Spannering your ride is the best way to get acquainted with it, and our Top 5 chopper kits will help to turn your dream bike into reality (Spannering = a motorcycle term for building something yourself manually).
Whoever had the bright idea of putting together the first chopper kit, needs a pat on the back. You would not believe the hassle involved with building a chop in the bad old days.
Forget about an afternoon surfing, and hitting the ‘buy it now’ button. Finding the necessary parts meant months of pouring through bike magazines, countless phone calls, and the inevitable 200-mile round-trip to buy something that didn’t quite fit.
Some things back in the day were good, but building a chop wasn’t the joy-filled right of passage people tend to remember. Anyway, fast forward to 2018 and choose from a number of bike- in-a-box style packages.
Although choppers are still as popular as ever, the desire to save money by undertaking all the spanner work and finish has made the chopper kit a very interesting proposition.
With that in mind, let’s look at five current choices; these kits include those offered with and without engines.
Exile Hot Rod
Outspoken, and a total media hound, Exile owner, and designer Russell Mitchell is not to everyone’s taste. Russell’s trademark chunky chops and bobbers, however, do speak for themselves.
Exile bikes are instantly recognizable by their trademark hardcore stripped down look.
Unlike most pro builders, Mitchell created a style of bike and stuck to it, refining it here and tweaking it there, but always managing to create two-wheeled, matted out, knuckle dusters.
Exile offers two types of kit; one is a rolling chassis whereby you drop in your engine, trans, and electrics. The second option is a full-on Exile custom supplied in kit form for a ground-up build.
The fourteen designs of finished bikes listed on the site are also available as self-assembly kits and usually represent a saving of around $20k over the shop-finished item.
All kits are mix and match with other Exile products to give you exactly the look and ride you’re after, and they also come with all the documents of origin needed to register the finished motorcycle.
V-Twin Manufacturing Panhead Kit
Any aftermarket parts supplier who can trace their roots back to 1969, must be doing something right. V-Twin Mfg. currently, list over 27,000 items in their catalog, and also specialize in manufacturing parts for Harleys from the 1930’s onwards.
Part of their claim to fame is being able to supply enough aftermarket parts to build an entire vintage bike, so the kit bike was inevitable.
With the current fashion for knuckles and pans pushing prices through the roof, it should come as no surprise that the company’s current line- up consists of 20 plus vintage bike kits.
You can choose from a 1941 knucklehead, to a ‘74 ci reproduction Panhead kit. Both come with all the original style tins and are a true homage to the bikes that provided the basis for the very first bobbers and chops.
Two models on the list stand out and they are, firstly, the 47’ Knucklehead kit, complete with 4-speed hand-shift and Linkert carb. The second is a bobber kit based on a 1939 Knucklehead, which features skinny wheels front and back. A real breath of vintage fresh air and a nice change from the balloon back tire, high-neck brigade.
Malibu Motorcycle Works Boardtrack Roller
To be honest, I don’t know an awful lot about this outfit except that their feedback is very positive. Apparently, the owner Mike Sims, is not only very helpful and gives excellent service, but also answers the phone personally.
What makes MMW stand out for me though, is the sheer diversity of rolling chassis’ on offer. If you fancy something extreme, then the N355 Super Funk is for you. This roller features a 300 rear with a 26″ front wheel and a rigid wishbone frame suspended between.
How it handles with such diametrically opposed hoop sizes is anyone’s guess, but hey, ‘it’s a chopper baby,’ so live with it!
The N353 Copper Head Boardtracker also gets the thumbs up. This rigid chassis has a springer front end, a single perforated down tube, and twin 26” wheels.
If you’re going to check out their website, give yourself at least a day as you can choose from 11 pages of rolling chassis. The only pity is that there is no breakdown of details regarding each pic, except for some basic info on the frame.
Judging by the motor mounts and backbone tubing, it’s safe to say that they’re all made to accommodate American V- twins though.
Demon’s Cycle 200 Pro Street Roller
Demon’s were started over 25 years ago by Tom ‘The German’ Steinbacher, and they have been building show-winning custom bikes ever since. The company is a multi-million dollar concern based in Florida with other locations around the world.
Demon’s design and build their own frames, and due to their massive buying power, put together rolling chassis’ with aftermarket wheel and front end packages.
The current choices run to ten rollers in a combination of wide back tire Softail style frames and wide tire Pro Street style rigids. Some come with their own 114ci engine; some are just rolling chassis’.
The frames match those wicked oversized spoked wheels, on both springer and tele forks, but because they’re also a full-service parts stockist, it’s possible to mix and match anything.
All the kits have a breakdown of costs for the individual parts, and there are two pages of thumbnails of bikes built by the company using their rollers and parts, just for inspiration.
Bitter End – Old School Choppers
We’ve now looked at the big name builders, retro manufacturers, innovators, and wholesale giants, but our last choice is as old school as it’s possible to get. Bitter End Choppers is owned and operated by Big Daddy Al Wilkerson out of Iowa.
Bitter End bill themselves as a one-stop shop for hardcore chopper and bobber builders, supplying one-off frames, machine shop services, and bespoke builds. They also produce a small range of rolling chassis’ and conversion kits for Sportsters, Harley softails, and modern Triumph twins, which is a nice change from the usual Big Twin only menu.
The one that catches my eye is their Buell hardtail roller. If you’ve ever ridden a Buell then you’ll know just how much fun these engines are, but good-looking they aren’t, and this is where the BEOSC Buell kit comes in.
This kit allows you to turn your stock Lightning, Thunderbolt, or Cyclone into a low-down hardtail street-sleeper. To utilize the stock front end, the frame is goose-necked which is a great way to give space around the top of the engine without resorting to a high neck.
As with all of the featured kits above, you can swap up accessories to suit, but with BEOSC kits they’ll fab up custom parts too. Experience a problem or have a question relating to the kit, and you can talk to the man himself, which is also pretty old school too.
Not everyone has the mechanical aptitude to build their own frame or the time to source individual parts. Chopper kits provide a great way to stamp your mark while getting to know your bike along the way.
As with all custom builds, just look into your proposed supplier for quality and reliability feedback, then all that remains is to check out our Top 5 chopper kits that will help to turn your dream bike into reality.
Picture links courtesy of Exile Cycles, V-Twin Manufacturing, Malibu Motorcycle Works, Demon’s Cycle, Bitter End-Old School Choppers.