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Counting bikes

You know how it is, you’re cruising down the strip in Las Vegas, minding your own business, when two guys in a pimped-up pick-up start yelling at you to pull up. Apparently they want to talk to you about your ride.

Whether you’d stop or not is a different story, but plenty do, and that’s when Danny ‘the count’ Koker enters the story, owner of ‘Counts Kustoms’ right by the Las Vegas Freeway. A high-end customs shop that turns the far-from ordinary into the extra extraordinary, Danny has no qualms about flagging down a vehicle he fancies and making the owner an offer on the spot. Once successfully procured, his highly skilled team of engineers and artists will set about creating a one-off original which’ll, hopefully, be sold for profit.

Most of the time Danny’s turning round cars but, with a collection of some 78 motorcycles, it’s not all about four wheels -in fact, some of the shows highlights have featured bikes, and by bikes I mean, by and large, choppers.

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The word ‘chopper’ derives from the days when bikers would literally chop bits off their motorcycles in order to attain greater speeds, more often than not at the expense of comfort, like the 1976 Shovelhead Softail Danny bought off a guy he’d randomly stopped in the Season Three episode ‘Hog Wild’. Danny wants to chop the bike and give it a custom makeover but Shannon (Danny’s trusty bike shop manager) isn’t so keen; after some gentle persuasion the back half of the bike -the suspension, swing arm, pivots et al- is cut off and a new rigid frame welded in its place. This instantly gives the bike a low-down style with a mean and moody attitude. You’ll have to tune in to find out what they did and if they made a profit…

These days ‘Chopper’ implies any bike with long, front leading forks, usually with high-rise or flat bars. Most are without rear suspension, though many feature a sprung saddle to at least soak up some of the bumps; this explains why choppers are, nowadays, more commonly referred to as ‘bobbers,’ as one literally bobs up and down.

Take Danny’s favourite bike, a thoroughbred custom machine that ticks all the chopper/bobber boxes. ‘Coffin’, named after the distinctive tank, is bespoke and at ten and half feet long on account of the endless front end it typifies the schoolboy imaginings of what constitutes classic chopper styling. The rigid frame is powered by a Harley Davidson Evolution engine (1984 to 1999) with a Knucklehead era top end (1936-1947) as opposed to the ‘Wild Hog’ Shovelhead engine (1966-1985) not a Panhead (1948-1965) or for that matter a Flathead (1929-1939). 

Confused? Don’t be, most modern American choppers/bobbers use a big ‘V’-twin Harley Davidson Engine, the principle ‘V’ Twin design has changed relatively little since William S Harley and Harvey Davidson wheeled out the Model 5-D in 1909, and that’s part of its appeal, along with that terrific sound, of course. 

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But it’s not all about choppers and bobbers. In Season One, ‘Back in the Wind,’ featured a disabled biker yearning for the open highway. Ingeniously the guys convert a Heritage Softail Classic (1984 to present) that can be fully operated from the adjoining sidecar, accessible by a ramp. The biker simply wheels his chair into the sidecar and he’s good to go.

Featuring more bikes than ever before, Season Three is just as much about counting choppers as counting cars, and that can only be a good thing. Get your motor running!

Jamie Dwelly