To design and build a chopper...

by Phillip Faulkner
(Grants Pass, Oregon)

You ask for it so here it is: my plans to design and build a chopper. First let me say that I have never designed or built a motorcycle in my life, so what else is new, but I started drawing cars when I was five years old, I am now 74, and I have drawn thousands of cars, planes, boats, knives and what have you, but never motorcycles. So why the interest in bikes? Cars, planes, and boats are hard to build, and cost a lot more, motorcycles are a lot easier, I think, besides I want to ride!


I have already formed some ideas about motorcycles that might not be exactly accepted by the riding fraternity, but here goes:

1.Motorcycles are subject to fads.
a. At times the front wheel was put way too far out.
b. The seats are too far back.
c. The seats are too low.
d. The rear tire on some bikes are too large.
e. The engines are too big, and perhaps too powerful.
f. Some gas tanks are too high, and some are set at
too radical of an angle.
g. Too complicated.

What I want to design is a common sense practical chopper, Yes I want it to be a chopper, and I want it to be a whiz-banger looking bike, but practical. Can this be done, and leave off the stuff from a to g, and still be a cool looking chopper? Well that is my goal, to design a practical common sense bike but make it look great.

I want the front wheel to be quite a ways out front, but not ridiculously so. I want the seating position to be comfortable, and not a seating position that after riding the bike all day that when I get off the bike I don't need to be carried to the hospital. You know, like those bikes they design and build on American Chopper, when the old man was out testing his new creation, he said right on television "My back hurts!", no wonder! On these bikes one sets way back and low, your legs are way out front, you are hunched over reaching for the handlebars, excruciating!

However there are problems with practical motorcycle designs. For instance, very close fitting fenders are in vogue, and when the seat is placed farther forward and higher, the seat looks detached from the rear of the bike somehow, and just does not look good. Is there a way to fix this problem, yes I think so, but people will have to wait till my bike is built to see how I handle this design challenge.

Another thing I want to say is about power, I don't think I need one hundred horsepower or more. I want a light bike, and a bike that looks light and lithe. It seems to me that some choppers with very large powerful v-twins look pot bellied, and heavy laden. One fellow who had a Sportster told me that you could put certain heads on the Sportster engine and get 80 horsepower, if that is true that should be sufficient for me. I really do not need to set in one place and burn the tires off my bike, if that is what some people want, then more power to them, but I just don't need that.

Another problem I am running into in designing motorcycles is that I have not been able to find scale drawings of choppers, and therefore have no idea as to their true dimensions. I am doing concept designs right now, but can not determine their true shape until I have some honest to goodness measurements. Guess I will just have to go out and find some choppers to measure, however this is kind of risky. One time I was taking some pictures of a chopper on the street, and this guy comes out of a bar and tells me not to take any pictures of his chopper without permission, I said ok. I measure cars all the time, and people come out and want to know why I am doing this, maybe they think their car is going to be towed or something. Anyway I need to say this: the concept design of any vehicle is the most important step in any design and manufacture of that vehicle, the reason is that if the concept design is wrong, the vehicle is wrong right to the showroom floor, and this is one reason why so many cars do not sell.

Hope you all have found this article helpful and interesting.

Phillip Faulkner
Grants Pass, Oregon

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