Death Of The Chopper?

Tom Zimberoff, the celebrated author of Art Of The Chopper 1 & 2, forwarded to me an excellent article written by David Edwards in Cycle World Magazine. It’s about the penalty levied by CARB (California Air Resources Board) on Jesse James pursuant to the 98-05 sales of 50 West Coast Choppers motorcycles not in compliance with the state’s emissions standards (namely fitment of non-certified exhausts and the lack of fuel-evaporation recovery systems). As Zimberoff writes in Art Of The Chopper 2: “There is little about art that complies with motor vehicle codes. Pass an emissions-control test? I don’t think so. But neither will a city bus. Neither will your barbecue! And there are more barbecues and buses fouling the air than all the motorcycles on the planet”. According to James, CARB was more interested in making headlines than in maintaining ozone levels. He states “they revoke the DMV registrations on the bikes you build, telling you that they pollute, and then you are forced to go to a Settlement Conference and meet with a legal council. Let the haggling begin, and once you agree on an amount to pay, the bikes that had their registrations revoked are magically reinstated and deemed California legal! I am not saying that I did nothing wrong, but I am saying that when it comes to the environment, the environment should come first, not the cash! Somebody needs to hold CARB accountable for their methods and practices”. Is it the end of the Chopper World the way we know it? Tell me what you think…    

13 Responses to “Death Of The Chopper?”

  1. 1 Steve Johnson Mar 19th, 2007 at 5:21 pm

    It’s not the end of the chopper world. James is pissed is because he was forced to shell out big bucks. He’s right about CARB wanting headlines, but CARB isn’t interested in Jesse James, they’re more concerned about the small chopper builders. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of them in California. The CARB cannot possibly monitor every one of them. So, they used Jesse James’ celebrity to get press attention, in hopes of scaring the little guys into compliance.

    As for Jesse, he’s been building emissions compliant choppers starting in 2006 and on. The small builders can buy the same parts that’s he buying. It’s not a cost issue because people who buy choppers don’t care how much they cost.

  2. 2 DJ Chopper God Mar 19th, 2007 at 5:38 pm

    This post just reminds me of how much I don’t miss SoCal.

  3. 3 Luke Mar 19th, 2007 at 5:44 pm

    Everyone in CARB should be fired, then be replaced by people who are educated and trained in actual enviromental science. CARB is nothing but a politically appointed group (i.e. NOT elected officials), who are motivated only to make money for the state of California with fines. Further, anyone with a 5th grade education can do the math and understand that motorcycles in the entire state of California put out less pollution than any one NASCAR race! It’s easy to attack motorcyles because old blue-haired ladies don’t like loud pipes. So how do you make it illegal for people to modify thier bikes? Attack thier emissions standards. Yes, they used Jesse James as an example.
    If you want to make the air cleaner and reduce global warming you have to look at the entire planet, not just California. I have been to dozens of countries on almost every continent and I can tell you first hand how many countries still have hundreds of thousands of 2-stroke mopeds, 2 stroke motorcycles, and dirty old cars still on the road. All of the motorcycles in the U.S., including Jesse’s choppers and all the bikes comming from the small custom shops don’t put nearly a fraction of the pollution into the air that these countries do! Don’t even get me started on buses or the shipping industry…

  4. 4 John Mar 19th, 2007 at 8:53 pm

    That’s just it- CARB IS a political organization, empowered to carry out resolutions- they don’t MAKE the laws.

    The irony is those who DO make the laws regarding this issue have absolutely NO CLUE what they are doing; They create reactionary law- with the assistance of CARB- designed to appease the few who are screaming bloody hell about how we’re destroying our environment with bikes, yet who have NO FACTS about what they are yipping about….

    Thank you, Al Gore.

    Jesse can afford the fines- it’s not the money that concerns him; It is CLEARLY the process that is disturbing- it is truly legalized extortion, with no checks in place- this is LITERALLY the same issue we ran into with the teaparty a couple hundred years ago-

    It’s taxation without representation- period.

    As the article said, Jesse pointed out that the organization is no longer named CARB- it’s now ARB….

    Coming soon to a theater near you…….

  5. 5 Eric K. Olson Mar 19th, 2007 at 10:39 pm

    An excellent analogy John, taxation without representation is prevalent today in so many forums. I love how a group of people have power to dictate over a entire state like California. Did anyone elect these egotistical jerk-offs? Why do they have power, and it’s legal power by the way, to tell some dude building a motorcycle he can’t use certain exhaust configuration. You can’t do this, you can’t do that, thanks for making the world a better place Mom. Typical American bureaucracy, don’t tackle any real issues and don’t create any working solutions. Don’t figure out a way to build an infrastructure for Hydrogen or Ethanol fuel across the county, don’t implement desalinisation plants for CA so they can supply their own water instead of stealing it from the West, don’t build nuclear energy plants, Christ no, let’s focus on these chopper guys because I saw one on the TV the other night while sitting on my fat ass. Another example of “feel good legislation” the only reason they are going after the custom cycle industry is because they see them as an easy target. Then they can all stand around their wine parties smelling each others farts, complementing themselves on how they are making a difference in the world compared to us barbarians who ride cycles.

    F them

  6. 6 John Mar 20th, 2007 at 12:47 am

    Yep, great points, Eric- think of all the time, energy, and tax dollars that went into prosecuting Jesse- I seriously doubt that CARB showed much of a profit after they netted out their time and legal fees (I’d love to see THAT tab);

    So what was the result? Resources that SHOULD be focused on alternative solutions to energy (and I have no doubt that there are plenty of bright people running around in CARB that could be directed to do something POSITIVE) get completely wasted in compelling Jesse to clean up the 30 bikes he builds each year (and really, who even rides them? Most server in art collections);

    Nice job. Attaboy. The average forest fire dumps more carbon monoxide into the atmosphere than the cumulative total of every internal-combustion engine built since the beginning of time, but Jesse gets more headlines, let’s go after him and let the fear filter down to the smalls shops.

    I doubt that anyone here has anything against the environment- this isn’t an “Us vs Them” thing- it’s about an out-of-control regulatory agency, who perpetuates it’s own existance via bad law, and politically, no one has the balls to stand up and appear to be “against the environment” by reining in this 3-headed stepchild; CARB (or ARB now) answers to no one.

    You reading, Arnold?

  7. 7 Harley Mar 20th, 2007 at 12:21 pm

    What’s wrong with you people!

    Jesse sells out the cause just to become a Mega-Star (Mega-Star = Millions of $$$) and we sit here worrying about Jesse is going to pay some small fine.

    Get real, Jesse makes 2 movies about how bad he is then he starts a TV show to prove the movies were not him acting. The bottom line is he was promoting his West Coast Choppers business to make himself richer. The fines he pays to the California Air Resources Board will be written off as advertising on his corporate tax returns.

    The West Coast Coppers and Orange County Coppers of this industry are just business who are using the TV audiences to make them more money. These companies are not bike builders who care about the art of bike building; they are only after the almighty dollar.

    To quote Jesse “I am saying that when it comes to the environment, the environment should come first, not the cash!” Do you really believe that Jesse would come up with something that smart to say or did it maybe come from the mouth of his publicist?

  8. 8 Peter Mar 20th, 2007 at 12:30 pm

    Agreed Peter. But who made WCC & OCC rich?

  9. 9 John Mar 21st, 2007 at 9:00 am

    Myself, being a chopper rider and a gun owner, see the same thing on both accounts. On this blog we are all preaching to the choir. The firearms collectors/owners do the same thing when they write arcticles in the gun rags. Do you think Al Gore reads Guns and Ammo…right! We need to write to the editors of newspapers and magazines published by the green side/tree huggers about the fines levied on J. James and the control of CARB. You folks in CA need to ask the legislatures to put a muzzle on CARB. Letter writing campaigns, to the write people, get heard. I’ve seen it work here in NV with gun-control issues and Concealed Weapons Permits. At the same time you’re writing to this blog you should be ccing a state senator or congressman.


  10. 10 DJ Chopper God Mar 20th, 2007 at 1:36 pm

    I guess that college education might have had a hand in Jesse’s comments. Pay Up Sucker $$$ Jesse James attended the University of California at Riverside.

  11. 11 Boyce Mar 20th, 2007 at 2:14 pm

    Another case of crap legislation in California. Another Case of wasted taxpayer money attempting to enforce un-enforceable legislation, that has no real end benefit.

    Californians are responsible for putting the laws on the books, and only Californians can trade out the politicians who put the law in place with new politicians to have the law removed.

    If you voted for the politicians who made the law, you are responsible, if you do not vote to have the law changed back, you are responsible. If you do not vote, you have no say, and should not bitch, you get what you deserve.

    This will not be the Death of the Chopper. We can only hope that common sense that is lacking in California is found everywhere else before the waste spreads.


  12. 12 Mike Apr 3rd, 2007 at 5:29 pm

    Maybe I am out of line here but do you think that this might be a way to drive the little man out of business? HD loses a lot of business to the custom builder when you add up all the little guys. Eventually only the big will survive. This will affect all aspects of the industry. Frames, motors, mags, tires, you name it! The small time builders, that buy these items, are dropping like flies. Kind of reminds me of the import tarrif on the Jap bikes that saved HD by driving up the prices so they were more competitive. EPA looks like another avenue for more revenue to me. I have a friend that is involved with Weld Wheels, who recently sold out their motorcycle division to American Racing because of lost sales to the custom builder. Maybe this is bigger than you think. Just a thought.


  13. 13 Nicker Apr 11th, 2007 at 4:06 pm

    “…Is it the end of the Chopper World the way we know it?…”

    Not because of a Jessy-vs-CARB fiasco. Historically, lots of forces have contrived to kill motorcycling: the mid 60’s gang task force, sec-of-transportation Joan Claybrook, various legislation,…etc. Yet Motorcycles are still around.

    However, in a bigger context what’s going on in custom bikes today is bound to change. Like global warming, every thing is cyclical.

    Once-upon-a-time building a custom bikes was a significant undertaking. It required comittment and the willingness to invest the time to get the tools and develop the required skils to build your bike. When someone admired your scooter they’d ask “…is the you?…” If the answare was “yes” you were in the brotherhood. You couldn’t fake it. A 3 minutes of conversation would uncover a poser.

    But by 1975 most people seemd to be buying their scooters, not building them. Building became an act of bolting together purchased parts (“…only hand tools required…”), which in turn made campfire conversations about how you built your scooter rather pointless.

    And so, out of the B-rated biker flicks emerged this “biker life style.” It appears that today’s “chopper buying public” are a caracature of “The Wild One”, “Easy Rider”… etc.

    The last few years has seen a frenzzy of MC buying that not even $4.00 a gallon gass will sustain. Its a fadd and fadds are cyclical (RE: state of the MC industry).

    As i see it, rototiller style handlebars and OCC moronics have more to do with the cuuren “end” than CARB. But then, that’s just my opinion.

    Anyway, i’m looking forward to the “new beginning”……!

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Cyril Huze