The New Breed Of Choppers

Tested

2013 Big Bear Choppers Titanium

Once upon a time, in a land where bikes were as long as they were expensive, the fat-tire, raked-out, crazy-paint chopper ruled the world. If there wasn’t a bright-color-themed bar-hopper in your garage, you weren’t anyone amongst the Joneses. At that time, Big Bear Choppers (BBC) ruled supreme and had an extensive network of dealers spread out across the world selling its bikes as fast they could be produced. That was until the bottom fell out of our economy with BBC following suit. Forget what you read online, the gossip cycle rags, or just about anywhere else: The story is not an easy one to explain, and not the point of this test.

BBC has experienced the highest of the highs, and overnight, the lowest of the lows. Having surfed the wave until the water dried out, they managed to miss the “bagger boat” almost completely. To jump in at this point would mean playing catch-up and becoming a follower instead of a leader. Instead, BBC has leap-frogged current trends to release the FXR-based Titanium motorcycle.

So why us a bike that hasn’t been produced since the mid ’90s (in non CVO form) as the basis for a new line of custom motorcycles? For starters, chief designer Kevin Alsop rode one for years, racking up nearly 40,000 miles from behind the bars. During that time he learned what worked, what didn’t, and why. From there, Kevin built a bike tip-to-tail without skimping on parts. The laundry list of aftermarket companies reads like a racer’s handbook, including an S&S 111-inch motor, aYoshimura exhaust, Hayes Monoblock calipers, Öhlins inverted forks, Race Tech shocks, and RC Components wheels wrapped in sticky Avon rubber. Wait … this is from Big Bear Choppers?

Don’t be mistaken; the Titanium isn’t just a pile of pretty parts making up a fake FXR. BBC has specially improved and updated the FXR frame as well as created tons of goodies that will all be available for purchase separately. Parts are parts, but the proof is in the pudding.

Riding Impressions:

Zamora:

When we left the BBC factory, Kevin had only one request when it came to the bike: Tell the truth. Well here it is. The bike F-ing rocks. The Titanium is the closest thing I have ridden to a factory Sportbike and I used to be an editor at a Sportbike magazine. Take note, this is not a bar-hopper. This bike is meant to be ridden fast, hard, and with attitude. With the trashing we gave it, other bikes would have thrown in the towel much earlier.

The Titanium has real suspension that was designed and tuned specifically for this bike. If you have never had a bike with proper suspension, you do not have any idea what you’re missing. Bikes from the factory come designed with the average rider in mind riding a wide range of possible surfaces (whatever they may be). The rear of the motorcycle is raised for better geometry with the side benefit of gobs of cornering clearance. If you hear that old familiar scrrraaapppeee sound on this bike, you might want to do a nut check, because you are riding balls to the wall.

The brakes are nothing short of phenomenal. If you’re used to only using the rear brake to ease to a stop, one quick squeeze of the brake lever will instantly let you know these brakes mean business. A single finger pull is all that is necessary to bring down triple-digit speeds. Pull with caution because these brakes bite back, in a very controllable manner.

Our motor wasn’t fully broken in when we got the bike, but after a few straight-and-narrow highway miles, the limiters kicked off and it was time to party. The 122 lb-ft of torque comes on hard and fast. It’s a kick in the pants and makes this bike nothing short of a blast to ride. After beating on the bike for a few hours, the motor did run a bit rough and hard to start when hot. I’m confident that a few minor adjustments of the freshly beaten motor would cure most of that complaint.

Styling is always subjective. I have been accused of being a bit eccentric when it comes to paint and tend to walk the line of gaudy at times, or so I’ve been told. In this case, the simplistic red, black, and chrome design with a few choice pieces of carbon fiber and a single black stripe are a near perfect blend of function meeting style. If the bike is slow, you might as well look good doin’ it. If the bike is screamer, looking good from the back is all that matters because that’s the only thing your friends will see as they try to catch you.

The $37,000-42,000 price range is out of my budget, but BBC is aware of that. The beauty of the Titanium is all the parts can be ordered separately and can be built using “nearly as good” parts and cost-saving sweat. But hey, if you are the type of buyer that wants what he wants when he wants it, forget the wait. Order this bad boy ready to rock-and-roll and save the bloody knuckles for something else.

Riding Impressions:

Jeff:

Being a big fan of Harley-Davidson’s FXR, when I first got wind of BBC making this style of bike, I took offense. That was until I visited BBC’s San Bernardino facility and got the facts straight from Kevin and his wife, Mona, regarding the Titanium. At the heart of this bike is the next generation of the FXR-style frame built in the USA at BBC with care and skill by a guy who has ridden this style of bike for decades as a club member.

When I first saw the Titanium in person, I was taken aback. It was like a dream-build of parts all hung on a killer frame. The first thing I did after peeping the bike and talking to Kevin about the hows and whys was pull on a helmet and blast down the freeway following Kevin at triple-digit speeds. The S&S motor is the perfect mill and the suspension is so dialed, it felt like I spent a day at Race Tech getting the shocks and forks perfectly outfitted just for me. Mind you this was only minutes after I threw a leg over it for the first time. When we hit the sweeping freeway interchange cloverleaf, I was doing 80 mph and Kevin blasted at the slightly curved surface well more than 20mph faster than me. I had a few miles of tarmac attack on the bike before we headed back to our offices. On that one short little ride, the bike felt so amazing that I was figuring out what I could sell and how fast I could do it to get the money to buy one. I rode this bike a few hundred more miles before I had to unwillingly give it back. I enjoyed every single second I was on this bike. All I can say is that out of the box, it handled better than any FXR or Dyna I have ever ridden. Stop right there if you think this is some fluff piece on BBC. This is the real deal. I had very few gripes with this bike — the style of gas tank used (I would like to see a dash) and the risers could be a bit taller. Nonetheless, I am a true believer in this bike and think BBC will do very well with its line of Titanium bikes and parts. Don’t be surprised if you see a full-on custom-build using a Titanium frame in Hot Bike’s near future.

Specs

Powertrain

Engine type S&S V111 Carb Evolution, 122.8 lb-ft 115.8 bhp

Transmission Baker six-speed

Brakes

Front Radial Mounted Hayes Monoblock four-piston caliper

Rear Radial Mounted Hayes Monoblock two-piston caliper

Suspension

Front Öhlins Inverted Frontend

Rear Race Tech

Exhaust BBC Designed by Yoshimura

Fuel capacity 4.2 gallons

Options Titanium $37,650, Titanium S $38,450, Titanium T $42,850

For more testing impressions from other Hot Bike testriders, log onto hotbikeweb.com.