Watched the final Biker Build Off wrap up last night and a little of the earlier reruns. All of the choppers looked the part except a few stood out for being a bit more well engineered. The majority were just variations or more of the same old chopper theme, well executed perhaps but still just choppers. But some stood out. The Lakewood Special, for instance, used a leaf spring rear suspension and a very old design theme that looked like it took some thought. One had a friction drive. Don’t know how well that would actually work but you certainly don’t see that every day. Matt Hotch, I’ve already talked about.
The other thing that stood out was the difference between shops that built them. Some were guys playing the part, long hair maybe, bodies covered in ink, trying to out crude the next guy. Some were a bit more thoughtful and actually did some real design work.
What quickly becomes apparent is why you see a lot of chopper build offs like this and no sportbike buildoffs. These bikes are all appearance, period. Some may ride ok, they may go pretty quick in a straight line but no one that I’m aware of took any handling characteristics into condsideration. There was only minimal thought given to whether a rider could actually ride it without pain. One bike had a stylish but tiny gas tank with two big carbs that limited mileage to a ridiculously short range. Paint and polish don’t mean a lot when you’re carving through a sweeper. These bikes are all about being parked, not ridden.
The sole requirement to successfully complete the competition was to have a running bike after 10 days. Then the winner was chosen by popular vote. The quick way to raise the bar on these build offs would be to create a competition at the end that had a drag strip and road course as the first step. Horsepower and engineering would enter into it, you know, could they build real motorcycles? How fast does it stop? That I’d like to see. The magazines have big comparisons, some drags have the requirement that you drive your car in a street environment before racing to prove your “street” car can actually survive in that role. Why not do this for bikes? Give the guys more than 10 days, maybe a month or two. I wonder how many shops would actually be up to the task even with that time. It would certainly be a different set of shops. Hmm… Discovery Channel, are you listening?