May 6, 2009


  As I mentioned, it is a long pending item in my wish list - to make a bicycle. I would say any one who would want to make a bicycle ( for that matter any thing !! ) first thing required to have is the 'passion' .. passion and the fire in the belly ... without a real passion in blood, it is very difficult to withstand all types of resistances around .. you need to work with a workshop guy, you need to get required parts from the gullies, you need to get the design ready - which should have tolerance for last time adjustments, after all you should be always ready to face the failure .... This is my first project in this line - you know that !!!  that is where all these 'FUNTASTIC' words coming from ...

   Any way lets get started ... 

   I started with my drawing ... I put down all the ideas in my mind to the 'drawing board' ... after all my idea is to do some thing 'different' ... So I 'had to' think different from the convensional designs .. google helped me a lot ... and when I start doing search internet, I saw many crazy folks who did the same work - real crazy stuff ... I didn't want to take all the crazy stuff .. b'se to start with I would want to go for a simple elegant - but 'different' design ...  I finally decided to go for some kindof recumbent bike. So some rought figures I made and translated that to Blender - my favourite 3d rendering engine.

  Though I am not a good Blender guru - I can make some reasonable quality 3D images using that wonderfull tool. So I made the image as below and decided to go with that ... !!!

Thought process :

    There are lot to think !!! I sat down to calculate the length of my leg, how much I can / I need to stretch, How much angle is required for comfortable sitting, What should be the length, what should be the chain length and covering mechanism ...  thoughts are like real warriors .. it will not allow you sit idle for even a single moment ... I had to struggle a lot to keep myself concentrate on while driving my car ..   I didn't want to spoil my office stuff also with this ...  

   So finally came up with some rough calculation and came up with modified diagram with all dimentions marked ... yeah I know it is a crude way of designing a vehicle !!! still it is OK .. 

   Next is get a technician who can help me doing the welding work and fixing bits and pieces together. I checked with couple of work shop guys and all are like -" it is going to be difficult and will not work out" .. "you will not get the balance while driving if we make a cycle" .. "sir this involves lot of work and we will not see the actual amount of work in the final product " more truthfull statement !!!! .... 

   finally I found a person who generally do kind of spot welding like work and get his living out of it .. I thought he may be able to help me - if I also stay with him and hold the control tightly and involve in every stage of work - it will work out... After some conversation - I also smelled some enthusiasm in his attitude .. so decided to go with him ... That is Kumar .. Kumar was working with a reasonably big workshop where 'he had to fight' with employer and quite naturally he vacated the place ...  and settled in a small - no tiny - shop with his welding kits ... He is a real nice chap .. 

That is it -- work started on election day in bangalore .. 23rd of April. I went and sat with him with my drawing . It took a little while for me to convince him my design .. but he was ok if I am confident !!! I had already bought an old second hand MTB bicycle frame to start with ... 

Dealing with people:

    The very next problem I had to face is handling people who come to watch the cutting and welding. When they see some thing different being made, they come and gather - to give all types of suggestions. Suggestions and advices - Many I got - some are really good, But I didn't want to incorporate as that would  spoil the whole  plan ..  "If this had done like this - it would have been really nice " is the typicaly comment many would throw to air .. that is fine .. but if we don't answer them - they would be like -- " ok lets see .. if you don't do like this - this is going to break ... nghaaa " OK .. that is ok .. if I fail - it is fine ... let me fail .... !!!  I didn't want to have an argument with them - as that will spoil my work .. I just did what I wanted to :-) ..

Cutting the frame:

    The old bicycle frame had to be cut into pieces  ( and some pieces should not be cut too ). One of the basic criteria while cutting the frame was to save the bottom chain wheel axle shell. That is one vital part in a bicycle for fixing the chain. There are some adjustments in shell - which will help us to aligh the chain. Chain alignment is a tricky part in bicycle making !!!!. So make sure that cransk shell is placed exactly parallel to the rear wheel axle ( If drive is going to be in rear wheel ). 

   Another important thing to note is ( this should be considered during initial design phase itself !! ) crank wheel size and placement. The end of Crank should not touch any where in the bicycle. Some time it may happen that  while pedling either crank or our foot will touch the front wheel which is not a good design. So consider that spacing also while designing. So for solving this issue I had to keep more angle for the head tube - which gave my bicycle a chopper look !!!. It has both advantage and disadvantage which I will describe later.

    If we are going to go for a bicycle from scratch ( without depending on a readymade frame to cut ), then things will be straight forward and we have more flexibility. Only thing is we should have all the required components ready in hand. 


     As this is a custome made bicycle, dimensions are going to be purely depend on the person. In general, in my project, for me ( 5'6"), the distance I have taken between seat and the chain axle is almost 26 inches.  This is pretty crucial calculation. So what I would suggest is one should sit on the floor - leaning on a wall and try to pedal on the floor ( a virtual pedaling !! ) and see which is the comfortable position. calculate that distance and take that as a reference. While making, we should keep in mind that we are going to have fine adjustment after the basic structure is ready. Hence keep a watch on what all points we are welding. We may have to cut the top tube ( and may be bottom tube too ) if the measurements are not matching with our comfortable positions. In initial projects these are just trial and error  ( and that is more fun too than keeping every thing crystal clear on paper :-)  ). 
     The end of chain crank should be at least 6 inches from the ground.  Other wise there is a chance that pedal will touch the ground while we are taking a turn.  

Welding part:

         While selecting a welding shop for making an 'own cycle', it is always suggested to consider a person who has both arc and gas welding facility. Many times we feel the need to have a gas welding - which is easy and more flexible and handy -  to fill metal in the gaps !!! And after all the person's skill is a big factor in this whole excercise !!! Also you need to keep a close watch on what he is doing and interfere if you feel so - he may not like it - but it is OK ...

Find a good Cycle shop:

         There are some things in making a cycle which require skill .. fixing spokes and aligning wheel, fixing chain are main two parts - then freewheel assembly, fixing breaks etc are also important ..  I prefer go to a cycle shop guy and get it fixed rather than doing lots of trial and error work .. ( it is fun though )

      After you fix your basic stuffs ready - you are done with your pet cycle project !!!. 
     Not the end of every thing still !!! I would propose you to use your basic bicycle for 
    some time in small small - not much crowded roads and get familiarise with it. All 
    the while you should be watching for the comfort factor and think and experience
where you can improve more .. you can use all types of tools for getting different feel
I used wooden sheets, pillow, boxes etc for getting the heck of different seating position
and differnt angles etc.

Painting :

         After all these activities are done,  once you are ready with your frame ready - next is painting ...  strip your cycle first and get your frame in hand ..  sand it with smooth paper and get a clean even surface .... The best paint to go for  spray paint. It is available in paint shops ( it will cost you some 200 Rs per can ). Select a suitable one and find a suitable non windy - but ventilated place. Apply spray from some 12 inches away from the frame ( if you go very near you paint drops will be formed !!! ). You can either go for two coulour for effects !!! or may be you can go for some stickers ( which is easy ).

               I tried to do painting with a small spray bottle. I got it from local hardware/paint shop for about 200 Rs. But it is really difficult to get it done neet. Also I didn't have a closed room for doing this painting and hence when ever I spray the gun, paint falls on different places. Some how I could finish the bottle but it was a real failure. I went for sticker. There is one car decorating shop near my home. I went there to get the sheet of stickers. It is available in different quality and rates. An average quality sticker you can get for about 40Rs / sq feet. For a bicycle you would need almost 8 sq feet of sticker. Sticking sticker on Bicycle frame is a real cool experience. You need to take measurements and do intelligent cuttings !!! ... So finally I could get it done reasonably good. Yeah I didn't want it to be a professionaly looking stuff...  always amature stuff has it's beauty !!!! 

There you are ready with your Basic bicycle .. My idea was a bit different. I wanted to make an "electric chopper bike" ... so still more to go !!!

I found a motor which can be fixed to the cycle from the vendor in Pondichery. These motors are called hub motors 
 which will replace your hub and stay within your wheel itself .. - so no protruding parts, no extra fittings nothing .. The one I got is 36 V, 350 W motor ...  So you need a battery of 36 V. I went for 3, 12 V batteries with 12 AH. ( cheaper option I found is BaseTerminal ). I had to make a box for putting all the batteries together and need to fix that box in the bicycle. Tough job again !!!!
Box making will be done by some sheet metal expert. I searched for some one who can spare some time for making this kind of a small work ( yes every skilled workers are really busy every where ... !! so doing small - time consuming work is not really worth doing as far as they are concerned ... that is the difficult part in making. Other wise if you have idea ( and of course money also is needed !! ) there are many who CAN make it for us .. ) Finally I found a person who can do it for me for `little extra money` .. that is fine .. get me this done dude !!!


... to be continued


  1. sakha..really gr8 job..kudos..!! ur cycle appears to be better than conventional ones in terms of stability. ur frame design is good, it really compensates for the extra length. but the one shown in your CAD would have been better(specifically if u want to take it offroad..;) )

  2. Really excellent blog and is nice to see your cycle in the video. I can see your kid getting really excited :)