Choppers have once been the province of a small cadre of enthusiasts, but they have since hit the big time. Thanks in large part to exposure on national television and cable shows, their combination of sight and sound has made them the equivalent of mobile celebrities.
But choppers as a breed are really not new. In fact, they can trace their heritage to the late 1940s, when surplus military bikes were stripped of unnecessary parts and given homemade paint jobs to become "Bobbers." Bikes sprouting extended forks, stepped saddles, tall sissy bars, and wild paint schemes appeared in the late '60s as "Choppers," and the die was cast.
Today, choppers take many different forms. Old School bikes favor the minimalist styling of Bobbers, Early Choppers the look of their original namesakes. Factory and Factory Modified customs from relatively small companies can be purchased right off the showroom floor, while Radicals are ornate rides that can take many months -- and dollars -- to build. Pro Street bikes lean toward performance, and choppers that fall through the categorical cracks can be termed Special Construction. In some cases, bikes employ traits of more than one class, making them difficult to place -- though we've tried to anyway.
The following pages provide links to pictures, specifications, and stories of individual custom motorcycles. Custom bikes tend to incorporate fascinating details that aren't obvious from 50 feet away, so each chopper includes detailed photos to strut its stuff. Profiles are accompanied by a specification chart listing dimensions and features, and a chopper glossary explains some of the terms used in the spec charts and descriptions.
Many books and television shows have highlighted bikes from the big-name, high-volume builders. What's focused in these articles are choppers built by lesser-known but equally talented shops and individuals, most of whom produce only a handful of machines a year -- and often come up with truly fascinating creations. These bikes provide a look not only at where the chopper phenomenon came from, but also where it's heading. We hope you enjoy the trip.
The first stop explores the unique features of Early Choppers, found on the next page.