Homemade Bikes: Big Bird's Bikes

Mountain Biking Magazine



Homemade Bikes: Big Bird’s Bike

My name’s Josh Walters aka Big Bird and I’m two meters tall. Over the twenty-four years of my mountain biking career, I’ve come to realize that nobody makes a bike that fits me and my riding style.

Josh “Big Bird” Walters tells us about four bikes that he’s made or modified to suit his larger than life style.

Josh “Big Bird” Walters complete with Motherwell hat!

This is me on my ’91 CBR 600 F2 with a homemade bike rack made by the bike’s previous owner and his engineer friend. You can’t read it in the picture, but that’s a Motherwell FC hat I’ve got on.

Sure, an XXL Tallboy would fit me just fine, but I’m not in a real hurry to ride one and certainly can’t afford one. So about ten years ago I left the kitchen and got a job at a small motorcycle fabrication shop and learned to TIG weld and started making frames to fit me and no one else. There are no crazy gearboxes or carbon fibre, just single pivots and chromoly steel. But they’re simple and strong and ride just the way I like them.

I don’t name my bikes, but I sticker them with the name of whichever small frame maker let me use his shop to make it, along with stylish graphics from the local head shop. I also try to put a “B B” on the head tube. All of the frames that I’ve made are of straight gauge chromoly steel. Also, in sizing my frames, I pay the most attention to the distance between the bottom bracket and the centre of the head tube. This gives the best indication of the distance from the pedals to the handlebars, which when you’re not sitting down to pedal, is the most important thing in terms of feel.

The first frame that I made was a chromoly steel dirt jumper, as I was avidly into jumping at the time. This one I made in the shop of Rick Hunter who makes quite elegant yet strong frames here in Santa Cruz.

The basic stats are; 70 degree head angle, 308mm bb, 387mm chainstays, 660mm down tube and 1035mm wheel base. It’s got a Red Neck stem, Profile bars and a 22-11 drivetrain.

That done, I needed a suspension frame so it was back to Hunters’. My friend Eric rents a house with loads of land. So I needed an “Eric’s house bike”. I had an XL Santa Cruz Bullit frame, so I used its swing arm as the basis for my next bike. The most important thing about this frame is the main pivot placement. I moved it up the down tube as much as possible with the goal of getting the shortest chain stays possible and at the same time putting the pivot above the chain so that when I put down the power, it goes down to the ground for maximum traction and acceleration. To make room for the travel, I steepened the seat angle as necessary as again, it’s not there to sit and pedal. It’s as long as an XL, but only as high as a small.

Stats; 65-degree head angle, 343mm bottom bracket, 419 chainstays,
673mm down tube, 1124mm wheelbase and 160mm travel.

My original hard tail was a little bit heavy, so when I sadly dented the top tube, I dove in and built another, also at Rick Hunter’s shop. For this second one, I cheated a little bit and used the rear triangle from a Prototype Solid Bikes frame. (The California based BMX company, not the German one.) I cut off the front, rotated the bottom bracket down, and welded on a front end to fit me.

Stats; 71-degree head angle, 311mm bottom bracket, 393mm chainstays,
673mm down tube, 1047mm wheelbase and 25-12 gearing.

Finally, my Giant Team DH was getting pretty clapped out, so it was time to build a downhill frame. Actually, I first bought a steel downhill frame from a a guy that turned out to be an $800 rip off, 240mm of travel on cross country geometry! Anyway I built a new front end for the swing arm. Later on I lightened it up by switching out the swing arm for a new Bullit one, which had almost the same geometry. I made that alteration at Black Cat Bikes of Aptos, so I put some of his stickers on. This is the last frame that I’ve made about four years ago now. It’s got very slack geometry, which everyone seems to be doing now, but to pat myself on the back; it was ahead of its time.

Stats; 62 degree head angle, 350mm bottom bracket, 416mm chainstays, 698mm down tube and 1194mm wheel base. You read that chainstays measurement correctly. Short stays and a long front end combine for a reasonable wheelbase that turns on a dime, pence? Hey Orange, try it out, you might like it.

So those are my bikes. I crashed pretty hard on the jumps almost three years ago now and bruised my spleen. It still hurts from time to time and I never really got back to jumping so the two hardtails mostly hang and collect dust in my shed. I’m including two pictures from inside my shed as I think you guys might like them.

This is my collection of suspension forks including almost every RockShox fork through the 7″ Boxxer including a few single crown DHO’s and above them my 24″ wheeled gravity bike.

And because it’s Dirt mag, a shot of my highly modified ’76 Triumph Bonneville. The motorcycle shop that I worked at specialized in vintage British bikes and flat track race bikes.

Thanks for your time .

And keep the homemade bikes coming.

Josh “Big Bird” Walters

P.S I am looking for a job, preferably in the bike industry, so give me a shout.

If you’ve made your own bike then get in touch with Billy


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