Those who love the thrill of drag racing and the style of old choppers probably have a thing for diggers. If you’re unfamiliar with digger choppers, just think prism or geometric tanks, powerful engines, and often very wild paint jobs. These stretched and narrow bikes exploded onto the scene and filled the pages of many custom motorcycle magazines throughout the 1970s thanks to a name that needs no introduction: Arlen Ness.
When you think of a scrambler motorcycle, the last thing that probably comes to mind is a Harley-Davidson. With Triumph and Ducati both using the term as the name of two popular current models, it can be a little confusing these days what “scrambler” actually means. Although, a quick search through internetland proves that the label has always been somewhat complicated. Let’s jump into the background of this unique style and the reason I went in this direction after acquiring a totaled 2015 Sportster XL1200.
Matt Cohen got into motorcycles through the gateway of bicycles. At a young age, he started with BMX and mountain bike racing, and it took off from there. He even did the bike messenger gig in his twenties. This obsession with two wheels has led him to the chopper seen here. We asked him questions about his journey through the years and how this Yamaha came to be.
Things are always interesting with Sean Shaffer or “Peep” as his friends call him. I knew Sean had this bike for some time, but it wasn’t ready to ride until this year. Now he’s out on it all of the time, riding it wherever he can. You might have even seen it parked outside of the Fuel Cleveland show in late July where he impressively kick started the beast by hand before losing his oil cap down a storm drain. He had to be lowered into the hole upside down to get it back.
One day before leaving on an epic chopper road trip around the country last year, Tyler Valentik was kind enough to meet up at South Park’s county park for a feature on his 1998 Harley-Davidson Sportster, a motorcycle that he originally purchased for a measly five hundred dollars. As you can easily tell from the photos, the bike didn’t stop there.
When building a motorcycle, inspiration often comes from the legends of the past. Every period had its style, and every builder tried to create something original. The hot rod era was a time with some big personalities in custom culture—names like Ed Roth, Von Dutch, and Dean Moon to name a few. The art created by these individuals resonated in motorcycle builders like Indian Larry, who would in turn inspire the blockhead chopper you see here by Travis Dittman of Oil City, Pennsylvania.
Time is a tricky subject. No matter the preparation, the weight of time will often sneak up on us without warning. The less we have, the more important this measurement of moments becomes. Time can also alter the value of an object over an extended period, sometimes even in sentimental ways.
There seems to be a commonality throughout issue Number 005, in that most of the stories involve a father’s passion for motorcycles being passed down, inspiring the bikes that are shown within these pages. This feature about Joe and Adam Pratt (father and son, respectively) isn’t much different, but let’s double up this time around with two different bikes from two different manufacturers—Harley and Triumph.
I often get asked questions from folks wanting to get into motorcycles. They’re mostly just basic inquiries about which starter bike might be right for them or simply tips on riding in the city. You know what nobody ever tells them though? Motorcycles will absolutely humiliate you. Motorcycles will cause you great stress.
Why the hell do people love vintage choppers so much? They’re absurd and don’t typically handle well. They’re not safe and rough on long rides. Plus, it seems that everyone that has one is constantly fixing it. For the next 385 words, I’ll attempt to provide a few reasons by using Josh Howells’ 1976 Harley-Davidson FXE chopper as an example.