Back to basics

Naval bobber

Choppahead are an intriguing mix of grimy punk ethos and immaculate detailing. Their latest build is a prime example

Choppahead is an American custom bike shop in New Bedford, Massachusetts and their latest build, a traditional Triumph bobber, is for a retired US Navy Seal. But first and foremost, who are Choppahead? Over to the shop’s founder, Big Truth (yep, that’s his real name): “We’re a couple of jack-assholes that build bikes. Basically, Choppahead is a raw, low-down, grimy, greasy, dirtbaggy, unsavory clusterfuck of a shop that pulls off some pretty clean and class rides. We ride, and we build, back-to-basics old style chops and customs. We’re renowned for our classic Triumphs, but build American as well.” But how can a bike as clean as the bobber you see here come from an unsavoury clusterfuck? Jay Medeiros joined Big Truth in the business back in 2001, a year after it first started: “If you see the shop you’ll understand – there are no fancy tools. Our shop isn’t immaculate but the finished product is.”

Truth and Jay were friends years before Choppahead through the Massachusetts hardcore/punk scene (both were in bands) and they brought that raw punk DIY ethic into the chopper industry. But Choppahead is also at the forefront of the contemporary Triumph chopper scene, offering the first production hardtail frame available for new Triumphs. “This came about because we wanted to break into customising modern Triumphs,” says Truth. “But the new frames are clunky, bulky, and ugly for a custom bike (they are fine for a stock bike because you don’t see them). The geometry on the old classic Triumph frames is more conducive to a goodlooking custom bike so we designed a frame for the modern bikes that has more of those classic lines.” Jay adds: “Mounting the engine and creating a good geometry were pretty challenging. We went through a few prototypes.”

'We make shit for the raw, gritty, grimy, greasy, unadulterated free spirits’

Jay adds: “Mounting the engine and creating a good geometry were pretty challenging. We went through a few prototypes.” Curiously, for such an overtly anarchic company, Choppahead has a mission statement, just like Microsoft and Amazon. Well, not quite like them. Here are some excerpts: “We make shit for the raw, gritty, grimy, greasy, unadulterated free spirits and out there… We stand behind our builds and products 100% – if there’s any legitimate issues, we’ll do what it takes to make it right.” Jay explains: “We wanted people to understand who we are and what we do before doing business with us.” “Choppahead is an integral part of who we are,” says Jay. “It’s not just a business. We stand behind it 110 percent and take this shit seriously – and are protective of it. There’s too many people jumping on bandwagons to try to make a quick buck. We’ve been a constant presence and like it or not we are here to stay.” We’ve known Big Truth for some time now and have seen some amazing work come out of his shop – and the great thing is they don’t just do some ballsy customs, they can equally produce the more perfect restoration of a British classic you can imagine. So how about this gorgeous Triumph?

Truth says: “It was built for a retired Navy Seal – who is donating it to the US Naval Academy. The guidelines he gave us were that he wanted it blue with the USNA logo on it – so this is what we came up with for him. We know the style of Triumph he likes based on prior builds we’ve done for him. “We started with a stock 1969 Triumph front frame section mated to one of our ‘Spade City’ Triumph hardtail rear sections – this gives it a little stretch of four inches in the rear. We then fabricated a cool, vertical floating style oil tank as the customer really likes the look of these. “Pipes were also made in-house, as well as the tail light bracket.

Most of the other components are stock Triumph – front-end, headlight, petrol tank, foot controls, and front wheel (the rear is a Triumph hub laced to a 16in Harley rim). “We did a complete engine rebuild on the 1973 Triumph T120R Triumph power plant and transmission in-house. “The tank and fender paint was done in-house, however the gold leaf graphics were expertly executed by our old friend Ryzart. Powdercoat was handled by Goodhue’s. All the chrome plating was done by Brown’s Plating and the gold plating (seat springs, brake spring, pushrod tubes, oil tank mounts) by Unique Plating. “We wanted to build him a reliable, fun, clean custom – while at the same time paying homage to his Naval background. Mission accomplished!”

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