Kinetic Art: Four custom creations

The chopper - once, a motorcycle with the baddest associations. Today, the ultimate expression of automotive creativity

TATTOO created by Rick Fairless

Rick Fairless | Age 48  Town based in Dallas, Texas USA

When did you start building choppers?
How did you get into it?
It's my passion in life!
What qualifications do you have for building choppers?
A very creative mind.
Do you only ride choppers yourself?
Choppers only!
Where do you get the inspiration for your designs?
Through the power of beer!
How long did the Tattoo project take, start to finish?
Four months.
How much is Tattoo worth?
Do you have a role model?
Pat Kennedy.
Which other builders do you admire?
Arlen Ness. He's the Godfather.
How many bikes have you built?
40 and still counting.
Who rides your bikes?
Someone who wants to stand out from the crowd.
Are your creations road legal?
Does a chopper have to use an
air-cooled V-twin engine or would you use another motor if that was what a customer wanted?
I use big twin and Triumph motors.
How far do you think your creations can go, and is there anything that would prevent you from building your ideal/dream chopper?
My creations can go to the moon. I try to always build my dream chopper.
What direction do you think the
chopper genre will take? More of a move back to old school or more futuristic and radical?
I think choppers will continue to be more futuristic and radical. Sure, old school is in and it's cool, but you can't limit someone's imagination.

Engine TP - Total Performance 121cu in   
Power 120bhp       
Torque 120lb.ft   
Wheels Ego Tripp   
Paint Vince Goodeve
Exhaust Martin Brothers   
Tyres Avon   
Build time Four months
Value of bike $69,000
Frame Redneck
Rake 45°
Built by Rick Fairless Strokers Dallas

Pugilism by Mike Pugliese

Pugilism created by Mike Pugliese

Mike Pugliese | Age 43  Town based in New York

Something of a semi-reclusive legend in the world of chopper building, Mike Pugliese is often held up as the chop builders' chopper builder. He builds very few bikes and sells even less of them. He truly is in the business of chopper building for the passion over and above all else.

"I do this because I love it. Otherwise I'd be crazy to stay up all night working on these things for anybody else," says the 43-year-old home-building contractor.

"However Pugliese takes great pride in showing his work and going head-to-head with other chopper builders.
One of his favourite events is the annual Rat's Hole Show held during Daytona Bike Week each spring. This is one of the toughest, if not the toughest, custom bike competitions on the planet, where any of the bikes on show could be worthy winners anywhere else.

"At the Rat's Hole competition is fierce, and new standards are set every year. The industry's top builders take the show very, very seriously indeed. Reputations can be made, and famous names and big businesses concentrate much of their efforts into showing here.

"Pugliese describes the level of competition in the current scene: "What looked outstanding last year might not even get anybody's attention this year. It's at an insane level, like going from a horse and buggy to a Dodge Viper in a couple of years."

But Pugliese is obviously at the top of his game, and the bike you see here took top honours at the 2004 Rat's Hole Show.

Based around a Harley Softail-type frame and a twin-cam motor, Pugilism takes certain essential contemporary custom touches to new levels. Where, you might wonder, are the control cables and wiring loom? Hidden inside the frame and chassis members is the answer.

Even the hydraulic lines for the brake have been disappeared inside the forks.

Smartest vanishing trick of all has been pulled off by the final drive, which is effected by a pin driven by the gearbox and rolling against the tyre.

Pugliese's mainstays are long forks, sorted engines, minimal bodywork and a love of tinkering: "I just can't leave anything alone once I've started working on it. Do that long enough and you end up with a great chopper."

LOWTEK by Roger Goldammer

LOWTEK created by Roger Goldammer

Roger Golddammer | Age 36  Town based in Kelowna, BC, Canada

When did you start building choppers?
At age 20.
How did you get into it?
I started one as an enthusiast, and my hobby turned into a business.
What qualifications do you have?
I am certified as an Automotive Machinist; a combination of engine building and machining. I'm self-taught in sheet metal and frame fabrication. I did formal Harley-Davidson training at the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute in Phoenix.
Do you only ride choppers yourself?
No, I more often ride dirt bikes.
Where do you get your inspiration?
Early bikes, current sports bikes, the rear fender of my '52 Cadillac...
How long did LowTek take to build?
Around 700 hours of labour spread over a one year period.
How much is LowTek worth?
It is probably worth $80-90,000.
Do you have a role model in the
chopper world? If so who?
I have a lot of respect for a lot of people, but no single role model.
Who rides your bikes?
Mainly rich dudes from all walks of life Not that we strictly cater to them, that is just the way it works out.
Are your creations road legal?
I like to push the limits a little, but the bikes are always safe to ride and more or less legal.
Does a chopper have to be an
air-cooled V-twin?
I've nothing against other engines. But these are the ones I like to work with.
How far do you think you can go?
You can build a bike from just a simple sketch and some raw material - the possibilities are endless.
What direction do you think the
chopper genre will take?
More early era styling, mixed with contemporary styling and technology.

Engine Generator Evo
Power 115bhp        
Torque 122lb.ft    
Wheels RC Components   
Paint Jerry Ashley Design
Exhaust Goldammer    
Tyres Avon   
Build time Around 700 hours
Value of bike $90,000
Any other specs? Front and rear air lift system, plus lots of things you don't see
Built by Roger Goldammer
Goldammer Cycle Works Ltd.
Tel: (001) 250 764 8002.

MONEY SHOT created by Billy Lane

Billy Lane | Age 35  Town based in Melbourne, Florida, USA

This bike took top honours in the 2002 Easyriders Invitational Class, one of the highest accolades in the chopper world. Psychobilly Cadillac is based around a heavily-modified Knucklehead motor and was built by Choppers Inc supremo Billy Lane, a Florida-based stalwart of the scene.

Check out the radical hubless rear wheel. Even with the biggest gearbox sprocket you could fit, the gearing's still going to be pretty low. But that sort of thing is a mere detail.

Appreciate instead features like the foot clutch - the pedal itself detailed with one of those splendid chrome ladies more often found on the mudflaps of 38-tonne trucks. Not only does this mean less clutter on the bars, it frees up the rider's left hand for the task of changing gear, facilitated by a long lever topped off by one of Billy's patented Loaded Dice Shift Knobs; the dots are in fact .357 bullets.

The bike was built in just three months, in a frenzied and busy run up to Daytona Bike Week.

Lane himself is no cowboy chop builder. He has an associate of science in mechanical engineering degree from Florida State University, and a bachelor of science degree from Florida International University. His early training in bikes came from the necessity of keeping his own ride on the road while in college. Learning at the feet of the old-timers, the biking bug gripped hard.

After college he started making his trademark six-gun parts as presents for his biking buddies. Word got around, and requests for these items from people outside his group of friends inspired him to establish Choppers Inc in 1995, his company currently building a handful of bikes every year to give him the space to develop new products and concepts.

A hallmark of Lane's work is the way in which he manages to combine traditional chopper style with highly innovative touches.

For example, he regularly uses vintage pin-up girl images for detailing and might use early 20th century plumbing fixtures as fuel taps. At the other end of the scale, Psychobilly Cadillac borrows technology from the world of helicopters.

Lane has been a popular participant in the Discovery Channel's Biker Build-Off series, winning in virtually every episode that he has appeared in. But now spends most of his time in prison.

BADLAND 1 created by Tom Langton

TOM LANGTON  | Age 36  Town Delta, Leeds County, Ontario, Canada

When did you start building chops?
How did you get into it?
I bought my first HD and rode to Sturgis. It fell apart after 40 days on the road. You can guess the rest.
What qualifications do you have for building choppers?
Have a BYE (Back Yard Education) in mechanics. Certified welder (college). Trained as a sheet metal former by a master (still ongoing).
Do you only ride choppers yourself?
I ride a 1980 FLH Electra Glide, a 2003 Electra Glide, and a 1955 FL chopper.
Where do you get inspiration from?
All things mechanical. Understanding how things work, and why, is the juice.
How long did Badland 1 take?
From the first initial concept sketch until the end - six months.
How much is Badland 1 worth?
This hotrod is worth an arm and a nut!  The Badland 1 bike sold for $80,000.
Do you have a role model?
Arlen Ness. He's always built his sleds around a completely original idea. He's never built the same bike twice.
Which other builders do you admire?
Jesse James revived the 'chopper'. Every new US bike shop is called 'Blah, Blah Choppers', props to Jesse!
How many bikes have you built?
Many. I build both the complete bike and, in some cases, just the sheetmetal, chassis, or wheels.
Who rides your bikes?
The cats that saddle my sleds are the serious, no bullshit, speed demons who want a high performance hotrod.
Are your creations road legal?
That's down to customer requirement.
What direction do you think the
chopper genre will take?
I'm going to bet on high performance radical profiles. After the mishandling, long chopper scene fades, riders will always want a bike that performs well.

Bike Badland 1
Engine Merch 131 Stage III
Power 120bhp       
Torque 120lb.ft   
Wheels Rumble Customs Raven   
Paint Voo Doo Air
Exhaust Rumble Customs   
Tyres Avon   
Build time Six months
Value of bike $80,000
Frame Rumble Customs/Rolling Thunder
Rake 30°
Primary Primo
Built by Tom Langton, Rumble Customs,
Delta, Ontario, Canada