Sunday, January 31, 2010

Health warnings: energy saving compact flourescent lights

Before seeing the videos and reading the reports, we used to have these in every light in our house. Brad developed a serious rash on his face last winter and he has finally found out the reason: those energy saving light bulbs emit Ultraviolet Radiation (UVR) and are causing health problems for people around the world, namely sunburn like rashes and blisters and migraine headaches.

The UVRs have been reflecting off of monitors, walls and ceiling directly onto his face, causing an itchy rash, redness and severe headaches. A friend of ours who also works many hours in his home office reports a rash and blemishes on his face over the past year, as well as severe headaches, too, after he changed all of the light bulbs in his house to the energy efficient ones. Who would have thought that these so-called environmentally-friendly bulbs could cause such adverse health problems. It's been an eye opener for us.

Explains the rash I would have on one arm after sitting at my desk for awhile, especially in the winter months when I would have my desk lamp on for at least several hours at a time. My desk lamp had a compact fluorescent light in it for over a year. Once in awhile I do get heat rash on my arms and legs while gardening outside in the summer months, but using sunscreen seems to ward off the rash.

So, it seems that one needs to wear sunscreen when being in close proximity to these "energy saving" lights, too. Nice of the manufacturers and our health gurus in Canada to warn us about the potential health hazards. Thankfully, UK scientists and health advocates have been on the ball investigating the consumer reports about rashes and migraines, years before Health Canada even considered looking into the issues.

According to the Health Protection Agency in a 2008 report on the emissions from compact fluorescent lights:

"New research by the Health Protection Agency has shown that some energy saving compact fluorescent lights can emit ultraviolet radiation at levels that, under certain conditions of use, can result in exposures higher than guideline levels. The Agency and Government Departments are calling on the European Union, relevant product standards bodies and the lighting industry to consider how product standards for lights can be tightened up.

Given its research findings, the Agency is recommending some precautionary measures for the use of certain types of compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). The Agency's view is that open (single envelope) CFLs shown in Fig. 1 should not be used where people are in close proximity - closer than 30 cm or 1 ft - to the bare light bulb for over 1 hour a day. The Agency advises that for such situations open CFLs should be replaced by the encapsulated (double envelope) type shown in Fig. 2. Alternatively, the lamp should be moved so that it is at least 30 cm or 1 ft away."

How many of us have lamps with these light bulbs sitting on our desks, bedside tables, in our living rooms, in our children's rooms, in close proximity to where we sit and sleep?

Considering how much time most of us spend in front of our computers and how often our lights are on, especially during the winter months, we should be more concerned about the UV ray emissions from these light bulbs and the health problems they are reportedly causing.

Videos and reports are here on Global Calgary:

The news team travelled to London, England to get answers. Of course, Health Canada has yet to issue warnings, and regular light bulbs will be phased out in 2012, so maybe we should be stocking up on the "old school" light bulbs.

Anybody want the "environmentally friendly" yet not human friendly light bulbs that we don't want any more? Can't put them in the regular garbage as they contain mercury and have to be brought to a hazardous waste facility. Hmmm...maybe the term "environmentally friendly" shouldn't be used to refer to those types of bulbs.

We changed every light bulb in lamps in our rooms back to the old ones.

Search YouTube for: Dirty Electricity

Friday, January 29, 2010

DeltaWolf under Seat Steering Modification

Here is a simple modification for all you DeltaWolf and Marauder builders who would like to try under seat steering.

This mod is based on some sketches I made, which I said I would upload for others to try. Rather than give untested advice, I have successfully made the modifications and will present them here for all my fellow garage hackers and bike builders. This modification would probbaly work for any recumbent with a 1.5 inch or larger main boom and linked steering as well.

Although you will have to make a few cuts to your frame, the good news is that you will not need to source any extra parts except for the handlebars, and the surgery can be done in an afternoon. Under seat steering allows the arms to rest in a more relaxed position beside your body, and allows the pilot to climb in and out of the bike without having the steering stem in the way. Under seat steering does however feel quite different than the conventional handle bars out front system, so think about this modification and read it through before you start up your grinder.

The full free plan is available now at .

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Big-hearted British schoolboy, 7, raises more than £100,000 for Haiti... slightly over his £500 target

Two Atomic Zombie thumbs up to Charlie and his big heart! We made a donation on behalf of our AZ Krew.

Cheers from your biking friends at Thanks for inspiring all of us, Charlie. You are a very special person in this world.
Donation by KoolKat and Radical Brad

A seven-year-old boy has raised more than £100,000 to help survivors of the Haitian earthquake after being moved by images of children being pulled alive from the rubble.

Charlie Simpson was so upset by the devastation wrought by the earthquake that he told his mother he wanted to do anything he could to help.

He set out to raise £500 for Unicef's Haiti appeal by riding his bike five miles around his local park - but the schoolboy's efforts inspired hundreds of people online who donated a total of more than £50,000 in just one day.

He has so far amassed £107,000, but that figure is increasing by the hour.

Charlie, from Fulham, west London, said: 'I just think it was quite sad when I saw the pictures on the TV.'

He asked his mother Leonora to help him create a sponsorship form and added: 'We sent it out on to the web and it just went everywhere.'

Mrs Simpson said: 'He was really upset when he saw the pictures on the television and it was great to see him get motivated behind something as important as this and do something about it.'

Asked how he first got the idea after seeing the images from Haiti, she said: "He actually burst into tears.

'He just sat on my lap, then we had about a chat about the things he could do, and how he could go about it.

'He decided to do the cycle ride and he made me do a sponsorship form for him and that was it. It suddenly took off.'

Mrs Simpson added: 'He really felt strongly about this and thought that something had to be done.

'But what started off as a little cycle round the park with his dad has turned into something a lot bigger than that and we can't believe it.

'I am extremely proud of our Charlie, he's done really well. He's worked hard and he's raised a phenomenal amount of money so we couldn't ask for anything more.'

Charlie's efforts came as celebrities in the U.S. took part in the Hope for Haiti Now telethon. Stars including Julia Roberts, George Clooney and Bruce Springsteen manned the phones to raise a total of $57million (£35m) for the devastated country.

Aid agencies believe up to 200,000 people people died when the 7.0 quake hit just before 5pm local time on Tuesday, 12 January - but a man was miraculously pulled from the rubble yesterday after being trapped for 11 days.

The British public have so far donated £42m to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) fund.

'We're receiving several million more each day,' said a spokesman today.

All the donations from Charlie's JustGiving website will go to Unicef, which is leading emergency relief clusters on water, sanitation, education and nutrition as well as supporting child protection.

Michael Newsome, the charity's Haiti Appeal director, said: 'Charlie's done this all by himself.

'It's always heartwarming when any child starts to respond and there's something quiet special about a child in the UK reaching out to the children of Haiti.

'Children in Haiti are by far the most vulnerable in a situation like this.

'It's quite fabulous when a child like Charlie, and all of the other children who are sponsoring him and doing things, are saying they want to get involved and make a difference.'

A Unicef spokeswoman added that the one idea had snowballed to make 'a huge difference'.

'He's helping to provide water to hundreds of thousands of people in Haiti,' she said.

'We're all overwhelmed with the response to Charlie's bike ride. We've never known anything like it.

'We've never had anyone raise £50,000 in one day for us before.

'Charlie himself is just a wonderful boy, kind and generous, and really shows the nation how easy it is to help.'

* Donations can be made at

Monday, January 25, 2010

Terminator Chopper Build - Part 2

Terminator Chopper Build - Part 2

Figure 9 – Two almost identical shapes cut for the front forks

After cutting the second shape from the first one, both should be placed in a vice so that edges can be cleaned up and both parts made equal. The two shapes shown in Figure 9 are very close, but not perfect due to small errors made while following the lines with the grinder disc.

Figure 10 – Using the sanding disc to make both parts identical

To even out the two parts, place them both in a vice as shown in Figure 10 so you can work the edges with a zip disc. It only takes a few minutes of grinding with the zip disc in order to make both parts identical. Once you have two identical side walls, it is easy to take an edge measurement and make the other two tubing walls in order to create a complete tube. Technically, you are making a square tube, although the side profile is far from square.

Figure 11 – Making the inner fork blades

Because of the generally random shapes being made and having no real plan as I go along, it is very difficult to classify each part and impossible to give measurements, since I did not take any. Of course, the goal is to show what can be done using only a grinder and a welder, and you will most certainly want to make your own version of the Terminator, so let your imagination run wild.

The two new shapes shown in Figure 11 will form the inner walls of the lower front forks. I only made sides walls for the lower inner section of the front forks since the part of the forks above the wheel will form an archway and a sold front shape. This will make more sense if you read glance ahead at some of the completed front fork images. Again, I am “winging it” without any plan whatsoever besides wheelbase and fork length, so you are on your own if trying to make the frame similar to mine.

Figure 12 – Measuring a curve using some wire or string

So far, all of the pieces cut have been the sides of the tubing, or the visible sides that show off the free flowing curves of the frame and forks. To create full tubing, 1.5 inch wide strips will be cut and welded along the edges of each shape to form a solid tube. Now, how do you cut a strip that will be the same length as the edge of an arc, you are probably wondering. Let me show you a simple trick.

Figure 12 shows the overall length of the part as indicated by a measuring tape. The problem is that the outer curve is longer than the length of the part and the inner curve is shorter. You could certainly cut a piece using the length shown by the measuring tape and simply trim it off later for the inner curve, but the outer curve needs to be measured somehow. The easiest method is to bend some wire or lay down some string along the curve, and then just pull it straight after to measure the length needed.

Simple arcs like the one shown in Figure 12 can also be measured by rolling them along a surface like a wheel, marking the start and stop points to get the distance. The string or wire method always works, and if you can add an extra inch or two, then you will never come up short.

Figure 13 – Cutting the inner tubing wall strips

I decided that all of my frame and fork contours will be only visible from the sides of the chopper, and that the general thickness of the front fork tubing on each side of the wheel will be 1.5 inches.

Figure 13 shows a few lengths of 1.5 inch strips needed to create tubing by following the edges of the shapes shown in the previous photos. If you plan to need a lot of 1.5 inch or similar size “stripping”, then you could also purchase the appropriate width and thickness flatbar to simply cut to length. Being hardcore, I decided to make my entire frame from the same sheet metal.

Figure 14 – An easy way to make long straight cuts

When you are making long straight cuts in the sheet metal, you only need to “score” along the line, cutting about half way into the steel. After cutting along the line, grab the part with pliers and bend it back and forth until it snaps free. The edges will be razor sharp and certainly need the sanding disc treatment, but you do save time and zip disc wear using this method of cutting.

Figure 15 – Completed inner tubing wall strips

Figure 15 shows the strips of 1.5 inch sheet metal that will be welded along each arc to complete the lower part of the front forks that will hold the front wheel in place. As you can see, I wasn’t kidding about how much work this project is going to be. This is only a small sliver of what is to come.

Part 3 coming soon..

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Build the SkyWalker Tall Bike

SkyWalker is a radical two wheeler that allows the bicycle hacking adrenaline junkie to surf the skies while at the same time amusing or confusing the slack-jawed onlookers below.

Sure, tall bikes are nothing new, and have been around since the 1800's, but SkyWalker takes things to new heights by allowing the rider to climb up and down the frame while the bike is in motion. What this means for tall bike pilots is that they no longer have to cling to a telephone pole to mount the bike, and worry about finding another pole when it comes time to dismount.

SkyWalker is designed so that the pilot can control the bike from the ground, and all the way up to the top while climbing the built in ladder. Since the handlebars double as ladder handrails, the pilot is under complete control of the tall bike during the entire ascent.

Why would a person want to build and ride a 12 foot two wheeler you ask? To win a Darwin award? Train for the circus? Overcome a fear of heights? Set a world record? Who can say, but for me it has always been the same reason - because it's fun, and it beats sitting on my butt watching the tube!

The entire SkyWalker plan is now available for free on the Atomic Zombie web site. Yes, some things are still free. Enjoy!

Monday, January 18, 2010

For those lost and still to be found

The world is watching, many hearts are broken. It has been a heart wrenching week wondering how many friends have been lost. I haven't been able to think of much else, let alone conjure something up to blog about in the midst of photos and video of the misery and suffering. Maybe later this week as word reaches us about those lost and those still yet to be found.

For now, we mourn and wait, nos amis. Vous ĂȘtes dans nos coeurs. We can only hope for good news, but the reality has yet to sink in.

If you can, please make a donation to a credible international organization like the Red Cross, Salvation Army, etc.


Monday, January 11, 2010


One day while relaxing with a pencil and notepad, I began to draw a chopper frame that had free flowing lines and curves in the frame, something that would have been difficult or impossible to achieve using tubing of any kind. At the time, I did not really consider building such a chopper since I mainly used round or square tubing for frame building, and such lines would not be possible.

Then, I remembered seeing one of those chopper motorcycle shows on TV where they would form a gas tank using sheet metal, welding the corners so that just about any shape could be created. I thought, “Hey, why not build an entire custom chopper frame out of nothing but sheet metal, essentially creating every single tube from scratch so that it would look more organic and free?”

The idea sounded like an insane amount of work that only the most hard core garage hacker would ever attempt, so in traditional Atomic Zombie fashion, I began cutting that same day!

I’ll warn you ahead of time - this build involves a huge amount of physical labor. Sure, anyone with a cheap AC welder and hand held grinder can do it (that’s all I own), but be prepared to sweat and work muscles you didn’t even know you had. If this was easy, every bike freak would do it, so you will certainly have something unique if you have what it takes to see it through to the end. You have been warned!

Originally, I planned to create this “no tubing” chopper as a plan for our website, but I realized that not many people would be crazy enough to build a complete frame from sheet metal. Instead, I decided to do it as a free source of information that would showcase what can be done with only a basic welder, an angle grinder and a $100 worth of thin sheet metal. The other issue that made this build unsuitable for a DIY plan is that there are no measurements - seriously!

I just took a marker and began to draw free form shapes like forks and frame tubing right on the sheet to be cut out. This build will require you to release your creative energy because I have no idea what the angles or dimensions of any of the tubes are, nor would I have any idea how to even measure such complex shapes.

What I did know ahead of time was how far the wheels will be apart (wheelbase), how long the forks will be, and where the bottom bracket needed to be so that I could reach the pedals (about 32 inches from the end of the seat). Other than that, I took very few measurements, and simply based the “size” of the Terminator on my favorite three choppers, stealing ideas and features that I liked from each one.

Figure 1 – OverKill was my first chopper to use a car wheel on the rear

The Terminator had to have a car rim on the rear - that was a must. After trying this crazy modification on my first chopper, OverKill, it just seemed silly to go back to some skinny little tire, or department store chopper rear wheel.

As shown in Figure 1, that 15 inch wide car tire puts those 4 inch wide department store chopper wheels to shame, almost mocking them. What really blew me away was how smooth OverKill was to ride, even with that 60 pound monster on the ass end. Another benefit to using a car rim is that you can pick them up free at just about any metal scrap yard and add a few dollars worth of bicycle spokes to create the entire wheel.

It is certainly not difficult to add spokes to a car rim (as you will soon see), and like all things custom, it’s simply a matter of doing a little manual labor in order to create something you can’t purchase. In the world of custom bikes, money ain’t king, only your ability to pour some sweat and blood into your work (I mean that literally).

Figure 2 – The Gladiator Trike Chopper was very comfortable

As for seating position and handle bar height, I found the Gladiator Chopper Trike to be about perfect for my riding style. This chopper has two car wheels at the rear, a springer front suspension, and a full recumbent style padded seat. Besides the fact that it took a little effort to get those huge boots rolling, the Gladiator was a real smooth cruiser that I would often ride for hours at a time.

I decided to base the general size and wheelbase of the Terminator on the Gladiator, so I found a bucket that was the same height as the seat on the Gladiator and then took a measurement from the top of the bucket to the position of my heel when extended outwards.

Other than your leg length (inseam), you are free to do just about anything you want on a chopper, creating a massive 5 foot rise on the frame, or keeping it mean and low. Just grab something to sit on, drop a pair of wheels on the floor (front and back), and imagine your chopper. You could even prop up a few broom handles, or bits of tubing to get an idea of what you might like for fork length and frame height as well.

Sometimes I put down the wheels and bucket to sit on then take a photo to manipulate in Photoshop or simply print it out and pencil in the rest of your frame. Seriously, don’t get too technical, or you will wind up spending our valuable time in some forum squabbling about rake and trail when you could be building your chopper!

Figure 3 – The Vigilante was my first attempt at building a square tube frame

When I decided that I would attempt the Terminator build, I set two rules: there will be no tubing used in the entire frame besides the small necessary bits such as the bottom bracket and head tube, and everything else will be made from flee flowing shapes made by welding sheet metal into custom tubing.

One of my first attempts to avoid round tubing can be seen in Figure 3, the Vigilante Chopper. For this chopper, I used only square tubing, and it was all installed at 45 degrees, creating a diamond shaped frame.

The “theme” was to make the Vigilante look like a stealth bomber featuring a flat black body with many sharp edges and contours. The Terminator will also have sharp edges in the frame tubing, but also free flowing curves, creating a kind of carved look throughout the frame and forks.

Figure 4 – Starting with the front forks

One of the only planned measurements on the entire build was the length of the forks - 5 feet long. The reason for this is because it looked good on my other choppers, and because the scrap piece of sheet metal shown in Figure 4 just happened to be 5 feet across. The sheet metal you will need should be non-galvanized (not shiny silver) and have a thickness similar to that of bicycle tubing (between 14 and 16 gage).

Don’t worry too much about the sheet metal thickness if you can get a good deal on some scraps. It might be a good idea to bring a bit of bicycle tubing along with you and tell the supplier that you want a 4 by 8 sheet of whatever they have that is close to the thickness of the round tubing.

The sheet I used was a 4 foot by 10 foot sheet of 16 gage mild steel, and yes, the damn thing was heavy, just like your chopper will be when you are finished making the frame! If you want a lightweight bike for touring the countryside, then you are reading the wrong plan.

Since the only goal so far was to carve out a 5 foot long fork for the Terminator, I just hand drew a few arcs on the sheet as shown in Figure 4 so that my forks would have a profile similar to a machete. This is where you must put your artistic brain to work, as there are no rules when you are making your own tubing from scratch.

If the tubing has a side wall of less than 1.5 inches, then the frame will be extremely strong and able to support just about any rider. In Figure 4, the pointed end shown on the left of the photo will be the wheel end of the forks, and the other end will become the handle bars. The handle bar end of my tubing is will create a shape with a 1.5 inch profile.

Figure 5 – You will need a decent stack of discs for this project

To cut out the side walls that make up each tube, you will need a good supply of patience, as well as grinder discs like the ones shown in Figure 5. The disc on the left is a 3/32 cut off disc (zip disc) and the disc on the right is a flap disc (sanding disc).

A zip disc is a great tool for cutting along marked lines on sheet metal, and you can even follow curves if the arc is not too small.

The flap disc is used to remove razor sharp edges after cutting the metal with the zip disc as well as cleaning up mirrored parts so that they are both identical. Although this is only a guess, you will probably use at least 10 zip discs and five sanding discs for this project, so look for deals on multi packs. A good full face shield as also a must when you are working with the thin zip discs and doing so much cutting.

Figure 6 – Cutting sheet metal with a zip disc and a jigsaw

As shown in Figure 6, a jigsaw with a metal cutting blade can also deal with the sheet metal, but it takes a great deal more effort and time to cut so many lines with a jigsaw. I highly recommend that you get used to handling the grinder for cutting and leave the jig saw only for intricate curves that may be too difficult to cut with the zip disc. The grinder is the ultimate tool for any garage hacker, so become one with it, making it feel like an extension of your own arm!

The first of the four sidewalls for the forks are shown being cut in Figure 6. The zip disc took about 5 minutes, whereas it took over an hour to make it half way across the first line with a jigsaw, and wore down a brand new blade.

Figure 7 – The first front fork side wall cut from the sheet

The first shape is shown in Figure 7 after cutting it free from the sheet using the zip disc. After cutting out the metal, the flap disc is used to clean up the curves and to take off the razor sharp edges along the cut lines. When making two identical shapes, the first one will be used as a template for the second since it would take an engineering degree to figure out these random curves using math.

Figure 8 – Tracing out the second front fork shape

The nice thing about using the zip disc to cut curves is that you don’t have to be perfect with the marker since the lines will be “smoothed out” by the action of cutting with the grinder. Once cut, any ripples or mistakes can be cleaned up further using the flap disc as well.

Figure 8 shows the magic process of drawing an identical freeform shape for cutting – using the first piece as a template.

A sharp black marker is the best way to draw a visible line for cutting, and makes tracing a new shape very easy. Since we are making side walls, there are no front and back sides, so it doesn’t matter which way you cut out the shapes.

PART TWO coming soon...stay tuned

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Illinois custom bike builder says thanks

This email from bike builder, John, in Illinois:


Found your site last year and started hacking. I've been a bike rider for most my life now I'm building and riding my own creations.

I've been showing at local bicycle shows and won two trophies last summer thanks to your inspiration.

I just finished #6 and am showing it next Saturday. I also created a web site for my bikes Thanks to you.

I've sent a couple of pics to the Atomic Zombie builders gallery. I can't wait for the updated version on your website so i can send in the newest project.


Thanks for your email, John. Nice work! Cool web site, too. Congrats on the trophies.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Service disruptions due to winter storms

Christmas was an interesting and trying time for many folks in the Great White North and parts of the United States with blustery winds, snow, ice, rain and frigid temperatures.

Yes, there were power failures and service disruptions in many parts of the North America, including us. Over two feet of snow, drifting snow that blocked roads and sidewalks, temperatures in the -30s and -40s, yep we had it all.

That's why some of us garage hackers have to hold off on bike building until spring. Sometimes we can't even get into the garage because there's too much snow in the yard!

So, it's no wonder that some of you may have noticed a bit of a disruption on the main Atomic Zombie web site over a few days last week while crews worked tirelessly to restore services. Thanks to those dedicated folks, the downtime was minimal. It could have been much worse. Thanks for your patience during those few days of frustration. Everything seems to be working OK.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Greetings from Germany

This email from Klaus D. in Hannover, Germany (some editing was needed due to translation issues):

"Hallo from Germany. I am Klaus. I build bike choppers like Atomic Zombie. I will send you pictures when I paint them. I go on the bike building forum and get too many ideas, then I change my mind! There are so many excellent ideas there. Many bike builders who help other people like me. I learn a lot about welding and it is helping me build better choppers. I'm working on a recumbent chopper and got many ideas from other bike builders. It is a nice group of people. That is so great you have a bike building community like that!

Thank you for the great web sites. I like the new Atomic Zombie web site, too. It is much better than the one you had before. It is easy to use and I like those discounts, too. Now I can buy more plans and build more bikes!

Happy New Year to my Atomic Zombie friends. I will be talking with you in the forum.

Your friend, Klaus D."

Thank you, Klaus. We look forward to seeing your bike projects. Feel free to post about your bike building progress in the forum, too, so we can see what you're building. Thanks for your feedback about the new AZ web site. Happy New Year!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Ringing in the New Year - a new era begins!

We tried "ringing" in the New Year, but we had a "hitch".

Happily sipping champagne and looking forward to starting a new era together as an officially married couple!

This is the best New Year's Eve ever!!!