Thursday, October 15, 2009

Why build and ride an Attack Chopper?

Photo of Jasin Phares by the Flying Dutchman

Years ago when I had ridden one of my choppers to a bike event of some sort, I had struck up a conversation with a sportbike rider while admiring his bike.
“…I could never ride a chopper.” He said to me with his nose stuck in the air.
“I like speed… I would be bored to tears on a chopper. Besides, I like corners, leaning over in the corners and stopping hard. I want a modern functioning motorcycle that WORKS. Choppers don’t ever work. They are a joke.
Clearly a sportbike is the superior motorcycle of the two.”

Are they really?
Well, the sportbike might be the superior motorcycle ON THE TRACK.
But to buy a bike for street use because a magazine says that it is the best bike available track bike is not only misguided, but ridiculous… since 99% of sportbike riders who buy a bike merely because it is this year’s latest and greatest track bike never even go to the track.
Instead they end up with an inferior motorcycle for street use, and a huge monthly payment.
But of course we aren’t talking about track use here.
And of course he is wrong about all choppers not working.
But what if the motivation for owning, building and riding a bike was not rooted in mere track performance? Or in listening to the magazine writers gush about the “new one/tenth of a percent of performance that Suzuki was able to squeeze out of this year’s GSXR1000”?
What if you wanted a STREET bike that did everything well, made your heart pump hard 100% of the time you were on it, and 100% of the time when you were looking at it?
A bike that had straight line performance, handling performance, stopping performance, parts counter performance, (easy to get parts) and curb performance. (According to Tom Rose that is when your bike is good looking enough sit down on the curb, anytime admire your bike and say: “Now THAT is a great looking bike.”)

So what we are looking for is a bike that doesn’t work on paper. It works on the STREET. It’s a lighter, tighter, lower, more focused, more vicious weapon for the street.
You will never hear a magazine journalist waxing poetic about how intelligent the design of this chopper is. Or what percentage of stopping power the new for this year radial mounted monoblock calipers have given this chopper. Or how he was disappointed that the forks are only adjustable for rebound. Or how this is a chopper for the thinking man. A refined chopper, that has the fit and finish that we have come to expect from the Honda motor company. (Oops! I did read that about the Honda Fury! Ha! What a joke.)
And that doesn’t play on paper. It also is too individualized to be marketable. Every Attack chopper is unique. It is fashioned, sculpted, researched, developed, tuned, refined and honed by its rider… FOR that rider. Not for anyone else. You can’t box that up and churn them out for the masses!
If you let someone have a test ride on your bike, and they tell you that it is a medieval torture device, but you find it to be perfectly comfortable and you can ride it at breakneck speeds in your riding environment and not crash… then that is a perfectly crafted personalized assault vehicle.
Do you really think that one size fits all? Can any one motorcycle from a factory be perfectly suited to everyone? And who gets to decide what is right for you? There is only one person qualified to make that decision… you.

And let’s face it people: this isn’t an intellectually motivated motorcycle. It’s a viscerally motivated motorcycle.
The first goal and motivation in building and riding an attack chopper should ALWAYS be visceral.
The desire to satisfy some primitive visceral need should be your PRIMARY motivator.
An Attack chopper should be fun, terrifying, and primal; you should be overwhelmed with the sensations of acceleration, speed, noise, vibration, fear, danger, freedom, and power.
You should be seeking the unique feeling of physical forces being applied to your body in huge quantities and sensations that you can’t even put words to or describe.
I quote myself from one of my earlier articles:

“I don’t know about you, but when I daydream of a nicely built and functioning attack chopper, I think about things like; WAY too much power, snarling nasty screaming burnouts, top gear wide open, high speed blasts, tons of sideways action, sliding and skidding to stops, pelting cars and other riders with rocks, gravel, and chunks of asphalt, insane full throttle lanesplitting , wheelies at every stop light, 2nd gear one handed jockey shift wheelies, drifting corners on gravel and dirt (and pavement!), unbelievably loud pipes spitting flames, jumping curbs and scattering pedestrians off of sidewalks, arm stretching acceleration , jumping intersections and hilltops, and scaring most stock motorcycle riders half to death. I think about running away from cops, from other bikes, about chasing people down and doing battle in traffic , always on that ragged edge of control, always going way too fast for the situation, always loud, always dangerous, always operating beyond normal standards, the motors always on the brink of exploding, transmissions one bad shift away from catastrophic failure, violent, scary, destructive power, barely contained and harnessed.”

You see? That is the sort of visceral overload I am looking for on a motorcycle. And no motorcycle can give that to me unless it is a well built, Attack Chopper.

But, I hear you saying:
“Can I not satisfy my visceral desires just as easily with a brand new sportbike, or any stock high performance motorcycle?
“Why go to the trouble to build a chopper in the first place?”
Because you cannot get the same visceral satisfaction with a sport bike that you can with a properly built and functioning attack chopper.

Choppers deliver a level of visceral sensation that is beyond the smooth and polished precision of a sewing machine on nitrous oxide.
It’s like a Merlin motor from a P-51 Mustang instead of a jet turbine.
Sure they both go fast…. but they are worlds apart in how they make power.
You get the sensation of speed, acceleration and horsepower in a very detached, glossed over, sanitized, shrink wrapped sort of way on a sport bike.
On an attack chopper, it’s like having a seat on the front row at the birth of horsepower… you feel the explosions in the cylinders, you feel the vibrations in your teeth, you feel the sound waves hitting your chest. It’s like the Space shuttle, dynamite at the rock quarry, the NHRA Nitro top fuel dragsters, the original 427 powered Ford GT-40, monster trucks., WWII Planes, supercharged big blocks, and guns.
And attack choppers have that same adrenalin dripping visceral punch to them. You don’t process that sensation with your mind… you process it with your gut, with your adrenal gland.
Sportbikes promise visceral performance that will melt your pleasure receptors, but deliver nothing for me.
YES… I can go accelerate fast.
YES… I can go around corners fast.
YES… I can stop quickly. (sometimes)
And YES… I am bored out of my mind with them.
All of this performance that they promise me is not realized on the street.
Sure, but not the visceral performance that I crave.
Sportbikes are designed to perform on the sterile, perfect conditions of the track. Dry, smooth, banked, cleaned, perfect, wide, washed, beautiful, carefully planned out and poured pavement.
Places where there are no stop lights, where there are no crazy old women in K-cars and minivans.
No road damage, no gravel, no mud, no antifreeze or oil spills, no lane divisions, no oncoming traffic, no road construction and no road debris. Where you are trained and expected to lock the rear tire up once and while and you know what it is coming. Where you have run off areas and piles of tires to help protect you.
And a sportbike is designed for that application… the rake and trail are not conducive to much riding on anything that isn’t perfect.
I don’t know about you, but gravel and dirt are a regular part of my choppers diet around here.
Sportbikes are horrible on gravel.
How about when you come home, and you need to get you bike into the garage, or up on the porch and there is a car parked in your path. Your roommate/wife/friend/enemy/girlfriend parked without thinking of you… so you are forced to cut across the wet grass to get your bike put away… sportbikes suck in this situation.
Ha… do I even need to talk about it?
Oil slicks, spilled water, antifreeze… things that terrify me on a sportbike… but with the Attack choppers low center of gravity, low weight, the right rake and trail…slippery surfaces become nothing more than a slightly different and fun way to get from one place to another.

So, you may agree with me at this point that you are seeking your visceral satisfaction in the package known as the chopper… but you aren’t sure about it working properly and functioning like a great motorcycle.
And that is totally understandable. Look at the examples you have been given for the last 30 years!
Let’s face facts: You have been told like everyone else … that choppers are long, spindly, fragile, unwieldy, goofy, ill conceived, badly executed death traps that are only slightly classier than Jed Clampet’s truck.
But, over the years there HAVE been exceptional bikes, and exceptional people who would not settle for a non-working rigid framed chopper. They are out there… I have done my best to show you all examples and to talk about the heroes of the faith on this very blog.
And right now, today… there are more of us than ever before. You have brethren, you have support, you are not alone, and you can find help and guidance.
But you must stand up and be counted. You must not be quiet, you must not let people tell YOU how badly your bike works, you must not be stereotyped as a non-thinking, mediocre, illogical, burnt out, redneck just because that person has never ridden a REAL attack chopper and experienced for themselves how well a rigid framed attack chopper can work!
So what are you going to do about it? Are you just going to sit there and mope about it? Or are you going dust off your calculators and start thinking and building carefully and creatively?
The greater the challenge the greater the glory.
The greatest men you can think of have all become great because of their response to a great challenge.
The road to enlightenment is not the wide and easy path… but the narrow and difficult.
But you can prevail. You can succeed. You can triumph. You can overcome. You can rise above… why am I so sure you ask?
Because you are the new race of Chopper building men.
We have built bad choppers that didn’t work for far too long. And we were divided and spread out by hordes of mediocre builders and cable shows. We have been alone and persecuted. But now we are united for a single cause:
To build the best functioning choppers we possibly can.
You posses a mind that is superior to all other mammals.
You are a creature of logic and reason.
BUT… we still are creatures who crave massive visceral input.
I crave having my senses overloaded by sensation and physical forces.
I lust after that feeling...that feeling that I am having FUN… not simply using a vehicle for transportation to another location at a high rate of speed.
I need the violence and brutality of an Attack Chopper … rather than the electric smoothness of a sportbike. Ayn Rand once said:
“Throughout the centuries there were men who took first steps down new roads armed only with their own vision.”
So what is your vision my friend?
Is it to build a bike to get you down to the bar to get drunk?
Is it to build a bike to pick up chicks?
Is it to build a bike to be the coolest guy at your toy runs by virtue that it’s the only non-stock bike there?
Is it to build a bike that looks good and wins bike show trophies?
Is it to build a bike that is lower or longer than your buddy just to one up him?
Is it to build a bike to fit in with the other chopper riders in your town?
Is it to build a bike to stand out from the other chopper riders in your town?
These are all visions I have heard told to me by teary eyed riders as they share their deepest desires with me.
At which point I always stand tall, look them square in the eye and with as much contempt I can muster say:
“Let me tell you about MY vision. I see myself building the nastiest, lightest, hardest, fastest, most performance minded, most capable, most terrifyingly awesome rigid framed slice of death that I can possibly achieve within my means and my mental powers. I see myself flying everywhere jumping intersections, drifting corners, wheelieing past cops and sportbikes, taunting cars, taunting other riders, lanesplitting, doing burnouts, going 100 plus mph blasting down gravel roads, mud roads, across sand, and even snow.
But above all... I see myself blowing your lame chopper off the road.”

So, get out there and make it count people.
Life is too short to ride lame bikes.
Get out there and don’t settle for lame trashed springers, heavy parts, long front ends , 21” front wheels that have no solid performance backing up their existence.
Don’t tolerate bad brakes, or no brakes, poorly tuned motors, pipes that are merely made to look cool, bad riding positions, high centers of gravity, antiquated tire designs, no ground clearance, heavy batteries and starters, and things tacked on merely for “good looks”.
Never stop until your vision is achieved. Never compromise. Never let anyone tell you what your bike should be like or look like. Never let them tell you that a chopper can’t work, that it is all about looks, or that your chopper can’t handle, stop or go fast.
We are not the mediocre. The lame. The unthinking. The trend followers. The fashion conscious. The stupid. The second raters.
We are the elite.
We are the Attack chopper shock troops.
Now get out there and start chopping.

Photo of Jasin Phares taken by Adam Wright. Taken from the Church or Choppers blog.

My thanks goes out to Tom Rose and Flynch for their consulting services on this one!
You guys rule!


  1. Well said! Wiki worthy! Attack choppers or die! Plus its more than 30 to 1 that sportbikes tend to tip and wilson heavily. On the local scene, sporties on the street whiz by unnoticed, while choppers never fail to turn heads. Cars give way. Personally, any ride without extreme lanesplitting is as boring as watching grass grow, or probably even Woods walking to the next hole.

  2. We are the elite.
    We are the Attack chopper shock troops.
    Now get out there and start chopping.

    Jesus fucking christ, are you kidding me?
    That was gay as fuck.

  3. Ha, hahaha...What is chopper journalism without a little gay biker melodrama?

    I am a child of Iron Horse after all!

  4. Awesome read. I'm about to ride my rigid frame beast through out the back roads and hills of Tasmania. Highly fucking motivated.