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In The Details: The Differences Between Street Tracker, Brat Style And Chopper Motorcycles

Chaparral Motorsports
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April 11, 2019
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Last Updated: October 6, 2020

Nothing makes a person feel like they own the road quite like a motorcycle. Some long for the feeling of power thrumming through their bones with nothing more between them and the road than rubber, steel, and the clothes on their back.

However, there's more to becoming a motorcycle enthusiast than grabbing the first bike you see and hopping on. The motorcycle world is an extensive one that branches out beyond just a frame, engine, two wheels, and handlebars. Obviously there are many different manufacturers and many different models. Beyond the varying models you can venture down the path of customization. Customization can take many forms, from the simple swapping of parts for improved long distance comfort to suspension and engine upgrades for better performance, to stylistic changes to suit your ultimate motorcycle dreams. When it comes to customizing a motorcycle there are a variety of styles one can massage their machine into.

A true rider understands the inherent differences to these custom machines. Take a look at some of the more popular styles of custom motorcycles on the road today to help you find the one that best fits your personality.

The Street Tracker: Racing Redefined

The main draw of a street tracker-style motorcycle is its resemblance to a flat-track racer. This design is meant to emphasize many of the features popularized by the sport while simultaneously incorporating the equipment needed to make the vehicle street-legal.

Basic design concepts of the tracker include the following:

  • 19-inch wheels front and rear
  • Knobby/slightly aggressive tread street-legal DOT tires
  • single seat that's incorporated into the tail section/rear fender (often fiberglass)
  • Minimal body work (typically no front fender)
  • compact 2- maybe 3- gallon gas tank
  • Upgraded suspension/sometimes slightly raised
  • MX styled handlebars
  • Mid controls
  • High-mounted exhaust

To make these bikes suitable for daily traffic they require turn signals, run and brake lights, a headlights, as well as license plate holder while still keeping with an overall racey body style. Some motorcycle manufacturers offer models that somewhat mimic the lines and styling of street trackers. You might have to close one eye and squint real hard to see it yourself. Some of the most popular examples on the road today would be the Ducati Scrambler Full Throttle, Yamaha XSR 700, Harley-Davidson Sportster XR1200 and the Indian FTR 1200.

Brat Style: Japanese Made, Custom Designed

Image: BratStyle

Brat bikes are a custom design popularized by Japanese manufacturer Go Takamine. The style became popular in Japan before it made into the sights of most American motorcycle enthusiasts, thanks mostly to Go's California based custom shop.

The signature look of a Brat style bike comes from modifications to a stock frame that lets them stand out on the road. Signature features include an a truly less is more approach with very little body work except for a small, low slung gas tank-often peanut or Wassel style-and a long flat bench style seat. The frame is typically left to its stock dimensions however any bits or bodywork that can be disposed of to show the bones of the bike are omitted. You can forget flashy paint too. These bikes are meant to speak for themselves with their minimalistic design.

Image: BratStyle

A Brat style bike won't sport a lot of chrome, accentuating the feel of day's long past with muted paint schemes and black/unpainted engines. Since these motorcycles are more about individualism and personality, a lot of customization (read: stripping off parts) is usually involved.

The Chopper: American Extreme

The 1950s saw a rise in this California-based design later made popular by such films as "Easy Rider." Highly stylized and recognizable, these motorcycles are often viewed as the epitome of custom American motorcycles and old school bikers. Originally based off of stock motorcycles, choppers got their name because customizers would chop up the frame (typically at the neck) to add extra length in the backbone and/or lower fork legs and rake/change the angle of the neck tube to install long extended forks or springer and girder style front ends. Actually, most traditional style choppers are rigids, meaning they have no rear suspension. As you may guess, the chopper is definitely a style-over-performance rig that accentuates comfort and looks.

Excess is best when it comes to choppers. From fully molded and hand pinstriped frames to king-queen step up seats wrapped in crushed velvet and diamond stitching you know a chopper when you see one. Wild paint schemes with tons of metal flake, shiny chrome accents from tire to tire, and even hand engraved engine covers and components, no inch of real estate is left off limits to customizing when it comes to a chopper.

These days builders and customizers don't have to start with a stock frame and do a bunch of cutting and welding because many companies offer motorcycle frames with chopper style dimensions or a frame can be made from scratch to a customer's specifications. No matter if it's a stock bike that been chopped or an off-the-shelf kit build, there are some characteristics that give a chopper its distinct look:

  • Extreme frame dimensions
  • Increased rake angle
  • Long front suspension
  • Long wheelbase
  • Taller "ape hanger" or shorter "drag" handlebars
  • Skinny wheels
  • 21" inch wheel, usually on the narrower side like a 90/90-21 front tire
  • Often has ornate metal work
  • Mid or forward controls
  • No rear suspension
  • "Sissy bar" mounted to rear chassis

If you're looking for a bike that will give you the best riding experience while also emphasizing your personal style, there's no better way than hopping on the back of one of these machines and getting a true feel for it. Contact us at Chaparral Motorsports and let our experienced staff help you find the motorcycle that will let you down the road! Or if you already have a motorcycle but it's not fitting your style or desires visit chapmoto.com to see all the parts and accessories we offer to customize your ride.

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