The true hardcore chopper jockey likes to think he is immune from fashionable trends, unaffected by the latest ‘cool’ style, untouched by the ephemeral stylings of the West Coast cliques... but is he?
The reality being, if everyone was unaffected by trends, choppers would have never progressed past the 1960’s styling of Benny Hardy’s Easy Rider bikes, although even that is an arbitrary point in time. You could argue that the original “strippers” (which was what they called them at the time) were the only bona fide ‘choppers’ and all that extended front end stuff was just part of a fad.
This argument was brought to light recently on our online forum “Back Talk”, over at thehorsebc.com. I was bringing up the fact that I’m tired of seeing the exhaust ‘wrap’ on every other bike these days. There was a picture of a nicely done Shovelhead with nice paint and polished metal, but with a pair of shorty wrapped pipes. It just took away from the rest of the bike in my opinion. Let’s face it, eight times out of ten, that wrap is either hiding nasty welds or crappy chrome. I’ve done it myself, several of my Shovelhead exhausts have been pieced together from scrap pieces and then wrapped to make it look ‘professional’... sorta. I know some builders make perfectly fine exhausts and then wrap them because that’s the ‘look’ they are going for. The point is; this wrapping of the exhausts only popped up a few years ago, and lingers on today, much to my chagrin.
But trends do come and go, we’ve been guilty here at The Horse for helping propagate them. Feature bikes with 230 rear tires for instance. Suddenly, fat tires were sexy, the 200 and then the 230... people like Billy Lane were on the cutting edge building cool bikes utilizing them, and we were featuring them. I don’t think we ever featured a bike with a wider tire than 230... I may be wrong, a lot of strange stuff got through in the dark days before the reorganization here at The Horse during issue #68, but once they started the 280 and then 300 wide... it was just too much and soured the whole concept for many, including me. I’m sure many of you remember the Exile project I had with the 230 rear and 200 front. I did like that bike, I’ll admit. I even wrapped the perfectly good Exile pipes on that one.
There was a hot moment when red rims coupled with whitewall tires were all the rage, it didn’t last very long, but they still pop up every now and then.
The list is endless, big metalflake, “Period Correct”, mid controls instead of forwards, apes, Z bars etc. etc.
This leaves me with the dilemma of choosing which bikes to put in the magazine. Am I qualified to be the arbiter of what is now ‘in’ compared to what is ‘out’? Probably not, but I have to do it just the same. Most of you don’t have to worry about such things and that’s the way it should be. I try and get a mix of home built bikes as well as some pro built stuff to inspire the home builders. Face it, if there is a bike in the mag with something innovative and cool, the likelihood is that someone will copy it for their own build, and that is how these ‘trends’ get started. Although there is precious little new these days, a look around Sugar Bear’s museum of photographs is evidence to that. Stuff you would have sworn was dreamed up in the seventies had already been done in the fifties, the early L.A. scene was WAY ahead of the rest of the country. Everything from upswept fishtails to twisted springer legs was done by the innovative African-American bikers way back then. We owe them a lot... perhaps everything. The stuff they did was subsequently copied and spread around the country and the influence can be seen today.
So yeah, you may think the ‘trends’ don’t affect you, but they do. And that’s probably not all bad, the new trends may not be for you, but something may come along that appeals to you someday. Even if most of this stuff is not ‘new’ per se, it at least keeps everything rotating so the whole scene doesn’t just stagnate. For now, we can sit back and smirk at the bagger crowd, who are being sucked into the whole ‘swoopy’ thing with ever increasing front wheel sizes, always good for a laugh!