The history of chopper motorcycles starts from as far back as 1916 when General Pershing drove one while chasing Pancho Villa, the infamous Mexican bandit. The following year, two thirds of the motorcycles made by Harley Davidson were sent to military personnel. By the time World War II hit, 90,000 of these motorcycles were in use by the armed forces for uses such as transport, communications, and tactical assault missions. Because of the high demand, thousands of mechanics were trained for the war’s motor pool.
Immediately After World War II
Once World War II troops returned home, many GIs found work utilizing their newly developed motorcycle mechanic skills and loved the thrills associated with driving their bikes. Because these motorcycles were inexpensive and in large supply, they became a hot-selling item. As soon as many of these new bike lovers bought one of their own, they started modifying them to make them less bulky, heavy, and utility oriented and instead more fun, fast, and better looking.
Some of the most common accessories removed at this time included mirrors, headlights, saddlebags, and windshields. Lights and mirrors were made to be more sleek and floorboards were removed and then replaced with forward facing foot pegs. Gone were the old front fenders while the rear ones were cut down to accommodate an extra passenger. Gas tanks and tires became smaller too. The saddle seats of yesteryear were taken out to make room for padded seats that were not only comfortable, but also small. All of these modifications and others not mentioned here are credited to the foundation of today’s biker lifestyle.
Chopper Motorcycle Shops
These modifications also caused the industry to practically explode overnight, which made room for chopper motorcycle shops. Harley Davidson was and still is one of the major motorcycle manufacturers that chops and even customizes quality motorcycles in a wide range of price points. In a motorcycle chop shop, any item that can feasibly removed will be removed; the transmission and engine are no exception. Then, the mechanics will cut down, otherwise called chopped up, the original frame. Afterward, they wield the pieces together to make the frame longer and lower.
The most popular appearance modifications for chopper motorcycles are rigid looking frames, fat rear tires, and v-twin engines that are air cooled. All custom and performance objects are added at the end of the process; the hot trend for these objects are those formed from chrome. Even though chopper motorcycles feel heavy at low speeds do not handle as responsive as some may like, they still handle and maneuver better than stock bikes when driven at high or cruising speeds.
Chopper Motorcycle Legends
Because of their widespread popularity, choppers continue to keeping their loyal following as well as legendary builders of these specialty motorcycles. West Coast Chopper’s Jesse G. James is one stellar example of a chopper builder who has enjoyed great success at producing and marketing his particular style of expensive choppers. Those who have chosen to enter the industry in other manners usually sell chopper bike accessories such as custom parts and riding gear.