A chopper can be a street cruiser or a customized motorcycle. It’s identified by the forward mounted foot pegs, and large tire, fuel tank, and headlights. Initially, choppers were built by World War II veterans who found the bikes produced by US manufacturers like Harley Davidson and Indian to be too heavy and cumbersome. Returning from Europe, they craved for the lighter and sleeker European bikes. They started to modify old motorcycles by “chopping” the frame to design their own bike. Thus, the chopper was born. These bikes provided greater performance at higher speeds in comparison to other factory manufactured motorcycles. The heavy front provides better stability at high speed but the bike is not ideal for slow drive because the raked front makes it difficult to handle on turns and curved paths.
The Difference between a Chopper and a Bobber
The bobber is lighter than the chopper. In a bobber, the front fender is removed and the rear fender is made smaller. The bobber is made with an unmodified frame, whereas, the chopper is built with a frame which is cut and welded to give it a new shape. The bobber does not have an elongated fork and some other heavy accessories are removed to exude a minimalist style. Bobbers can be made from old or recycled parts of a motorcycle.
Customizing Tips and Techniques
Choppers are either built from scratch or are modified to have a longer frame, especially on the front, and there is no rear suspension. The frame extends to the neck from the rear wheel, making it harder to handle but keeping the basic design of the chopper. A popular chopper style is the low-rider look.
To build a chopper, you can use parts from an old bike. Alternatively, you can buy a rolling chassis. The rolling chassis includes the frame, front forks, handlebars, wheels, and clamps to hold the bars to the forks. You can customize it according to your taste and install the drive train to make it work.
The chopper can also be made from a kit which provides all the parts to the buyer. There are even warranties on various parts of the motorcycle. If you plan to build the chopper from scratch, you will have to start assembling each part, step-by-step. You have to complete all the parts like the gas tank, wheels, carburetor, and so on before you can start building the custom chopper.
To make the chopper, you will require some space such as a motorcycle shop or garage to do your work. There should be provisions to keep the half-built chopper and the attachments without causing any damage to the parts. This is important because it’s unlikely that an individual would be able to complete building the chopper in a day or two.
High Riders and Low Riders
A high rider has extended forks added to the front wheel and the handlebar is higher. The rider has to sit up on a high rider. In a low rider, a traditional handlebar and a short rake is attached to the front fork. It has an extended wheelbase which provides better stability as compared to high ride choppers. In a low rider, the biker has to sit at a distance to the rear and the sitting position can be either straight or forward leaning.
Bike Customizers and Custom Bike Companies
Customized bikes are not produced in standard manufacturing styles. The number of bikes manufactured by custom bike companies is limited. However, it’s important that custom bikes meet the safety guidelines. Custom bike companies provide options in paint styles, engine, engine size, and various other attachments.
Indian Larry - The choppers were originally built by "Indian" Larry Desmedt and the motorcycles resemble the 60s look. The features of bikes include stripped down look, jockey shifted, small gas tank, no front brake, foot clutched, and kick start provision. Indian Larry died in 2004 but Indian Larry Motorcycles continues to be a leader in the chopper industry.
Orange County Choppers - Most of the Orange County bikes are built on themes. The company has a number of celebrity customers. Some of the themes of Orange County bikes are Black Widow, Fire Bike, Mikey's Blues Bike, Cody's Old School Project, and Christmas Bike. These are some of the best bikes featured on American Choppers.
Von Dutch Kustom Cycles - In 1940, Von Dutch Kustom Cycles launched its line of motorcycles. Some of the famous Von Dutch motorcycles include the Left Coast Rigid, Cruelworld Rigid, and Cruelworld Softail. Some of the popular Von Dutch bobbers are Flying Dutchman, Dutch Angel Softail, Dutch Angel Super Sport, and Killer B.
West Coast Choppers - West Coast Choppers started as a lifestyle brand which offered stickers and t-shirts with its trademark Maltese Cross or Iron Cross logos while owner Jesse G. James was still in school. In Motorcycle Mania I and II which aired on the Discovery Channel in 2001, the company attracted a lot of attention for its high-end choppers. Some celebrities who own West Coast Choppers are Shaquille O’Neal, Keanu Reeves, Bill Goldberg, and Kid Rock. The company officially closed the doors to it's Long Beach, CA shop in October of 2010.
Falcon Motorcycles - Falcon Motorcycles are based in Los Angeles, California. Started by Ian Barry and Amaryllis Knight in 2008, it specializes in building some of the most unique machines. A special feature of Falcon Motorcycles is that the bikes are built around iconic British Motorcycle engines. Some of the Falcon Motorcycles are The Bullet, The Kestrel, The Black, The White, and the Vespertine.
Arlen Ness - Arlen Ness is an American bike builder who makes choppers. Ness designed many custom motorcycles out of which 40 have been showcased in a museum in California. One of the famous motorcycles built in 2005 was the Mach Ness, which was made with a jet powered helicopter engine. It was built with a man made aluminum body designed by Bob Monroe, and the design and concept were created by Carl Brouhard.
Written By: AndrewT