Choppers – they’re not fast, are they?

Choppers – they’re not fast, are they? They don’t handle, they don’t stop, you can’t hustle ’em along, they’re not comfortable, are they?

Well, it depends on the chopper, obviously. Yes, lots of chops do fit the description hereabouts, but not all of them – not the ones that Dan Death Custom Cycles build, for instance. Dan, the main man, is a big fan of Japanese-engined chops, although he’s happy to build and do work on Harley and Brit-engined customs too, and he’s swiftly earnt himself a reputation for putting together damn fast and damn good-looking chops based around, mainly, big Suzuki engines.

He’s a bit good with 1200 Bandit engines in particular, and has a thing about using them to build bikes that do a lot to dispel the supposition that choppers are slow, evil-handling, tarts’ handbags, that’re only good for puttering around slowly on and looking cool. His bikes do that too, don’t get me wrong, but they also take off like a scalded cat when you twist the throttle, and track straight and true through roundabouts and corners too.

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The bike you see before you started as an idea he’d had in his head for years (like many of us, he’s got hundreds of bikes whizzing around in his head, just waiting for the chance to be built) – he wanted to create a fast Jap 4 (as most DDCC bikes are!) that sat nicely, went round corners, stops well, is comfy for him on a long ride, and that he can ride fast; not a collection of qualities you’d normally associate with a chopper!

He opted for 17-inch wheels front and rear, something he’d not done before, always going for the more conventional 16 rear/21 front combo, as he’d always wondered how a chop’d behave with sports bike tyres. His daily workhorse-cum-winter hack at the time was the perfect donor bike – a MK1 1200 Bandit that he’d owned for years, with a motor that was an utter peach.

First things first, he built the frame and, knowing that the chop was going to be his only bike for a while, and that it was going to do a s*****ad of miles, he did a few things differently when building it. Firstly, he added an extra 25mm of width in the back to assist removal and installation of the rear wheel, servicing the rear brake, and chain and sprocket changes. He says he’d like to think one of the main differences between the bikes coming out of DDCC, compared to many other bike builders, is that his are for riding, not just for sitting in a show – don’t get him wrong, he’s not knocking people who build bikes to do that, it’s just not what he’s about.

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He went with a single downtube and 45 degrees of rake as he’d always loved the look of high headstock, long fork choppers, but he also wanted to keep the twin disc setup of the Bandit as decent brakes’ve always been a big thing for him. He did this by using aftermarket extended Electra-Glide sliders, fabricating brackets for the Suzuki’s four-pot calipers, and machining up a front wheel spindle to mate the Suzuki wheel to the H-D Showa forks.

High mid-controls were also a major factor for a bike for himself as he says he just can’t get on with forwards: “I’ve tried time and time again, but always go back to mids for better lower back comfort and control of the bike at speed.” The handlebar/riser setup is also another recurring theme of his personal builds – it looks cool and works well.

Read the full feature in the April edition of Back Street Heroes!

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