are producing bikes day in and day out that are better built, more sophisticated and more imaginative than anything we've seen on television but we'll probably never see any of these guys on the tube unless they have some kind of distinctive personality trait that producers think they can 'sell' to the viewing audience.
June 23, 2004
I just wanted to say again how well the discussion forum is working out. Some of the stuff I've seen posted is outstanding and in my opinion this is the best of the so-called 'Tech' boards out there. Unfortunately we don't have much of a 'viewership' since I think our main site and the forum are hard to find. I've told folks about the forum who have called in or emailed lately and they're surprised we have one. A lot of people come to the site from links to specific pages that they've found at other sites and don't even bother to look at the main page. One guy called after seeing part 12 of the old school build-up hot-linked at some other site and didn't even know we had a main site!!
Part of the problem is my fault as when we started all of this I was just building separate html pages to respond to peoples questions posted at other sites so we didn't really have a site of own in the strictest sense of the word and these old original pages have been picked up by other sites and the search engines and I find them spread all over the Internet and even incorporated into other 'biker' sites every now and then. Some of the web guru's we talk to say that the site is already to big and cumbersome and needs to be broken down so we're working on that since we've got a ton of new stuff to publish during the next few weeks and months.
We finally got the 250 tire and wheel for the 250 Frame Build-up series after a five week wait and it looks great except the tire is mounted backwards on the rim. We specifically told the supplier that this was for a right-side-drive setup but somewhere along the line the left hand wasn't talking to the right hand so in the pictures the tire will look backwards and I don't want people calling saying I've mounted it wrong.
In this same vein I had the opportunity to ride a neighbors bike he just received from one of the TV personality builders after almost a years wait. It's a 250 Softail with a 124 CI motor and it does look good. I took it for a spin and came back asking him if anybody had checked out the shocks as this 'piece' of work handled like crap. He told me he paid an extra $1185 for the shocks that were on it as opposed to the companies regular shocks. This machine bottoms out going over an acorn and if you push it in the corners the tire actually comes all the way up and rubs on the fender as you accelerate out of the turn. The bike has an extremely soft ride but only has about 1.5" of total travel so it's always on the stops except on smooth surfaces. I thought I was going to bust the frame when I hit a few bumps in the road. The bike in all other respects is a piece of art, done to perfection, with deep chrome and perfect paint and the motor is super powerful and smooth but it's a chore to ride mainly since it's a 40 profile tire on a softail which is about like riding on the rim with bad shocks to begin with. The owner doesn't really like to ride the bike but he does like to look at it and show it off and to be honest I can't blame him as it is a beauty but he's already working on building a new 'Designer' kit bike based upon a 230 rigid for a better ride and he'll swap out the old motor and tranny.
June 21, 2004
We're going to the Independence Day Rally in Hollister California on July 2. We were originally planning on setting up a booth but both time and money ran out before the cut-off but we'll be there as spectators on the 2nd. If you'd like to meet up down there drop us a line.
June 20, 2004
We added a new section today about troubleshooting some fabrication problems that some folks might be running in to.
We've also had more out of state visitors to the 'garage' over the past few weeks and I really enjoy getting to meet site visitors in person as it makes this whole endeavor worthwhile but it has also pointed out that many people have a mistaken idea of what the Chopper Builders Handbook really is. First of all we're not a 'business', we don't have a commercial shop anymore, we don't sell parts, we don't have a 'catalog' , we don't do custom work for just anybody who happens to walk in and the plans that we do sell are just a very very small part of what this site is all about which is helping bike builders to help themselves. When we first started this little site we imagined that some of the big name builders would see what we we doing and start to publish more good tech info on their own sites but this hasn't happened and maybe it never will. This is one of my biggest disappointments to date as I personally want to soak up as much info as possible about building bikes and even though I've been doing this a long time I would like to learn even more. On the other hand the information being presented by visitors to the new discussion forum has been outstanding and I cannot thank the guys at ChopperWeb enough for the work they've done on setting this board up for us.
As of today, based upon the mail that we get back there are 689 visitors to the site that are actively building welding jigs and 278 visitors who are currently involved in building their first frames. Since we started the site about ten months ago 109 visitors have finished their own bikes to various stages of completion but for some reason people are very reluctant to send in pictures of their projects for one reason or another. Right, wrong or indifferent visitors to this site can learn a great deal from seeing and reading about the efforts of other builders so I want to encourage everybody to send in pictures of their projects or post them at the discussion forum. We can all learn from the big booboo's just as much as we can from the successful stuff and god only knows I've made a bunch of booboo's over the years myself.
If I've got any personal complaints to date it's about folks who find the site and 'scan' it without reading in detail each and every section and then send me an email asking about stuff we've covered somewhere on the site. In a similar vein portions of the content of the site are being 'quoted' at a wide variety of other sites, usually out of context, and we end up getting emails from people who have never even seen our site asking questions without even bothering to personally take a look at the site to begin with.
We don't have a lot more to add to this site before we've covered pretty much all there is about frame building but this is only about 10% of what's involved in building a bike and I'd like to move on into some of the more interesting facets of Chopper building that happen after the frame has been constructed but the site is really getting to big to be effective over the Internet and may need to be broken down into smaller sub-sites.
June 14, 2004
After getting my hand fixed I've been pretty busy trying to catch up on a backlog of frame work which has become paramount as several of my customers have started to sic their lawyers on me and I can't blame them so 'hi-ho hi-ho it's off to work we go'. God only knows I don't want to get on the same list as Casey Tallon but I think he had a completely different agenda than I have.
Most folks new to the site don't understand that this is basically a 'not for profit' operation regardless of the 'outlandish' prices we charge for the stuff we sell. Almost all of the money we eventually generate from the site is plowed back into doing articles for the site and/or buying parts needed to do articles and not for actually building a real complete bike. When and if we ever have enough time to really finish a project that money will come right out of our own pocket in exactly the same manner as it does for our site visitors. If I were in this for money I would be selling stuff right and left on ebay and based upon the reputation we have I can say with some confidence that we'd be making a lot of money selling plans and/or even complete jigs and frames. Needless to say we don't sell on ebay because this isn't what we want to do.
Our primary objective is, and always will be, to empower people to build their own Choppers with as little reliance on outside resources as possible.
I am especially pleased with the progress of the discussion forum provide by the folks at the Chopper Web as this brings into play dozens of individual opinions about any particular facet of a given project and I see this as the next natural extension of the web site which was getting to be 'one-sided' with my personal opinions about specific matters.
May 26, 2004
It's been a long time since we updated the site and the principal reason is that I've been recuperating from a fairly extensive series of tendon surgeries on the hand I broke a few months ago. The Doc says that it'll be months of therapy before I get the full use of my fingers back but I've already made significant progress so I'm geared up to go and starting to catch up on past projects.
Today we started on the wide-tire frame buildup series which many people have been asking for and we'll try to this one done a lot faster than the Old School series which was interrupted when we made the move into the new digs.
May 1, 2004
As many of you have already found out the forum provided by the Chopper Web is up and running and seems to working out even thought we don't have many visitors yet. Keep spreading the word and this forum will continue to grow.
I ran across a nice page about tube bending and added it to the links page even though it is not about cycle frame building it does touch upon some of the idiosyncrasies of the JD2 type bender.
April 20, 2004
As I've mentioned many times we get a lot of email and out of the several hundreds of messages we receive on any given day about half are from real people and the rest is spam. I'm getting pretty good at just glancing at the mail header and differentiating between what's real and what's junk but last night I must have opened a wrong one because I've been massively inundated with a very bad virus or worm. I don't know if it is affecting the web site but it's playing hell with my normal web surfing. I'm a fairly good computer guy and I have all of the normal tools one needs to destroy these pesky critters but this one is bad and I'm getting really pissed off at the asshole that had the nerve to send it out to begin with and if I ever meet up face to face this little puke will get beat to a pulp. I imagine that there would be a lot less crap on the net if we all just beat these scumbags into oblivion when we came upon them. I'm not a violent person but today's episode reminds me of a time when folks just used a little friendly persuasion to put wrong doers into place without a lot of legal hassling. I imagine that the nation as a whole would save billions of dollars every year in court costs if we all just kicked the shit out of people that were breaking the law or infringing upon our personal rights.
I personally know of a bunch of telephone solicitors that I'd love to pound into the ground if I could get my hands on them. No matter how rude you are to them they just keep on calling back because they know that you can't get a hold on them.
April 18, 2004
Saturday evenings mail contained an interesting letter from a law firm representing a motorcycle kit manufacturer who claims that we have hindered his clients business by stating on our web site that kit bikes are poor overpriced investments and further that by publishing how-to-do-it articles we are promoting unsafe fabrication practices that are the venue of professional manufacturers.
This isn't the first such letter that we've received and I don't expect that it will be the last but it does go to show that we're stepping on somebody's toes with enough pressure that it must be hurting at least a little. I don't imagine for a moment that we're hurting the sale of kit bikes but I do believe that folks who visit our site are far better prepared to ask some serious questions about a product that they intend on purchasing and I think that a lot of the fly-by-night sales operations don't like to be questioned about the crap that they're selling. In reality these types of businesses thrive on the fact that they are marketing to an 'uneducated' buying market that is simply an offshoot of the 'fad' bike craze that's presently sweeping the country.
I admit that I'm a hillbilly but I didn't fall off the turnip truck yesterday and I know that only 10% of the kits sold will ever reach the completion stage due to a variety of reasons we've touched upon in the main body of this site but I think these kit manufacturers are starting to realize that the 10% of serious builders are getting a whole lot more serious and way better educated than anybody thought and are starting to demand some serious satisfaction and technical support from the kit providers.
Before we started this little web a lot of kit manufacturers offered no technical support whatsoever! I couldn't believe it but we've had enough email to be satisfied that the vast majority of kit providers don't have the foggiest idea of how to really build a bike, they're just pushing parts and they don't give a damned about what happens after you open the box.
We could start producing hand-made custom 'rollers' tomorrow that we could sell all day long for $4500 and we'd be making a huge profit on every unit that we sold, at least 50% so you can easily see what kind of money the larger 'kit' producers are looking at when you factor in 'mass-production' fabrication and assembly techniques. This a multi-billion dollar market today and unfortunately this market is populated by some not so ethical operators so let the buyer beware.
April 17, 2004
Feedback about the magazine idea has been tremendous so we've decided to do it for sure with the first edition tentatively scheduled for release in July which is just around the corner. Depending upon the number of articles submitted the publication may end up being printed six times a year instead of four but that's still up in the air.
If you want to joint the publication team, become a correspondent, provide some artwork, run an ad or submit an article, do a feature bike spread, do a small shop article or just get some nice pictures published send us an email as soon as possible.
The magazine format is by far the best way to widely disseminate technical information covering a broad range of subjects and various bike types. In addition this format will permit a multitude of 'experts' to address a wide range of topics so we can see several different ways of approaching any single aspect of building or modifying bikes. For example, if you're like me you want to see a couple of different articles on making oil tanks and not just one skimpy series on one type of tank.
For each issue we'd like to see at least four good, well illustrated in-depth tech articles. In addition we'd like to see some features on small shops or independent builders and fabricators. I think a spread on local Tattoo shops and even a few local bars would be appropriate and then of course we'd love to see several feature articles on bikes in progress or completed rides.
This will not be a 'Harley's only' publication so we expect to cover every conceivable type of cycle from antiques to the latest metric wonders so long as they're worked on by the owner or small time operations.
April 7, 2004
We've been sifting through both old and new emails we've received and looking at the site access logs and we've determined that our little site has about 1012 'regular' visitors who have stayed with us since the beginning and about 5000 or so 'occasional' visitors who drop in every few days just to see what's happening. In between there are about a thousand new people each week who drop in to check us out and don't seem to ever return at least not in the last three or four months. After somebody mentions the site at one of the forums we have huge spikes in access that last a few days and then we're back to 'normal'.
We've had several web 'guru's' tell us how to structure the pages so that search engines pick them up better but to be honest we're not really after a bunch of regular web traffic since besides the plan sets we're really not selling anything so attracting random visitors is not our objective. What we do want to do however is to attract people who are serious about building bikes and doing as much of the work themselves as possible because home-built bikes are the best bikes.
Anyway we've looked at all of the alternatives to the web site and it appears that our best bet of presenting good technical information to a wide audience lays in publishing a magazine. Actually we're thinking more along the lines of a quarterly to start out with printed in January, April, July and October each year.
Unlike the other rags out there we're willing to pay you to write up real tech articles and not to show some bolt-up operations for the latest Hollywood gadgets. Our visitors are an incredibly inventive lot and what they're doing needs to be distributed to others and we think this is the best way to do it.
Feature articles would be limited to individual home-built and small shop-built rides only. Naked women in the article is a plus. Pretty naked women in the article is a bigger plus. Fat, greasy, middle-aged bike owners like myself will be edited out of all submitted photographs and we will digitally insert an image of Fabio in place of the real bike owner.
That being said we're looking for an editor, art director, tech writers, photographers, printers and artists who would like to become a part of the Chopper Builders Magazine which will be operated as a cooperative business with subscribers sharing in the profits of the enterprise.
If you're serious about doing anything towards this endeavor drop me a line.
April 6, 2004
I got a chuckle today when we received an email asking us to do a search for 'choppers', 'chopper frames' or 'frame jigs' from a long time visitor so I did. You guessed it. One of our 'counterparts' had posted his ad at each and every board on the internet that has wide search engine exposure. I finally found our little site about ten pages down in most of the search engine lists which only goes to show how poor these search engines really are. Here we are with a Chopper site that really shows somebody how to build a chopper but some guy who doesn't even have a real content oriented website gets top billing. The point of this post is only to direct attention back to the old ancient technology of the printed word on real paper. No matter how big or how specific the content on the Internet ever becomes it will never replace the power of print media where you can pack thousands of times more information into a single page. Our articles on this site are very condensed versions of the material that will eventually be incorporated into a hardcopy 'Handbook'. Many visitors have already complained that our scaled-down pages load to slowly since we're probably trying to cram to much into to little space so the time is approaching when we'll have to finally switch over to the published hardcopy format to be able to provide all of the building information that we want to cover in as much detail as we'd like to show.
April 1, 2004
This is not an April's Fool post like some of the other sites did today. We received a bunch of parts that we've been waiting on and I am absolutely amazed at what crap is being sold out there nowadays. The parts we received are new stuff that we've been waiting on to finish up several of the site articles. We bought the parts from 'name brand', 'top of the line' companies and we paid good money for this stuff. Ninety percent of the delivered goods had 'Made in China' or 'Made in Taiwan' stickers on it but according to the 'ads' a lot of it was supposed to be 'American Made'. Well maybe the labels were made in America.
Fortunately this stuff is for mockups so we don't have to really use it but if we did need this stuff to get a bike on the road I'd be afraid to ride it much further than down to the corner store.
I spent the better part of an hour looking at the forks we bought and for the most part these were pretty good products but the trees really sucked which leads me to the following conclusion.
The Chinese and the Taiwanese are intelligent, inventive and very well educated people who can make almost anything you could possibly imagine and make it perfectly if they had to. Both of these countries have a vast industrial infrastructure that today is technologically superior to our own nations industrial capabilities since we sold them the technology in the first place while destroying our own manufacturing plants as Ross Perot warned about several years ago.
The overseas manufacturers can probably produce excellent parts but I strongly suspect that these offshore fab facilities are instructed by American Distributors to make parts as quickly and as cheaply as possible so if we're getting shit from overseas the real root of the problem lies somewhere within our own borders and not with the overseas manufacturers as we'd all like to imagine.
I won't mention names but I know for a fact that the plants that made some of the shit we received also make some very excellent parts for some very large American concerns so as far as I can tell the stuff we bought was deliberately 'downgraded' on instructions and specifications from the American distributor so it could be 'dumped' here at a very nice profit.
The only way to stop this type of mass-ripoff is to stop buying from the mass-marketing companies who take out one and two page ads in the Chopper rags and offer 'specials' that never seem to change from month to month. We all know who they are and it's about time we sent them a message by shopping elsewhere, preferably at smaller companies who make their products here and who stand behind the stuff that they make face to face.
March 30, 2004
I received a fair amount of mail after we finished Part 10 of the Old School Buildup article and most of it consisted of inquiries about the budget for the buildup and where we get parts so cheap. I'll refer you to the site section called 'How Can I Afford a Chopper' but I just want to add that I almost never buy anything 'new' to begin with. I would if I could, and when I've got some extra bucks I spend them at J&P, Sturgis-Swap-meet, Jireh and Competition Distributing. There are probably other companies out there with good prices but I haven't really shopped around.
I spend a huge amount of time looking for 'really good deals' and while looking for the 'bottom dollar' I probably pass over some 'regular good deals' but I have time on my side at this point in my life so I can play the waiting game. I am always on the lookout for parts whether I need them or not and in most cases I really don't care to much about their condition as long as it looks like I can eventually make them serviceable. I am a regular shopper on ebay and at the various online motorcycle swap-meets and I go to every real swap-meet that's in my area. The key to cheap prices and to building a 'low-cost-chopper' is to buy 'well' used parts that nobody else wants, to be patient and wait for just the right deal to appear and to make a lot of the stuff yourself.
The rest of the mail concerned the design of the Old School Chopper itself. I probably made a mistake in not showing a finished frame at the onset of the series but I didn't have access to one at the time. Many visitors were very surprised to see that this frame is very small and even though it has a radical profile by Chopper standards it's relative low to the ground as far as the neck height is concerned. Going down the road this design looks like a small 'flying wedge'. The profile is distinctive and shouts 'chopper' all over the place but the overall height and size of the frame is more akin to a drag bike. It's what I call a 'minimalists' frame and it reflects the schooling I had when I was first taught how to build choppers.
The first thing I was taught is that you put nothing on a bike that doesn't make it go faster. The second thing I was taught is that weight and horsepower are one and the same. If you want more 'effective' power you reduce weight. If you want a heavier bike you increase horsepower. A frame was just something you had to have in order to have some foot-pegs and a place to mount the rear axle. In other words the ideal light weight chopper is an engine/tranny, two wheels, a set of forks and handlebars, a fuel tank, an oil tank, and not much more. The overriding credo however was that it all had to look 'cool' no matter how you had to cob it together.
This is where my skills and talents, few as they are, eventually came into the picture. I could draw bikes and make plans of bikes long before they got into the mockup stage and so it came to past that I drew up plans for chops based upon some 'known' equipment list and the stylistic wishes of the owner and we were completely bypassing the trial and error part of building a chopper which made it a lot easier to get the bike done right the first time out.
March 29, 2004
We have had a lot of email over the past few months asking about the Handbook doing their own discussion board someday and just recently the ChopperWeb generously offered to set up a forum for our visitors. I don't know whether or not our little site could support a forum considering that there are already so many boards our there in cyber space but I thought that maybe we would give it a try and see what happens. I normally visit about six well established boards on a regular basis and I'm not sure if we could add anything to the discussions that are already going on elsewhere but we'll see. With the exception of the board at the Horse Magazine most of the forums are pretty slow and many are more like chat rooms with a lot of interpersonal messages being sent back and forth. Some are becoming a little commercial being dominated by 'host' companies that are selling stuff under the guise of running an open forum. Hopefully we could fill a gap in the technical sector left when the Irvan-Smith board became a spam haven and lost most of its regular posters. From my standpoint a forum might save time by answering typical tech questions one time instead of doing everything in personal emails so the concept has some appeal. Anyway I'll post a link on the main page when the discussion board becomes available but in the mean time I'd like some additional feedback from visitors.
On another note I visited the Doc yesterday and my hand is healing up nicely but it looks like I won't have the full use of three fingers on my left hand without some tendon surgery so I'm still severely hampered on the shop front until something's done. Being able to only use my thumb and forefinger makes me appreciate the problems all of those 'crab' monsters in 1950 horror movies must have been going through.
Old School Update: We finished Part 10 of the Old School Frame Buildup yesterday and normally after each segment I'm inundated with questions about stuff I left out but so far I haven't received one message about that segment. This makes me wonder whether or not we're just spinning our wheels doing the articles in the first place. That being said and considering that I'm only working at about 50% efficiency right now I think that we'll leave the site contents as they now stand and hold off on any further articles until everybody has a chance to catch up. There is only so much stuff you can put on a site until it reaches a point of being unmanageable and un-useful and we may have reached that point.
March 28, 2004
We just finished doing Part 10 of the Old School Chopper article and it occurred to us at the time that most of us, even the so-called 'seasoned' riders out there have a relatively 'narrow' range of riding experience as far as different bikes go. Like many of you I've had dozens of cycles over the years but seldom have I had two of the same make and manufacture at the same time so I could realistically compare their handling characteristics side by side. As a result many of us can't really tell whether the ride we're on at any particular point in time is 'superior' or 'inferior' to it's cousin or sister ship.
My very first ride was a chopped to the bone Harley EL and on this particular bike you didn't care whether of not it vibrated, oscillated, hesitated, bucked, wobbled, weaved or wavered because it was just plain wickedly mean and fast and you just held on as best you could and kept giving it more gas until you finally chickened out. Remarkably enough that old bike went straight as an arrow and 'smoothed' out once you hit about 80 or so which was about its top end. When she finally died I 'test' rode about three dozen other bikes for daily transportation and developed some unjustified prejudices because I only rode one or two of any particular make and model. I learned to dislike Norton's because the ones I test rode vibrated horribly. I did buy a Triumph; I think it was called a 'Tiger', because it handled like a dream even though it was a small displacement bike and I also bought a Honda CB350 because it was very smooth and looked like it would be a good 'commuter'. I also bought a 'chopped' 67 Harley XLCH only because I liked the way it looked. I didn't even bother to drive it before I signed the papers.
My impression of these bikes is based upon the ones I owned and I don't know whether or not my particular bikes were representative of the makes as a whole since I never rode their counterparts. Fortunately my experience with these makes was positive and with the exception of the Nortons, which had probably been in wrecks, I felt I could make realistic comparisons within the same 'maker' .
Now when it comes to Choppers this is a completely different story since there is no such thing as a 'standard' bike. From my perspective having ridden the old EL almost any other Chopper would have been an 'improvement' but this is not the case.
Chops and other 'custom' built cycles are all different and unless you have a significant amount of chopper riding experience under your belt you won't be able to tell a 'good' chop job from a 'poor' attempt at making a chopper.
March 22, 2004
We've had a slug of mail about the co-op/club concept and the possibility of doing a quarterly, a newsletter or a magazine of our own and it's going to take a while to put turn any of these ideas into reality but we're going to be working on all of them over the next few months which brings me back to the point of the media as it relates to choppers.
If any of you out there have any really old copies of the various bike magazines to thumb back through it doesn't take long to see that there has been a trend over the years towards what I like to call 'fluff' coverage. This type of publishing concentrates on what's cheap and easy to do and you see it in all magazines not just the chopper rags. To make matters worse most mags are 90% advertising. If you tear out all the advertising pages in the typical monthly you're only left with about twelve pages of real journalistic material and only five or six serious tech pages if you're lucky. You'll also notice that a huge amount of the so-called feature articles about somebody's bike are usually reserved for rides that belong to one of the shops paying for advertising or to some celebrity builder or to some friend of a friend who knows somebody connected with the mag. There are of course exceptions but I doubt that the average Joe home-builder has magazine writers coming up to him and wanting to do a feature story.
These feature articles quickly list each and every component installed on the bike by 'brand-name' so the advertisers get some more coverage but they don't go into detail about how much the ride cost, how long it took to build, who helped out on the building (unless it's an advertisers shop), what kind of problems there were, how many parts were scrounged and from where.
Well you get the idea. I'd like to see these types of details. Sometimes I'd even like to see the bikes owner. Ever wonder why some articles show the bike and occasionally some fine looking sweetie bent over the tank with her little bum in the air but the owner isn't pictured unless he looks like a Jesse clone with a stocking cap and flannel shirt. Hell, geeks deserve exposure too. So what if the owner looks like an accountant for the IRS being strangled with Windsor knotted tie. If he built that bike he's also probably banging our little model and I say more power to him.
It's all about hype, flash, advertising, image and 'lifestyle'. I hate that last word. What in the hell is the 'lifestyle'? Is the so-called 'biker' lifestyle something akin to the rubs we saw at the Sacramento Easyriders show getting out of their air-conditioned cars wearing leathers part of the lifestyle? Is eating cold Pork and Beans out of a can when you're camped out for the night part of the 'lifestyle'? Is getting your designer Tee-shirt greasy when you overhaul an engine part of a 'lifestyle'?
I used to be into lots of drugs and alcohol, loose women, free sex, tattoo's, all types of illegal activities and hang around with a pretty hardcore group of people but I did all of that before, after and in-between owning a motorcycle so I don't think that kind of stuff constitutes a biker 'lifestyle'; it's just fun whether you own a bike or not.
Real Bikers come in all kinds of flavors but they usually build and work on their own stuff. You'll find wealthy three-piece-suiters building wicked rides in their garages at night just as easily as you'll find the typical grease-monkey putting something together in his backyard. What separates the 'Biker' from the 'Rider' is that dedication to the machine and the desire to express his or her individuality in something that only they can create. You can't hire somebody to do your work and expect that your personality will ever show through.
This last point was perfectly illustrated in one of the segments that the Discovery channel did with Jesse James where a prospective new bike owner said "I'm getting Jesse's version of my idea for the bike". For the rest of his life this guy will be riding Jesse's bike and not his own.
I'm getting madder as I write. When was the last time you saw a magazine do an article on a so-called 'rat' bike, something put together with bits and pieces from wherever by some unknown inventive builder out there who was just scraping by to make a living let alone find enough cash to put together a motorcycle? I want to see what this type of guy did and how he did it and what it cost him to do it. Hell if he's got a running scooter he's done a huge amount of work and what's most interesting is that he probably did it for minimal cash outlay. This is the real 'news' story, not some rich RUB who hired a custom built to spec.
March 16, 2004
Man did we get a truck load of mail about the 'pay-as-you-go' options for the site. I should have been a little more specific but I was tossing out ideas. What I actually envisioned was a very minimal co-op type pay operation, say $25.00 a year, maybe even less but the site would be operated more like a club where members had to have a sponsor in order to join and get access to the site. That way we could hopefully keep out the shit-heads, scam-artists, deadbeats and other types of trash that just want to milk something off of our labors and the labors of others who make parts and accessories for us small time bike builders. Members would have full access to any and all plans we develop. Hopefully if we had enough members we could begin buying parts and materials in bulk, run our own swap meet board, share resources on projects and in short build bikes for a lot less money than it currently takes doing it by ourselves. I envision a magazine run as a cooperative operation where all members share in the proceeds, and four of five bike show/meets every year sponsored by the co-op.
Others have tried the same thing and some of the new magazines have tried to cater to us do-it-youselfer's but I think that the regular visitors at this little site are a pretty hardcore bunch of hands-on people who want to do things the magazines aren't covering.
I remember when The Horse, Backstreet Choppers mag first came out and it looked like it was going to be aimed directly at the low-buck builders but somewhere along the line that operation seems to have decided to follow the Madison Avenue direction and cater to its advertisers and do a lot of 'splash and flash' articles about bike shows and meets which in my opinion is to bad. Their 'backstreet' persona is only one block off of Madison Avenue and Wall Street, not Main Street in Everytown, USA as it started out to be.
Have you ever wondered why Chopper magazines have never published frame dimensions or motor and transmission mount dimensions, the most basic type of chopper building information that there is? Have you ever in your life seen a magazine publish steering neck dimensions, bearing numbers or any other type of 'real' technical information? When was the last time you read a magazine article where they referenced factory part numbers? Are you beginning to wonder whether or not these magazine staff writers know anything at all about building real choppers? I've seen their pictures taken at shows and meets and they do wear 'chopper' shirts and they do have expensive cameras and they do rub shoulders with the illuminati of the industry. I think a handful of them actually own a bike but I've never seen a tech or feature article about their own rides. Maybe the problem with the magazines is with the writers who don't know from jack what's really going on out there and who can't tell the difference between a Sportster Chop and a regular old Big Twin.
I remember when I was just starting out that magazines like Car Craft and Rod & Custom had real tech articles. In fact in one issue I remember Ed (Big Daddy) Roth showing step by step, in detail, how to build custom blown Plexiglas bubble roofs for custom cars and in another issue how to build fiberglass bodies from scratch. When was the last time you saw an in-depth article showing you how to build a gas tank in your own garage?
What the hell is going on here? Is chopper building information so valuable that it can't be openly published? If so I'd be a millionaire based upon my own meager and limited knowledge of the subject.
Nowadays tech articles really consist of showing you how to bolt on the latest and greatest gadget made by one of the magazine's advertisers. Wide tire articles for instance are written by Avon showing how to mount the tire on a rim and not by some small shop owner trying to modify a frame to fit the tire after it's been mounted which is what we really want to see.
I'm beginning to suspect that we're all being lead down the primrose path by the Chopper print industry who may not know jack about choppers or chopper builders but they do know a lot about advertisers and celebrities who are paying the bills at our collective expense.
If you think the 'Co-op/Club' concept and maybe even a magazine has any chance of success drop me a line and think up a good name for the endeavor since it would be nice to have our own colors.
March 15, 2004
I've been laid low by a broken hand for the past few weeks. Broke several bones in my left hand trying to undo some bolts in a tube notcher that had rusted solid and the casts have kept me from work and typing except for single digit typing.
I've had some emails recently form various 'big guys' wanting us to go 'commercial' with either a magazine or a 'ezine' with paid 'memberships' to get the tech stuff and I want our visitor feedback on this. When Bev and I lived in Alaska we were members of a power generating coop called the Mantanuska Power Association where everybody hooked to the gird shared in the proceeds of the power plant. We still get pretty hefty 'dividend' checks from the coop even thought its been twenty years since we lived up there. If we do go the commercial route this is the same concept I'd like to follow.
On another note we're still fighting the battle of people ripping off our plans and selling them on ebay. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that more than one of our 'customers' are the culprits. It's one thing when somebody you don't know is selling your stuff but it's another matter entirely when somebody you've corresponded with is stealing your work and reselling it. Up to now we've had a pretty laid back approach to this since ebay has been very good in rooting out infringer's with their Vero program but it looks like we're going to have to resort to other tactics which aren't as pleasant as emails. This has become such a problem that I'm seriously thinking about stopping the sales of our plans on the web altogether and only doing business like we used to by word of mouth references.
Most folks don't know it but we've been selling chopper frame plans by word of mouth since 1985 and we provided plans to some of the nations largest frame manufacturing operations as early as 1983 which continued into 1992 when we quit doing business with manufacturers when we saw what type of shortcuts most of them were taking in building frames. From 92 until recently we only sold plan sets to clubs and individuals via the grapevine and as I mentioned above we may have to go back to this type of operation.
The alternative is 'watermarking' our plans which I think distracts from the graphics but our lawyers says that it is a viable method of protecting our rights.
As far as I am personally concerned if somebody has our plans and creates some new 'improvement' in the design then the 'new' plan is his or her own property and he or she can sell it to the hilt. My problem is with people selling my designs as their own creation and then not backing it up with tech support and follow-ups.
I have been selling stuff on ebay since 1997 and the last time I looked we had over 1000 positive feedbacks and only one negative comment. We have never sold our plans on ebay for the simple reason that we like to know who we're dealing with and on the auction sites people are hidden behind a phony user ID and redirected emails. I probably could have really retired by now if we'd sold plans on the auction sites but this option just didn't seem like the right thing to do since I was trying to sell something that somebody's life might depend on someday.
March 1, 2004
The spam engines never stop but I was finally relieved to find that they started to focus in on our little web site and what it was that we were doing. I received the first email today from 'BikerSluts' as opposed to just all the rest of the 'sluts' sending email around the world that I receive everyday. I eagerly opened the mail hoping to find some beautiful woman spread across a cycle seat showing her goods only to find that it was just another 'front' for some Viagra operation overseas. This particular ad started me thinking however of how 'biker-sluts' came to have a special distinction. In reality my own experience has been that 'biker-gals' are usually a fairly conservative bunch of women, probably Republicans, who know how to stake out their own turf. Most of these so-called biker gals do indeed get my old rod a little straighter than usual but I'd be hard pressed to call them 'sluts' and in fact I'd like to start a separate page on the site just so they could show themselves off a little, hopefully nude, but that's just my wishful thinking.
Ninety percent of the time if some poor sap has built a bike its because his significant other has either helped him or at least allowed it to happen without kicking him out of the house over the course of construction.
February 25, 2004
Okay I know it's not the 25th yet but I didn't want to put this into the last entry.
I've had literally dozens of emails over the course of the past few months complaining that the 'images' and 'pictures' on the site are to small and illegible to be useful. Some writers have implied that we've done this intentionally so we can sell more plans but I assure you that this is not the case. If I could we would post 'full size' graphics on the site but the reality is that this is impractical.
Ninety percent of the our visitors are using regular old dialup modems and even with DSL some of the graphics on the site can already take a significant amount of time to download to the browser. We've had to make a compromise between site-usability and image quality and in most cases I think we've struck a fair balance.
At the outset we wanted to publish all of the site graphics in native Auto-Cad 'Web' format but this required that site visitors have the Auto-Cad express viewer installed. Needless to say very few people have this software installed. The same thing applied to publishing in Adobe format and even extended into publishing using Microsoft Meta File format. All of these formats provide clear crisp graphics but the end user has to have the software and a machine capable of running that software effectively in order to take advantage of the improved graphics resolution. In reality I imagine that less than 10% of our visitors have this combination of new powerful computer and specialized software which is why we chose to convert all the graphics to jpeg format despite the poor resolution. Every machine and browser ever made can read and download jpeg files and wherever possible we've tried to make these files as large as possible to improve they're readability but you finally reach a point where there is nothing more that you can do. One of our drawings for instance is 30"x42" and when that's reduced to 3"x2" in a jpeg there is no way that you're going to be able to read the fine print and/or dimensions on that image no matter what you do.
Despite the criticism of some I personally think that we've done a pretty good job of providing graphics to accompany the articles that would enable people to build stuff just off the web site without buying any plans. In fact I know for certain that many people have built their frames from the web site articles without the benefit of our plans and to me at least this proves that we can still provide useful information within the constraints imposed by the Internet. In addition I know from the email we received that about twice as many people are in the process of building frames just from the info on the site than those who actually bought our plans.
Many people don't read the fine print or comprehend the entire reason we sell plans to begin with so to restate it here: The plans were prepared specifically to permit small fabrications shops and individuals who wanted to do semi-production or custom frame building to acquire a set of drawings that they could use as reference material and/or modify as required to perform custom chopper frame construction. In other words you don't need our plans if you don't want them. Our plans are in no way 'essential' for frame building any more than any other plans. Our jig is in no way superior to anybody else's jig etc, etc.
On the other hand I think that what we provide is indeed superior in many ways to what is obtainable elsewhere. There have probably been at least a thousand bikes built from our jig and frame plans since 1985. Out of that number nobody that I am aware of has had any problem with dimensions, angles or clearances which is remarkable considering the range of possible combinations of motors, transmissions and wheel/tire combinations. I have never talked with anybody using my drawings who has had any problem building a bike except there is an error in the length of the backbone material and it needs to be cut a couples of inches longer, so I think what we provide is a pretty 'painless' way of getting from point 'A' to point 'B'. Unlike other pie in the sky 'plan sets' you could buy ours are based upon reality. We have never drawn something that wasn't based upon a real physical mockup or a real running motorcycle so we are confident that our plans create a 'buildable' product unlike some of the other so-called 'plans' out there in cyberspace.
That being said visitors should understand that the purpose of this web site is not to sell plans by any stretch of the imagination. If that's all we wanted to do we could be running a very profitable operation over at ebay and you're probably aware that we don't sell plans over there and never will.
We're in the business, if you could call it that, of enabling people to put together choppers as economically as possible by doing the vast majority of work themselves. If we can't show you how to do something we'll eventually have a link to a site that'll show you how to do it without getting ripped off by some Hollywood chop shop along the way.
February 24, 2004
One of our friends apparently went off on a tangent against one of the outfits claiming to have some 'plans' for sale but the unfortunate seller happened to have some of our pictures on his site. Well the pictures aren't there anymore and it just goes to show that sometimes the best way to get something accomplished is the 'old' way which means you don't pussy-foot around calling lawyers or contacting the ebay enforcement group. You just send some 'people' after the operation that's screwing around with you. I can't mention any names but I'm deeply indebted to the folks who've helped us out in this situation and I'll repay the favor someday.
If the 'house' gets finished, up to a livable point, by June we're planning on having a party so those interested in joining us for some fun should drop me a line so I know how much beer to buy. We've got a boat dock in the back yard so for food we'll just supply some fishing poles or frog gigs for those of you who know how to use one. By the way bikes are prohibited. I just want to see fancy cars but you can still wear your leathers like everybody else in California theses days.
February 19, 2004
Well we updated several articles on the site but working on the new house is still taking all of our time. We still don't have doors on the bathrooms and the phone systems is in it's ten iteration of being 'fixed'. We're in a constant battle trying to enforce our copyrights on the frame plans but ebay and their third party investigative group are helping tremendously. It constantly amazes me to see these little so-called 'chopper' web sites springing up to sell a few parts or services, and sometimes our plans, and then they vanish just as fast as they appeared in the first place. I think the whole problem may be the Discovery channel chopper programs where people get the wrong idea that building bikes is a 'bolt-together' operation. Some people assume that they can buy a box of wrenches, a few catalogs, print some tee-shirts and hang up a banner on some building and then cash in on the chopper craze.
We're just about ready to start posting some of the really heavy stuff on the site now that we've covered most of the fluffy and easy stuff like building frames. I think that from hereon out the site will become far more technically and 'hands-on' oriented and we'll start to add a lot more step by step photographs to upcoming sections.
January 22, 2004
Some visitors have complained that I'm not answering all of my email and this may indeed be true. I generally don't even open mail coming from hosts that I know add spam advertising in the message footers. I usually trash mail from 'shadow' operations like Microsoft's hotmail.com and others. I typically won't respond to people that have a different email address every time they send me something. I do really try to answer all serious mail but sometimes it may take a couple of days before you hear from me. We're also still experiencing some phone and site outages during the house remodeling work.
We added a couple of new links to the Links page.
January 20, 2004
A couple of the site visitors emailed us to say that some fellows were selling frame jigs based on our plans on ebay for close to a thousand dollars. Well for a thousand dollars we'll not only build the jig but we'll deliver it to your house. What a total ripoff this kind of stuff is considering that the materials to build the jig cost less than two hundred dollars and I seriously doubt if the parties selling that jig can answer any intelligent questions about building the frames that the jig was designed for in the first place. I only hope that people remember that we were the first to publish this information and that we provide unlimited support for our products and services.
January 19, 2004
Like everything else in live I'm going to be late with everything I promised in all the previous posts. The 'House' project is about twice as much work and we estimated even in our 'worse-case' scenario and this is taking all of my time for the time being but it's coming along. We got a stove installed and working this weekend which was a major milestone and now we can at least cook at home but looking back on the last few weeks I wish I owned stock in McDonalds and Burger King.
Many of you visitors are now getting into your own individual projects and starting to provide feedback and sending in pictures. Our plan is to set up a separate section of the site to post these photos which from what I've seen so far should be an inspiration to anybody working on their own bikes.
One of my sons and I attended the Easyrider Bike show up in Sacramento on Sunday and we really got a kick from watching people get out of their Mbz's and Jag's wearing their leathers. Must have been a long cold trip locked up in those leather lined cages. The show was fun even though 99% of all the booths were selling clothing and trinkets. We'll have a booth of our own at the next show and are looking for folks who'd like to help out. It was fun watching Billy Lane doing some 'skin' autographs on the chests of some of his female admirer's. Thinking maybe I should have longer hair and be about thirty years younger and forty pounds lighter to get the same amount of attention from the gals. On the other hand there were some really fine looking older gals there in the crowd that were a lot more attractive than the Easyrider models. After visiting this show I am firmly convinced that the key to financial success in the biker world is to be in the leather garment manufacturing or tee-shirt stenciling business.
January 12, 2004
We seem to have survived the mail snafu that occurred around the holidays and many of you have reported getting both your original order and the plans we re-sent after Christmas. We're getting settled in to the new house. We now have a roof at least and you can no longer see daylight through the shingles and we also managed to sheetrock the ceiling where it had caved in so you can't see the old roof trusses anymore. We've still got a tremendous amount of work to do however so we won't be 100% dedicated to building motorcycles for a few more weeks.
I'll be updating the site in about two weeks and we'll finish off several of the sections that we left hanging in late November.
December 30, 2003
Pacbell came through and the site server is up and running again. We still have a lot to do on the new house so we're kind of camping-out inside the shell right now and the 'shop' is being used for storage but we're working on it and by the end of January we should be back in full operation. I apologize for being so late in answering emails but we were without internet service for about five days and in that time we've accumulated a backlog of over a thousand messages which I'm trying to wade through today and for the rest of the week.
I also apologize for many of you not receiving the drawings you ordered around the first of December. We have re-mailed many of the plan sets originally sent out on 12-3 and 12-5 but we're now hearing that some of you did not receive the drawing packages we sent out between 12-12 and 12-22 as well. If you have not received you drawings email me and I will send out new sets asap.
December 2, 2003
Due to the overwhelming response we've had about doing some frame kits we finally decided on what we could provide and the prices we'd have to charge. I added the updates to the web page this morning and feel really good about doing this since many of our correspondents have equipment to weld up a frame but don't want to invest in the other tooling just to build one frame. This move kind of takes me out of retirement and puts the pressure on to get the new shop setup and find a new spot for the old mark II bender I've had since 88. We are going to reactive our old manufacturers ID that we discontinued in 91 so we can provide MSO's with the kits which will help out a lot of small shop operations.
November 26, 2003
Pacbell has said that they will keep our IP addy the same after the move and that everything will be 'seamless' which means to me that nothing will go as planned and everything will get screwed up for a few weeks. The contractors working on the new place are hopelessly behind schedule and the house needs about twice as much work as expected. The really bad news is that the electrical service entrance is max'd out and can't be upgraded since the subdivision service transformer is also max'd out and the electricians say I can't get outlets for the welders.
November 18, 2003
The site is getting over 5000 hits per day which amazes me and emails have increased dramatically so we are trying to add a little everyday to the site.
We are extremely disappointed that one of our customers thinks he can make a quick buck by reselling our plans on ebay. Over the past thirty years I have never been ripped off by a fellow biker unfortunately these guys sold some some of our plans but didn't really deliver the goods so we've had a lot a calls from folks wanting to know what was going on. He's worked some loopholes and is continuing to sell the plans but I cannot provide technical support for those of you who have bought his merchandise which is why I had the big notice on the entry page.
What goes around comes around.
Update: We shut his ebay operations down and shut his site down as of 11-24-03 and now the lawyers are deciding on what to do with his inventory to pay off his legal fees. At last count he burned about fifty people on the plan scam and another 200 or so on phony parts sales.
October 22, 2003
We have been averaging over a hundred emails per day since the site first went on line and I am extremely appreciative of those who have provided suggestions about how we can improve the site and of those who have taken the time to show us some good web graphics we can adopt whenever we have time. I try to answer everybody's mail every day but I apologize if it takes a few days for you to hear back as we are simply swamped.
I especially want to thank those who have purchased frame plans as the income from these drawings are my only means of support at the present time.
Sept. 24, 2003
Response to the site has been impressive and I am very appreciative to those who have written in to express their views. I was very surprised at how many emails we received from large shop owners who were less than enthusiastic about what we were doing and one frame manufacturer claimed we couldn't publish frame plans or mount specifications because they were 'patented' which is hogwash. Another shop said we could not encourage people to build their own frames because they weren't being put together by 'certified' welders. We got a nasty letter from a law firm telling us to put a disclaimer on the entry page saying we were in no way affiliated with the H-D factory or else. We've had several emails from shops telling us we would 'ruin' the industry if we published frame specs and end up flooding the roadways with a bunch of substandard bikes built by amateurs.
I have to laugh at most of these negative e's since the whole chopper industry, if there really is such a thing, is fueled and driven by 'amateurs'. In fact most of the really original bikes are being built by 'amateurs' working out of their garages at home. Very little good stuff is coming out of large shops and unfortunately many of the smaller shops have lost sight of why they went into business in the first place which is why this little site is doing so well.
You cannot possibly imagine the horror stories we hear everyday from our visitors who have had dealings with so-called 'custom' or 'chopper' shops around the country. There are some good shops out there but you have to search for them.
Sept. 11, 2003:
After years of lurking at a variety of motorcycle tech forums I noticed that the same questions were being asked over and over again and that most of these questions concerned obtaining very basic chopper building information. The type of information that was foundational to the essence of a chopper and usually represented the 'starting point' of a building project which is usually the frame. I was amazed at how often these posts were never responded to so I began answering a few here and there, providing whatever info I could to the discussion. I began to get emails asking me to publish something on the web so we started this site with a few pictures of motor and tranny mounting dimensions and it has grown from that meager beginning.
I am no Chopper expert by any stretch of the imagination and I am not especially skilled in any particular field but I have built a couple of hundred frames in my day and finished out about twenty bikes so I know just enough to get the job done but I still rely on the advice and experience of others in the field which is why I still visit about six discussion forums on a regular basis. I encourage everybody seriously interested in choppers to do the same as this is one way we can keep expanding our knowledge base and I hope that our little site adds to this endeavor in some small way.
By today's standards I guess I could be called a 'Graybeard' since I began riding Brit bikes in 1962 even though I didn't get my first Harley until 1967. I've had three major accidents, none of which were my fault, that have taken their toll on the old body but thankfully I'm still alive and able to continue messing around with bikes even though I'm now retired, if you could call it that, living in California where taxes are our single biggest expense.
I started my working life helping to build sprint cars and drag bikes in the Midwest and eventually moved into a position of fabricating chassis parts for group 7 CanAm cars down in Texas before setting up a general steel fabrication operation out here in California in 1974. A large part of our work over the next fourteen years included dragster chassis work and custom bike frames which is how we originally developed the plans listed on this site.
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