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About Short Chops

Before Choppers, there was Bobbers... and Short Chops...

On this page we would like to talk you through the ins and outs of Short Chops:

Click this photo to go to Dave's 1978 Harley Davidson Ironhead Sportster Hardcore Lowrider Short Chop.

Short Chops?

By "Short Chop" we mean a short Chopper.

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.

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 steering 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.

The rake of the front fork can be increased by either increasing the length the front fork, or by increasing the rake of the frame by chopping it and rearranging its geometry, or by playing a trick in the triple trees, or by any combination of the foregoing.

So, in our mind, as soon as a stock bike or a Bobber has her rake increased, she's not a stock bike or a Bobber anymore. From then on she's a Chopper.

However, not all Choppers have those extremely long front forks. A Short Chop does have an increased rake and/or a longer front fork, but all within limits. It is like a Chopper that looks a bit like a Bobber.

Click Photo to go check out this 1973 Harley Ironhead Short Chop by Scott. This Harley Ironhead Short Chop has a 1973 XLH Ironhead engine in a 1980's Paughco rigid frame.

Choppers and Short Chops - For Example: Easy Rider

Check out the difference between the choppers of Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper.

Peter Fonda's "Captain America" has the really long front fork of the classic Chopper. The original Harley Panhead cradle frame was raked to 45 degrees and the length of the front fork was increased by 12 inches.

While nobody doubts whether Peter Fonda rides a Chopper, a lot of people don't feel so sure about what Dennis Hopper is riding.

WikiPedia on the "Harley-Davidson Panhead engine" page: "The Captain America chopper used by Peter Fonda in the movie Easy Rider (1969) had a panhead engine, as well as the bike ridden by Dennis Hopper's character."

That "bike ridden by Dennis Hopper" is nicknamed the "Billy Bike" and has a much shorter front fork. According to Dennis Hopper, the shorter Billy Bike was more practical and workable than the much more extreme Captain America Chopper that Peter Fonda rode.

This Billy Bike is what we would call a "Short Chop".

Note the difference between the Billy Bike and Captain America.

Short Chop or Bobber? - How Serious Are We?

Of course there will always be lots of grey area and we should not take the definitions on these pages too strictly.

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 Short Chop is a Bobber, respect. We just hope you don't mind if we may call her a Short Chop...

Another Example: Harley Shovelhead Short Chop

Click Photo to go check out this 1974 Harley Shovelhead Salt Flat Racer Short Chop by Todd. 1974 Harley Shovelhead Short Chop: Not all Choppers have long front forks.

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: