After World War II, when the American soldiers returned home, they remained loyal to the Harley Davidson company, but they were not satisfied with their new motorcycles. They had seen motorcycles in Europe which were more exciting and lightweight. Being trained in the service to work on automobiles and motorcycles, they wanted improvements made. They began shortening the fenders or removing them altogether to make the bikes lighter. Usually the front fender was removed, but the back one was only shortened to keep the passenger protected from mud and water thrown up by the rear tire.
The term bobber came from this, and the chopper was born as riders continued to customize their bikes by making more changes. To use with dirt bike racing was their original purpose. Any part that the riders felt were unnecessary was chopped off, and this process of chopping is where the term chopper came from. Some of what was chopped off included big seats, crash bars, big headlights, front fenders and windshields. Forward-mounted foot pegs replaced the large footrests, and the fuel tank was made smaller, which all made for a lighter bike.
The next change that came to the bike was raking the front end, which decreased the angle of the fork to the ground, increasing the wheelbase. The handlebars were also raised and they called them ape hangers. Each rider was creating a bike totally how they wanted and anything that was unnecessary or too big was removed or made smaller. The rear tire was made fat and the front one was made small. Enterprising individuals began to design custom bikes and began building them to sell to those who didn’t want to do the work themselves. As the rage caught on choppers began to be created.
Backfire Motorcycle Night, Ballard, Wa, 19 Aug 2009 -5.jpg (Photo credit: Ivan Dub, who never materialized)
The trend for choppers slowed down for a few years, but recently it seems to have made a comeback. Choppers that are custom built by the top designers are prized greatly and in high demand. After the film Easy Rider with Peter Fonda, choppers became especially popular. Out of the chopper revolution came the Shovelhead FX Super Glide, which was one of the Harley Davidson models. Even though a lot of people assume the chopper was built for aesthetics, there is a real performance advantage to the raked front end. At high speeds, these motorcycles have a more stable feel than the original factory suspensions, but there is also a downside. It is heavier and less responsive at slow speeds and in curves.
If you want a motorcycle that has been modified from its original design, then you should look into a chopper that has been hand-crafted from scratch. The handling of the motorcycle is more challenging and the ride is bumpy, but these radical attributes are necessary to get the desired looks. The low-rider look with its low frame to ground clearance, is one look that is becoming more popular.