Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Vigilante Chopper Bike build - AtomicZombie.com builders forum

By tree, AZ forum member

I just bought and printed the Vigilante Chopper plan last night, then read it 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 four times the price of round EMT conduit. 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.

Progress! I halved and lengthened 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. You can check out my Facebook Album for photos of the build as it progresses.

So far I have:
  • 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 pre-bent 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'. 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. 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.

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.

Went to Dream Bikes 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.

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.

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. 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. Next stop, framesville.

I burnt through five 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.

I had a 20 inch rim laying around, so I bought a brand new tread for it. It looks pretty spiffy. This will 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 (this wheel is 48).

Read more of this build blog: http://forum.atomiczombie.com/showthread.php?t=4092

The Vigilante Chopper breaks all the rules and takes the law into its own hands! With its fat rear wheel and stealth bomber styling, the Vigilante is one ride that will stand out among all other choppers as a true custom. Even the frame is radically different, using only square tubing for that stealth bomber look. This project is built from the ground up, using the parts you have on hand, so there is plenty of room to alter the design and carve out a ride that suits your building style.

Take a look at our Builder's Gallery to see other Vigilante Chopper examples, including many creative modifications to the plan. Our international builders community ranges from students to retired engineers, but they all have one thing in common - the desire to build their own stuff!

Building a chopper that oozes with attitude is a lot of work, but it's not rocket science! I only own a basic AC welder, an angle grinder, and a hand drill, so anyone can pull off the same kind of work with a little hard work. Because of the way the frame is built around the wheels, you have alot of room to experiment with your own designs to add your own twisted ideas into the bike with ease. This plan is a great way to learn the art of chopper building, even if you have something completely different planned since the ideas presented here can be used over and over again.

It's time to reclaim the word "chopper" and put it back into the hands of the builder where it belongs. A department store chopper with serial numbers is not a custom at all, and it is not worthy of the word "chopper", in my opinion! No assembly line chop will ever have a chance against something carved from your own blood, sweat and tears, so grab that hacksaw and get chopping!

All of Atomic Zombie Extreme Machines plans are downloadable PDF format. Multiple discounts, free tutorials, videos, gallery, newsletters, blog and more:

Plans, tutorials, videos and
Plans, tutorials, videos and
Plans, tutorials, videos and