If you’ve followed the story behind Big Bear Choppers since its birth in the late ’90s, then you’d know that their many successes throughout the years have blossomed from very humble beginnings. Company founder and chief designer Kevin Alsop has seen a lot of trends come and fall face first into the asphalt since then, but what he has yet to stray from is the importance of good, old-fashioned handling and performance, which is more important to him now than it ever has been.
A lot of smaller riders might think of bagger model bikes to be too heavy or intimidating for them to handle, but that just isn’t the case, especially when you throw the right parts at them. One of Kevin’s main goals of late was to do what he could to help change this perspective with a little bit of research and development time spent in the shop. To get a better understanding and first-person perspective, Kevin stopped by Brandon Quaid of Quaid Harley-Davidson in Loma Linda, California. The two discussed the idea of making the H-D bagger line more appealing and far more accessible to any concerned riders.
“After taking a good look and riding a few of the baggers there at the dealership, I decided that the new ’16 Road Glide would be a perfect model to R&D parts with back at the shop,” Kevin says. “Although we weren’t producing any parts for these bikes at the moment, I had been wanting to rip into one to start developing Big Bear branded parts for them.” With a fresh bike to tinker with, Kevin began analyzing the suspension system to get a better feel on how it would be possible to gain more responsive handling and a more comfortable feel for a rider looking for that elusive luxury car sensation. “The whole reasoning behind wanting to get a better understanding of these models was to figure out how to make a Harley Road Glide or Street Glide handle as good as a European made bike,” he says. “The way I see it, increasing stability will build more confidence when riding, which will make potential buyers much more likely to eventually bring one home.” It’s tough to even attempt to knock that kind of logic. Like a mad professor, Kevin spent hours on end inside the lab to figure out the winning formula he was after.
What Kevin came up with was a front and rear suspension system featuring proprietary BBC components as well as Öhlins forks, shocks, and accessories. The solution didn’t exactly just reveal itself during the first afternoon at the drawing board, but it eventually showed itself after many trial runs and parts mock-ups. “The most difficult part of this process was designing parts on paper, transferring them to digital models, and waiting for the actual part to come out of the CNC phase so I could actually test them,” Kevin says about the lengthy journey through trial and error. But in this line of work, it necessarily isn’t exactly a new experience to have to make a batch of products only to have to weed out a healthy percentage of them as being unusable.
The final orchestration of parts that had been created and assembled for the sole purpose of making this particular H-D Road Glide ride like a dream was completely one-off at that point. Of course, every single note was bookmarked and combination of parts used was noted in order to replicate the recipe for full production (which is now available for purchases through BBC’s website). But the suspension system that Kevin had cooked up wasn’t just designed for brand-new-model bikes. The cross reference goes back to 2000 H-D models in order to cater to the guys who aren’t necessarily looking to start from scratch again but who don’t mind reinvesting in and updating their pre-existing custom baggers they’ve lovingly pieced together over a matter of years. The real beauty of the outcome of the whole development process is being able to incorporate into the betterment of the thousands of bikes that have already been bought and built to some degree before this latest generation. As Kevin so masterfully puts it, “Increased riding pleasure is what is needed in order to fall in love with your bike all over again.” It’s true—a regained interest in riding a bike that is already parked in the garage is a way to tap into reasons why you started riding motorcycles in the first place. “Once you ride a bike that performs the way these baggers do with these parts that we were able to develop for them, there is no going back to anything else,” Kevin adds for good measure.
Now, as for the Road Glide that was sitting in BBC’s R&D department, Kevin thought to seize the opportunity to make a full-blown build out of it. “Although objective number one was to dramatically increase the bike’s handling with better control and comfort at any speed, its braking performance was also just as important.” The list of modifications didn’t just stop at the braking system, however. A whole list of BBC production parts in the way of handlebars, foot controls, gauges, a lower fairing, and a full exhaust were test fit and bolted into place. And to set off the transformation, Dan Gardner of Kandyman Customs blessed the bike’s exterior with a slick paint job complete with House of Kolor paints and pinstriping from the talented brush of Rory Pentecost.
A build of this nature is an ideal example to follow for the guy who actually plans to ride his bike in real-world conditions (which is how they should be built in the first place, right?). Not only does it have the handle and touch that any riding skill set cannot only manage but also excel with, it also possesses the look that is guaranteed to snap necks at any speed. It is truly a product of its environment coming from the glamorous (yet crowded) Southern California streets and highways but is adaptable to the wide-open stretches and twisty back roads off the beaten path. On the fence deciding whether or not a bagger will have the agility and on-road prowess you crave? Well, let this Road Glide built by BBC annihilate any doubts you might have and serve as a testament to the always-evolving performance-driven aftermarket.
|Bike Owner||Big Bear Choppers|
|Shop Name||Big Bear Choppers|
|Shop Phone||(909) 478-7788|
|Fabrication||Big Bear Choppers (Kevin Alsop)|
|Build Time||6 months|
|Exhaust||Big Bear Choppers|
|Special Features||Handmade exhaust merge collector header step-ups|
|Manufacturer Front||Big Bear Choppers/Öhlins|
|Triple Trees||Big Bear Choppers|
|Wheels, Tires, and Brakes|
|Wheel Height/Width||Factory 19 in.|
|Rotor||Big Bear Choppers/Galfer|
|Paint Color||House of Kolor|
|Painter||Dan Gardner of Kandyman Customs|
|Rear Fender||H-D stock cut down|
|Fairing/Windscreen||Klock Werks (lower fairing by Big Bear Choppers)|
|Gauges||H-D/Big Bear Choppers|
|Dash||Big Bear Choppers|
|Foot controls/pegs||Big Bear Choppers mid-controls|