A few years ago, in the midst of the last recession, Dick Cheney claimed that the US wasn't really having a downturn, because the informal economy of eBay, swap meets, and the like was actually driving the economy forward, and it just wasn't showing up on traditional economic data.
While that statement was most likely bullshit, the underground economy is alive and well in the custom motorcycling world. eBay, swap meets, and various forms of barter are part and parcel of our landscape, and always have been. I was just recently witness to a round of informal customizing while hanging at Chopper Dave's Casting Company.
"Did you know you can lace a 21 to a drum brake Sportster hub?" Dave asked me. With people fabricating frames out of billet aluminum and other engineering insanity like that, it didn't seem like that hard of a move. But over the course of our conversation, scoping out bikini models for the next cover, Dave proceeded to reassemble the frontend.
Apparently the hard part of making this mod work is the axle. Before I got there, Dave had turned the Wide Glide axle down to 5/8- inch to fit the wheel and machined a pair of spacers with a 3/4-inch step to fit the drum hub and space the wheel properly. To mate the drum brake with the frontend, a couple mods had to be performed to the left fork lower. The leg was shaved to remove all but the lower caliper mount, which became the anchor point for the drum. A machined piece was welded onto the leg to serve as a cable support. Both legs were then sent to the polisher (along with the spacers), which is why they remain wrapped in cellophane for the photos.
So right there in front of me, I watched it all go back together. Getting the tubes back into the swap meet trees was the biggest time-killer, requiring some cajoling and grinding to get the pieces to mate. Then it was just a matter of sliding the one-off axle through a pair of one-off spacers and cinching the whole thing down.
Why go through all this? A new chest tattoo, of course.
Dave: Hey Mike, I wanna get tattooed!
Mike: Hey Dave, I got a Wide Glide and a cool 21 with a Sporty drum in it, can you make it all work together?
Dave: Absolutely! Wanna tattoo me for it?
And so the deal was struck: San Diego tattoo artist Mike Stobbe (of Avalon 2) would front Dave a horse-collar script piece that reads "self-inflicted." Then Dave would help finish off Mike's custom. Just like the founding fathers intended. Look for a full feature on Mike's chopper in a couple issues-the bike is neat (thanks Dave).
The first half of the trade...
The first half of the trade was the tattoo. Dave thought he was getting off easy.
But right from the get-go...
But right from the get-go the fork tubes didn't slide in like they were supposed to. A grinder was called in to assist.
The second tube was even more...
The second tube was even more stubborn than the first, requiring repeated grinding and smoothing to get it to seat completely.
The moment of truth. If the...
The moment of truth. If the measurements were even a skosh off on the spacers, it's back to the lathe (and then the polisher). They fit.
Here's the clean brake mounting...
Here's the clean brake mounting Dave worked out with the cable mount on the leg (directly above the actuating arm), and the lower caliper mount converted to brake anchor detail.
The finished products and...
The finished products and a pair of happy customers.