Friday, August 22, 2008
Building chopper, a recipe for foolish fun and changing the world!
Now isn't that sweet? A fellow and his bluebird out for a spin back in 65 and stopping for a beer and a snapshot. Girls took it and had a poster made. They thought I was handsome. I had forgotten about the picture of me on the bobber until I got a call several years ago from the sister of a woman whom I used to date. The woman had died and the original picture was in her stuff. Her sister said there were also lots of my poems from Vietnam and maybe I should come up to NC and get them some time while her husband was off flying his airliner and maybe I should bring some pills if I had any. I asked her to please send the picture. Oh well.
Let me tell you about that bike. It was a 1954 Harley Davidson that was chopped in the Bobtail style. That's where the term chopper comes from. It was a dead man's bike from The DC impound lot It started life as a motorcycle that had a side car/box for delivering auto parts and stuff. Because of that setup you had a clutch on the left floor board and the gear shift on the tank. The back brake was a big pedal on the right board and the front brake was on the handlebar like most motorcycles. Now if you look at this motorcycle, you will note that it has no front brake lever. Why? Well at the time the folks who rode "chopped scooters" found the front brake assemblage to be déclassé and were inclined to replace it with a machined hub called a spoolie. I should mention that a lot of your original bikers worked in machine shops. Now the Bobber in the picture is black and orange. The orange is on the tank and the black lines were made with black tape. Orange and Black are the Harley Davidson colors. The seat on the bike was made from a one-way street sign covered in Naugahyde. It was not "tuck and roll" but something similar and very well done. This bob job was sort of a club project and it was an unspoken understanding that the dead person who had started the project was a black man. The seat was the first thing that we had made and we had big plans to work on the paint job too.
The Bobber had two parts on it called "suicide." The clutch and the shifter. Lets talk about the clutch. Most bikes keep the clutch up on the handlebar and here's why. Bike's got two wheels, so when you stop, down go your feet and you squeeze the clutch. Let it go by accident or because you are high and the bike stalls. Now the bob's got the clutch on your left foot. You roll to a stop put the clutch in, push on the brake forget to put your foot down and you will fall right over. The shifter? Well no one wants that big lever on their custom tank, so you take all that off and attach a ratchet fitting to the gear shaft just like a regular motorcycle has. Trouble is on a bike like the bobber the gear shaft is in back of the motor, so you must weld something to your ratchet top, like a wrench or something else shiny, and reach behind you and down just to shift gears. This is often called a Jockey Shift as well as a suicide shift. The whole deal with making a "chopper" is the bikes had rigid frames with no suspension, so you could get a springer front end and extend it out a bit and hang a 21" spoolie wheel on that then put high bars (ape hangers) on and a big fat rear tire and you were ready to terrorize the white man. Thing is you had to be a bit of a master cyclist to even get the full blown old school chopper to leave the scene of one crime and head for the next. Today's 50k+ bike that you see them build on TV is built to be ridden by, lets say, the 2008 version of Texino assuming he had just a little experience. It's a different world today, a place filled with a numbing sameness that people are happy to believe is something else. Well, I'm sorry but its not the same and I don't mean it in an "in my day we ate squirrel pie and liked it" sort of way. Back in my 1965 I was happy and free and going places where I was not wanted just to make the "Man" feel uncomfortable. Later on whole generations tried that. Didn't work because there was money to be made by then. Punk Rock? The Sex Pistols sold records. Grunge? Nirvana sold records. It's not that you cant be hip these days, you just have to be quick on your feet. Having a technical skill like welding
or programming a computer can really come in handy. Here is a hint. All the binary numbers that computers really like, such as 1,2 ,4,8,16,32,64,128,256,512 and so on are made from 1 and then some zeros. Other numbers are made from 1s and zeros mixed together but computers just recognize two commands, "yes" and "no" or "on" and "off" so when someone writes a program they use a language which can be expressed as strings of numbers which are then compiled into binary numbers which is what the computer reads. That's why it is called a digital computer. Now, I don't think your average Chopper rider of today knows that unless he or she happens to have more that a passing interest in math. I don't mean to brag but I know quite a lot about fluid dynamics and how to compensate for pressure lost within a pipe due to its diameter and how far the fluid has to travel. (its a friction thing) What I really want to say here is that even if you are worthless in the eyes of society for being a certain way, you should
never stop learning stuff. Like it is impossible to do anything with physics without running into people such as Gold, Boyle and Bernoulli. Well these genii came up with some super theories like if you heat up a gas it gets bigger and if you create negative pressure positive pressure will try to fill it. (Nature abhors a vacuum) and other stuff which we take for common sense today.
Well were people less smart 100 years ago? No, but society tends toward conservatism. So in aid of that, I have promised that I will never become conservative and I will look a hard problems in hope of finding a simple answer to a complex issue. I mean doesn't it just make perfect sense that if you have a sealed container of some kind of gas and you heat it up, somethings going to happen? Well, not to over simplify, but what's to stop someone like you or me from figuring out something just as important? Nothing except becoming a grumpy conservative as far as I can tell. Thats it for now.