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Posted 7-15-10


Now I wanna tell you a story about what a chopper is and what a chopper isn’t. There are certain rules you know.

Back in the golden age of choppers life was grand. Every bike you saw was different. There were lots of basically stock bikes around but even most of those had been personalized in some subtle way by the owner. When I say personalized I don’t mean that the owner went to his local dealership and had some chrome trinket installed by a certified trained technician. I mean he usually FABRICATED something for his bike or made some outstanding change to the appearance. There just weren’t many custom parts available back then. I can still to this day remember my first attempt at a chop job. I think I was about twelve or thirteen when my cousin who was a much more worldly seventeen pulled up the driveway on a beat up Triumph with it‘s rear fender shakin‘ and rattling to beat the band. He’d just gotten the bike and asked if he could borrow some tools to stop the fender from banging around. Now at the time I didn’t know squat about customizing motorcycles but I looked at that fender and thought that if we just took a hack saw and cut it just about "here," that might keep it from shaking. Thirty minutes later he roared off with half a rear fender and a tail light mounted just about on the top of it! I remember watching him ride out of sight and thinking how cool the bike looked after what we’d done.

Today the monotony of custom motorcycles is enough to make ya’ gag. I look at the current trend and can’t help feeling sorry for the people who in an effort to stand out, spent their money on bikes that simply make them fit in. Fit in that is amongst all the others who spent their money to achieve the same goal. Is it just me or has anybody else noticed what pathetic offerings are running around that people call choppers these days? Most of them are the same style with the same design. They all have a frame that’s too long and made out of tubing so big in diameter that it looks like drain pipe, the whole length of the backbone is covered with a gas tank stretched like taffy, they all sport some bulbous, billet tree extended front end, they get it dipped in $2,000 worth of sissy paint, a tag bracket is bolted to side by the rear axel and they are pronounced a chopper. People that - ain’t - a chopper. That is a custom bike.

In order to build a chopper you have to start with something and actually "chop" stuff off of it. The so called choppers you see today being pumped out by every swingin’ dick on the block started as nothing. They didn’t exist. They were all assembled from parts that anyone can buy. Boys and girls there is no challenge there. Any fool can do it and when you notice the sameness you realize that most shops have assembling that junk down to a science. The frames all have similar dimensions, the front ends are all designed to work with the frames so all you have to do is pick out the wheels, pick out the motor and screw it all together. The only thing it takes is money.

Most of the bikes rolling out of these "chopper" shops today aren’t worth half of what you pay for them. Do the math - $2,000 for a complete rolling chassis, $3,500 for a motor and tranny , $1,500 for custom wheels, a couple grand for a fancy paint job and $500 for nuts bolts and wire. Total - $9,500. And for this you’ll pay thirty to forty thousand dollars???? That’s a very big assembly fee. If you’re going to spend that much money why end up with a bike anybody can own? And the worse part about it is that a bike like that has no soul. It may look pretty but it lacks a sense of itself. Don’t follow the fashion. Set the fashion or at least go with a time honored theme. I’m sorry but I have no respect for anybody who rides a store bought wanna-be chopper. Oh by the way, would somebody please explain to me the concept of a 300 series tire? Steering and handling must really suck on those things. If you ask me it’s the queerest style to hit the motorcycle industry to date.

On the other hand if you take a classic Harley-Davidson and totally reconfigure it into a piece of rolling art well, that’s a machine that projects a spirit. It’s a bike you can feel just by being near it and you know that because it is what it is nobody else has a chance of showing up on another one like it. Folks who do that are the true individuals today. The problem today is that everybody wants instant attention to negate their otherwise insignificant lives and a turn key scooter fills the void. Besides, the people who ride that crap probably have no mechanical ability. They grew up with a joy stick in their hands playing video games whereas guys like me grew up with tools working on bicycles, go carts and mini bikes. We learned how to build and create, they learned how destroy and blow things up. Sad, very sad.

But it may not be too late. You can still redeem yourself. Sell that pompous rolling punch line and put your money into a stock bike. I don’t even care what it is - Shovelhead, Evo, hell even an old chopped CB 750 Honda commands more respect then that corporation custom you’re riding now. Get rid of it and start from the ground up. Start with the easy stuff. Learn how to change your own oil, adjust the clutch, change your hand grips, your brake and clutch levers, whatever. Stop having other people do everything for you and start doing things for yourself. Learn how to take old things off and put new things on. Learn how stuff works. Motorcycling should mean more to you than a monthly payment. The more you do the more you’ll want to do. Trust me, you‘ll get a greater sense of pride out of what you create then you will out of what you’ve paid for. That way when somebody compliments you on what you ride you’ll deserve it.




And that's all I have to say about that!