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About Choppers

Life's a Bitch, Thank God There's Choppers...

In general terms, we would define a Chopper as follows:

A Chopper is a motorcycle of which the rake of the front fork has been increased to a rake which is considerably larger than the rake of the original stock motorcycle.

Click this photo to go check out this magnificent 1974 Harley Ironhead Chopper by Randy


By "rake" we mean the angle with the vertical. While the rake of the front fork is important from a styling point of view, the cornering and stability characteristics of a bike are governed by the rake of the centerline of the steering neck of the frame in combination with the trail of the front wheel.

(this "trail" is the horizontal distance between the point where the imaginary line through the center of the steering neck touches the ground and the center of the footprint of the front wheel on the ground)

The rake of the front fork can be increased either

• by cutting (i.e. "chopping") the frame and resetting the rake of the steering head and then replacing the stock front fork by an overlength front fork so that the bottom of the frame and the engine will sit horizontally again or will tilt backwards (like on Peter Fonda's Long Chopper in the movie "Easy Rider"); or

• by simply exchanging the stock front fork by an overlength front fork without making any changes to the stock frame, whereby the bottom of the frame and the engine will not sit horizontally anymore but instead will tilt backwards (like on Dennis Hopper's Short Chopper in the movie "Easy Rider"); or

• by exchanging the stock frame by a custom frame which has a rake larger than the rake of the original stock frame of that motorcycle and/or which requires an overlength front fork to suit that custom frame; or

• by creating an additional rake in the triple trees (if this is done, such additional rake is usually in between 3 and 7 degrees); or

• by any combination of the above.

Chopper or Bobber? - How Serious Are We?

While a Chopper may have all excess parts removed just like a Bobber, it can never be a Bobber. (unless you bring the rake of that Chopper back to the original stock rake, but then it's not a Chopper anymore...)

And if you take a Bobber and chop the frame to increase the rake of the front fork, or if you simply stick in an overlength front fork, your bike may be cooler than bikinis in a reefer northbound on the Alaska Railway, but in fact it is not a Bobber anymore.

Of course there will always be lots of grey area and we should not take the definitions on these pages too strictly. If the 29.9 degrees stock rake of a 2010 Sportster is increased to like 33 degrees, you will hardly see the difference, and we shouldn't call that bike a Chopper just because it complies with the above definition.

While we are serious about what we wrote here, the definitions on these pages should be seen as guidelines. It's not the law.

So, if in your opinion your Chopper is a Bobber, respect. We just hope you don't mind us calling her a Chopper...

Easy Rider's "Captain America" - Mother of All Choppers

Ask anybody who knows a little bit about motorcycles to tell you what a Chopper looks like, and they will very soon refer to that one particular motorcycle that Peter Fonda rode in the classic road movie "Easy Rider".

In the movie, Peter Fonda plays the cool character of "Captain America" Wyatt. As a result, the bike he rides in the movie is also named Captain America.

With its Star Spangled Banner tank, sissy bar, apes, forward controls, chrome frame, chromed out Panhead engine, and the really, really long front fork, Captain America is THE big example of the classic Chopper.

Look at that bike:

Ben Hardy, legendary Master Bike Builder from Los Angeles, had the original Harley Panhead cradle frame raked to 45 degrees. To compensate for the increased rake he increased the length of the front fork by 12 inches.

Ben Hardy - Master Chopper Builder

Both the Captain America Chopper and the Billy Bike Short Chop were built by the legendary yet unknown bike builder Ben Hardy from Los Angeles, CA.

Check this out:

The Experts' Views on Bobbers and Choppers has invited a number of motorcycle experts and Bobber artists to give their opinions and personal views on Bobbers, Choppers and other custom bikes. Not with the intent to find alignment (nothing lost if we do or if we don't) but rather to deepen the subject.

Discover what these guys have to say: