Ever since I was a teenager I’ve always wanted a chopper, writes Jim Tarry. I used to have pictures on my bedroom wall of ’70s-style choppers, but in those days I couldn’t afford one and, anyway, back then I didn’t have a bike licence!
Pictures: Garry Stuart
Over the years, after having a couple of sports tourers, I was getting a bit bored. They were far too comfortable and competent, and there was no excitement. To try and combat this, I had a couple of V-Maxes which did put a smile on my face as I was bouncing around corners, and I soon realised that I probably wasn’t your ‘normal’ biker. A few years later, I had the opportunity to build a chopper.
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Most of my mates tried to dissuade me, trying to put me off, saying “get a Street Bob or Night Train”, but I wanted a chopper, nothing else would do. I asked around and almost everyone said that the guy to talk to, the guy who knew more about proper old-skool choppers than anyone else, was Clive at So Low Choppers in Stanton so I went to meet him to talk about what I wanted, and after a very long chat he agreed to build one for me.
I’d always wanted a bike with long springer forks, preferably proper old-skool twisted ones, and a towering king and queen seat with exhaust pipes up the back because that, to me, is what a real ’70s chopper is all about. I don’t know how they did it, but So Low managed to find a genuine set of AEE Choppers twisted springers from an original ’70s chop from the States – AEE were the guys who were one of the biggest and most respected suppliers of chopper parts back in the day. That’s a proper ’70s pedigree! They had a wheel made for it by Hagon Products, using a front hub/brake from a Royal Enfield, laced to a narrow 21-inch rim sporting the traditional Speedmaster tyre, and then made the frame around them… well, and the 1973 H-D Shovelhead engine too, of course.
The frame started off as a Kraft Tech bobber frame that they then cut the hell out of; they made a new headstock, stretched the front of the frame, and raked it out to 40 degrees. The Lowbrow fuel tank was modified to hide the tank mounts, and Jay made mouldings to make the tank flow into the frame, using sheet steel and round bar, and then it was filled by Clive, who’s a dab hand at this sort of thing. The sissy-bar was originally going to be fully twisted, but they realised that that’d be a little tacky and went for a traditional one with twisted highlights. I got the deep-buttoned seat upholstered by my neighbour, Carl, who works for Aubrey Nice Upholstery in Bury St Edmunds, and the stack ’pipes were made with detailed little brackets to support them, made in house by So Low out of mild steel, then chromed. A new 16-inch rear wheel was bought and fitted with a Softail caliper mounted inside the frame to both hide it away and give a good brake for modern-day traffic.
As for the motor, it was completely stripped and rebuilt, the barrels were powder coated, having been rebored, and the stock four-speed gearbox got the same treatment, and was brought up to date with a BDL belt primary drive, clutch and electric start kit. It doesn’t look out of place, though, and flows seamlessly into the bike without sticking out like other electric start kits can.
Throughout the build, there were a few questions of how I wanted the bike to be built including exactly how the ’pipes went up the back, the seat shape, and the paint colour, plus one or two other minor things too. Clive and Jay were happy to go ahead with some of my ideas, blending them in with what they knew would look good.
When it came to the paint/colour, I wasn’t 100% sure of what I wanted. It had to be a ’70s design, obviously, but not too ‘in your face’. I’m not sure why, but I liked the idea of candy red and clouds in the design, as well as gold stripes, and everybody said that Hilary at Hurricane Airbrush Art was the best person around to paint it. When I first met her I knew immediately she was the right person – we just hit it off and were both on the same page when it came to the design, and she pulled it off perfectly; the work is fantastic.
When the bike was finished and I took it out for the first time, I didn’t know what to expect in regard to the handling and the riding position, but it felt good and right. A few weeks later, I found myself throwing it around and having full confidence in the bike. With a hardtail, you feel more connected to the bike, part of it, as opposed to just riding it, and every time I ride it, it puts a smile on my face. People keep saying it’s a show bike, and indeed it has won a lot of awards (including Best Paint, Best Chopper and Best in Show at the Bulldog Bash this year), but it’s the only bike I have and I ride it everywhere, going out on it at least once or twice a week. Distance isn’t a problem either as long as I take my tools with me – it’s a proper chopper with a 1973 engine…
of course I need tools!
Once this bike was just a dream, but now I have it…