White line dancing in the Black Hills
On a blue-collar special
Sturgis, S.D, Aug. 7–11—The ride from Texas to South Dakota for this year’s Black Hills Classic was a good one with moderate temperatures, long stretches of highway and no mechanical trouble. But once I got into town, I was itching to hit some of my favorite haunts on something other than my bagger. And even though I know you’re supposed to dance with the one that brought ya to the party, I was tired of my fat girlfriend and looking for something a bit more spicy and petite. Luckily I had contacted the fine folks at American IronHorse before I left Houston and had lined up a blind date with a sweet little number that went by the name of the Classic Chop. I’d first flirted with this beauty at the V-Twin Expo in Cincinnati at the beginning of the year when she was unveiled in the company’s new trio of seductresses tagged “the Rally Series.” This chorus line also includes the Bandera, a pro street model, and another chopper, the Judge. The Rally Series was developed to appeal to a new market of buyers—those guys with a beer budget and champagne tastes.
A working man’s bike
The Classic Chop is the most economical bike ever to roll out of the company’s Fort Worth factory, and all the cost savings is a direct result of cutting back on this sweetie’s bling—not the performance or quality. The outcome is a lightweight, matter-of-fact machine without a lot of extra jewelry or makeup. (Sorta like dating a fitness trainer instead of a runway starlet.) Despite having “only” a 100″ S&S Sidewinder Plus motor being fed go-juice via the S&S Super G carb, acceleration is strong enough to satisfy even the most jaded of suitors. The transmission is a solid-shifting 6-speed close-ratio unit with a left-side drive. But one of this hottie’s greatest assets is her agility, with handling characteristics that make the ride a pure pleasure. A major factor in the handling is the sensible rear tire, which is “only” a 200/50-18 Metzeler. Featuring an A-frame type swingarm, the double downtubed frame is stretched a whopping 8″ with an additional 4″ of backbone stretch. But then all that stretch is needed when coupled with a 12″ over-stock front end and 42 degrees of total rake (38 in the neck and another 4 degrees in the triple trees). The AIH engineers have perfected this science and the Classic Chop handled every canyon and back road tossed her way like a ballerina negotiating a battlefield.
Up front, a 90/90-21 Metzeler is wrapped around a budget wheel and brought to a halt by a reliable single 4-piston system. On top, a Headwinds Bullet unit lights the way, followed by a set of simple drag bars. And while the handle-bars are well placed, I would have to immediately reroute the control wiring through the bars. This is one of those money-saving steps that AIH has opted for that greatly detracts from a pretty machine. And although the grips are very comfortable and virtually vibration-free until high speeds, for some reason the mirrors are completely useless above 45 mph. The clutch is easy-pull and rider-friendly, proving to be a lifesaver time and time again on the traffic-clogged streets of Sturgis. Both the clutch and front brake controls feature a low-gloss powder coat with a textured surface. This matte veneer is a very attractive alternative to the more costly chrome finish and provides a su-perb grip. (The same low-gloss black has been applied to the inner primary.) In another cost-savings effort, vinyl cables are utilized instead of the standard stainless braided variety. A low-end speedometer rounds out the control center, with a neutral indicator light that is impossible to see and turn signal indicators that are also invisible in certain lighting conditions. Since this budget-minded unit doesn’t feature a tachometer, a sixth- gear indicator light would be a great addition—but only if designed so you could actually see it.
The stretched gas tank is very reminiscent of the company’s Texas Chopper and Legend models and offers a large canvas for individualized paint schemes. A horseshoe oil tank is painted to match the gas tank and in another cost-reducing stratagem, uses black rubber oil lines to transport the slippery stuff. The 2-into-1 exhaust is an elegant system with integrated heat shields and supplies a throaty report without being excessively blatant. The rear fender is capped off with twin marker lights that function as brake, running lights and turn signals while the license plate tag is a side-mounted polished billet item.
On the dance floor
No matter how attractive a new companion may be, the ultimate determining factor is compatibility on the asphalt dance floor. And the Classic Chop makes a great partner, providing one-handed canyon touring (a practice not endorsed by either American IronHorse or THUNDER PRESS) due to its balanced frame geometry and that 200mm rear tire. Because of the weight-to-horsepower ratio, engine muscle is ample, with vibration set at minimum while highway stability is constantly on high. And according to the radar unit set up by the South Dakota constabulary in the canyon between Sturgis and Deadwood, the speedo is accurate at a wide variety of speeds. The footpegs, shifter and rear brake pedal are well placed and provide superb control at all times, but the Phantom Comfort Seat either needs to be renamed or have additional padding inserted.
The Classic Chop is just that— a classy lady, light on her feet. She proved herself in a variety of road conditions, terrain and emergency stops (this was Sturgis, remember). Even in dressed-down mode, the Classic Chop is no ragamuffin, but a princess in her own right, garnering admiration from would-be devotees wherever I took her dancing. This is a very clean, very simple and very well executed bike that is a blast to ride. And even though it’s “only” a 100″ motor and it’s “only” a 200mm rear tire, it’s also “only” $23,999 (starting price). And that, my friends, is one cheap date.