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History of Choppers As I See it
No one knows who exactly built the first choppers, but it is generally agreed upon that they were built by soldiers returning home from WWII. Soldiers who had ridden bikes in Europe found that the Harleys being produced in the US were slow and bulky, something that is still true today. In an effort to lighten these bikes up the riders started to remove unnecessary parts and “bob” the fenders. Had the European motorcycles been readily available in America I believe that these bikers might have abandoned Harley right then and we would have a completely different biker scene than what we have today.

These early modified bikes were called Bobbers and the term Choppers actually didn’t get popular until the sixties and early seventies. Most sources reference the movie Easy Rider as the start of the cultural phenomena, but national news about the antics of the Hells Angels certainly had the image of the biker outlaw already fixed in the public’s eye, a much badder version than we saw in the movie The Wild One from 1953.

The new generation that was chopping bikes made their own style by not just bobbing the bikes but by adding additional rake and longer front ends and of course the obligatory sissy bar. The bikes we know as choppers were born. I think it’s interesting that even though the two terms “bobber” and “chopper” became distinct 40 years ago they are now being used interchangeably, mostly by people who don’t really understand the terms at all.

The choppers of the late sixties went from just being bobbed Harleys with no turn signals and mirrors to being also modified bikes with ape hanger handle bars, like Sonny Barger was using back in the late 50′s, skinny front tires and the already mentioned sissy bar. Now we were no longer just removing unnecessary parts but were also adding a few touches of our own. Back then there were no “custom bike builders” and most of the work was being done in the rider’s own garage. As we went into the seventies, builders began to get really creative and the bike as a form of art was born.

Artist David Mann captured the entire chopper lifestyle in his work, and builders actually tried to now build bikes based on Mann’s more extreme artistic interpretations of what choppers could look like. The bikes that Dave imagined soon came into actually being. The seventies were definitely made for custom bikes.

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