The Chopper Motorcycle Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

The Chopper Motorcycle

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A chopper is a motorbike that has been stripped of all inessential parts, such as plastic chassis, aerodynamic components and fancy metalwork. The name came into being after the Second World War, when the returning GIs bought up war surplus motorcycles, and literally chopped off the bits they did not want.

Many classic choppers have radically altered front suspension, with increased rake, making the front forks longer than stock bikes. While this looks cool, and makes them relatively comfortable freeway cruisers, it also makes them less than agile in turns, and cumbersome in city traffic.

Motorcycle manufacturers, such as Honda or Kawasaki, now call their recent chopper models 'custom' or 'individual classic'. A 'cruiser' is a bigger, heavier variant of chopper designed for long journeys, and resembles a modern touring bike with the looks of a classic chopper.

Choppers are not built to drive fast, but to cruise at about 80kph down the country road. They are also built to be noisy, because driving loud is fun, according to chopper riders. The best known chopper is the classic Harley Davidson Low Rider. The chopper cult began in the 1950s, and the Low Rider popularised it during the 1970s. Many hardcore bikers build their own choppers by stripping touring bikes and modifying them, especially the muffler system to achieve a better sound.

A chopper is your choice of bike, if you want to take it easy and have fun on the road. Riding a chopper is a great way to relieve stress and tension, especially if you ride together with a few mates. Hence the biker saying:

Live to ride, ride to live... free spirit.

One of the best-looking current chopper models is the Black Widow from Honda Motorcycles. The previous model, Shadow, had a nice optic too, but the Black Widow looks much bigger and cooler. It is totally black with a lot of chrome1. However, to keep its good looks requires a lot of work, washing and polishing it all, especially after you have a ride in the rain. The Black Widow has spoke wheels, like any other real chopper, which also require a lot of care, but otherwise it looks real groovy. It has a big wide tank with instruments in the Harley style - only a speedo on the tanktop, no rev-counter or fuel gauge - and a nice, short, backswept handlebar. All in all, a real classic chopper. (Although some people will say that it is not, because it is mass produced.)

Of course, with choppers, as with any other thing on this planet, beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. For some, a chopper is the only motorbike to ride, and gives the unique feeling of freedom and peace on the road.

1That is all the engine parts, cylinders, exhaust pipes, mufflers, handlebars and wheels are chrome.

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