READERS AND THEIR RIDES
READERS AND THEIR RIDES
Paul Van Weelden has been here before. Back in the December 2019 issue we first featured a wild fat-tire bike that he designed and built. And when we say “fat,” we mean fat, as it used a huge 11-inch-wide motorcycle rear tire to create part of its distinctive look.
For Paul’s long-time friend, Brad Alber, all it took was one ride on the fat bike for him to fall in love with it and practically demand that Paul build him a bike of his own.
At first, Brad wanted a sort of e-bomber-style off-road bike. Paul showed him a bunch of different designs. “There’s only so many to really do it. You know, straight from China, you can buy the shell frame now for $300 and then add whatever for a downhill fork and kind of go that route.”
Despite Paul’s assurance of an easier build process, Brad demurred. “No, the frame is the heart of the bike,” he told me. “I want you to make the frame.” We went back and forth a while, and then finally we decided to focus on doing a board track-style bike.
Paul went to work in CAD to design a bike that resembled a board track racer, with the batteries in both a case that he fabricated to look like a V-twin engine, mounted in the bottom of the frame and more in the “gas tank,” which also houses the controller.
Paul welds the bikes in a self-made jig where all the tubes are joined together. He has a hydraulic tube bender that he’s modified to bend the tubing precisely. He has a YouTube channel called “Pvanweelden” where you can see the progress of the board track racer. It’s really cool to watch him set up the jig, bend the tubes and weld it all together, then assemble it.
There’s a little suspension in the seat, and Paul custom-built a springer fork because he couldn’t find a triple-clamp fat-tire version. For the parts list, Paul started with some fairly basic components, including a 7-speed Shimano Acera drivetrain, a Redline stem, and Bengal calipers with 203mm rotors front and rear. The handlebars were hand-built.
The bike is long and low, and the bottom bracket is far forward of the seat, which not only makes for a comfortable riding position, but also makes it easier for the rider to put his feet on the ground at stops. The natural finish of the steel frame looks nice and authentic. The bike as a whole is simply beautiful.
For Brad’s bike, Paul went with a similar motor to the one he used on his own bike—a 1200-watt waterproof rear hub motor from Ebikeling, which is sold as a conversion kit. It runs at 52 volts, and the batteries in the current build are generic batteries comprised of 18650 (18mm x 56mm) lithium-ion cells, but he has plans to upgrade it to better batteries made with 21700 cells. The new batteries, from Eon Lithium in Texas, will offer about 30-Ah capacity, almost 10 Ah greater than this current build.
THERE WILL BE MORE
Paul is already starting to think about his next bike, working with a Kelly controller and 72 volts, able to put out 35 amps and up to 120 amps momentarily. That sounds scary fast to us!
For all the painstaking work involved to build each bike, you’d think that bike building would be Paul’s full-time gig. But, it isn’t. Luckily, since the bike builds don’t make him much money, in addition to having a “regular job,” Paul is quick to boast of the needed support he gets from his wife Erica, who lends encouragement for this labor of love.
You can check out his other work at www.pvanfab.com.