Tips on chopping motorcycle frames

Updated April 17, 2017

Motorcyclists have long been drawn to choppers--bikes with long, sweeping front ends. Some riders simply buy one that has already been modified; others may want to make the changes themselves. There are several methods to make a chopper, with some easier than others. Safety, however, can be a worry if a rider chooses to cut corners when converting a motorcycle to a chopper. Also, frame modifications can affect the value of a bike, as well as its insurance premiums. If either is a concern, an owner may want to go another route.

Take It Down

The easiest way to get that chopper look is to drop the rear end of the motorcycle. Most can be dropped up to six inches in the back, and a corresponding amount of additional length can then be added to the front forks, which are the arms that connect the motorcycle frame and axle. Lowering kits are available from many cycle shops. Going this route, however, can mean a loss of the cushion provided by shock absorbers. Some riders counteract that by riding with less air pressure in the rear tire than used previously. That can result in a bike that handles much differently, so caution should be used with this approach.

Rake It

Another method of chopping a bike without major modifications is to put on a set of raked triple trees--a yoke that clamps the forks to the frame. Raked trees change the angle of the front forks, usually by between three and seven degrees; however, they should be used with caution. The more the angle changes, the more the bike leans forward, which ultimately can cause the motorcycle to become unstable during use.

Frame Modification

For the mechanically inclined, or those who want to use traditional methods for chopping a bike, modifying the frame of the motorcycle may be the way to go. With this method, the tubing for the frame of the motorcycle is cut, and extension tubes placed in the cuts, then welded into place. The longer frame of the bike increases the rake of the front end, but, unlike installing raked trees, the motorcycle retains its stability.

Conversion Kits

In recent years, chopper-conversion kits have become popular and allow riders to chop their bikes without modifying the frame. The kits are tailored to individual bikes, ensuring that motorcycles aren't raked beyond safe limits. The modifications also can be easily reversed, if wishing to return a bike to its original state. The downside is that such kits can be expensive.

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About the Author

Greg Fish has been writing professionally in Maine since 1987. He has reported and edited at "Lincoln News," "Advertiser Democrat" and the "Bar Harbor Times." Fish currently writes for the "Penobscot Times."