visits a local chopper shop
by: Larry Cahill
A trip to Chopper Enterprises at 34 Park Ave. in Reading, MA was just like stepping back 30 years. My first impression of all the bikes in the driveway set the stage for what I was to experience. These choppers were not the typical store-bought or assembled-from-catalog "choppers" that we see on the streets every day. These bikes were stripped down of un-necessary accessories and then built up with hand made parts.
We met the owner, Chris Burrows, at a few bike shows over the winter and had seen some of his work. All we can say is that these pictures do not do justice to his artistic flair and 60's style of work. You won't find fancy milling machines, walls full of shrink wrapped chrome accessories, or even a fancy showroom. What you see is a workshop that has seen decades of custom bikes and cars.
We asked Chris why he thinks there is a growing interest in choppers today. "I think that people are getting tired of their Evolution engined bikes that they can't really customize. They can change the handlebars, a few pieces of chrome, or maybe a paint job. I think that they are looking for more than that." "They want simple bikes. Bikes that are stripped down, lightened up, a front end that is "out there", and something that is their own identity." I build a bike around the customer.
| Chris was working bikes and helping his dad,
Charlie, work on the '54 Harley that he has had since '58) at a young
age. "I can remember snapping off a bolt on my dad's Panhead when I
was 7 years old. I grew up with bikes, reading stacks of chopper
magazines, and watching every "biker" B-movie." said
(here is his dad's '54 complete with original saddle bags)
|Mike's 1970 chopper is coming together nicely. Look hard at the picture, that sissy bar almost touches the ceiling! It is hand fabricated from stainless and is over 6 feet tall. The frame was reworked with all unnecessary tabs and mountings cut off, fill welded, and ground down. The motor has seen a bottom up rebuild stressing performance and reliability (a combination that are usually at odds with each other). The spiked front axel and fork boots compliment the period of the bike.|
||This bike started out as a '66 front section of a frame that was all bent and twisted. Chris cut the whole frame up then he and his girlfriend made the jigs for the new front neck section. There is 1 1/2" chrome moly going down, and 1 5/8" chrome moly going up for the sweep. The neck has been dropped down 8" and stretched out 9" to give it a real custom look. There are tapered Harley bearings in the neck, the handlebars are fabricated out of one inch stainless steel stock and custom bent to give maximum leverage.|
|Chris fabricated the custom seat pan and his girlfriend,
Rachelle, hand stitched the seat. The sissy bar is hand made from
5/8" stainless bar. The front trees, rockers, pegs, and
suicide shifter are all hand fabricated. Never to waste a part, Chris
sent a lawn mower piston out to be polished and chromed. It looks
A 17" front wheel gives it a much better turning radius and reduces the tendency to "flop" over in a turn
This bike handles like a dream!
|More examples of Chris' work!
Chris has an eye for what works on a 60's and 70's style chopper. Un-necessary parts and hardware have been removed and there isn't a trace that they ever existed (no unsightly bolt holes or mounting tabs).
Harley, Triumph, or any manufacturer. They are all welcome in Chris' shop. "I like all bikes and all bikers, everyone rides for their own reason. I'm just glad that I can help."
"I've always liked the idea of being able to make something with your hands and create something from scratch."
|Nested away in the basement (tucked away with all sorts of bike parts) is Chris' first custom bike. He bought this '69 Daytona 500 as a $125 rusted basket case. Chris completely disassembled the bike and motor and built them back up again. The motor has .020 over pistons, ported & polished heads, hand made 2 into 1 exhaust (Home Depot pipe), the frame was raked 5", hand made stainless steel handlebars and rear hard tail section. Chris said that this first paint job was done with spray cans. Now he does all his own award winning paint jobs in-house.|
|Rich on his '72 650 Triumph chopper. Chris did a total rebuild to the motor including .020 over pistons, ported & polished heads, and dual Mikuni carbs. This was mated to a 5 speed transmission from a 750. The frame was stretched 8" and the girder front end seems to go forever. Many of the parts were hand fabricated in Chris' shop including the pull back drag style handlebars, louvered chain guard, and so much more.|
Chris with his dad with the bike that took 1st place in Laconia this year.
With his brother Frank beside Frank's bike that not only looks good but is as fast as any bike on the street.
Chris' girlfriend, Rachelle, takes a break from working on another project bike. The frame of this bike was picked up for $25!
|Not just bikes! Chris takes this head turning street rod to many cruise nights. This car was built with many hand fabricated parts. Just like his choppers.|
I make custom sissy bars, handlebars, full frame-up alterations, motor rebuilding, you name it. Anything that has to do with cutting, welding, bending, and grinding, I love it! My dad taught me welding when I was younger. I've been welding for a long time now.
When I get an image of something in my head I just get to work. I can mold the parts like clay. There is nothing like working late into the night. Many nights I am in the shop till 3am working on a vision of a part. I love this, it is a great way to make a living. I'm not trying to get rich, I just like to build one of a kind custom bikes. Every bike I build is one of a kind.
Chris said that the bulk of his work is service and repairs to customers bikes and he estimates that he has built 25-30 choppers. Not bad for a 27 year old that has been working on bikes for over 20 years!
(click on card)
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