For my final project I am going to make the bicycle Hemingway would zip around with on his way from one post-apocalyptic Parisian cafe to another. It is currently dubbed the “SlickCycle.”
A primary inspiration for my work is the feel and aesthetic of a punching fist, specifically Joe Lewis’s in the iconic Detroit art piece “Monument to Joe Lewis” by Robert Graham. This got me spinning around a 1920’s Atlantic City prizefighter and the whole boxing aesthetic. This led me to the overall feel I want this piece to convey:
Riding this SlickCycle will convey the feeling of getting amped to enter the ring and start a fight.
This bike not only will PUNCH YOU IN THE FACE, it will get you ready to punch someone or something in the face. Looking at it will give the impression it is punching or ready to punch the air and anything in front of it. The fist also is sleek and sexy with some finesse similar to the technique of great boxers. So this bike will convey the quasi-sophistication of a gritty writer from the lost generation sitting in a street corner cafe holding a lit cigarette late in the dense Paris evening preparing for a wild and dangerous night.
I began with an idea to build my own cruiser and purely aesthetic oriented bicycle. Wanting to stray from the many bicycle frame designs already out there the next natural place to turn was motorcycles. Choppers came to mind as I really enjoy the aesthetics of some, but frankly riding one is just not my style. Then, I was exposed to the cafe racer motorcycles through another students aesthetic exploration in this class. I really loved the stripped down performance oriented and to me what looks like a “hunched” feel to these bikes, with floating seats and narrow handlebars.
The next inspiration also came as a result of an aesthetic discovered for the class. In one of our guest lectures the film “A Faster Horse” was mentioned. In that film about making the new Ford Mustang a designer mentions drawing inspiration form the Joe Lewis fist in Detroit and that resonated with me. I have always liked that artwork and love the aesthetic of a clenched, punching fist. I want this bike to PUNCH through the air and anything in front of it.
I have seen a few bicycles with a similar aesthetic but while I can’t say exactly my design right now I will definitely bring my own style and aesthetic to it. One idea I’ve kicked around is riffing off the Mad Max and zombie apocalypse scrap and repurpose theme. This could be my “crap hits the fan, end of the world” carriage. Also I don’t know if i’ll get there but I’d also like to integrate a small motor as I expect this build to get heavy quickly.
Process and Critical Components
Creating this masterpiece will require a significant effort and perfection of skills on my part. I know bikes in and out when it comes to fixing them and how they work but I have never built a frame and have only a small amount of welding experience. Many bikes have very thin tubing to cut down on weight and are thus very difficult to weld. Most people who build their first frame get around this by starting out with brazing together a lugged steel frame. I however don’t care to much if it gets very heavy and turns into a tank since it will be a cruiser and I may eventually put a small motor on this when I gather funds. So I am going to give welding it a shot with thicker heavier tubing. If this fails I may turn to bamboo.
Metal over bamboo will allow me to get the some of the curves I want in this design. In order to weld this together properly so it rides nice and doesn’t kill me I will need to build a jig to align and hold the pieces of metal for the frame in place. There are nice expensive bicycle frame jigs out there but I plan to make my own. I hope to do this as low cost as possible. Since this will be a one off piece and I have no need for a bike frame jig, the most minimal and cheap clamping structure I can get away with will work. After completing the jig I will weld the frame together and then install all the bike components.
Below is an expected timeline for my project:
I expect this may get somewhat costly but want to keep it under $250. The biggest cost besides the tubing and jig materials will be the bike parts I cannot salvage from other bikes or that I want to purchase to upgrade.
Below is a breakdown on expected costs:
- Jig – $50
- Tubing – $75
- Bike Parts – $50-150
[…] a feeling and emotion that I can’t quite put my finger on although I tried to in a few posts here and here. If it was subconsciously influenced by any aesthetic movements would say the closest is a […]
I think the idea of making a bicycle look like a motorbike is really interesting. I think you have a real challenge ahead with making your own frame from scratch but it should turn out well and be a lot of fun!
I appreciate that you included documentation from beginning to end. It reminded me that I should be documenting everything for this project. I think that there is a bicycle shop on pearl street that lets you build a bike fore free with them if you work for them for a little (full cycle?)
I really like your schedule! I’m building a bike too, but I’m pretty much gluing it together so I don’t think i’ll need a conventional jig. What are you using for your jig?
This theme is hilarious. I can’t say I really understand it, but it sounds great! Sounds like you’re gonna make a really mean and industrial cruiser.
Best of luck on this! It sounds like you’re making the tubing quite thin, so I’m a bit worried about the structural integrity of this thing. I really dig the third image you have on the bottom right with that brownish stainless steel looking frame. I think that a dark frame matched with brighter aluminum parts would make a nice color scheme. Good luck, are you welding on campus or do you have your own setup?
You’ve got a lot of work ahead of you it sounds like. I love the look of cafe racers so I’m really looking forward to seeing the end result. Can old bike frames be modified without welding? Fasteners of some sort maybe.
Building a bike is kind of ambitious, especially if you’re combining a bicycle and a motorcycle. Cool project idea. What colors are you going to use in the final design?
You’re going to get to class SO FAST on this thing. Ernest Hemingway would certainly want to ride this around while sipping coffee and smoking cigarettes. Have you decided whether you want skinny wheels or thick? Drop handlebars or cruiser handlebars or straight handlebars?