Review by C. Reichstein
Are you a bike enthusiast? Are you a fan of the local "Chunk 666" bike club? Do you enjoy tinkering, building and welding? If so, get your hands on a copy of Atomic Zombie’s Bicycle Builder's Bonanza right now. This book will teach you how to create fantastically surreal bikes with minimal tools. With 11 bicycle projects in this book, you'll soon have a fleet of DIY bikes.
Authors Brad Graham and Kathy McGowan show you how to salvage perfectly good bike parts at the city dump, or how to find them at minimal cost. Brad Graham—a David Duchovny lookalike—is photographed riding every single bike mentioned in this book to illustrate how each one handles. Atomic Zombie's Bicycle Builder's Bonanza is fully illustrated with over 200 photographs. There are extremely detailed instructions on how to weld bike parts together, strip down a bike to the bare frame, operate an arc welder, spray paint your bike and make it shine. The writing is excellent and easy-to-understand for beginners as well as more advanced hobbyists.
You'll only need basic tools to build these bikes, such as a hammer, vise, adjustable wrench, angle grinder, hand drill, a tape measure, and, of course, a welding instrument. Graham's writing is extremely thorough and knowledgeable. He's been tinkering with bikes for 20 years, so he knows welding techniques very well, and also explains how the physics work out on a particular model. Even though there's lots of technical information in here, it never gets too serious. Buy this book, start your own bike collective, and you'll throw away your television. (Powells.com 2004-04-22)
Review by Jim Wilson
Anyone who spends much time here at BR&K is familiar with Brad Graham's work- he's one of those crazy bike builders who's not content with the ordinary form of the bicycle, so he playfully stretches the boundaries about as far as anyone ever has. And he's been doing it since he was a child. Now he and Kathy McGowan have produced a "how-to" book on the subject, of great interest to anyone who'd like to mess around with bikes the Brad Graham way, or their own.
Called Atomic Zombie's Bicycle Builder's Bonanza (McGraw-Hill/TAB Books) it starts with the basics you need to know, setting up a shop to do it in, acquiring raw materials, stripping down bike carcasses for parts, etc. He also provides a surprisingly short list of tools actually needed to do the work, and their functions.
Unlike many recent authors of “how-to" materials, Brad doesn't assume that everyone has a sophisticated shop filled with state-of-the-art tools and equipment. According to him, all the budding metal butcher needs is a workbench (for which he provides plans), a vise, a hammer, a hacksaw, an electric grinder, some adjustable wrenches, the cheapest and most basic type of arc welder and some accessories for it. He gives a good basic instructional write-up on welding techniques with the stick welder, which is about as good as can be done within a printed text. He stresses that hands-on practice is the only way to really learn the art, but he shows and tells enough, through words and photos, to get you to the practicing point. Amazingly, this extremely minimal equipment is what he still uses to build his bike creations, and he does it in what most of us would consider a squalid, unheated shed.
This lowball approach applies to materials as well. He recommends common thin-wall electrical conduit, rather than fancier and more expensive tubing types. Sure, conduit isn't as strong or light as CrMo, but it sure is cheap and is certainly adequate to the task. This is very important if you whip up as many bikes as Brad Graham. And like we say, you aren't going to be running it in the Tour de Bloody France, eh?
After the basic information, Brad gets down to projects he's actually built, ranging from the ordinary to the extraordinary, with extremely detailed instructions on building them yourself, or using his tricks to build something different, using some of the aspects taught in a given project.
He starts with the simplest chopper type, based on the "gazelle" fork technique, in which another fork leg is added onto the original leg by pounding it on with a hammer and drilling a hole through the result for a nut and bolt to secure it. This is a very good introduction to chopper building for younger builders, and it's followed by two more choppers of increasingly more sophisticated design and construction. Among the components of these are many useful techniques for building fenders, a triple-tree fork, etc.
These are followed by a snow-going hammerhead trike which he then transforms into a tandem trike he calls the "Snow Bus" It features Ackermann steering and a very strong front end, suitable for extremely rough usage in snow and ice.
From there, things get weirder. Brad gets into the construction of two bikes of the tall variety, one a 10-footer, one of more modest aspirations made by turning the frame upside down and adding a new seat tube and extended steering stem. As usual, Brad's instructions are lucid and his plans are workable.
Brad then goes into the construction of recumbents and "low racers". These are ground-hugging machines built for speed, which look like they'd be lots of fun to build and play with.
Back into weirdness territory, Brad gives instruction on building a very interesting take on the hinged-in-the-middle "swingbike" concept, then goes even further out with a free-castored-rear, front-wheel-driven machine which is part low racer, part thrill ride.
Also sort of in the thrill ride category are a pair of unicycles, one of which, the "Wild Bull" is so challenging to ride that Brad's technique involves steering with one hand, to free the other one for wildly waving to help maintain balance.
Bike Builder's Bonanza is a very apt title for this book. If you just want to learn the skills to build that chopper or stretch that sled, you'll find the knowledge here. And if you want to learn what it takes to actually build some of those really crazy bike ideas you have, you'll definitely love this book. Brad and Kathy have produced a fine and useful book, and in doing so, have made it possible for many people to make their own bike dreams a reality. (Bikerod & Kustom 2003-12-23)
A book review by Warren Beauchamp
Warren's 'bent rating: 5 sprockets!
I have been following Brad Graham's (mis?)adventures on his Atomic Zombie web site for a number of years. I always got a chuckle at his latest junk to gem creation. It always amazed me how he could take a pile of junk bicycles from his local scrap heap, whip out his grinder and welder, and create something wild and perfectly functional. Okay, maybe the skyscraper bikes were a bit less than practical, but who cares they were fun! In any case, the Atomic Zombie had alluded to the fact that he was writing a book about his bicycles and now it's a reality.
Atomic Zombie's Bicycle Builders Bonanza is a practical guide to building cool bikes from old scrap bikes. This is truly a book for anyone, even people with no building experience. He starts with detailed instructions on how to build a workbench and how to weld, and proceeds from there with explaining how to acquire and then dismember the bikes you'll use to create your own masterpiece. I wish I had a book like this when I was starting to build bikes! Brad explains in detail how to build 14 different bikes, including choppers, tall bikes, recumbent bikes, and some really odd ones. My favorite is the Marauder low racer.
Each project details the parts you will need, shows detailed pictures of the building process, and then shows the completed bike in action. Brad mixes stories of bikes gone awry in with the instructions to provide a humorous style that is informative as well as a good read.
With this thick 388 page book, even the cheapest novice bike hobbyist can realize his dreams of building the wildest bike on the street! (www.recumbents.com 2003-12-10)
Excerpts from two of several reports posted:
I just got my copy. The Marauder plans and building instructions are worth the cover price.
My boss (of all people) gave me a copy. Thoroughly enjoyed. A lot of great advice about salvage and what to look for in old bikes, and how-to stuff for the completely new-to-it builder/mechanic. I am a gas torch guy rather than a plug-it-into-the-dryer-outlet welder, but the book is great fun. I may try a Marauder-like bike, interesting geometry and salvage ideas. For sure, when I revise the RR site, this book is recommended reading for anyone starting out! Thanks to the author, and I hope you sell a million of them! (BentRiderOnline (www.bentrideronline.com) 2003-12-08)
Excerpts from report by Juergen Weichert
I pre-ordered this book before it was printed and got it a couple of months ago. AMAZING! I don't even have it any more as it has already been lent around, and another three at least have been ordered by others in our group...
Local plans for building among our group already include: one hammerhead, one spin-cycle adapted for both road and ice use with detachable blades, and a tall bike set up for touring(!), and several choppers.
Claudio Pagan also reported:
I received my copy about a month ago and I absolutely love the book. I think it would be a great addition to any bicycle/HPV enthusiast's library.
If you're someone who's been thinking of building your own, this book will give you both the inspiration and the knowledge you'll need to get you started. I definitely see a Marauder in my future. (International Human Powered Vehicle Association (www.ihpva.org) 2003-12-08)