|Riding Position - by John Huetter
The meaning of "chopper" has taken a radical change over the past few years. The original idea was to eliminate the
extra weight, bulk and cluttered appearance of the stock Harley. By changing the style and feel of the fat tank,
getting rid of fat tires, wide handlebars, overhanging flared fenders, bulky seat, floor boards and crash bars, you
could build a scooter that was rugged, quick and secure. It also performed better because it was lighter. A few
simple engine mods helped the 74 realize its potential if you were into a performance thing. The controls and moving
parts were accessible for easy adjustment or repair. Your bike became a part of you. You could adjust the front
brake as readily as you scratch your head.
The basic chopper idea was originally loose enough to give room for individual expression in design. A scooter
generally got an exposed frame, narrow front wheel, small fender(s), custom seat and a minimum of exposed wiring.
By blending these elements, an intimate relationship between design, form and function was maintained.
The chopper concept was brought to being by H-D in their Sportster and, now, in the Super-Glide. They're not
choppers, no matter what any salesman tells you. They are much closer to the original idea of a stripped-down,
functional machine. Higher on performance, lower on garbage. Add some chrome, fancy up the seat, extend and
rake a little, and you're closer to having a goodlooking custom bike, though I maintainit still isn't necessarily a
Now that we have talked about the old concept of what a chopper is, let's see how the idea has changed.
Have choppers and bikes that pretend to be choppers become so commonplace that a dresser is more different and
distinctive? That's just what the true individualistic biker doesn't want. If you check out the street traffic or magazine
stands, you will notice an explosion of pseudo-choppers and their magazine counterparts. In typically American
fashion, we may have gone overboard. Like the topless and bottomless dancers in some Southern California bars,
after awhile you get that "ho hum, another one?" attitude.
Another bad scene is that the popularity of motorcycle
movies with their warped image of outlaw clubs has caused all chopper riders to be taken for this type. At this point,
concern with the eagle eye and long arm of the Man starts to increase. No rider needs additional attention of this
kind. These sex-dope-cycle exploitation flicks have also brought on the phenomenon known as "Instant Chopper."
With the growth of "Instant Chopper", the individualistic bike and its care and feeding has been taken over by the know-
nothing fast-buck artist. And we don't mean custom painters. Without any concern for good design, form or function,
the hucksters promote and get rich from "Instant Chopper." Their imagination and concern for bikes really shows
through. Just about as much as if they threw a bunch of parts in the air and, luckily, had them fall on the nearest
But that approach doesn't bother some people; like the ones who shell out good bread for these parts collections. Those who prefer this quickie chopper very appropriately park it at
the curb in front of their favorite saloon because they haven't learned to ride it very well, if at all. They don't really
need the trans. It's a perfect scooter for them if it just barks at passing pedestrians and gets some long looks. How
many of those looks are going to reflect admiration? Do they care? Widespread acceptance of the chopper, and the
underlying concept is great, but this mass-produced mess of tack-on goodies doesn't bring the biker closer to his
Some of the goodies are so unnecessary that they make the cleanedup bike into an uglier, fatter bike than H-D
originally produced. Knobs, spikes and other awkward, pointed things are there to poke your body and scrape your
skin. Other accessories completely unbalance the design and just look gaudy. "Show and No Go" is the theme of
too many bikes that are popping up under the chopper label.
Too much of anything good (with one exception that I can think of) spoils the whole number. Too many bad movies
have promoted the wrong ideas and the wrong image. A lot of them are completely irrevelant to biking. One of the
few good things in the recent explosion of "choppers" is that real chopper designers and builders have influenced
factory motorcycle design, especially H-D, despite their loud claims to be disassociated from anything that smacks
My main complaint is against the "Instant Chopper" people who forget that the original idea of a chopper was a
functional, clean-looking form of transportation based on a strongrunning mill. All common sense seems to have
disappeared and the sport is lost. The flicks have inevitably shown chopper riders as outlaws and the general public
are convinced, partly because they want to be.
So run your bike down to the nearest custom parts shop (It doesn't matter what kind of scooter you have, 90cc
Zipazumi, anything.) and buy some chrome things and some metalflake paint. Add a high-back seat, sissy bar, big
pipes and go putting off down the road. You've got a chopper now, right? Maybe some dudes will buy that shuck.
Don't you be one of them.