With our theme for the Australian National Show and Shine set as the 1970s, and the iconic movie “Easy Rider” being screened at the Euroa Community Cinema on the Saturday night prior to our event, it comes as no surprise that the Show and Shine Committee has added “Best Chopper” to the list of over 70 trophies.
Just one chopper attended last year and that took out the “Best Japanese” Motorcycle award for 2018, and has also featured on our posters and flyers for this year.
Hang on. We thought that choppers were basically Harley-Davidsons. Perhaps there’s a story here?
History tells us that the earliest choppers following WW2 tended to be based on Harley-Davidson motorcycles, at first making use of the Flathead, Knucklehead and Panhead engines. Ex-army machines were popular, and were stripped down and modified. As new engines became available they were soon utilised in choppers.
British bikes, particularly Triumphs, were also a popular engine for choppers early on. As the Japanese manufacturers began offering larger engines in the late 1960s these engines were also quickly put to use by chopper builders.
Honda's ground-breaking 750cc four cylinder engine, first introduced to America in the 1969 CB-750, became widely available from salvage and wrecking operations and became a popular alternative to Harley-Davidson's engines.
We decided to talk to the owner of our featured chopper, a 59 year old Kyabram guy affectionately known as “Rat.” And an interesting tale evolved.
The bike is based on a 1976 CB-750 Honda, which was purchased about six years ago in poor condition. Having been an avid chopper fan since age 17, Rat set about a 5 year project of building the chopper virtually from scratch, which included everything from a newly fabricated frame, up. Throughout the build, he was assisted by two mates, about whom Rat has glowing reports about their enthusiasm for the job.
The chopper has many innovative ideas incorporated in its design. Wheels are 19 inch front, and 16 inch rear. There has been a precise attention to detail, such as the placing of cables inside the handlebars, and the installation of an analogue GPS speedometer to dispense with the need for a drive cable.
Unsightly items such as the battery are carefully hidden from view.
With NO rear suspension, the bike sports two airbags under the seat to at least partially absorb some of the road vibrations instead of the rear suspension of the rider!
We couldn’t help but ask whether the high handle bars make riding the chopper uncomfortable to ride, as compared with a regular motorcycle.
“Extremely!” said Rat. “It’s all about just being seen. Choppers are an art form.”
He added that some of the current factory models now incorporate such items as heated seats, and rear backrests.
We have no doubt that Rat will be aiming to add the Best Chopper trophy to his collection, but we think that with our 1970s theme in full swing, he may face some serious competition from the Harley-Davidsons and others.
.. Ray Read
Picture: “Rat’s” chopper, winner of our Best Japanese motorcycle for 2018.