The Chopper Builders Handbook came about as much by accident as by design. One evening about twelve years ago a friend came by the shop and asked me if I had any drawings or specifications for Chopper frames or forks. I told him I had tons of stuff stored away that I’d saved over the previous forty years. I told him I planned on writing a book someday when I found the time.
He told me all he needed was a sketch showing the Harley motor and tranny mount dimensions that he could post at some message board where the members were having some disagreements about certain measurements. I explained to him that everything he needed was in any of the older shop manuals. Apparently it never occurred to anybody to actually buy one of the old factory manuals. To make a long story short, I gave him a jpeg of the mounts dimensions and we posted it to a discussion thread about frame building. He called me the next morning and told me he’d received over a hundred emails asking if he had more info.
I can’t even remember the name of the site but I opened up an account in my own name and began to post more pictures in answer to specific questions. Within a few days the mail was overwhelming. It simply became to complicated to keep posting small snippets of information to dozens and dozens of what became some pretty complicated questions. In order to make things simpler I just created web pages and then referred posters back to those pages. In time the number of pages grew and we found ourselves running a small website much against our wishes. Within two years the site had grow to over 300 pages and we eventually started our own discussion board using the old ‘Discus’ software. I’m pretty good with computers at the hardware level so we ran our own servers and even brought in a dedicated uplink to a local ISP. By late 2004 the entire project had become more than a full time job and it was a job I didn’t have time for so I started to take shortcuts. As a result the system crashed and of course my backups were spotty to say the least. We lost a ton of material and were down for almost two months.
Here we are now, almost thirteen years later and the main site is at least back up to about 75% of where it used to be and we’re still working on it. A lot of ‘insiders’ in the Chopper industry said we’d be gone in two years since there was no real ‘market’ for the type of material that we were writing about.
In some ways what they were saying is true. There isn’t a ‘market’ for our material. We never aimed at catering to any type of ‘market’. Our work was aimed at the individuals who had an interest in hand making a personalized Chopper. This is a very very small group of people; probably less than .001-percent of the total Biker community, maybe even less.
Even this small group of people however represents a sizable number of ‘free-thinkers’ and our main site still gets an average of 10,000 hits (1,000 visitors) per day. I think that’s an amazing number for a niche site like ours.
So long as there is even one person out there who has the desire to bend some tube and fit together a frame and a set of forks I’ll keep the site up and running.