Best Off-the-Lot Chopper Motorcycles of 2024
Feb 9, 2024Tags:guide
Chopper motorcycles are custom builds that began in California in the late 1950’s. You can easily spot a chopper with its classic modified body, sharp steering angles, lengthened forks, and a more “stretched” appearance. These builds might be created from scratch, manufactured, purchased off the lot, or modified from a standard factory model.
One thing is clear- the chopper is more than just a motorcycle; it's a statement. It's a rebellion against conformity, a celebration of individuality, and a testament to the human desire for customization and self-expression.
But in the ever-evolving world of motorcycles, which chopper would you choose?
History of Choppers
Ah, choppers! Those low-slung, chrome-laden beasts evoke images of freedom, rebellion, and endless highways. When it comes to popularity, it's not just about one specific bike but rather a genre with diverse styles and preferences. Here are some of the most popular chopper trends and their iconic representatives:
Classic Choppers (1960s-1970s):
Harley-Davidson: The undisputed king of choppers, Harleys like the Panhead, Shovelhead, and Ironhead, with their stretched forks, raked-out frames, and sissy bars, became the canvas for customization.
Chop Top Bobbers: Taking inspiration from drag racing culture, these bikes were chopped to the bare essentials, emphasizing performance and stripped-down aesthetics.
West Coast Choppers: The California scene gave birth to wild creations with extended front ends, high handlebars, and outrageous paint jobs, epitomized by builders like Arlen Ness and Big Dog Motorcycles.
Modern Choppers (2000s-present):
Baggers: Combining chopper aesthetics with touring comfort, baggers like Harley-Davidson Road Kings and Street Glides boast spacious storage, wind protection, and robust engines for long-distance adventures.
Metric Choppers: Japanese manufacturers like Honda, Yamaha, and Suzuki entered the fray with chopper-inspired models like the Honda Fury and Yamaha V-Star Custom, offering affordability and reliability.
Softail Choppers: Harley's Softail platform blends the classic chopper look with a hidden rear suspension for a smoother ride, as seen in popular models like the Heritage Classic and Fat Boy.
Big Bear Choppers: Although the company closed in 2011, Big Bear Choppers made an impressive mark in history with chopper builds.
Beyond the mainstream:
Rat Rods on Two Wheels: This trend embraces a rusty, weathered aesthetic, emphasizing functionality over pristine chrome and paint.
Neo-Choppers: Modern interpretations of the classic chopper style with clean lines, contemporary materials, and a focus on performance, showcased by builders like Deus Customs and Roland Sands.
Electric Choppers: Sustainability meets chopper cool with electric motorcycles like the Zero SR/S and the Energica EsseEsse 9 Plus, offering a silent and eco-friendly way to cruise.
Remember, choppers are all about expressing your individuality. Feel free to mix and match styles, choose unique parts, and customize your ride to reflect your personality.
Which era or style of chopper interests you the most? Maybe you have a specific question about these iconic machines' mechanics, history, or culture. I'm here to fuel your chopper passion, so keep the questions coming.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Chopper:
- Chopper motorcycles typically have large engines, but the size you need will depend on your riding style. A smaller engine = fine for city riding. Highway riding = larger engine for more power.
- Chopper motorcycles are known for their laid-back riding position, but not all choppers are created equal. Some choppers have more comfortable seats and handlebars than others. Be sure to test-ride a bike before buying it to make sure you're comfortable riding it for long distances.
- Chopper motorcycles are not known for their nimble handling. But some choppers handle better than others. If you plan on doing a lot of twisties, you'll want a chopper with good handling.
- Chopper motorcycles can range in price- from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands. Set a budget before you start shopping and stick to it.
Custom Chopper Motorcycles
If you’re looking for more information on custom motorcycles or even how to make your perfect custom chopper, check out these things first:
- You’ll Need Material Knowledge: Selecting appropriate materials for each motorcycle part is key. Different components might require various types of metals, each selected for its unique characteristics suitable for specific roles.
- Have Welding Expertise: Different materials require corresponding welding techniques. Proficiency in a range of welding practices is crucial to ensure both the durability and the aesthetic quality of the chopper.
- Understand Tubing: A deep understanding of tubing varieties, measurements, and durability is crucial. This involves selecting the appropriate thickness, diameter, and type of tubing for the motorcycle's frame and other structural parts.
- Make Sense of Suspension Geometry: You need to have a clear grasp of the correct techniques for reducing the suspension height, ensuring it doesn't detrimentally impact the bike's stability and maneuverability. Precise and careful adjustments are key to preserving the chopper's operational integrity and safety.
- Plan and Calculate Your Build: An extensive and detailed planning stage is required before initiating any physical alterations. This stage encompasses assessments of weight distribution, structural balance, and ergonomic design to guarantee that the chopper is visually appealing but also reliable and comfortable.
What Base Models Make Good Custom Chopper Builds?
When building a custom chopper, selecting the right base model is crucial as it sets the foundation for the customization process. Popular companies like Orange County Choppers are artisans in this space. A good base model should have a solid frame, a reliable engine, and be amenable to modifications. Here are some popular base models that are popularly used for custom chopper builds:
- Harley-Davidson Sportster: The Sportster is a favorite among custom builders due to its versatile frame, iconic V-twin engine, and abundant aftermarket parts. Its relatively simple design makes it an excellent canvas for various chopper styles.
- Honda CB Series: Honda's CB series, particularly older models like the CB750, are popular for custom projects. They're known for their reliability, and the inline-four engine offers a smooth ride. Their simple construction makes them easy to strip down and modify.
- Yamaha XS650: The XS650 is revered for its classic design and robust parallel-twin engine. Its simple frame and mechanical components make it a great candidate for a custom chopper, especially for those aiming for a retro look.
- Triumph Bonneville: Older Bonnevilles are excellent choices for chopper projects with their classic British twin engines and distinctive style. They offer a blend of traditional looks with the potential for modern performance upgrades.
- Kawasaki Vulcan: The Vulcan series, especially the older models, provides a great starting point for chopper builds. They have a strong V-twin engine and a frame that lends itself well to customization.
- Indian Scout: The Scout is a more modern option with a strong engine and a frame conducive to customization. It's a good choice for those who want a balance of classic styling and modern reliability.
- Suzuki Savage / Boulevard S40: Known for its single-cylinder engine and lightweight frame, the Savage (renamed Boulevard S40) is a unique choice for a chopper build, particularly for those seeking a minimalist or bobber style.
Each of these models has its unique characteristics and advantages. The best choice depends on the builder's preferences, the desired style of the chopper, and the level of modification they're comfortable undertaking. Additionally, the availability of aftermarket parts and community support can influence the decision on which base model to choose for a custom chopper build.
2024 Honda Fury
Honda became the first major manufacturer to introduce an off-the-lot production model of a chopper motorcycle with the debut of the Honda Fury in January 2009. Since then, it has undergone several notable changes. In 2024, the Honda Fury enhanced its eye-catching appeal by introducing a new Adventure Green color scheme. A robust 1,312cc liquid-cooled 52-degree V-twin engine powers the bike, delivering potent low-end and midrange torque for smooth and powerful passing and effortless cruising. The Fury also boasts a distinctive dual-exhaust system that produces a rich and resonant sound, complementing its performance.
2024 Harley-Davidson Breakout
This chopper-inspired build is technically a cruiser but often falls into the category of production chopper models- it’s more of a low-slung Softail model. For the 2024 model, several updates have dialed back, maintaining the enhanced chassis while returning to the 5.0-gallon fuel capacity and significantly increasing the chrome detailing. Harley's head of design, Brad Richards, explained: “The Breakout was initially designed to embody the contemporary chopper style. It boasts a long, low profile and is equipped with a wide 240mm tire.”
How Much Do Chopper Motorcycles Cost?
The cost of chopper motorcycles can vary widely based on factors such as the brand, level of customization, components used, and the builder's reputation. As of my last update in April 2023, here's a general price range:
Production Choppers: Factory-made choppers from Harley-Davidson, Honda, or Indian typically range from $10,000 to $30,000. These bikes offer the chopper style but with the reliability and warranty of mass-produced models.
Custom-Built Choppers: The price for custom choppers can vary greatly. A basic custom build using a pre-existing base model might start around $20,000. However, for high-end custom builds, especially those crafted by renowned builders with extensive modifications and bespoke parts, prices can easily exceed $50,000 and, in some cases, reach $100,000 or more.
Kit Choppers: Chopper kits, which allow builders to assemble their bikes, can range from $5,000 to $15,000 for the kit alone, depending on the quality and components included. The final cost will be higher when you factor in additional tools, paint, and assembly if you're hiring a professional.
Second-Hand Choppers: The price for used choppers can vary widely based on age, condition, brand, and level of customization. You can find them for as low as $5,000 for older or less-known brands and over $20,000 for well-maintained bikes from respected builders or premium brands.
The cost of a chopper is not just about the initial purchase price. Maintenance, insurance, and potential modifications should also be considered in the total cost of ownership. The prices can vary based on location and market conditions, so it's always a good idea to research current listings in your area for the most accurate pricing.
If you’re looking to rent a motorcycle or try out a new style you haven’t taken a ride on, check out Riders Share's unique selection of motorcycles for rent across the United States. With the country’s largest selection, there are many custom builds and new types to choose from.