View Full Version : Vigilante in Madison, Wisconsin

05-13-2010, 08:59 AM
I just bought and printed the plans last night, then read them cover-to-cover (114 pages)

I cut the hub out of a spare wheel I had (EXACTLY like the one in the plans, 26 inch diameter), and welded in the spokes already. I didn't know about the centering trick in the plans when I welded them into the rim, so it'll be a bit more complicated to get my wheel spinning true, but it should be easy enough. :\

I'm going to use all round tubing, since that's easier/cheaper for me to find at the local hardware store. The square tubing is more than 4 times the price of round EMT conduit. O_o
EMT is also much lighter and comes in many different sizes.

10ft of 1" EMT is $5.22
4ft of 1" square is $10.99!

I also found a local source of junked bike parts! It's a shop that rebuilds donated bikes and sells them, but the stuff they can't use, they junk in a recycling dumpster out back! I picked up 30ft of perfectly clean chain the other day, as well as a little girl's bike with a good head tube and crankset. The dumpster is half full with frames and wheels of all sorts, some of which even have 3-piece cranks, brake cables, and nice brakes.

And you can't beat the price. ;)

Radical Brad
05-13-2010, 01:22 PM
Glad you decided to go for it! Can't wait to see how it will look when you progress.


05-17-2010, 12:08 AM
Progress! I halved and lenghthened a coaster brake hub today. Can I still use it as a brake after it has been lengthened or will it now just be a non-braking hub?

The hub is MASSIVELY overbuilt! I never realized how thick the metal is on these coaster brakes! The one I'm using came off a tiny girl's bike with 12 inch wheels and the hub cylinder walls are at least 3/8 inch thick!

I'm going to remove and redo the spokes I welded into the rim. getting the wobble out may prove difficult the way I had intended so I'll chop it out and start over like the plans describe. No big deal.

The round tubing seems like it could be boring, but I have some ideas for details similar to the ones in the plans, but translated to round tube.

I have some pictures on Facebook of my progress and I'll post them tomorrow when I get to a real machine. (I'm posting this from my phone)

05-17-2010, 10:41 AM
You can check out my Facebook Album (http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=433877&id=823485532&l=1dc4532d38) for photos of the build as it progresses.
So far I have completed:

Welded spokes into rim (I will re-do these because I like the centering trick described in the manual - I did the original spokes before I had the plans)
Lengthened hub (a coaster braking hub) with 2 inch EMT.
Lengthened rear axle with solid axle rod.

My next step will be to redo the spokes on the rear axle, then hopefully work on the main tube and rear dropouts.

I'm wondering whether I should use prebent EMT for the rear triangle, or try to do some sharp 45s manually.

The original design is all square and all angles, but my round tubes might look weird with sharp corners.

There should will be plenty of other sharp bits on the frame - I want to form a sort of 'bullet' shape at the ends of some of the tubes. An alternative would be to just do a long slash-cut at the end of the tubes and cap them with a long oval shape. The bullet would be much harder to get right though - lots more 'blacksmithing'.

I'm also not so sure about the matte black finish - I do like it, don't get me wrong, but I've always been a fan of the hammered paint - maybe a dark grey hammered look. It would hide a lot of welding sins as well. :P


05-17-2010, 12:24 PM
Another modification - I'd like to use a front derailleur with three gears. I have a nice shimano crankset with the top gear being 48 teeth (rear is 18). This is quite a high ratio (2.67) for speed, so the lower gears will undoubtedly help on the slopes.

I like both going fast , but also cranking up hills without dismounting.

05-18-2010, 12:03 AM
I'm so frustrated.

I just put the lengthened rear axle back together, only to find that it doesn't work. Doesn't drive, doesn't brake. Doesn't do much of anything but spin, really.
Spins well with all that fresh grease though.

I also can't use the spokes I've already welded into the wheel, so basically the only progress I've made so far is this:

* Remove center of rear wheel
* Buy some pipe

I need to either find a BMX freewheel hub like the plans say, or get very creative with a multi-geared rear hub (of which I have many cheap huffy-types, and at least one very nice shimano).

Sure would be easier, actually, if I could use a clustered rear set.

I'll figure something out - stay tuned...

05-19-2010, 08:49 AM
Went to Dream Bikes (http://dream-bikes.org/) last night. No steel BMX hubs to be found anywhere...
All the steel single-speed hubs were coasters, all the BMX hubs were aluminum.

I did, however find a 3-speed Sturmey Archer hub, which I will have fun dissecting, and a 20 inch aluminum wheel which should look pretty sweet on the front of the chopper. I'll use it if I can't find a chrome steel one in the meantime.

If I can't find a BMX hub by next week, I'm going to try to figure out a way to use a shimano 6-cog freewheeler that I have. I'll take off all but one gear and see what I can do about lengthening it

I also figured out a spoke pattern.
I want to make a + out of larger (1 1/2" tube), then use smaller (1" or 3/4") for 8 total.

I want sort of a British feel, and the spokes will look a bit like a union jack.

Radical Brad
05-19-2010, 12:45 PM
I didn't think a coaster could be lengthened, but you were brave enough to try! Keep hacking... a solution always presents itself.


05-20-2010, 12:42 AM
Well, today I made up a bit for lost time.

After work, I bought a couple of tools from the bike store - a crank puller, and a Shimano hub wrench.

They didn't have any steel BMX hubs to be found - just a display case with gleaming aluminum jobbies.

If the steel BMX hubs are really that difficult to find, I think the plans should suggest regular multi-cog hubs from mountain bikes. You can get those on any curb. The hub I have will work great, and you can even buy a single-cog freewheel for it if you want. The only issue is that the axle tube is narrow - that's not much of a problem though, since I'll be welding a large diameter tube around the outside.

When I got home, I set to work to disassemble the crank and hub.

Word to the wise: Leave the damn hub in the wheel if you plan to take the gear cluster off. Without the spokes holding everything together and providing something to wrench against, it was a royal pain in the arse to remove. A few nights back, I had cut all the spokes off (I didn't want the wheel), and it made my job 10 times more difficult today. :dunce2:

I ended up welding a piece of steel onto the hub so that I could get enough torque to get the freewheel off. Oh, but that didn't do it because the press-fit hub ends just spun!! So I welded the hub ends to the central tube. One of the welds broke loose, so I welded some more.
Finally, it did come off, but the hub looks a bit tatty. It's nothing a good angle grinder won't fix though.

Then I cut out the old spokes and ground the rim flush. I have plenty of cuts to weld fill on the rim, and I bought some flap disks the other day so I can polish it up nice before painting.

Sorry I'm so verbose - I get project tunnel vision and love to share. :P

Radical Brad
05-20-2010, 01:46 AM
The steel hubs are just generic departments store hubs, not necessarily from a BMX. Here is a bit more info on freewheel removal, and yes... without a rim to hold, it is a tough job!



05-23-2010, 11:35 PM
Woo-hoo! My rear wheel is DONE!!

Well, not completely done - the tire needs to be remounted and a new valve installed. (Yes, I did _everything_ wrong until I bought the plans...)

In one long,crazy day, I fishmouthed the pipes, welded them all together, cut and attached the axle extension tubes, cut the axle in half, lengthened the axle and put all of it back together into a complete wheel, then greased and reinstalled the bearings.

Check the Facebook album I llinked to before for up-to-date photos!

Next stop, framesville.

05-24-2010, 01:23 PM
Here's what I did yesterday, in pictures:

Shaped the tube ends with the angle grinder

Welded tubes together

Cleaned up the welds

After attaching the hub, I trued up the wheel

Spokes welded in and cleaned

I'd like to do the wheel (at least the spokes) with just a clear coat. The polished spokes look sweet.

05-24-2010, 01:40 PM
Love it! That is a great looking wheel! Good job. -Taylor-

05-24-2010, 04:44 PM
Thanks Taylor! I'm mighty proud of 'er.

I burnt through 5 cutoff wheels, a flap disk and half of a solid grinding wheel so far.
I also ran out of welding wire (not that there was much on the reel when I started)

Hopefully the rest of the frame will be easier - less welds, less grinding. And my welding is getting better every day, so that doesn't hurt with cleanup.

If I can keep this pace up, I'll be cruisin' in no time.

05-27-2010, 08:24 AM
I had a 20 inch rim laying around, so I bought a brand new tread for it. It looks pretty spiffy. This'll be my front wheel. It does need a bit of bearing care (kinda grindy), but that should be trivial. If the hub is too far gone, I have another hub that I can steal the bearings from. The spoke count is different though (36 vs this wheel's 48)


05-27-2010, 08:34 AM
Fantastic! Very cool rear end. Yes, if you can tackle the rest if the frame like you did that rear wheel it should be a walk in the park for you. :rockon:

05-27-2010, 11:23 AM
Question, has any one tried to do a front wheel like your rear wheel? Or would welding bars inside a regular bike rim cause it to warp? Or be way to hard to true it when done?
Just idle thoughts, but would look different and possibly very cool. Could be a way to add some designs or artistic flare to an otherwise boring front wheel. Like I said, just a couple of thoughts / questions.
Any idea's or thoughts on this:builder2:?

Radical Brad
05-27-2010, 12:28 PM
Great progress so far!


05-27-2010, 01:36 PM
Wow nice spokes Tree! Love the metal-look, I'm sure it will look great if you use only a clear coat. Enjoy your build!

05-27-2010, 03:51 PM
I imagine your concerns about welding a regular bike rim are valid - hard to true up, and the danger of warping.

You could start with a motorcycle or scooter rim perhaps, or even a compact spare from a very small car. It might look 'odd' though.

The smaller bike wheel is the look I was hoping for.

Thanks for the encouragement, all.
Tomorrow I'll be doing a 'Critical Mass' ride on my cruiser bike, then the weekend will (hopefully) bring more progress on the Vigilante.

I've got a couple of names for it, too. What do you think of "The Prisoner" (an homage to the British TV Series), or maybe "The Sentinel"

06-02-2010, 01:30 PM
A bit of progress this past weekend. I layed the wheels and crank out, sat on a bucket, and determined the approximate length of the main tube, then capped it with a convex half-pipe. It looks pretty nice! Too bad it'll be under the seat and you'll hardly ever see it. :P


I didn't realize at the store that I had already bought 10 feet of 1.5" pipe, so now I have 10' of 2" (for the frame) and 20' of 1.5"! Because I ran out of 1" building the spokes, I'm upsizing everything else on the bike to 1.5". The rear triangle legs and forks will all be the same size, and look pretty beefy because of it.

Last Friday, I went on a critical mass ride and met a tall-biker named Max from the Jefferson Rat Patrol club. Now I really want a tallbike!! As if I need more projects... *rolls eyes*

Anyway, more progress! huzzah!

Admin: Any chance you can change the title of this thread to: "Vigilante Build in Madison, Wisconsin" Pretty please??

Conduit Outside Diameters (http://www.porcupinepress.com/_bending/conduit_size.htm)
Tube Coping Templates (http://metalgeek.com/static/cope.pcgi)

06-02-2010, 03:20 PM
Whoa, nice work, dude!

(geezer & bent enthusiast at large)

06-03-2010, 11:36 PM
Some more progress tonight!

First, I cut two 90 degree 1.5" EMT bends in half to make 4 45s, then I fishmouthed the straight ends of two of them to fit the larger 2" main tube. I didn't take any photos of it until I fully welded these two pipes to the main tube.

From there, I cut two short pieces of 1.5" and slash-cut the ends at 45 degrees, then lined the pipes up with the fork in the orientation required and nibbled the fork ends down with the angle grinder so they fit smoothly to the extension tubes.
I welded that all up, and this is what it looked like.

Here I am with my main tube!

I messed up a bit, and It's slightly too narrow for the hub to fit, but the difference is small enough to take up with a bit of grinding once the dropouts are tacked on.

06-14-2010, 12:10 AM
More progress tonight! Photos are in the Facebook album. I'll share them in the thread tomorrow when I have a real computer in front of me.

Basically, I attached the rear dropouts and bolted the wheel on. It's starting to look more like a real bike (or half of a really cool wheelbarrow!)

I've finally got it through my thick skull to tack first, assemble, THEN final weld. I've fully welded too many bits too soon and had to either live with it or do it over. I lucked out with the split rear tube - they weren't more than 1/4" off in total, so it was easy enough to hide the difference behind the dropouts.

06-14-2010, 10:02 AM
I have yet to trim the edges of the dropouts, or fully weld the plate to the fork ends, but here are some pics.
In the last photo, you can see that the wheel isn't centered in the fork opening - this is because of the large gear cluster on one side (That'll be the right side, but in the photos, it's on the left)

I used 3/16" flat bar for the dropouts.


Radical Brad
06-14-2010, 10:38 AM
It's really coming along now.. looking forward to the rest.


06-14-2010, 11:34 AM
Hey Brad, can you change the title of this thread to "Vigilante in Madison, Wisconsin" ??

I'd like to keep posting to this thread, but don't like the title. :P
I'll be more forward-thinking in my thread subjects in the future.

It also occurs to me that what I'm doing is actually more of a blog-style. Would you prefer I used the blog feature of the site?

06-14-2010, 11:14 PM
Thanks for the thread name change, Brad! You're faster than I expected!

A bit of additional progress tonight. I welded the downturn in the main tube - I guess I didn't have to, but I liked the effect. Personally I think it's part of what makes the Vigilante shape 'work'.


Here's a detail of the cleaned up weld.

A tip on rotating a round tube 180 degrees (that I only thought of after I was done):
Draw a straight line on the tube, wrap a piece of paper around it and cut the paper to the exact circumference length, now fold the paper in half and mark it. Then wrap the paper around the tube once more and use the half-way mark to get the other side. Now cut the pipe and line up the two marks on both sides.

I didn't do this, and had to 'eyeball' it - messy.

06-15-2010, 09:20 AM
Looking great Tree! It's looking bad A$$ so far. Keep up the great work.

06-15-2010, 06:25 PM
Hi, Tree:

It appears in the pictures that you will run the chain on the left side instead of the right. Is this just to setup the rear fork, or are you planning on a left-handed derailleur?


06-15-2010, 11:50 PM
Nope, if you look at the latest pic, the freewheel is on the right.

The pics before I welded the main tube 'downturn' were taken with the assembly upside down, so the freewheel appeared to be on the left.

A bit more progress again tonight! I cut to length and slash-cut the fork tubes, then cut, welded and slotted the dropouts.
I'll attach the dropouts to fork tubes prolly tomorrow evening.

An impressive amount of progress can be made in 1 1/2 hours each night after work!

06-17-2010, 08:53 AM
Well, crap. My server at home lost it's connectivity yesterday, then I forgot about it, and now I can't fix it because now I'm at work. Alas.
I've copied the images up to a work server here and redirected the domain to it. You should be able to see the images once again.

I've got pictures of the dropouts when I slotted them the other day, and just last night I radically slash-cut the fork ends and welded the dropouts to the forks. I also salvaged a head tube from a junk frame and cleaned it up.

Slashed the forks, welded/ground the dropouts to match

I didn't like the 45 degree slash, so I cut them about twice as long, using a laser level, sharpie and the grinder to make the cut! I'll explain this if anyone is interested!
I still have to cap the fork ends.

Here's the fork with front wheel attached. It's gonna look sick!

06-18-2010, 12:43 AM
Welded head tube inner to the forks.

Ran into an issue with the head tube angle - My head tube isn't long enough to pass through the main tube at a shallow enough angle for the proper steering trail. The steering could be funky. To compensate, I cut the main tube at the 'kink' and angled it down a few more degrees. This allowed me to fix an earlier problem - it was slightly out of plane, so I rotated it a little before I tacked it back together.

The head tube will still have to be slightly resessed into the main tube at the bottom, but I'll deal with it.

Also, here's a sexy shot of the forks:

06-18-2010, 10:21 PM
IT LIVES! :*****:

I mean... It stands up on it's own... with the help of a cat litter box on the rear wheel...

Alright - progress today:

Cut main tube in half to get head tube in there (I spent an hour on grinding/filing the hole, but gave up.
Lined up and tacked head tube in place, tested for fit and alignment
Ground/re-attached rest of main tube, then cut it off at a nice angle.

The head tube wasn't long enough to go all the way through, so I passed it most of the way through and then capped the main tube at a good point that doesn't interfere with the lower tube opening.

Then I fully welded everything, ground down/cleaned all the welds up, polished the bearing races with a dremel polishing wheel, cleaned, greased, re-assembled.

The bearings are DONE and it stands on it's own so I can take pictures!

Speaking of which...

Fully welded head/main tube, not cleaned - you can see how I put it all together - still had big gaps which needed to be built up with filler weld.

Head tube is done, polished, greased and standing on it's own!

One more shot of the polished main/head tube connection. :smartass2:

Brad, you're my hero. :scooter:

Radical Brad
06-19-2010, 01:26 AM
Nice clean work on the front dude!


ken will
06-19-2010, 05:52 AM
I really like the way you did the Head Tube !

When you get ready to paint, mask it off and paint the head tube a darker color then the tube it is inserted into.

06-20-2010, 12:59 AM
Thanks Brad & Ken - that means a lot. :D

Ken - not a bad idea - it'd look cool to offset the pipes. I might put a little cartoon skull or something on the upside-down-U shaped end cap.
In case you're wondering how I shaped the end cap - I mocked it up with a bit of paper and cut/ground a piece of flat material it to fit.

I also found that it's pretty easy to make sheet metal the same thickness as your tubing - cut off a chunk of tubing, slice it down the side and then unroll/flatten it with a hammer and a block of wood. Now you can cut it to any shape you need!

I might actually be getting decent at this!

Tomorrow, I hope to work on the crank and the rest of the frame.
For now, American Chopper is on. :D

06-20-2010, 08:05 AM
Tree, that's comin' along real nice!
Great work on that front end in particular! :rockon:

(Geezer & Bent Enthusiast At Large)

06-20-2010, 11:50 PM
Tree... Looks fantastic! Spot on. Since your in the welding stages could you use this
idea for a cross member to add a front brake? 1" tube with a standard front caliper.
It also helped me with fork strength. Or maybe your going to have a disk brake... If so, never mind. :rolleyes4:


06-22-2010, 12:27 AM
Thanks SirJoey & groucho! I'm just startin' out here, but really enjoying myself. :)

Yep, I plan on mounting a set of cantilever brakes on the forks, probably with a small tube to connect the forks (just for strength)

Does the front wheel typically want to always flop over to one side or the other on these things? Never had a chopper before.

Sunday and tonight I made some more progress! Sun. I lengthened the bottom bracket tube and crank axle. Today I built the downtube.

I'll link the pics in a day or two but you can see them now in the Facebook album, since I upload them there the moment I take them. :P
I'm VERY happy with how the downtube turned out!! It's beautiful! 1 -1/2" EMT in a very tight V with the BB at the wide end (bottom). A long slash, 8-9", had to be cut into the two tubes so they would join. It wasn't all that tough to weld either. MIGs friggin' rock. I will need a narrow file to clean up the inside of the V, but the flap disk and cutoff wheel did most of the polishing.

I think I could be riding this thing in 2 weeks!!!

06-22-2010, 04:22 AM
Does the front wheel typically want to always flop over to one side or the other on these things? Never had a chopper before.

Yep. It all depends upon how much trail you have.
0 trail = no flop at all but horrible handling.
2-3" trail is the norm for most bikes.
Once over 6" trail then flop becomes very very noticeable.
Can you ride with this amount of flop? Yes, It just takes practice but dont try no hands.
The flop disappears the faster you go.

06-22-2010, 08:57 AM
Here's the crank axle, almost fully welded. I ran out of welding wire just before finishing!

Here's the bottom bracket and how I lined the crank up before welding!!
A 1/2" EMT conduit, sliced down one side and with 'windows' cut so I can see/weld the parts together. After inserting everything into this contraption, the axle is tightened into the bottom bracket to line up the bearings and taken out again. After tacking the axle together, the conduit can be removed from the outside.

And now the pièce de résistance, the down tube. These photos aren't so great. When I have the whole bike together, I'll take some better shots with our nice camera.

The down tube was pretty cool to build. I used the laser level trick to get a perfectly straight slash cut on both tubes (laser, mark w/ sharpie, cut, laser the inside of pipe, cut again)
Once I had an equal slash cut on both tubes, the welding went pretty easy.

06-22-2010, 09:18 AM
cool jig for the pedal axle.
This will be a smooth looking machine

06-23-2010, 10:58 PM
I'm trying to decide on a detail for the bottom tube.

The most complicated is also the hardest to explain. Imagine a double slash cut, ending in a line, then turn that 90 degrees and overlay it so that the end of the pipe is a +. It'd look badass, but take forever - lots of inside corners to weld and grind out.

There's also the square slash, triangular slash and double slash.
The square and tri end in a point while the double ends in a line.

It just occurred to me that I could do a double, but without the slashes parallel - the tube would end in a point at the bottom of the tube and would look pretty radical.

Thoughts? Suggestions? What have you seen that looked cool?

06-29-2010, 09:59 PM
I've stalled a bit on the build. I got caught up in tallbikesville to do a Critical Mass event (nobody showed up but me and one other tallbiker!) then I had some work to do on our classic MG for a car show last weekend (we lost).
Then, on Sunday, I built a hatch over our basement stairs so we could put a mudroom in and open up the back hallway some.

Oi! Too many projects!! :juggle2:

Need to concentrate on finishing the Vigilante now.

Next up:

1) Fishmouth top of downtube and tack onto main tube
2) Cap one end of the 2" bottom tube
3) Detail/cap the pointy end of the bottom tube
4) Fishmouth 1 1/2" 45s for the bottom tube fork, tack to bottom tube
5) Fishmouth bottom tube fork ends, tack to 45s and main tube fork
6) Test for fit and fully weld everything, FRAME IS DONE.

Wish me luck that I can find the time to work on it this week...

Even just posting this gives me a spark of interest. I'm like a gas engine - constant sparking is required or my projects sputter and die.

06-30-2010, 08:37 AM
...to do a Critical Mass event (nobody showed up but me and one other tallbiker!)
Wotta shame. FWIW, I'da definitly been there if I lived anywhere nearby.

(Geezer & Bent Enthusiast At Large)

07-01-2010, 11:28 PM
1) Fishmouth top of downtube and tack onto main tube... DONE!

Daaannngg was it tough getting the crank/bottom tube lined up right.

I had to lay the bike on it's side and sight through the forks, across the down tube to the main tube. Then I tacked it in like 6 places, stood the bike up and found out it was WAY crooked in the vertical axis. I had to cut the tacks and start over... I think it's pretty well perfect now though!

I'm not entirely sure I have the crank far enough back. I measured another one of my bikes and it's 28" from the crank to the center of the seat. The Vigilante is at 29" right now and I'm not sure it's going to be comfortable. I may have to cut the rear tacks and bend it back a little - won't be difficult.

Oh yeah, did I mention I found an old 10-speed Murray bike with a cool springy seat? It's got little chrome tacks down the sides, and it fits the style of the bike perfectly! I love trash day.

Next step: cap & style the bottom tube! I'm looking forward to this, as I've got some cool ideas!

07-03-2010, 11:22 PM
Pictures coming, lots of 'em.

Yesterday, I cut some very nice slashes in the bottom tube, and capped them with flattened tube sheeting. Here they are in progress.

Lined up the bottom tube on the frame

Here's a detail shot of my work. I LOVE how it turned out.

Here's the frame, not fully welded, but fully together!
It was a HUGE pain in the butt to get the two side tubes fishmouthed onto the main tube forks. I did it all freehand, and it took HOURS. In the end, one of the tubes was a bit crooked so I had to slice 3/4 of the way around the tube, bend it and reweld. It worked out OK though!

Detail of the beast's hindquarters.

The skewer. It's actually VERY blunt at the end, but it looks sharp.

Continued in next post..

07-03-2010, 11:23 PM
Detail shot from above, showing the head tube.

Here she stands so far. Handlebarless and no support bracket for the top of the forks. It is fully welded though, except for a few pinhole fills I need to do and of course the rest of the grinding work.

The only steps left are:
Support bracket for fork tops,
Cap ends of forks,
Clean/grind welds,
Oh yeah, and build some handlebars - a bit like these:

07-04-2010, 06:54 AM
Thats one fully sick piece of work. Its going to look totally awesome when finished:rockon:

07-04-2010, 09:50 AM
Wotta great frame! Pity the poor, stupid dog that gets in ur way! :laugh3:

(Geezer & Bent Enthusiast At Large)

07-04-2010, 08:27 PM
Today, I rigged a top support for the forks, built a set of handlebars, put the pedal crank back on and had my FIRST RIDE!

Once I got the handlebars and forks sorted, I coasted down the road with no pedals - I was going to finish the forks and clean up the welds a bit, but I HAD TO RIDE IT, so I switched directions and put the pedals, chain and derailleur on it.

It took me 5 tries to get the chain right - twice with no derailleur, then 3 different iterations of chain shortening, gear choice, cable length to finally ride it smooth and quiet!

All together and rideable.

Handlebars - I would like to lengthen them a bit.

It rides like a Cadillac - smooth and quiet.
Except Cadillacs usually have brakes. :P

07-04-2010, 11:27 PM
Sick man, sick! :punk:

(Geezer & Bent Enthusiast At Large)

07-05-2010, 08:00 PM
Totally love it tree! Quite the piece of artwork/machinery. I've enjoyed watching it grow. What color are you going with? I'm drooling just thinking about splashing some paint on it.

07-05-2010, 09:28 PM
I was thinking of a deep metallic green, but am open to suggestions.
When the time comes, I'll have to read up on paint prep and techniques.

07-05-2010, 11:18 PM
I was thinking of a deep metallic green, but am open to suggestions.
When the time comes, I'll have to read up on paint prep and techniques.

Tree, is it metallic green or green metal flake, if it is green metal flake I would recommend charcoal metal flake for the forks. I did that on my Highroller and it looks great. :punk:
you can't really tell from the picture but the metal flake really shines

07-06-2010, 09:30 AM
I'm just going with metallic/pearlescent paint, not the 'boat paint' metal flake stuff.
It'll be whatever I can find in a spray can from the hardware or auto parts store.

Before color, I'll have to sand the whole thing to get rid of any spatter and galvanizing texture, then I'll lay on several coats of high build primer before sanding again to fill in all the little gaps and pits left around the welds, then several coats of color.

Here's the approximate color I'm going to try for.

07-06-2010, 07:51 PM
My loving wife took a video of me riding the bike!

First ride (one of, anyway) (http://static.ak.fbcdn.net/rsrc.php/z4OG5/hash/7qkbs3nb.swf?v=10150209668970533&ev=0)

You may want to make your browser window smaller, as it'll probably open full screen (my machine doesn't like that much).


07-06-2010, 08:46 PM
Great Job! Loved the video! Keep on truckin'!

07-06-2010, 09:18 PM
Looks like it handles well for a chopper. Nice work!

(Geezer & Bent Enthusiast At Large)

07-06-2010, 09:50 PM
It handles pretty well, yeah. There's no such thing as riding hands free though - too much flop.

If I could get a decent/quiet idler and strap the shifter cable to the frame, it would be nearly silent too.

Took it out for a bit tonight too, and oh boy is it a good workout to crank up any sort of hill!!

And the seat is worse than uncomfortable - it's painful! I need to get the granniest of granny seats, with like 4 inches of foam over 2 inches of gel and springs.
Wouldn't mind having the crank an inch closer too. :(

Oh well, it's totally badass, and I can move/replace the seat.

It needs BRAKES. But first it needs to be finished!

07-06-2010, 11:22 PM
I liked the vid tree. Its a birth of a new chopper. Its kind of like spanking a new born babe and making it cry a little for the first time. :rockstar:

07-07-2010, 08:46 AM
There's no such thing as riding hands free though - too much flop.

...and oh boy is it a good workout to crank up any sort of hill!!

And the seat is worse than uncomfortable - it's painful!
Man, that SOOOO sounds like mine, on ALL 3 counts, but I bet I've got U beat on
difficulty of climbing even the slightest grade, & EXCRUCIATINGLY painful seat! :laugh3:

For starters, mine weighs in at 102 lbs, & secondly, the way I made the seat, the top EDGE
of the "back support" part catches me right on the tailbone, & to make matters worse,
the seat is nothing but plywood with a thin layer of that blue camping mat over it! :eek:


Sounds to me like they're evil cousins or something! :*****:

(Geezer & Bent Enthusiast At Large)

07-08-2010, 03:18 PM
My seat's not nearly 'excruciatingly' uncomfortable, but it's not like sitting on the couch either. I think it needs to be angled up more, and maybe repacked with new foam.

Because of the riding position, a lot of my weight is concentrated on a very small area - Some sort of back support would certainly be good.

07-11-2010, 08:47 PM
It's the fiddly little things that take the most time!! - I took nearly a half hour trying to figure out how to mount the brake handle with screws, clamp straps, etc. I finally just fired up the welder and ran a bead around it. DONE. I'll grind it off when I find a better solution *sigh*

In no particular order...
I mounted the cantilever studs to the forks (PITA!) and put brake pads in the holders.
I then cut up a nicely ovaled and tapered front fork and shaped it into a V for a very attractive brake strut. I took it for a test drive and the brake works just fine - the fork judders and it squeaks if you brake hard, but it works plenty good.

I modified the handlebars - the test rides revealed that they were 1) too short, 2) too wide and 3) had an uncomfortable angle so I remedied all three - angled back, lengthened, and added a grip downturn.

The crank was too far away (31 inches - should have been 28), so I ground off the seat post and moved it a few inches forward. Holy comfortable, Batman!

Having sorted the comfort and riding bits, I can disassemble and do the following:
* cap/style both fork ends
* attach the fork bracket bolts
* cap the handlebar ends
* improve the chain idler wheel
* rig a kickstand

07-12-2010, 10:36 PM
Tonight - no pictures, because I didn't really build anything new.

I capped the fork ends, finished welding forks and handlebars, then rough ground all the welds.

07-12-2010, 11:26 PM
Everything is really flowing Tree. Great idea on yor front brake setup.

I think Everything from start to finish is "the build" so in my opinion... you were building. Haha!

07-16-2010, 11:14 PM
Well, a bit more progress today.
I thought I wasn't going to do the fender until much later, but when I got to the garage I picked up the plans, turned the page, and THERE IT WAS. I decided I might as well do it now rather than put it off and maybe never come back to it.

When our old next door neighbors moved out a couple years ago, they had an oil drum behind their garage. The new couple that moved in wanted it gone before they took ownership, so the old neighbor asked if I wanted it. YES! A couple days later, I dragged it over to my yard and chopped it up with a reciprocating saw.

First I built my welding table with one flat side of it, and today, I cut out the pieces for the rear fender!

Here's the first side traced out on the panel (the darker lines - it took a bit of playing to get a shape I liked)

And TWO 4 1/2" CUTOFF WHEELS LATER, I had cut out the sides and the curved piece for the top. the top and bottom of the oil drum had a nice fair curve to it, which almost perfectly matched the fender profile! Bonus!
Here are the top and one side standing up on a flower pot.

To draw the round 'bites' out of the bottom, I traced around a de-spoked 12" rim.

I told my wife that she'll be able to ride on the rear fender "like a biker chick". She was only slightly amused. :rolleyes4:

07-17-2010, 05:42 AM
Nice one! Very cool! :)

07-18-2010, 02:18 AM
Not a whole lot of progress today, as I only had about an hour and a half to put into it while my wife took a nap.

I thought the square rear end looked really pathetic, so I cut it into a nice boat tail, then bent the sides to match and tacked them together.

Detail of the rear end - Sort of a boat tail look - it came out nice.

Then, during a few more minutes between other tasks, I fully welded the sides on.

I can't wait to get this bike finished! I'm very pleased with it!

07-18-2010, 06:33 AM
I like that a lot. Very nice. :)

07-18-2010, 12:57 PM
Man, that's just wicked! :punk:

(Geezer & Bent Enthusiast At Large)

07-19-2010, 01:56 AM

Wicked cool!


07-19-2010, 09:32 AM
Serious fabricating, thats what I'm thinking. Great job!

07-19-2010, 01:33 PM
Thanks for the props, guys!! I hope I can stay on task long enough to get this project finished. So many projects I start never get done for one reason or another. :P

If I do much more of this fabrication stuff, I'm seriously thinking I need one of these:

Looks like most of them are usable only up to 18ga, and I suspect that my oil drum material is thicker than this.
I do have access to an air compressor, so maybe a pneumatic one would work better.

Grinding takes so long and is so loud!

With a power shear, I bet I could do some chopper bikes for a little income.

07-19-2010, 06:09 PM
i was just looking at jesse james on youtube using metal shears to cut his gas tank, it cut sheet metal like butter.
i absolutely must have one of those, but its another expense and i am tapped out right now.

If I do much more of this fabrication stuff, I'm seriously thinking I need one of these:

Looks like most of them are usable only up to 18ga, and I suspect that my oil drum material is thicker than this.

With a power shear, I bet I could do some chopper bikes for a little income.

07-19-2010, 09:19 PM
Wow, socialtalker. That video series is really inspiring, thanks!
I watch American Chopper whenever it's on, but that Metal Church stuff is basically all the bits I like from American Chopper without all the corporate junk.
The ***** is in the DETAILS. I love details.

07-22-2010, 04:23 AM
I'll be watching that Metal Church stuff. :) Thanks!

07-26-2010, 10:02 AM
Saturday, I bolted the fork top support to the forks with welded nuts inside the fork tubes, then lengthened and slashed the fork tops.


07-26-2010, 12:11 PM
I also picked up a couple of these things from the hardware store the other day:

They're 'tree steps' - meant to be screwed into trees so you can climb them. They were less than $2 a piece and with a little modification, they'll make some nice passenger foot pegs.

07-26-2010, 01:42 PM
Great progress tree. I'm curious about how your going to use the foot pegs.

07-26-2010, 02:14 PM
Great progress tree. I'm curious about how your going to use the foot pegs.

They'll be for the passenger riding on the back. I'd like my wife to ride on the back sometimes so we can go to the store together. Where they get welded to the frame depends entirely on how the rear fender is built, how thick the seat is, how long her legs are, etc, etc. In other words - I haven't a clue where they'll go just yet. ;)

07-29-2010, 11:46 PM
Woah, ho ho!
Land Rover has a new color that I spotted on the road today. It's called 'Tambora Flame', and it is sex-ay!

Google 'land rover tambora flame'

What do you think for the bike? My wife loves it too (she hated the dk. green)

Inspired today, I capped the fork tops and fork bracket top. Picture to come maybe tomorrow.

07-30-2010, 08:04 AM
LR2 HSE in Tambora Flame...........I like it tree

07-30-2010, 08:16 AM
LR2 HSE in Tambora Flame...........I like it tree

I thought you would - kinda firey.
Here's a picture - I couldn't post one last night because I was posting from my phone.


I like it because it's bright and cheery, not dark like most of the oranges out there (Ford Flex, for example) It has a lot of lightness to it, which makes it really pop, especially in the sun.
Blah blah - color preferences are so personal and wishy-washy.
I may yet go with something completely different. :\

07-30-2010, 08:43 AM
Fork tops capped!
I also capped the bracket top (between the two forks in the image)
I cut it off at a nice angle first and capped it with a bit of oil drum material (thicker than the tube wall I've been capping everything else with)

07-30-2010, 08:52 AM
Fork tops capped!
I also capped the bracket top (between the two forks in the image)
I cut it off at a nice angle first and capped it with a bit of oil drum material (thicker than the tube wall I've been capping everything else with)

Man! your good at capping those off.

Also take a look at your color before painting.

07-30-2010, 09:24 AM
WOW! Thanks Graucho!

That looks pretty sweet!
I honestly didn't think a bright color was 'appropriate' for this type of chopper until I saw how yours came out. I thought maybe it would have to be flat black or army green/grey. While I do like the flat/drab style, it has been a little over done.

I'll have to get you a better photo to work your magic on - that one is old by now. I'll need to get the bike back together first though - right now the fork is off of it.

07-30-2010, 09:36 AM
WOW! Thanks Graucho! That looks pretty sweet!
I'll have to get you a better photo to work your magic on - that one is old by now. I'll need to get the bike back together first though - right now the fork is off of it.

Ya, we can change it up so you can make a final decision on your dream color. :beatnik2:

07-30-2010, 12:07 PM
Man! your good at capping those off.

I missed your earlier comment!

Should I do a little demo thing on how to cut/cap the tubes? It's a pretty simple process.

I use a laser level and a sharpie to draw a straight cut line around one side of the tube while it's clamped in the vice.
Then cut one side with the grinder, and with it still clamped in the vice, I laser/mark the inside of the pipe and cut the rest off. That gives a perfectly straight slash cut.
If there are any imperfections, you can sight down the slash and true it up with the flap disk.

Then I take a piece of tube, flatten it into a sheet with a mallet and a block of hardwood, tack the sheet onto the slash, cut/grind it flush with the tube walls and fully weld before grinding it smooth one last time.

It's a bit of work, but not as hard as it sounds.

08-10-2010, 01:04 AM
This last Friday (3 days ago), I ground down/filed all the welds clean, and sanded all the welding spatter off the whole frame.
I also finished up capping the remaining handlebar end.

I need to sort out the idler so the chain clears the frame rail, figure out a mounting system for the rear fender, and mount a brake handle that's not stuck on with doggie doo. Also need to mount a stem shifter I have for the rear dérailleur. Once I have the weld-ons completed, I can think about sanding the crap out of it and putting some paint on!

I'm taking it to the bike shop on Thursday, partly to show it off, partly to find parts for the idler and brake handle.

08-17-2010, 11:57 PM
Obligatory progress update.

Found parts at Freewheel bike shop:
* Brake handle to fit 1 1/4" outer diameter handlebars.
* BMX freewheel on an aluminum hub.
* Kickstand.

Today, I drilled and filed out a hole through the lower left rear triangle tube, welded in a support tube through the hole and bolted the kick stand through it.
I also welded on a couple of mini dropouts to mount the freehub in front of the rear wheel. Its' only purpose is to hold the chain up off the rear triangle tube (to overcome an error in my frame design). It looks cool though, so I don't feel so bad. I ground the spoke discs off the aluminum hub and polished it with 320 grit - it's purty.

I took the bike down to the skate park again and let a few excited kids ride it. One of them ran it hard up a small curb, bending the upper fork strut - that's a good thing - it shows me the weak spots before it has paint on it! I'll add some additional bracing under the strut to keep it inline and it'll look even better than the flat bar does.

I'm a programmer/web developer and by far the best way to test your code is to give it to someone else and tell them to break it. I feel the same way about the bike.
That incident was made easier by not yet having the brakes mounted! I warned him up front! :)

Those kids remember me now and some asked about the tallbike too. I feel a bit like the pied piper.
What should I do? Teach them a few things like how to tune up their bikes? Start a Rat Patrol chapter? :)

08-18-2010, 04:59 AM
Sorry for side tracking, but...

I'm a programmer/web developer....

What's your poison? Ruby on Rails here, used to be PHP and before that ColdFusion... :rolleyes4:

08-18-2010, 09:30 AM
Obligatory progress update.

I took the bike down to the skate park again and let a few excited kids ride it. One of them ran it hard up a small curb, bending the upper fork strut - that's a good thing - it shows me the weak spots before it has paint on it!

OOPS! :jester: even the most experienced bicycle riders cannot instantly jump on these choppers and take off for a spin and look like a pro. Like a recumbent, choppers are another wild horse to tame for the beginner.

08-18-2010, 10:05 PM
OOPS! :jester: even the most experienced bicycle riders cannot instantly jump on these choppers and take off for a spin and look like a pro. Like a recumbent, choppers are another wild horse to tame for the beginner.

Aint that the truth.
If I hadnt had the experience of riding my previous lowrider there is absolutely no way I could have ridden my latest one.
So far no one has been able to stay on it without falling over almost immediately.
The underseat steering is a way different story this low to the ground.

08-18-2010, 11:53 PM
What's your poison? Ruby on Rails here, used to be PHP and before that ColdFusion... :rolleyes4:

PHP all the way - mostly in Drupal. Lots of jQuery, CSS, MySQL.. I also know Java, and C/C++. Also C#/VB.Net though I won't go near those with a 10' pole. I'm a Ubuntu guy - I left the Winblows world back in 2001 and have never looked back.

I LOVE Drupal. It's more than a CMS - it's a very flexible web development platform - I even built a bookstore product that allows a bookstore to advertise/sell their stock online and sync everything to their POS system.

I've thought often about learning Ruby, but have no need at the moment.

Yeah, enough geek speek. :)

My Vigilante is actually not that tough to ride - it takes about 100 feet to get used to the long fork, and you need the entire road to turn around, but at higher speeds it steers very much like a normal bike.

The fork bracket damage was partially my fault - I didn't screw in the bolts all the way to support the load on the flat bar, but he DID hit that bump pretty hard after riding it fast across the grass. :P I'll whack it straight with a vice and a hammer, and it'll be fine again.

08-21-2010, 04:11 PM
Latest photos:

Idler shaft w/ sprocket

Idler from the other side and detail of kickstand connection

08-22-2010, 02:34 AM
As you can see, I took some photos of the bike with a real camera, in the daylight instead of my usual crummy cellphone photos. :P

I really like how the idler and kickstand turned out.
The idler dropouts are slightly off square but I can fix them.
The ground/polished aluminum on the idler axle is nice so I'll be giving the kickstand casting the same treatment. It'll look awesome if I don't get so hung up on these little details that it never gets painted.
The kickstand bolt passes through a welded-in support tube to keep the outer, structural tube from collapsing and the kickstand from loosening up.

With my new source of parts (Freewheel), I'm keeping my eyes out for some sexy chrome pedals, a better shifter, and I already have my eyes on a sweet old dual cog crankset. I don't plan on mounting a front derailleur but it might be fun to play with the primary gear ratio while out on the road.

I also have a solution for the fork top strut that got bent the other day. I bought a 3/8" square steel bar that I'm going to weld under the strut - that should beef it up substantially.

Paint question - how do I get everything nice and smooth before the final paint color goes on? The EMT galvanizing is ripply and my welds/grinding are not perfect. High build primer and lots of hand sanding, or some other tricks?

08-22-2010, 09:17 AM
Paint question - how do I get everything nice and smooth before the final paint color goes on? The EMT galvanizing is ripply and my welds/grinding are not perfect. High build primer and lots of hand sanding, or some other tricks?

Tree, for the welds, I used two part epoxy putty. :jester: It worked better than bondo, since it has a longer working life. You just knead/mix it together then push/shape it around the welds. It will have to be sanded to final shape though. For the EMT you will probably have to go the painting and sanding route. It may be a chore but your bike is worth it. Its an awesome build. :punk::punk:

08-22-2010, 10:44 PM
and a couple of rubber stops so the handlebars dont chip the paint on the cross bar when parked.

08-23-2010, 12:26 AM
Hi tree. I sent you a few PM's a few weeks ago on a good finishing product. I was wondering if you got them?

08-23-2010, 12:51 AM
Hi tree. I sent you a few PM's a few weeks ago on a good finishing product. I was wondering if you got them?

I resent them.

08-23-2010, 08:56 AM
Man, that chop's just awesome, Tree! WTG! :punk:

Decided on a color yet?

(Geezer & Bent Enthusiast At Large)

08-23-2010, 12:24 PM
and a couple of rubber stops so the handlebars dont chip the paint on the cross bar when parked.
AWESOME idea, Savarin. Yes, I cringe when the handlebars slam down onto the frame. :P I can't remember exactly where they contact, but maybe some rubber grips would work - A rubber tennis racket grip tape would work well for that, or maybe a silicone tape - what they make fancy automotive radiator hoses out of.

Hi tree. I sent you a few PM's a few weeks ago on a good finishing product. I was wondering if you got them?
Yeah, I got them. I'll have to get a tube of that goop! Thanks! Between that stuff and some thick primer, I think I'll be set.

Decided on a color yet?
Thanks, SirJoey - I love the props. (I'm a bit of an attention wh*re) :P

I'm leaning toward a bright orange color like the new Land Rover 'Tambora Flame'. It's still not entirely settled though, and may change. An accent color would be nice too - maybe black, but I haven't decided what bits to accent yet. I'll play with it when the time comes to paint.

08-29-2010, 03:05 AM
Good news, bad news.

Good news is that I spent a few hours today getting a few things taken care of:
* Put a new, huge, single-cog crank on the front and lengthened the chain to fit
* Mounted a small, flexible metal tab that keeps the chain from flopping off the idler wheel
* Miraculously found and mounted a 2-bolt aluminum 5-speed friction shifter that fits the oversize handlebars - it was on my newest curb find bike and really fits well with the style. Good quality friction unit that will polish up well.

That was the good news.
The bad news is pretty bad:
* The single crank is shot - it wobbles all over the place on the square taper axle - even if it did fit the taper cleanly, the ring is ridiculously huge and even the largest cog in the back is too tall to be of much hill climbing use.
Now, the really bad news:
I noticed that both rear bearing cups are very wobbly, and it'll present a massive challenge to straighten them out.
Finally, and this is the only show stopper: I torqued the crank axle pretty bad - maybe because of the tall gearing or maybe because the chain slipped off the high side a couple of times. - it now wobbles all over the place and the pedals are actually not opposite each other anymore. The axl is twisted. I would suggest anyone lengthening a crank axle use the largest, thickest tubing or rod they can find - I used a rod that was smaller than the crank diameter - next time, I'll use 3/4" rod or larger, and preheat it before welding for maximum penetration.
The instructions actually use a massive square tube that just fits over the axle, and this was not a bad idea. Live and learn.

I'm bummed too, because I was going to get it out for the Madison 'Ride The Drive' event tomorrow. *sigh*.

The road forward:
* find a single or double crank that's a bit smaller and fits nicely.
* true the rear bearings - whether this involves cutting them off completely or just cutting around the tube and re-welding it back, I'll find out by doing it.
* Build a new crank axle from scratch.

08-29-2010, 01:00 PM
Ouch tree! I've felt your pain too many times. Just have to suck it up and move forward. Walk away for a few days if needed. May the force be with you.

08-29-2010, 04:26 PM
Well, I'll have three weeks to think about it because we'll be in London! I'll get some old British inspiration and come back to it the middle of September. Thanks for the well wishes, Graucho.

09-07-2011, 11:36 PM
Oi, I meant September 2010, not 2011!! The Vig. has literally sat in my garage without being ridden for over a year!!
Well, I have more projects in the works with the two Vikings and the WI Solidarity bike, as well as the occasional tallbike build...

I think I have found a path forward with the wobbly axle problem. Measure the bit of the axle inside the bearing races - mine is almost exactly 16mm. Now, buy a 20mmx2mm wall hydraulic tube, (16mm inside diameter). Cut the axle in half, slip the tube over the axle halves, and you get a perfectly straight axle every time, in any length you require!!

What's extra cool about it is that a 20x2mm hollow tube actually has about the same torsional rigidity as a solid 16mm rod! That's assuming the same materials - the CrMo axle might have slightly more rigidity, but you can always add more metal over the tube - the key bit is how easy it will be to make it perfectly straight!

I buy hydraulic tube from these guys: shop.hoseandfittings.com (http://shop.hoseandfittings.com/catalog/Tubing/Steel/Hydraulic/Metric.html).
I'm using 20x3mm wall for the Viking front stub axles, and it welds up very nicely!

Maybe a month from now you'll see a bit more activity on this project. (or it might wait another year, we'll see...)