What is a chopper motorcycle? Chopper motorcycles have an absorbing history filled with some of the most beautiful custom choppers we’ve ever seen (including some hideous ones) and a fascinating culture that grew from this emerging custom motorcycle scene. Along the way, we learn about some influential chopper builders such as Denver Mullins, Mondo Porras, and Arlen Ness.
When you check out the history of choppers, you will not only discover a captivating journey of builders who re-imagined the motorcycle, but also some quite wild facts about some awesome builds. It may have grown out of California, but it soon spread across the world. Let’s take a closer look at the history of chopper motorcycles.
What Is a Chopper Motorcycle?
A chopper motorcycle is a modified motorcycle. The motorcycle is no longer original. The bike has a different wheelbase. This means that the frame has been adjusted and that the wheels are further apart. The length of the bike is longer then original.
By changing the angle of the steering head and by using a longer fork, the wheelbase is longer. To make sure that the motorcycle continues to steer properly, it is usually necessary to place the steering head next to the angled position and higher.
It is an accurate job to adjust the motorcycle frame, but this is an important condition for a chopper. By adjusting the frame, it is important that the steering characteristics remain good. Often a front fork stabilizer is fitted because the front fork can twist at this length.
In principle, all unnecessary parts are removed and many custom motorcycle parts, such as custom exhausts, custom fenders, custom oil tank and a custom fuel tank and custom forward controls are mounted on the custom bike.
Of course the paintwork can be of different levels, but usually a chopper pays a lot of attention to this to make it as beautiful as possible. Also a lot of chromed custom motorcycle parts are used.
A chopper doesn’t look much like the original factory bike anymore. Only the engine, transmission and primary are still original. Everyone knows the choppers from the movie Easy Rider.
The Evolution and Spread of Chopper Culture
Chopper culture, as well as custom car culture with builders like George Barris and Ed Roth, was at its height in the 60s and 1970s, but by the early 1980s, most of the long choppers were remodded back to more practical configurations, or sat in the corner collecting dust while disc brake bikes with electric starters became more prevalent and Japanese imports took over the largest section of the motorcycle market.
As choppers got wrecked or repurposed, folks without much budget would begin shifting back to glide forks which were readily available in parts collections.
As preferences in style and taste changed, and the availability of more effective disc brakes and swingarm frames lent themselves to more comfort and practicality to an aging biker population, the chopper in the US became a fetish that held interest for few builders.
The riders in their twenties and thirties in the 50s and 60s were now in their forties and fifties and even sixties, and wanted something more comfortable and practical. And yeah, a lot of bikers wanted a bike that could stop better, too.
In Sweden and Europe however, chopper culture got started a bit late. The Swedish chopper looked a lot like the American chopper, but with extremely long forks, and rode low to the ground.
The Swedes, not having a large supply of surplus US Army flatheads to pirate springer forks from, resorted in most cases to using very long fork tubes on hydraulic forks, modifying frame necks for severe rake, and created a style of their own that still survives today.
In the 1990s and 2000s, the Swedish chopper style was taken on by American boutique builders creating “Pro Street” bikes, with long fork tubes, rigid and softail frames, and the “long and low” look of the Swedish chopper returned to the US as wealthier buyers spent tens of thousands of dollars on customs from builders who did nothing but build wild pro-street choppers.
But the chopper of old had not died completely, and bike and parts were in garages all over the US and even Canada.
By the end of the 80s, the advent of the Evo motor, the rubber mounted engine and tranny of the FXR, and Harley’s “factory customs” like the Sturgis, the Wide Glide, and the Low Rider, bikes that looked more like the bobbers of the 1950s but with larger fuel capacity had become the order of the day.
When Harley introduced the first Softail models, which were a compromise between the looks of the classic rigid frames of the Pan and Knuckle, while having *some* rear suspension, the chopper was effectively an anachronism to be seen mostly at bike runs or covered in dust in the back of the garage.
Lots of bikes were returned to their original form, as restorers began snapping up vintage barn finds and garage queens in large numbers and by the early 2000s, vintage restored bikes were bringing high dollar at auctions across the US.
What Makes A Chopper Different From Other Motorcycles
Choppers are a type of custom motorcycles that emerged in California in the late 1950s, and their style is unmistakable. Their frames are cut and welded together to make it appear lower and lighter.
The steering angle is modified too, which leads to its distinctive stretched-out appearance. Compared to the traditional motorcycles we know today, choppers tend to be much bigger and heavier.
The seats of chopper bikes are significantly more comfortable than conventional motorcycles, so you don’t have to worry about getting sore even after long rides. Although, if you really want a comfortable ride, you should look at cruiserd.
This chopper also has a fascinating history filled with some of the most beautiful custom bikes in addition to some grotesquely designed ones that emerged from this culture growing from an emerging custom motorcycle scene.
Although they look amazing when completed, choppers can only be created with careful thought because building one is expensive compared to other motorbikes like bobbers; sometimes even more costly when choosing lighter materials such as aluminum which increases side-to-side maneuverability for better performance on roads or off-road scenarios for riders who take care of their surprises in nature.
Examine The Popular Features Of Chopper Motorcycles
The chopper motorcycle has been around for quite some time, and the iconic style has recently seen a surge in popularity especially in the xs650chopper community. The massive following that follows it is no longer limited to the Harley Davidson brand.
Nonetheless, these bikes are much more expensive to buy and build than bobbers. Many of their parts have to be specially ordered or custom-built for a more unique look.
To achieve the specific chopper aesthetic, many riders modify their frame geometry, diameters, forks, and also raise or lower their drag bars; all of which changes how the bike leans when riding it.
This creates a different rake angle from traditional bobbers or street motorcycles, giving it a unique stance that has made them popular amongst bike enthusiasts who desire something different from mainstream rides.
To add on to its historical significance during its rise in the 1960s and ’70s; Panhead choppers were seen as “absolutely beautiful, strong like an elephant” representing freedom to those who had access to them at the time; making them a timeless icon even today which established an entire lifestyle revolving around customizing these vehicles.
Consider The Pros And Cons Of Owning A Chopper Motorcycle
There is nothing like the feeling of riding on the open roads with a motorcycle. You have the freedom to go anywhere and experience a pure adrenaline rush. Choppers are especially popular for their affordability and sense of style.
They are usually cheaper to buy, run and insure than cars. Aside from being cost-effective, you can also save more in terms of gas and maintenance as compared to other types of vehicles due to their engine size.
However, owning a chopper presents some expenses beyond the initial purchase price that should be considered before acquiring one. You will constantly want to keep tinkering with your chopper. Also, finding some parts may not be easy.
And unlike a new bike, expect to keep maintaining your bikes as things will go wrong. On the other hand, many of these cons is what brings people to loving these bikes as problem solving feels great.
Difference Between A Chopper And A Bobber
Choppers and Bobbers are both custom motorcycles popular amongst motorcyclists, but what exactly is the difference between the two? To put it simply, a chopper motorcycle is much more heavily customized than a bobber motorcycle. A chopper typically has a completely custom frame or an extremely modified stock frame, so each bike is completely unique.
This can make for an exciting ride on eventful roads! Furthermore, the idea of a bobber is to strip down the motorcycle to its essential parts for speed and handling – which goes back to it being less styled than a chopper. If you’re looking for speed-down bikes that focus more on function over form, you’re probably inclined towards the bobber aesthetic.
In comparison with a Bobber motorcycle, Choppers traditionally have been around since as early as 1960s. Choppers have very powerful engines and often require intense rides due to their high stance setting in order to gain high acceleration speed.
To support this kind of ride they also feature heavily customized frames with usually taller front ends (the front wheel needs additional clearance).
In other words, while they can make quite fashionable statements when driving by; they might be sacrificing form over function since their frames aren’t designed mainly around their power or handling behavior but rather around style statement goals.
Unlike choppers however – a Bobber has no lift whatsoever in its frame structure thus allowing for low slung stances and easier inclining chassis motions thus improving its power and maneuverability significantly – yet at the same time making no sacrifices from pure performance perspectives due to its basic motor requirements of tailored frames according to basis Honda Shadow 600 configurations.
Motorcycle Makes That Are Good For Chopping
For those with an itch to customize their motorcycles, the chopper style may be just what you need. Choppers are custom bikes built from a frame up, or starting from existing motorcycle frames with parts purchased and then customized.
Pro-street choppers have extended forks and drag bars for the handlebars, while traditional choppers have taller front ends and ape hanger handlebars. These styles of choppers originated in the ’60s counterculture movement but remain popular today.
When deciding on a motorcycle to customize, there are certain makes that will make it easier than others. Obivously the Yamaha xs650 is perfect for chopping. You want a bike that is easy to work on and customize. Another great option are Harley Davidson’s.
You can also buy Prefab kits that usually come with all the components needed to build your dream ride without any heavy lifting; however, if you’re looking for more personalization in your build then prefab kits cannot offer this opportunity. Either way though, both options can help you personalize your ride to fit exactly what you want in style and performance.
No matter which make or model appeals to you when it comes to customizing or chopping a motorcycle, research is important for determining the best route for building one that suits your needs and preferred design style!
What is the point of a chopper motorcycle
While the decreased weight and lower seat position improved handling and performance, the main reason to build a chopper was to show off and provoke others by riding a machine that was stripped and almost nude compared to the stock Harley-Davidsons and automobiles of the period.
What is a chopper vs regular motorcycle?
The difference between a chopper and street bike (crotch rocket as some you folks like to call ’em) is like night and day. In terms of appearance, choppers are known for their long, stretched-out framework with long handlebars and big front wheels, while street bikes are smaller and more compact.
Why is it called chopper?
Helicopter rotor chops or cuts the air to produce required the lift and hence the name chopper is used for a helicopter. Incidentally, ”chopper” is used for a semiconductor device called ”thyristor” because of its ability to chop the sin-osoidal wave at a desired location.
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