History of the Rat Chopper

If we look at the history of choppers, the first choppers were rats. The story goes that when American servicemen returned home from World War II, many needed to adjust from life as a combat soldier to life as a civilian. Not finding a lot of excitement and adrenaline in the suburbs, many turned to motorcycles as a diversion. As chance would have it, Army surplus Harley Davidson ™ motorcycles were cheap. Immediately they began to modify their bikes and the Rat Chopper was born.

The name “Chopper” meant that you “chopped” off anything that wasn’t necessary. Less is best. Also, you might “chop” the frame and extend it to make the ride more comfortable. Remember, these bikes were hardtails- they had NO rear suspension. A longer vehicle has a better ride. This is one reason that limousines are lengthened. After the motorcycle’s frame was stretched, it still had a terrible ride by today’s standards, but not as terrible as before. Here we see the Rat Chopper philosophy of doing the best you can with what you have.

Today the name “Chopper” has come to mean any motorcycle with extended front forks. Most of these vehicles have such extremely lengthened forks that they do not seem to be driveable. These days many riders call their bikes without ridiculously extended forks “Bobbers” instead of “Choppers.” A Bobber is perhaps the closest we see today of the original Chopper. At Rat Chopper dot org we hope to reclaim the original use of the word Chopper.

These days Choppers come in all sorts of bright colors. Originally choppers were (almost always) black. Flat or semi gloss black.

These days Choppers have a theme- the skeleton bike, the bat bike, the clown bike, etc, etc… All kinds of accessories are added to fit the theme. Originally choppers were bare boned motorcycles. All of the factory accessories were chopped off; and certainly no accessories or decorations were added.

Originally Choppers were Harley Davidsons ™ and other American motorcycles that could be bought for fifty or a hundred bucks. Today the only bike you will find in that price range are the metric (a euphemism for Japanese) junkers. However, people do still make Rat Choppers out of Harley Davidson ™ motorcycles. Shoe remembers helping his bro, Peddlar, chop his brand new Harley ™, complete with rusty used parts from the 60s and 70s and a black spray-bomb paint job.

Chop what you have.

We’ll see you on the road.