Rolling Chassis Buyers Guide
Buying a motorcycle rolling chassis? Read this...
A rolling chopper chassis or bobber chassis is a fine alternative to building a bike from the ground up. Especially since most of the hard work has been done for you. And there are quite a few to choose from, and many of them are very good.
In this article I will discus a little history about kit bikes and rolling chassis, provide information what a rolling chassis is, and then provide tips on how to buy a rolling chopper or bobber chassis...
Chopper Rolling Chassis and Home Builders...
There used to be a dozen manufacturers of chopper and bobber kits for novice and professional bike builders to piece together. They were often bought by pro builders because they could put them together fast and sell them at a decent markup to customers who were swarming into the chopper scene during better economic times, and especially during the Orange County Choppers reality TV show.
But then the economy went to hell in a hand-basket for a variety of ridiculous reasons, and people didn't have the money for these luxury items, and therefore most chopper and bobber kit manufacturers went out of business.
But thankfully the market for the home builder didn't dry up. They still want to get motorcycle kits to put together themselves but the few that are available are almost $15 or more. You could buy a lot of parts, or buy a project bike at a faction of that and build a nice bobber or chopper out of it, and that's exactly bike builders are doing and have always done!
However, there are many novice and veteran bike builders that want the joy of putting a custom bike together without spending gobs of money on tons of custom parts. But they also don't want to deal with building a motorcycle frame. It's not as easy as it might appear. And it can take time to build a good one. Plus, to make a good chopper or bobber frame it should be properly TIG welded and many builders are not skilled in this area.
So the result is that there are many chopper or bobber rolling chassis available.
What Is A Rolling Chassis Exactly?
A rolling chassis is basically a shell of a bike: you get the frame, front end, gas tank, wheels, tires, and often you get mounting plates and even an oil tank.
You do the rest. You do the electrical, buy the motor and install it, get it painted, and then you are done. It's a great way to go. Even pro builders buy rolling chopper or bobbers chassis and then put then finish up the bike and sell them. You can make a couple grand if you do a good job of marketing it locall, on eBay, Craigslit, and other sites.
But the real satisfaction comes when you finish the build. There's nothing like it, right?
Pictured above is a chopper rolling chassis by Vtwin Manufacturing. It has approximately a 30 degree rake. It's a replica FXST-FLST Harley rolling chassis kit.
Here are some rolling chopper chassis and rolling bobber chassis that I think are well priced and well built:
Rolling Chassis Rake:
When you talk about bobbers and choppers you have to talk about rake. Choppers and bobbers have more rake than factory or stock bikes. In other words, the front end extends further out than a regular stock bike, giving it a more 'bad ass' appearance. Choppers can have an excessive rake. Remember those choppers from the 1970's? Do you remember the movie 'Easy Rider'? Those bikes are raked big time.
A lower rake angle provides more stability when driving slow. Conversely, a larger rake angle provides more stability at higher speeds, but it's more difficult to handle at low speeds. These are general statements because there are other factors at play.
The bobber rolling chassis pictured here is by eBay seller 'gripos', and it has a 30 degree rake. 30 degrees is my preferred rake for a bobber...
Enough about rake. This is about rolling chassis and what to get. If you want to learn more about rake and trail, watch this video and part 2 as well.
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How To Buy A Rolling Chasis!
When you are looking to buy a rolling chassis you are going to be tempted to buy one sight unseen. You know, or eBay or some classified site. And you should because you can get a good price and you may not have to pay taxes. However, here are some tips on how to buy a rolling chassis...
Check The Welds: The frame is the most important part of your bike in terms of safety. Some builders take short cuts or are not great at welding. You want your welds to not only look pleasing to the eye, especially if it's a bobber, but they have to have good penetration and have strength. So ask the seller to provide you with close up pictures of the welds and ask what welding procedure was used. TIG welding is the preferred welding procedure for chopper frames. However, if the welder is awesome then he or she may be able to MIG weld it, but that's a big maybe. If they use another procedure other than TIG ask them for an explanation as to why they used that procedure rather than TIG welding.
Check the Tubing: Ask them what kind of tubing they used. They should never use Pipe. If they did then they have no idea what they are doing so run away fast. DOM or ERW tubing is the only way to go, and no less than 1.25 inches.
Is The Frame Straight? Some builders want to crank out their frames fast and alignment can suffer so ask them if the frame was checked for straightness. You want to be sure they can answer this because if they can't then maybe they don't know what they are doing so move on. You may find that some sellers will get impatient with you, but this is all about getting the right rolling chassis for you. So don't worry about it.
Manufacturers Statement Of Origin (MSO): You want as much paperwork on your rolling chassis as possible, and the most important part is your MOS's for the frame, engine, and transmission if that is what came with your rolling chassis. Without those you will be in a stressful situation trying to get your bike titeld and registered.