Readers’ Rides: The Bike That Paul Van Weelden Built
The Bike That Paul Van Weelden Built
A reader contacted us recently and sent in some photos of a custom build that made us take notice. It’s a stunning bike, hand-built almost completely from scratch by, interestingly, Paul Van Weelden who works in IT for a law firm in Iowa. In his spare time he’s truly an artist. He likes making all kinds of things using his favorite medium—metal.
It all started when Paul Van Weelden bought a welder.
The first photos he sent us were of this amazing custom e-bike he’s built. Reminiscent of an old motorcycle, it started when he bought a welder.
He’s been welding for a long time, but he had never owned a welder, and it was only when he bought a Miller MIG welder that he decided to fabricate a bike.
To facilitate the build he wanted, he bought a Harbor Freight tubing roller that he modified with some Swag Off-Road parts to improve it. He started laying the bike out on the floor, and soon realized that would not work, so he built a frame jig to hold it.
“To me, it’s like, that’s why I build things!”
He wanted an 11-inch-wide motorcycle tire for the back, so he had to track down a wheel that would work with a bicycle drivetrain. With a tire that wide, he had to carefully measure the size of the bottom bracket. He used a 2-inch pipe and modified a BMX three-piece crank by cutting the spindle in half and extending it by welding a solid steel rod in between.
The fork is one of the pieces he bought stock. It’s an interesting triple-clamp setup that uses a single-clamp stem. It’s rigid, and he’s looking to find a suspension fork without a lot of travel to replace it.
The motor is a 1200-watt waterproof hub-drive conversion kit that he bought from www.ebikeling.com. He put his own battery together, and it’s a massive one that sits at the bottom of the bike behind the bottom bracket. It’s a 52-volt setup made up of 112, 18650 cells, carefully housed and bolted together and insulated using a cutting board underneath it.
All the wiring from the battery, which includes two 14-gauge wires, two 10-gauge and five 18-gauge wires, is all shrink-wrapped and taped together and run up through the seat tube, which is 1-inch tubing that is only 3/4-inch diameter on the inside to go to the controller, gauges, motor and lighting.
With that massive battery, Paul estimates that he could go flat out, throttle only for about 45 minutes to an hour. In normal use, he gets at least four hours out of it.
The kit from Ebikeling came with a display, but Paul didn’t trust them, so he has two gauges mounted on the top of the gas tank that show off the actual voltage of the battery and the mode he’s in. The funny thing is that he didn’t realize that there was more than one mode until one day when he saw an indicator. He pushed a button and it moved, toggling him to medium and then high power. That day he went from a max speed of 22 mph to 29 mph!
Brakes are mechanical disc brakes with cutoff switches and 203mm rotors. Initially, he was using only the front brake because he had been so focused on lining up the chain and the rear wheel properly that he made it impossible to install the rear caliper.
Paul is a humble guy and says he doesn’t like to show off, but with a bike this eye-catching, who wouldn’t want to? He enjoys taking it to car shows and other places, and he gets a lot of compliments and a few questions sometimes like, “Where’s the motor?” At one show he parked it at a friend’s booth, and when people stopped to admire it, they also asked questions or took photos of it.
He took it to a Harley-Davidson show recently and worried that people might chase him out. They didn’t; instead, they embraced the bike.
Once when he was riding by a couple of older gentlemen, one yelled out to him, “Hey, get over here!” When he approached them, Paul noticed that one of the men was in a wheelchair and breathing with an oxygen tank. He stayed for 20 minutes, and they wanted to know every detail about it. “To me, it’s like, that’s why I build things!”
His kids also love the toys he makes, and his older daughter likes riding the bike. Paul has been teaching her and her friends how to weld.
Though he’s not gearing up to make any of these bikes for anyone, as he reckons he has over $5000 in materials and time in this one, Paul does also create other things as part of his avocation. He fabricates not only the mini Jeeps, but from his love of all things Jeep, he makes door hangers for full-size Jeep doors, half doors for them and Jeep fire pits, which he sells via his website, www.pvanfab.com.
He says he’ll be adding some electric drift trikes on there soon, and his next planned bike build will be inspired by a Harley track bike. We can’t wait to see it!