You all know the story of custom motorcycles manufacturer Big Bear Choppers. Going from boom to bust, then restarting a new business life as “Rage Hard Choppers” (Simon Scott), now the new owner and manufacturer of the BBC brand. After resolving all the legal and commercial issues that have heavily weighted on Big Bear Choppers’ image and on Kevin and Mona Alsop’s reputation as business people and persons, the couple is working hard at regaining the trust of both custom motorcycle lovers and at rebuilding a new dealers network, here in the US and abroad.
After much soul searching and marketing research, Kevin and Mona are re-emerging with a new approach to the market, a new Titanium model featured here and a soon to be annouced line of custom parts for Harley-Davidson Sportster. All being the first public expressions of what Big Bear Choppers is going to try to accomplish during the next few years. Clearly, leveraging some of the best of Harley-Davidson platforms to offer improved customized interpretation, both aesthetically and technologically, and this without sacrificing any original factory reliability. A philosophy that could be described as “finishing Milwaukee’s job.”
I wish that all of you focus your comments on this new model, not on the past, because everything about the BBC story has already been reported by me … and commented by you. Before introducing you to the Titanium to be unveiled in Daytona Beach on March 8th (Big Bear Choppers display will at the International Speedway) I must disclose that, at their request, I sat down with Scott Simon, Kevin & Mona Alsop during the last Sturgis Bike Week. The Alsops were sincere in acknowledging their mistakes, in admitting that they wrongly believed that pouring more of their own money (all of it), then borrowing more, they could survive a very depressed economy and a changing taste in bikes. And this until they realized that the business was surviving only with clients’ deposits to pay for other clients work.
Of course, an unsustainable business model that had the consequences you know. Clients not getting their bikes completed as promised and the Alsops losing all their money. Today, after several more conversations I had with them, it’s my conviction that they never intended to defraud anyone on purpose and it seems that at this time all commercial issues have been resolved.
Cyril. “What made you decide to build this style of bike as your Ragehard choppers/Big Bear Choppers new production model?”
Kevin. “Because in Sturgis you told me to build more affordable custom motorcycles and parts in the Sportster and Dyna categories, keeping in mind a younger clientele and those who want to ride long distances.“. Laugh (it’s true that I said to Kevin that his former style for which he was famous and very successful at during many years will not cut it anymore in a new custom motorcycle industry were taste and expectations have evolved so much during the last decade)
Cyril. “Glad you listened, but I didn’t design or built this Titanium and Sportster parts. Tell me more”
Kevin. ” Back in 2011 I put well over 30,000 miles on an FXR-P. Riding that bike for so many miles, I was amazed at the qualities and attributes the bike had. It has superior handling and superior comfort by isolating the engine in the frame and rubber mounting it. The frame in the FXR is 5 times stiffer than the original FXE frame, which is hard to imagine, but it really is, and that information comes directly from the engineers at Harley-Davidson. So learning about all of this while putting that many miles on it, gave me a true appreciation and understating on how the bike really works. It’s all because of the stiffness of the frame with the side “Vs” or triangle tubing also contributing to it. Result, there is no flex in the rear swingarm and the rear of the bike is not “walking” like with some other HD models.
Kevin. “I think Harley could have gone further, exploiting what was already the best handling V-Twin frame by adding essential attributes like a superior suspension and an improved braking setup. It’s what I focused on and it makes the Titanium an unbelievable V-Twin bike to ride on long distances, at any speed and on any terrain or road conditions.”
Cyril. “What other mechanical improvements do you bring to this FXR platform?”
Kevin. ” Obviously, the FXR frame is not something new, but nobody that I can remember has taken that stock frame, and kept the drivetrain right where it is supposed to be with a 180 mm rear tire, keeping the bike perfectly balanced, as it is when delivered from the Harley factory. We didn’t alter the integrity of the stock frame. Its geometry and structure are not modified. We did a 0.900 offset of the transmission sprocket, and using a chain drive we were able to fit a 180 mm tire. But everything else stayed the same. The only thing we widened are the fender struts to accommodate the fender hugging the new rear wheel width. Also, Harley used cleave blocks in the swingarm, and they sucked. We use spherical bearings.
Cyril. “You gave my readers the opportunity of being the first to see the Titanium. But when is the official public unveiling?”
Kevin. ” March 8th In Daytona at our display on International Speedway . A Titanium will be available to journalists for test rides during all Daytona Bike Week. Come to see us and ride it as much as you want, Cyril”
Stay tuned for Big Bear Choppers new line of custom parts for Harley-Davidson Sportsters.