Hugh – My Father In Law got the bug to build a Chopper a while back, and being that I had just married his lovely daughter, I thought this might be a good bonding project for us. We sourced a decent 77′ donor bike with a title for $250, and promptly went to chopping on it. The first thing I like to do with any good project is research.. My FIL wanted a bike that looked as if it could have been a 70’s Survivor build, as if someone had found it in the back of a shed and just cleaned it up. So I set about looking at tons of old builds, both Japanese and Non-Japanese…  One thing I found in my research, is that the 21″ and 16″ wheel combo were not as common as we like to think, not for cheaper bikes of the day.  So we knew we had to use a 19″ and 18″ wheelset, just to break up the mix of what most modern chops today are.  Hey, like I said, we wanted this thing to look the part, and back then most people “chopped what they got” and wheels were harder to find to fit a Jap front end.

So we took to the frame jig.  A hardtail was in order for sure.  2″ stretch, and plenty of ride height was in the plan.  Lots of ground clearance seemed to be a common theme in the older styled chops.

Not being able to leave well enough alone, we cut the headtube off, raked it a bit, and gave it a nice gooseneck and new backbone. We were on a budget, so as much of the OEM frame as we could keep, we did.  Looking back, I think it would be easier to build an entire new frame, but that’s the fun in chopping…  We wanted a flat fender, so I sourced on from a friend.  We had to re-radius the fender for the larger 18″ wheel.

It didn’t look quite right leaving it as a simple trailer fender, so I broke out the hammers and dollies, and pounded in a nice lip on the end of the fender.  Simple details like this make a build really stand out.  Plus, I had never done a fender like this, and always wanted to…  Pay no mind to that Ironhead in the background – haha…. We tore the old rusty spokes out, cleaned and polished the rims and hubs, and then relaced them with new Buchanan’s Polished Stainless Spokes.  I made my FIL do the dirty work, as polishing these was no easy task…

We did a quick mockup, and found we would need some 2″ over fork tubes on the front end for it to sit just right.  Those were ordered up from MikesXS.

The final mockup was just right, so we tore it down for more paint, polish, cleaning, etc..  In true cheap chopper form, the frame and all black parts were hit with the finest Gloss Black spray bomb we could find.

We had John Dills over at Dills Paintworks spray the tins for us, and they turned out great.  He does some killer work for the Wheels Thru Time Museum, and paints some of the rarest bikes around, so check him out.  Now, don’t get me wrong, the build was fun.  But to say that my FIL and I didn’t butt heads a few times would be an understatement.

He wanted an all black bike, and I just couldn’t let that happen – not for a 70’s style chop.  He originally wanted a fat tire bike, but you see how that worked out.  Handlebars?  Pegs? Seat? We could have fought for days if we wanted to. He didn’t want a sissybar, and I said “What kinda Choppa ain’t got a sissybar homie” – needless to say, a bit of both of us went into this build.  It was fun for sure.

I got the chance to ride the bike for Cycle Source’s Big Mountain Run last year, and I gotta say this thing was comfortable!  I could pack all my junk for a full week on the road, and still be comfortable… I build them to ride, and I rode the crap outta this thing.  This is on the Tail of the Dragon last year.  My good friend Staton Carter took some great photos of the bike before I took off on the BMR.

I love the wheelie image the most…

A few basic specs:
1977 XS650
Rebuilt Engine
2-1 Pipes
Custom Recovered Vintage Seat
2″ over forks
Random Chopper Tank
Custom Frame Work
Modded Trailer Fender
18/19″ Crud Catcher Rims
Mikuni VM34’s
Shell #1 Cam
Stainless Sissybar

HHB PMA, Solid Riser Bushings, Brake Pivot Kit, DIY Tank Bungs, might as well have a “HHB List of Goodies” in there…

Hugh –