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thedrifter
08-12-05, 09:49 AM
Watch out Jesse James: Colorado Marine builds choppers in Al Asad
2nd Marine Aircraft Wing
Story by Sgt. Juan Vara

AL ASAD, Iraq (Aug. 11, 2005) -- The high operational tempo of the second largest air base in Iraq requires many of the service members here to find ways to get from place to place faster than by just walking. Bicycles, a cheap and effective mode of transportation, have become the most popular way to overcome this challenge.

Sgt. Dustin W. Lambert, an airframes mechanic with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 26, didn’t want to be like everyone else riding a stock bike. Inspired by Jesse James, famous builder of motorcycles and host of the Discovery Channel’s Monster Garage, Lambert built his own bike.

For months, before building his chopper, Lambert worked on bikes that service members would bring to the welding and metal shops in MALS-26. “We would chop the original forks and put extensions there,” said Lambert, a native of Alamosa, Colo.

Lambert and other MALS-26 Marines worked on about 25 of these bikes when he decided he wanted a bike that was more than just a stock bike with extended forks.

“I wanted to build my own because I didn’t like the way the rest of the bikes were made,” said Lambert. “They don’t look like choppers. I wanted mine to look like a chopper.”

The project kicked off in June. In his scarce downtime he read magazines and watched DVDs loaded with tips, tricks and ideas on building choppers. After he found a style he liked, Lambert figured out what size wheels and tires he wanted on it.

Assisted by some of his buddies in the unit, he searched the Internet for parts he could use and ordered the wheels and tires along with pedals, a seat, the sprocket, the crank and pegs.

Taking time during lunchtime and staying late after work, Lambert began looking around the air base for aluminum he could use to make his project a reality. A spare bike was used as a donor of some hardware, nuts, bolts and bearing braces.

“We drew a life-size diagram on a piece of metal and started piecing the bike together,” he said.

Lambert, who had never built a chopper before, said his technique came from watching Jesse James build motorcycles on TV. “He’s been my idol for a long time,” he said.

The chopper rolls on 26-inch, 144-spoke wheels and has a 110-inch long chain made up by linking two mountain bike chains. “I love it,” he said. “I’m not going to build any more bikes here but I may try to start something up when I get back.”

Scheduled to leave the Corps later this year after five years of service, Lambert is to return to the States soon. He plans to open a shop and build custom handmade bicycles on a beach.

Ellie