"american Choppers Syndrome" - Chicagoland Sportbikes
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post #1 of 12 (permalink) Old 06-01-2006, 10:32 PM Thread Starter
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"american Choppers Syndrome"

Bill from Performance Motorcycles in Madison Wisconsin (One of Ed Keys Sponsors) wrote this article. Interesting I must say.

"AMERICAN CHOPPERS SYNDROME"
Recently we have been getting requests to perform service and repairs on “custom” bikes
While the mainstreaming of motorcycling via this soap opera is nice, the misconceptions it generates and nurtures are not. I will deal with a few of those misconceptions and the reasons for my less than enthusiastic embracing of the bikes purchased in this frenzy of “coolness”.
We are primarily in the service business. Servicing a motorcycle involves a regimen of recommended operations at specified intervals to maintain the dependability of the bike.
Specifications are needed for this servicing. On most of the units being “built” the manufacturer of the individual components is generally unknown, even to the original owner. Simple things such as brake pads are impossible to source unless the caliper manufacturer is known. Some of these manufacturers are Nissin, Togiko, GMA, Performance Machine, Grimeca, Brembo, Jaybrake, Harley-Davidson and others. Every one of these takes a different pad, and few, if any, are interchangeable. Even the brake fluid will be different with DOT 3,4,5, and 5.1 being possible choices and complete havoc being wrought by the use of the wrong one.
Most of the other components are equally mysterious in their origins. Without a “Build Sheet” stating the manufacturer, year and model of the components, any spare part procurement is a time-consuming and potentially expensive proposition. The delays that can and do accompany this effort will also have to be allowed for.
The bikes seen on “American Choppers” and “Bike Build-off” type of shows are characteristically composed of a lot of bling-bling and rice. For those not familiar with these terms (as I was until a few weeks ago) it describes all the cutesy stuff added on to the basic platform of the bike such as barbed wire, barbeque grill parts and anything else lying around to stick on for the sake of being “different”. A lot of the “bike builders” around now try to emulate this addition of debris and while the stuff looks cool to some it is a pain in the ass to work around for others and adds to the cost of service or repair, not to mention the frustration level. Have you noticed that there has never been a follow-up show (where are they now?) of any of the bikes being built and actually ridden?
The closer you are to sculpture, the farther from ridability it seems to get. This lack of foresight in the area of serviceability is inexcusable, especially when the “builder” has control over the project from the outset. One of the goals in building a unit (whether it is a Top Fuel bike, a Funny Car, Roadrace bike or Custom) is the importance of ease of service, unless the piece is destined for hanging on the wall.
The items mentioned above are some of the reasons we will look at a custom before even thinking about working on it if it doesn’t have 1HD at the beginning of its V.I.N. Even after seeing it judgment will be reserved before agreeing to do any service work.
Characteristic problem areas on these customs are wiring and driveline issues. We recently had a custom in here with a 4-speed kickstart trans in a softail frame. This at first glance wouldn’t seem to be a problem except that the drain for the trans is in a boss that on the original FX model hung out in space, but on the Softail sat right over an hit a shock. The logic used by the “builder” dictated this boss be removed and the hole welded shut. Slick, eh? The same bike also had no lowbeam due to wires being cut where they ran into the handlebars and no turn signals (great for riding with your buddies) and no front brake switch at all. This was on a bike that from all outward appearances looked good.
Handling characteristics of the various customs are not something that even deserves discussion. When the rake is over 38 degrees and/or the forks exceed 40 inches in top nut to axle length it will be a handful. The proliferation of the 240 and now 300mm wide rear tires also dramatically affect cornering characteristics. I have ridden on 10 and 12 inch wide tires and they are wild. On the recent (April ’04) American Choppers episode Paul Sr. was concerned about the handling on the newest bike. They had asked Sam Wills to do the chassis. This is the individual after whom my oldest daughter is named as she was born the year he set the 200mph record in Top Fuel bikes (1985) on a chassis of his own design. Handling, eh? He has been building chassis in that speed range since, and is the rider on the shop t-shirts showing the bike doing a big burnout on one of our chassis. Final decisions to ride or not ride a custom will be up to the individual working on the bike.
I am not against the creative interpretation of the art of motorcycles. I have built and ridden a two-wheeler over 20 feet long. This platform later was stretched to 24 feet and run on the ice and still later was fitted with a 30 foot tall wing and converted into an iceboat, so creative interpretation has happened here. When it comes to belt drives we have built a bike with 4 belts on it (the one Sam Wills rode). We have successfully built complete cylinder heads from aluminum billet including nearly all the internal components.
Having gone through the first generation of the “chopper” (when “old school” was new school and Indian Larry didn’t look 70 years old) I am familiar with them over the long run. As mentioned before, being unique has its costs and efforts required, so please don’t be surprised at the expense or hesitancy you find when looking for service on your custom or the difficulty in selling it when you are ready to move on. I have had considerable difficulty in selling a lot of our customs over the years no matter the style. Such is the lot of the motorcycle “artiste”.
I welcome your comments and thoughts on this. Thank you.
Bill

"I pity the poor people who don't ride motorcycles"
-Malcolm Smith, champion motorcycle racer

Nick
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post #2 of 12 (permalink) Old 06-01-2006, 10:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Grasshopper
The bikes seen on “American Choppers” and “Bike Build-off” type of shows are characteristically composed of a lot of bling-bling and rice. For those not familiar with these terms (as I was until a few weeks ago) it describes all the cutesy stuff added on to the basic platform of the bike such as barbed wire, barbeque grill parts and anything else lying around to stick on for the sake of being “different”.
BBQ grill parts, lmao.
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post #3 of 12 (permalink) Old 06-02-2006, 12:17 AM
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Didn't read the whole thing, but got the jist...i hate choppers...well, "choppers" that is...REAL choppers are kick ass, cool bikes...the kit bikes these guys parade around touting as "choppers" are laughable...art at best...a waste of time IMO at worst.

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post #4 of 12 (permalink) Old 06-02-2006, 12:32 AM
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I like the fabrication part of the show, but I'm not a big fan of those theme bikes. It's hard for me to believe that people are paying that much for those bikes. The funny thing is that everytime I watch the show, I always like the bikes(that are clean and get no coverege) that are in the background more than the ones that are featured on the show.

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post #5 of 12 (permalink) Old 06-02-2006, 06:17 AM
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Good find Nick, great read. I love watching those shows...at least the early years, when there was less drama, more on techniques...especially metal working and painting. Now the shows are more drama and very little else, which is a shame. Personally I always looked at the bikes as "art" with an engine, a rolling sculpture....yes they run, but who in their right mind would actually ride the thing? considering cost? and maintenance issues. I was returning a few years ago from MN, riding my trusty Fizzer, saw a guy on beautiful orange custom....hardtail and a springer front....the guy had a grimace on his face, riding on eastbound on 14 past Cary, the surface is not exactly the best, speed limit 35, I was doing 40 as I rolled by him...thinking the bike was a handful...hardtail and springer front....every seam in the road surface transmitted to your body....the stretch out front was best described as "twitchy"...the paint was kick ass, but I couldn't imagine riding it in public.

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post #6 of 12 (permalink) Old 06-02-2006, 08:21 AM
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Good find Nick!

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post #7 of 12 (permalink) Old 06-02-2006, 08:21 AM
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That was a good writeup Nick.

You know much of what they weld on those bikes, if driven more then on a few tavern runs will vibrate and crack off sooner or later

I still watch the show and FF through the "reality show" part of it.
I think most of the original cast are millionaires now, and if not, close to it, so much of this is drama for the sake of tv drama

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post #8 of 12 (permalink) Old 06-02-2006, 08:26 AM
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I'm not even a "cruiser guy", let alone a "custom guy". I just can't pull of the cruiser look. A standard is probably the closest I'll ever get. Customs are way too expensive, IMO (and that's only considering the price of entry, not maintenance). Hmmmmm, I could have some local-no-name custom for $18K or I could have a Tuono R for $13K. That's a no-brainer to me...

I appreciate their aesthetic value, however.

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post #9 of 12 (permalink) Old 06-29-2006, 01:06 AM
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Problem is, Bill just hates everyone that doesnt conform to his way of thinking. I do agree if you own one of these custom built bikes and cant do the work yourself, bring a freaking build sheet listing EVERY part and model number on the bike.

Hopefully soon I can start building my own up (gonna do every phase of it including the snake skin paint job I want). Aint goin 300. 240/250 MAX, 180 if my idea can actually be done).
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post #10 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-15-2006, 09:42 PM
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Good article, and good point. the time will come when youhave to change the oil and spark plugs. That's when you find out if your builder actually knew what the hell he was doing.

And I didn't get the impression the guy hated custom choppers; I got the impression he likes them and has built them. His point, to all those wannabe builders, is make the damn thing serviceable.

"There is nothing so terrifying as ignorance in action." Goethe
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post #11 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-17-2006, 01:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bikeguy
I like the fabrication part of the show, but I'm not a big fan of those theme bikes. It's hard for me to believe that people are paying that much for those bikes. The funny thing is that everytime I watch the show, I always like the bikes(that are clean and get no coverege) that are in the background more than the ones that are featured on the show.

I used to watch these shows but watching these guys bang the hell out o f the parts to fit, scratch the hel out of the paint or chrome with a drill, or just simply fuggle the shit out of stuff to make it work makes me want to hurl!!!!

I would never trust my life to a rikity POS chopper that was made in some guys back yard!!! And as far as "FABRICATION" goes there isn't realy any they buy someone parts and bolt the on maybe weld a do-hicky on it and call it fab. And now with the popularity of these shows it seems every ass hole with a torch and a welder is hacking together a CUSTOM TWO WHEEL PIECE OF SHIT!!!

I'M NOT COCKY, I'M JUST FASTER THAN YOU.

Last edited by captaincapsize; 07-17-2006 at 02:01 PM.
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post #12 of 12 (permalink) Old 07-17-2006, 02:03 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by captaincapsize
I used to watch these shows but watching these guys bang the hell out o f the parts to fit, scratch the hel out of the paint or chrome with a drill, or just simply fuggle the shit out of stuff to make it work makes me want to hurl!!!!

I would never trust my life to a rikity POS chopper that was made in some guys back yard!!! And as far as "FABRICATION" goes there isn't realy any they buy someone parts and bolt the on maybe weld a do-hicky on it and call it fab. And now with the popularity of these shows it seems every ass hole with a torch and a welder is hacking together a CUSTOM TWO WHEEL PIECE OF SHIT!!!

WOW! Are you OK? Do you need to talk to somebody??

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