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Chopper Motorcycles are the HOTTEST thing on two wheels!

Learn about the origins of chopper motorcycles and more!
Custom Motorcycles

Chopper Motorcycles are a very simple recipe. Basically they are a massive motor with a spindly (well relative to the motor spindly) frame and a big back tire. But the style didn't just start one day, there was a process to get there.

Some Chopper History

Just after World War II, bikes from Harley Davidson and Indian looked pretty much like they do today. Deeply valanced fenders, lightbars and fat tires were the norm. Soldiers who served in Europe during the war came to enjoy riding the bikes they had seen and ridden overseas. The domestic bikes were too bulky. So, they started making changes.

First they made simple changes like removing or shortening (bobbing) the fenders. The first generation chopper motorcycles were actually called bobbers.

With the release of the movie Easy Rider in 1969, the movement that transformed bikes into what we know today as choppers really started. Everybody wanted a bike like Peter Fonda rode in the movie.

The Beginning of an Industry

Technically, choppers are created by chopping off everything except the absolutely necessary components of a bike and then making minimal use of what's left. During their "evolution", big seats, crash bars, front fenders, large diameter headlights and windshields were chopped to make the bikes lighter. One component may have actually gotten bigger in some cases. Very tall handlebars were fashioned and were called apehangers. Basically each rider created custom chopper motorcycles that were ideal according to the vision in his mind.

Denny Berg Chopper

Not everybody was skilled in metal fabrication, so those who did not have the skills, but still wanted chopper motorcycles enlisted the experts to make their ideas come to life. That gave rise to talented designers who's services were in demand. Arlen Ness was one of the first. Denny Berg is also one of the more talented bike builders. The bike pictured here is a Denny Berg creation.

Just Harleys?

Choppers are not limited to Harley Davidsons, even though most motorcycle choppers today have a Harley or Harley clone engine. Some people buy a new Harley and think they are experts and some may look down their noses at you because you're riding something else. If you know anything about the history of choppers you know it didn't start with Harleys. In the 1950s, it was British bikes and in '60s and '70s, choppers and cruisers were built out of anything but Harleys.

Related M-A-W Content:

If you love chopper motorcycles, don't pass up these other Motorcycle Accessories WiseGuy articles on the subject:

Orange County Choppers $200,000 custom motorcycle masterpieces or the father-son bickering. What keeps you watching Orange County Choppers? Read the WiseGuy's review of your favorite Discovery Channel reality show!

Build your own Chopper! Want to build a chopper? Read on and find out what it takes to build a chopper. You'll also get links to educational and inspirational resources to get you started right.

Chopper Shops So you're not a mechanic and don't know beans about metal fab? Enlist the help of one of these shops to build your own custom chopper.


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