Metal to the Petal: Jacob Chapman’s Flying Y Guitar

Anyone who has traveled to the Pacific Northwest or even watched an episode of Portlandia knows that, next to microbrewed beer, people in Oregon love two things: bikes and recycling.

Jacob Chapman of Bend, Oregon, ingeniously put the two together when he realized that the carbon-fiber frame of a Trek Y bike might make a decent guitar body.

“I always thought that the Trek Y bike looked like a guitar,” Chapman explains. “I finally got one a few years ago when a friend was cleaning his attic, and I decided to make a guitar from it. I wasn’t sure it would work, until I plugged it in!”

Chapman says that his creation, which he calls the Flying Y, wasn’t as difficult to build as it might seem.

“The carbon fiber is reasonably easy to work with. It cuts pretty easily, but it can splinter. I used a Dremel tool to roughly cut out holes for the pickups, neck and hardware, then finished each cut with a file, sandpaper and a lot of patience. The electronics are installed ship-in-a-bottle style from the front. I just figured everything out one step at a time.”

After displaying his first Flying Y in the bike shop where he works as a mechanic, Chapman acquired another two Trek Y bikes from customers and transformed the frames into guitars. Today, his first Flying Y is on display in the lobby of Trek Bicycle’s headquarters in Waterloo, Wisconsin.

“People love the Flying Y whether they’re into bikes or not,” he says. “At first glance they think it’s a cool-looking guitar, then they look a little confused when they realize it used to be a bike. I’m not too worried about the collectability of the bikes I transform into guitars. By becoming a new product, they can be appreciated for years to come, when otherwise they would just collect dust in an attic or garage.”

Now if Chapman could just build a bike guitar that also makes microbrews, he’d be the all-time king of Oregon.

It Might Get Weird: Guitar World goes inside the minds of some of the world’s most creative custom-guitar builders.

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Chris Gill

Chris is the co-author of Eruption - Conversations with Eddie Van Halen. He is a 40-year music industry veteran who started at Boardwalk Entertainment (Joan Jett, Night Ranger) and Roland US before becoming a guitar journalist in 1991. He has interviewed more than 600 artists, written more than 1,400 product reviews and contributed to Jeff Beck’s Beck 01: Hot Rods and Rock & Roll and Eric Clapton’s Six String Stories.