Custom Chopper Build It, Or Buy It?
Like many motorcycle enthusiast, I too love chopper’s from the extreme detail of OCC choppers to the Bad Boy Bikes of Jesse James, there is just one glitch, I’m not rich.
There are 2 basic approaches to getting what we are after, buy or build. Obviously both approaches have their own unique drawbacks and as you may have guessed there is quite a bit of cost in each route.
Buying a chopper is by far the fastest, easiest and in many cases the safest route to take. I allow it is the fastest way because the bike is already built for you, easiest because you just have to have the money and safest because in most cases these bikes are built by professionals. If you are prepared to buy a chopper, compromise is the operative word. You have to be able and willing to weigh what you want in a chopper against what you can afford in a chopper. In my experience what I want in a chopper usually doesn’t even come close to reflecting what I can afford. Unfortunately through most of my shopping I have found even used name brand choppers like OCC, Jesse James, Ironhorse are all well out of my price range. At best your looking at a bike that is 3 to 5 years old and still cost as much as a new Harley.
However, the benefits to buying a name brand or professionally built chopper are still ever present. First, safety. The welds and precision that the bike is assembled with is generally unparalleled by the novice builder. (I’m not saying it can’t be accomplished by a novice builder.) Second, Veh. Registration. This is one of the aspects that is often over looked when people jump into building their own chopper. When a chopper is built from the ground up, it has no V.I.N. (vehicle identification number or serial number) which makes it very hard for the private citizen to register. People who build these bikes for a living usually have this problem worked out with the corporation commission in their state and understand what steps must be taken to register the cycles legally. This problem is often solved by buying a prefab frame from a respectable frame shop or company.
Now to build, you must look first at your mechanical and metal working capabilities. Much of the knowledge can be gained with research. The physical act must be supplemented with the right tools. This is the area where I find a lot of people overlook a large cost. Having the right and dependable tools at your disposal is priceless, however the price of the tools can sometimes be staggering. Wrenches, mig welder, cutting torch, air compressor, air cutoff, grinder and impact wrenches, frame jig this list could last for pages. The number of tools needed to build a chopper from scratch is substantial. Your capabilities with a welder must be better than average.
Chopper Kits come in all shapes and sizes. Many of these kits are complete packages with everything needed (except the tools) to build a chopper with exception of paint. The kits generally come straight metal or primered. These produce some exceptional looking choppers for around $12,000 and a lot of elbow grease. As I mentioned earlier, knowledge is a must, don’t go in blind. (try looking at the HR3 chopper kits, they are great looking bikes)
Chopper-mod. This is what i call it when you start with a motorcycle and simply alter the triple tree, and extend the forks. I have seen these type’s of choppers that are equally appealing. But all and all you can usually tell that they are not a custom. They still have that “store bought” look to them. The price of this option is directly proportional to the brand of bike you start with.
Any way you go when acquiring the Chopper of your dreams is only limited to what you can afford and/or your capabilities to put forth the elbow grease needed. There are yet more options to consider when pursuing a chopper, these are just a few highlights and hopefully some helpful insight.