The “chopper” motorcycle first appeared on California roads in the late 1950s. The term derived from the process of chopping off parts or making modifications, however with time, it has come to represent a particular style of modified bike.
The chopper is perhaps the most extreme of all custom styles, often using a radically raked and extended front end with lengthened forks to give it a stretched-out appearance. The bike may have tall handlebars, a lowered rear suspension (or no rear suspension), and sometimes a high sissy bar on the back.
Paul d'Orleans, the author of the book, The Chopper: The Real Story, says, "It's a quintessentially American folk-art form."
Perhaps that “art form” was best expressed by Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda when they rode choppers across the U.S. in the iconic film, Easy Rider. The bikes, d'Orleans says, "did more to popularize choppers around the world than any other film or any other motorcycle.”
Today, custom shops all over the country (and outside the U.S. as well) create custom bikes of every imaginable style.
Here are twenty photos of choppers we can stare at all day.
20 “American Chopper” Custom Bikes
Famous for building custom motorcycles on the air, 'American Chopper' Season 12 premiered on February 12, 2019. To many viewer’s delight, the show returned last year after being absent for six years.
Legal problems between Orange County Choppers owner Paul Teutul and his son occupied their time during the absence. As most fans know, the Teutuls had a combative relationship. At one point, Paul Sr. fired Paul Jr., who promptly formed a rival company, Paul Jr. Designs.
19 “Captain America” Chopper Ridden by Peter Fonda
Fifty years ago, Dennis Hopper and friends created one of the last great movies of the decade. The film changed independent filmmaking and launched the chopper-style motorcycle.
Columbia grossed a staggering $60m with Easy Rider, a sum unthinkable in today’s moviegoing climate. Years later (in 2014), the Harley-Davidson-based 'Captain America' ridden by Peter Fonda in Easy Rider, sold for $1.3 million at auction in California.
18 Vietnam Memorial Wall Bike by Orange County Choppers
Paul Teutul Sr examines the finished custom bike built to honor veterans of the Vietnam War and the Vietnam Memorial. Assemblyman David DiPietro and Sahlen Packing Company cooperated to commission Orange County Choppers for the build. The chopper was painted by Franny Drummond of Paint Zoo Studios and Mr. Oz Designs.
During American Chopper, Season 12 Episode 5 that aired on March 12, 2019, the episode featured the entire motorcycle build process.
17 The Siren of TI Chopper
Only in Las Vegas!
The Treasure Island Hotel and Casino ran a free nightly show called The Sirens Of TI. To attract players, the hotel commissioned Metropolitan Choppers to build a series of four custom bikes and offered them as prizes.
The “Siren Of TI” Chopper is constructed with nearly 250 pounds of scrap iron and steel and weighs 900 pounds.
This motorcycle art piece was not part of the prizes, but remains on permanent display in the casino.
16 Behemoth Bike by Game Over Cycles
Inspired by the music of the Polish metal band, Behemoth, and the love of physical metal, the bike with the same name was built to honor both.
Game Over Cycles manufactured the frame, fenders, front suspension, exhaust, and fuel tank engraved with the band’s logo. At European Bike Week 2013, the gritty and sinister creation received the "People's Choice Award" in the Harley-Davidson Custom Bike Show!
15 Black Widow Steampunk Chopper
Steampunk is a subgenre of science fantasy or science fiction that combines the romantic Victorian-era view of science expressed in literature with elements from the Industrial Revolution in Europe during the 1800s, including steam-powered machinery.
The Black Widow chopper, created by Solifague Design, displays a dramatic color combination of black with golden highlights and typical steampunk style. While the bike is still in the concept phase, a production model would undoubtedly be well received.
14 Big Dog Canine Chopper
The Big Dog Canine chopper is longer than most bikes at 108 inches, and it is heavy. While a typical Harley cruiser weighs around 450 to 500 pounds, this bike tips the scales at 739 lbs.
The 117 cu. in. engine produces 110 hp and sends exhaust through a Vance and Hines system that makes enough of a rumble to draw the attention of any nearby police. The unique Ostrich skin seat and stable feeling of this big chopper make it a pleasure to drive.
13 1980 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead
This bike is the result of the collaboration of a Street Chopper editor and some old-school-custom motorcycle parts builders. The owner, Johnny Atwood, from Daytona wanted a clean bike, so the most challenging part of the build was hiding all the electrical and locating the switches and breaker board.
Atwood says the 1980 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead custom with 28-inch-over wide-glide frontend on a 45-degree frame is the best riding chopper he has owned.
12 Steven Tyler Chopper
Steven Tyler could ride a kid’s plastic Big Wheels tricycle in front of a crowd, and most people would have trouble taking their eyes off him.
For an event announcing the release of a new Aerosmith album, Tyler wore a black leather jacket partially covering a red polka dot shirt and dark denim bell bottoms with floral flair. In typical Tyler flamboyant style, he added a blue scarf to flap in the breeze while riding his miniature neon green tricycle chopper.
11 Pro Street Chopper White Lightning
Performance Machine supplied most of the components on this bike, all of which have been painted or powder coated white except for some minor chrome accents and, of course, the tires. The build cost exceeded $30,000, but the result is a unique chopper that requires cleaning daily. The white color shows even the tiniest drop of oil or speck of dirt.
10 Titan Motorcycle Company Bankrupt
The Titan Motorcycle company was founded in 1995 during the period when new Harley-Davidsons were in short supply.
Although the market was strong for fast available mildly customized bikes, each Titan Phoenix TRM Custom chopper was built by one mechanic and only 25 of the models were ever made. By 2001, the management, dealers, and therefore customer support failed, so Titan filed for bankruptcy.
9 Radial Engine Powered Chopper
Although a redial engine in a motorcycle seems like an anomaly to most observers, the design has a long history. As far back as 1921, a German motorcycle manufacturer, Megola, produced a 5-cylinder, 640 cc bike with radial engine and exhaust entirely housed inside the front wheel.
This chopper has a more modern design, but the radial engine still draws a lot of attention.
8 Bourget Python Limo Super Stretch 330
While it’s useless as a vehicle for transporting high school seniors to their graduation prom, this “Limo” will carry its rider in a stretched manner, not found on most choppers.
The bike was built by Bourget's Bike Works, founded in 1993 by Brigitte Bee. The Phoenix, AZ company, gained a reputation for producing radical motorcycles. The company has several patents, including the signature design, BBW's oil-in frame/drop seat style chassis.
7 Born Free 10 Bikes
Born Free is a yearly motorcycle event featuring an exceptional collection of wildly hand-crafted custom motorcycles from all over the world. Held in collaboration with Harley-Davidson, some of the most prominent custom bike builders are invited to participate and display their masterpieces.
This chopper with a chrome Harley-Davidson Shovelhead engine mounted on a gold frame is just one example of the bikes on display.
6 Harley-Davidson Trail Boss
This customized Trail Boss chopper was displayed at Harley-Davidson’s Annual Bike Night in Knoxville.
One eye-catching part of the bike is the “Western” theme airbrushed work throughout the body, but there is much more to admire. A gas lantern is mounted on the front, the seat is made from rawhide leather, and a steer skull is attached to the gas tank.
5 Guinness Record for Longest Chopper
Shadetree Racing and Choppers claimed the Guinness world record for the world’s longest motorcycle with their 101-foot long chopper.
Although the guys from Shadetree are to be complimented for breaking a record, their creation does nothing to enhance the artistic reputation of chopper-style motorcycles. This rolling monster looks like it was constructed with cell phone towers, and good luck trying to make any turns with the ugly contraption.
4 Ghost Rider Harley Davidson Chopper
The chopper made for the movie Ghost Rider, starring Nicolas Cage, was custom built and is ridable (to a limited degree).
The chrome shell is not actually metal, but fiberglass molded around the Australian bike frame. It is more than 11-feet long and weighs over 500 pounds. However, the bike is not street legal, and if operated for too long, the fiberglass begins to melt.
3 Red Dragon Bike
The extensive use of curves created by the radical sheet metal attached to the frame of this bike gives the sensation of unobstructed air as it passes over the chopper’s body.
The basic metallic crimson paint job with shadowing highlights the bike’s features and the aerodynamically shaped gas tank. The Red Dragon built by Miami Choppers includes a chromed V-twin engine and rear suspension with Softail shocks under the frame.
2 Big Dog Pitbull Custom Bike
“Let the Big Dog Eat” is an expression most often used in the golf when a player pulls out the longest club in the bag, the driver, and hits the ball a long distance.
It also applies to the Big Dog Motorcycle company that became the largest production-custom motorcycle manufacturer in the world. At the peak production point in their history, the company built 25 bikes per day and delivered over 30,000 motorcycles worldwide.
1 Bourget Custom “Python Chopper”
This extraordinary Bourget Custom “Python Chopper” is an excellent example of the skilled design and professional craftsmanship that typifies products from Bourget Bike Works (BBW).
The beautiful metallic “Deano factory upgraded Kandy pearl green” paint with intricately detailed multicolored skulls and graphics plus lots of chrome and accessories distinguish this “rolling work of art” from most other choppers cruising the roads today.
Sources: chopperhandbook.com, m.roadkillcustoms.com, redoubtreporter, legendarymotorcycles.com