Chopper Bicycle Project

In The Beginning

For years I have wanted to design and build my own motorcycle. But, lacking money and wife approval, it went nowhere. Then all the recent chopper shows came on and drove my creative soul to the edge. This was my release project. :)

The Chameleon

During this project I discovered a whole culture built around chopper bicycles. It is customary to give your bicycle a name, and mine is Chameleon because of the color changing paint. The artwork (located near the head tube) was adapted from a Japanese artist named Yasushi Nirasawa (click on the image for his art). While there are several likenesses to a motorcycle, there was nothing done to the bike to purposely make it look like a motorcycle. It's a bicycle with 100% bicycle parts. Chopper bicycle designers will be quick to notice the uncommonly thin rear tire. This bicycle was not made for tooling around urban streets, it was designed for faster paced riding on the many paved bike trails in my area.

Bike Details

I bought 2 bikes from the DAV for $6 total. They were both from the 70's, a Montgomery Ward AAU and a AMF Pacemaker. My goal was to use as much as possible from these 2 bikes. The only things bought new were: tires, seat, handlebar, mirror, pads, and cables. The bike stretches 102 inches and the chain for it is just about as long. The wheels are 27 inch with a slightly thicker tire in the rear. The rake is about 45 degrees with an additional 5 in the fork resulting in 6 inches of wheel trail. So, this thing does not turn on a dime by any means.


The frame of the bicycle is composed of 2 frames. The back half had the top bar removed and the seat lowered. The front half had the chain stays removed and then was welded into place. I used some diamond plate to cover up some of the cosmetic ugliness involved to do this. Both forks were put together along with the removed chainstays for support to create the new fork. I had the new fork chromed and it looks great.

The shifters are your normal vintage 10 speed shifters, but modified. I attached the brake levers from one of the bikes to the shifter to allow easier changing of the gears. The front derailer is in the same location as it would have been for the front frame. However, the frame was angled back making the derailer inoperable. So, I made a new longer one by combining the 2 Shimano Thunderbird derailers. The chain is very long and heavy on the rear derailer (Shimano Eagle). So, I created a chain assist made out of the extra rear derailer gears. The gear system is very unique as it is a FF (Front Free) System. This means the gears are attached to the rear wheel statically and when I coast the chain continues to rotate. The gear on the pedals is actually the free wheel and spins when coasting. The idea behind this was that you could switch gears while coasting, but the system never caught on. For me this caused a problem because when I coasted I generated a lot of slack on the upper half of the chain. This caused the chain to hit the frame and to sometimes switch gears. I created a chain catch and put it above the assist to keep this from occurring.


I ended up using 3 Duplicolor color-changing kits to paint the bike. I could have have done it with less, but the more you use, the more the color comes out. These pictures do not do it justice. The color shifts between green and purple and sparkles in the sun.

A Club ???

I am looking for anyone else in Central Iowa that would be interested in starting a custom bicycle club. The only 2 requirements would be you built a new bicycle or refurbished a vintage one and that the bike was rideable. The club would participate in the many organized bicycle events/rides in our area. Email me if interested: errthumt (at) .


  • Aztlan Bicycle - California Lowrider store, bought handle bars and mirror from here.

  • Barr Bike & Fitness - Bike shop in Ankeny Iowa, bought miscellaneous bicycle parts and maintenance stuff from here.

  • Bike Iowa - Website with all things involving biking in Iowa.

  • Bike Rod N Kustom - E-zine featuring works by custom bicycle builders and restorers.

  • - Online chopper bicycle community with gallery and forums.

  • Duplicolor - Makers of Mirage, color shifting paint.

  • Harris Cyclery - Seller of old bicycle parts, got rear tire here and a lot of knowledge from Sheldon Brown's articles.

  • JensonUSA - Online bicycle parts seller, got front tire from here.

  • O'Reilly Auto Parts - Auto store, got some paint and body filler supplies from here.

    working on bike #2...