Orange County Choppers gives more riders a chance to get in on the OCC action with four distinctly different production bikes that includes three chopper-inspired creations and one old school bobber.
King for a day. Turning the key and pushing the button on the electric starter, the guttural growl of an S&S 45-degree V-Twin firing up and booming out of dual Vance & Hines Big Radius RSD exhausts rattled in my skull as life sparked into the Web bike like the monster in a Mary Shelley novel. I hadn't even put it in gear and already I was under the burly black bike's spell as we readied to rumble over the two-lane roads surrounding Montgomery, New York.
Rich autumn reds, oranges and yellows canvassed the countryside in full fall splendor, painting a picturesque backdrop for our ride and reinforcing my feelings of regality. I was about to join an elite list, names like Billy Joel, Jay Leno, and Lance Armstrong, the privileged few who have hiked a leg over an Orange County Chopper
. But OCC has its sights on reducing the disparity between those who wished they could ride a Teutul creation and those who actually have with its introduction of a production line of motorcycles, providing more riders the opportunity to don their own crown and ride like the king of the world.
But before we mount up and explore the four latest creations coming out of a modest-looking brick building in upstate New York, there's the question of impetus. Why enter the production bike market when your work is already in high demand and a single bike sells in the six-figure range? For a company that has had timing and good luck on their side, it is a risky venture throwing your hat into the ring while other custom-style manufacturers are scaling down and having to reassess their marketing strategies. Despite the economy being crap, disposable income scarce, and competition being fiercer than ever, OCC badging has been as good as gold.
"We wanted to create a bike line that would be accessible to more riders in design and in price, but with absolutely no compromise of the quality, innovation or style that characterizes the 'true customs'," said Paul Jr., who heads up design and fabrication. "A production bike's something we've been wanting to do for a long time. We waited until now when we had the technology and the manpower and the capability to come out with a line of bikes."
Indeed, OCC will soon have the luxury of its expansive 92,000 sq. ft. World Headquarters to crank up the production numbers. The ultra-modern facility was projected to open around Thanksgiving, just down the road on NY 17K from their current location. The front of the business will be for the throngs who flock to the area to get a glimpse of the famed family they see on TV or to buy swag from the OCC store. The building will contain a new retail store and will also include a museum-type area for some of the customs they have on display in the current store at Montgomery Plaza.
It's the little touches that make the Web bike stand out, like its red OCC custom-designed 21-inch front and 18-inch rear webbed wheels to the small red widow painted on the inlayed black tank to the small web mounts OCC fabricated for the seat.
But the real beauty of the facility is the new shop, big enough to allow for the manufacturing and assembly of both one-off custom and production bikes. It also gives the Teutuls the ability to have all the necessary equipment on-hand under one roof, allowing them to oversee every phase of fabrication and maintain a tight grip on quality control. It will also allow OCC's Lead Engineer, Jim Quinn, more room to exhibit his technological genius.
Quinn writes the programs that control the six CNC mills and two Haas lathes OCC currently uses in production. The most impressive of these machines is a 5-axis Flow Waterjet machine that has the ability to cut three-dimensional shapes. Quinn uses Solidworks, a 3-D mechanical design and CAD program, in addition to Mastercam to create toolpath programs that drive the CNC equipment. The high-dollar machinery cuts and shapes billet bar stock up to nine inches thick with streams of water shot out at an astounding 80,000 psi. Mastercam allows OCC to cut parts at higher speeds with less tooling force for a faster production cycle and better surface finish.
"Anything Jason can model or come up with on the computer can be cut out here, no matter how crazy or wild the shapes he comes up with - so far we've been able to make everything," Quinn said.
Nowhere are the capabilities of the Flow jets more evident than in the intricate design of the fenders on the Web bike. The wide rear fender has been cut out in the shape of a spider's web with amazing detail, each segment of the web maintaining perfect proportions with clean, crisp edges. I ran my gloved hands over the metalwork to test the finish with nary a snag. While the fender is painted black, candy red paint outlines the pattern and gives it definition. The cutout design also puts the focus on the meaty 300mm Metzeler ME880 Marathon rear tire. If you've got a phat ass, you might as well flaunt it.
The Web is a bike that would leave Marvel Comics originator Stan Lee nodding his head in appreciation. The bike is the result of the Senior vs. Junior build-off, a friendly competition pitting father and son against one another. Being an old-school fan of the Wall Crawler, it was the bike I wanted to ride the most. Sure, the two other choppers and the Senior's bobber are cool, but from its custom OCC inlayed gas tank to its Stealth fighter-shaped handlebars to the small details like the red widow dangling from her web, its originality was immediately attractive.
OCC uses a 5-axis Flow water jet that cuts parts out at higher speeds with less tooling force. It results in clean edges cut out in less time, no matter how intricate the design. The rear fender on the Web bike is a perfect example of their machining capabilities.
Christian rolled the four new bikes down the ramp so I could join two other journalists and OCC Bike Sales Manager Mike Burkhouse in a tour of the hills and rivers of the Hudson Valley. There are always butterflies in my stomach before I take off on a new bike. Thoughts like Senior cracking my skull in his massive biceps if I crashed one of the few hand-built Web bikes around didn't help. Coming from a cold garage, the Web kept me sitting on the edge of anticipation in the black leather seat as it took three pushes on the starter before the pistons got fed enough of its rich fuel/air elixir to fire up. After the engine was warmed, though, the Web cranked over first shot the rest of the day.
The arachnid-influenced theme of the motorcycle can be found even in subtle details such as the seat. It has spider web-patterned stitching covering a padded Danny Gray
custom saddle that felt good on the backside. It plays a large role in rider's comfort with a Progressive Supsension 5th element seat shock underneath that attaches to the frame. I didn't get a chance to test its settings, but it is fully adjustable to a rider's personal preference. If I would have been spending more time in the saddle, I'd have dialed in the settings because it was set a little soft for my 225 lbs. But the seat gets high rankings in the cool factor thanks to the web-patterned mounts connecting the spring to the frame and the seat to the spring. It is the attention to the small details like this that make the Web bike almost indistinguishable between a one-off custom and a limited-edition production model.
The seat's placement on a Rolling Thunder frame left me comfortably upright and the custom OCC black powder coated handlebars situate the Harley-Davidson chromed hand controls within easy reach, arms a little lower than shoulder high and slightly bent for a six-foot tall man. The clutch lever engages with a light squeeze and I was comfortable with two-finger shifting during the ride. The Baker 6-speed RSD transmission seems to be the favorite for most of the custom-style production bike manus, and the tranny on the Web lives up to Baker's reliable reputation and didn't miss a shift. The model that I rode had a Harley-Davidson closed primary, but shop foreman Mike Ammirati mentioned that for the production run that they would probably swap it out for a Primo enclosed RSD.
"Primo's going to put its heavy duty aluminum clutch in it for us," Ammirati said. "The chain-driven, wet clutch uses an oil bath to help keep noise down."
The Web bike features a S&S 100 engine teamed with a Baker 6-Speed RSD transmission all housed neatly within the large tubing of a Rolling Thunder frame.
And while minimizing noise from the primary is important, the rumble coming out of the 4 X 4 in. square-bored bike provides an auditory treat. Rolling on the accelerator, the 1632cc S&S motor lets out the type of bass-filled note you feel in your bones and easily sets the 623 lb. bike in motion. The engine is well-balanced and vibrations coming off the 45-degree V-Twin are minimal. One of the reasons OCC stated for choosing a Rolling Thunder frame to house the mill is because of its ability to help reduce vibrations from the motor. The engine's torque came on low in the rpm range but tapered off in the high end of the rev range. When you get near the top of the rev limiter, it works best to shift early to maximize the bike's power. I was pushing each gear to its limit, except for sixth, and it could have benefitted from a little more "oomph" at the top end of the rpm range. But I watched videos from the ride and noticed how Burkhouse shifted up evenly and early and the bike ran fluidly through the gears, demonstrating that he was more familiarized with the nuances of the bike than me.
The Web's subframe is flared to accommodate the hulking 300mm ME880. The back tire looks bitchin' and complements the bikes overall design but requires a little extra effort in hard turns. Attributes like an extended rake angle, an 82-inch wheelbase and its center of gravity also factor in to its need for extra coercion when titling into a heavy sweeper. This primarily came into play when our first photo shot was on a serious 180-degree switchback coming downhill in the Shawangunk Mountains where the bike had the tendency to want to stand up at low speeds. Otherwise, the motorcycle had no problems executing standard right or left hand turns. It was only when the terrain required sportbike-friendly suspension settings that I had to work a little more at the handlebars to keep it turned in.
The Web bike does earn the distinction of having the most head-turning styling of the four. From its high-rising V-shaped handlebars to its razor lower legs and Mean Street tubes, the front end is angular and aggressive. The Widow theme is carried out in the red OCC custom-designed 21-inch Web front wheel and the 18-inch rear. Even the rear brake rotor has been dyed red and etched with webbing. OCC badging on the red air filter cover and the Orange County logo printed on the seat leaves no mistakes about who to credit for such a trick bike. The OCC design team did a bang-up job offsetting the sinister black of the frame, swingarm, tank, seat and handlebars with the red rims, air filter cover, the tank's pinstriping and the webs on the fenders. There's just enough chrome thrown into the mix from the S&S engine, Vance & Hines pipes and Mean Street fork to keep the bike from being too dark. A Mooneyes oil tank mounted horizontally below the seat is another sweet styling touch. As we stopped at a local gas station, passersby were reaching for cameras and the Web was the center of most of the attention. Our pit stop also meant that it was time to switch bikes, and I had my sights set on riding the flagship of OCC's new production line, the Splitback.
Being a long-time fan of Marvel Comics and the infamous Wall Crawler, it was impossible for me not to be instantly attracted to the stylish Web bike.
The Splitback was the first bike created by Paul Jr. for the new production line. The Splitback has a sexy stretched profile and clean chopper styling. Upon first inspection, the motorcycle's setup is fairly standard - chopped out rake at a 40-degree rake angle, achieved with the help of an oversized "6 up 4 out" Rolling Thunder rigid radius frame, a sprung seat with a 29-inch seat height and swept-back one-piece chrome OCC custom bars. Closer examination reveals how the Splitback breaks from convention. The bike features dual tank cells that wrap around the frame as opposed to sitting on top of the backbone, integrating the oversized tubing into the symmetry of the bike and adding aesthetic value to the frame instead of solely serving functionally. Combined, the cells hold 3.85 gallons of gas and connect via a crossover tube in back. The Splitback offers an innovative variation to the standard chopper.
The flagship model also receives a burly upgrade over the mill used to power the Web. An S&S 124 V-Twin pushes displacement numbers to a heart-pumping 2032cc, achieved by a healthy 4.60-inch bore and 4.75-inch stroke. The powerplant really gets it on. It catapults the 608 lb. chopper off the line, pulling hard throughout the powerband. The extra bit of power at the top of the rev range I was wishing for on the Web was in the palm of my throttle hand on the Splitback. The increase in power also put more beefy bass in the note bellowing from the V&H Big Radius pipes. The one drawback that I did notice was an increase in engine vibrations to go along with the accompanying increase in power.
Not a teeth-rattling vibe like that of an old Sporty, but more noticeable than the better balance of the Web's mill, enough that I lost one of the twin gas caps that hadn't been twisted in all the way before we began our ride. So any riders in the Hwy. 44-55 area in the Shawangunks that come across a small round, chrome gas cap, do me a favor and run it by the OCC shop for me, will ya?
Seriously, though, fuel management would further come into play during my time aboard the Splitback. We were able to seal off the tank and continue our ride, but it seems the motorcycle was the only one that didn't get filled up before we left. While we were climbing up a steep grade on the backside of a mountain, the bike started sputtering and gasping for fuel. I hadn't yet reached the crest, but the Splitback wasn't going any further. Burkhouse pulled over and we switched it over to the reserve tank, but this only bought me a few more miles, enough at least to get me over the peak. The nearest town was still two miles away at the bottom of the mountain. A yellow road sign up ahead read 6% downhill grade and Burkhouse assured me he could coast it in to the station two miles away.
The Splitback has a slick twin tank design that wraps around the backbone instead of sitting on the back of the frame and has the most powerful engine of the lot, a S&S 124 engine with 2032cc at its disposal.
We swapped bikes and I gave him a running push like a bobsledder at Lake Placid. I taxied behind him on the T-Rex Softail down the hill as the bike reached speeds up to 45 mph on the steep grade. I was impressed with the bike's overall balance considering it had no power. The 21-inch, 120mm Metzeler ME880 Marathon up front and 18-inch 240mm Marathon out bike were trued to a tee and rolled him all the way to the gas station at the bottom of the grade. Despite the positive impressions the bike's balance left on me, the fuel snafu lead me to believe that the crossover tube could have served more efficiently if it was located in the front.
Even with a rake angle higher than the Web's and a comparable 90-inch wheelbase, the Splitback was definitely easier to get leaned over in turns. Give credit to the 60mm smaller Metzeler rear and the Works Springshock Suspension. I was able to enter and exit turns with more confidence and consistently held tighter lines than when I was aboard the Web. A half roll of the easy-twisting throttle and the S&S 124 powers out of the turns. The combination suspension package, comprised of the Works Springshock on the rear and a Progressive Suspension 5th Element seat shock, smooths out the dips and divots of the road and makes for a comfortable ride.
And while the Web benefits from a combination of intricate details, part of the Splitback's appeal is the subtleness of its design. Internal wiring on the front end keeps it clean, the extreme rake angle helps provide a clean divide between the fork and frame leaving an aggressively-styled Junior chrome wheel to lead the charge. The S&S 124 sits sweetly displayed in the thick round tubing of the Rolling Thunder
frame. There's not a bunch of visible wiring cluttering up the engine area so you get an unobstructed view of the polished chrome of the Milwaukee-made mill. The hand-constructed OCC custom oil tank sits unobtrusively within the frame. Small Harley-Davidson bullet blinkers by Radiantz sit almost unnoticeably on the swingarm until switched on when they shine to life and are easily visible from behind. Even the seat sits succinctly on the back of the frame. The leather custom Danny Gray saddle is small and tolerable, but I could foresee long trips requiring plenty of leg-stretching breaks.
Even the OCC badging on the bike is more subtle. The wide rear fender has the OCC logo painted on it in a way that doesn't detract from the Splitback's signature black and blue flake paint job. An OCC Dagger Shield coil cover adorns the left side of the engine and a chrome air filter cover with the trademark logo decorates the right side. And while the air filter cover looks cool, I came away from my ride on the Splitback with OCC emblazoned backwards on the inside of my calf. Between the positioning of the Accutronix and OCC-designed forward controls combined with the width of the engine, my leg hugged the air filter cover tight and the unforgiving metal tattoed my leg after awhile. It still did little to reduce the pleasure I had riding the Splitback, whose 2032cc of power raised my heart rate as we roared through the New York countryside like a pride of angry lions. After a quick pullout for photos, it was time to throw a leg over the last of the OCC choppers, the T-Rex Softail.
The T-Rex Softail has classic chopper traits including an extreme rake angle, a stretched out frame and a cushy drop seat. Despite its geometry, the bike was extremely agile and handled the best of the chops.
If the T-Rex strikes a chord of familiarity in fans, it's with good reason. The Softail is an old favorite in the OCC garage and the Teutuls thought that it was important to include a 'true chopper' in the new line. And after spending time in the sprung seats of the other two bikes I had ridden, the T-Rex gave new meaning to soft tail, as the standard drop seat was by far the most comfortable of the three. The rider's positioning, with a low center of gravity aided by a 24-inch seat height situated right on the rear fender, raises the reach to the custom chrome OCC drag bars up a tad to about shoulder high. The Accutronix/OCC forward controls are also out a little farther, placed comfortably enough for me but a shorter rider might be in need of some mid controls.
The T-Rex is a 'true chopper' in the sense that its OCC original Haymaker tank is mounted traditionally on top of the 6-inch stretched backbone and standard fare like a tricked-out rake and a long wheelbase. I was surprised to find out the Softail has the greatest rake of the three choppers at 45 degrees. I say surprising because despite its gaudy rake angle, the T-Rex Softail was dialed in the best and gave me the most confidence rolling through rural upstate NY. Front to back, the Softail is a real runner. The bike was well-balanced and had very little engine vibration. I never experienced a false neutral or missed a gear while running up and down the gears of the Baker 6, the bike's Works performance shocks soaked up imperfections in the road adequately and steering felt light and responsive in corners.
Another surprise was the way the same Evo-style S&S 100 mill used in both the Web and the T-Rex performed differently in each bike. The Softail launches faster off the line. I'm sure the 60mm difference between the rear tires of the two bikes comes into play, but while the T-Rex gains in agility with a smaller rear tire it also is 26 lbs heavier. I didn't experience as much of a bog in power as I approached redline from the S&S mill in the package powering the Softail. The gears still could have been a little bit taller, but the overall the engine is better adapted to the chassis and setup of the T-Rex.
And while it rolls super smooth, pulling the reins on the T-Rex relies heavily on the rear's 4-piston HHI disc setup. The front has its own HHI disc but because of the weight transfer of a chopper the brunt of the work should be done out back. Remember that 45-degree rake? Unlike a sportbike where you're constantly putting your front pinchers to the test, do that here and you're going to buckle the front tire. It's always been that way with choppers, but it's funny to watch someone who rides sportbikes the majority of the time grab a big handful of front brakes out of habit like one young journo that was riding with us did. He quickly learned to feather the front and go heavy out back.
There's an incredible intangible when riding a blinged-out chopper that inspires a rebellious attitude as soon as you get behind the handlebars. Look at what it did to Motorcycle USA's Adam Waheed. And he used to be such a nice young man.
Like OCC's flagship Splitback model, clean styling characterizes the Softail. Some quick examples are found in the front end's internal wiring and in the way OCC tucked the speedo in the space between the swept back handlebars so that you don't even notice it until you're in the saddle. Even the small details add to the continuity, like OCC's shift linkage on the chrome foot controls. The signature black/silver pinstripe flake paint on the color-matching fuel cell, fenders, and horseshoe-style oil tank is one hot number. Especially when it's teamed with plenty of requisite chrome in the form of sharp Vance & Hines Big Radius pipes, a wicked-looking Mean Street custom razor front end and Paulie's sick Junior Wheels. The T-Rex Softail teams classic chopper cues with modern performance parts and crisp styling in a package that handles the best of the three new OCC production chops I rode and is a blast to open up the throttle on.
Which left me with one more bike to hop aboard, the classic bobber called the Greenie that Paul Sr. created for the Junior vs. Senior build off. But as fortune has it sometimes, riding time aboard the bob job got bumped. The time to interview the Teutuls was nigh, and since they were kind enough to squeeze us in between Jr.'s late nighter in NYC the day before at an intro party for his Lugz Torx
line of footwear to the three interviews in two hours while we were there, not to mention having to pack that night before jetting off to South Africa, I sacrificed a little for some one-on-one time with the Teutuls. Be sure to check out Motorcycle USA's exclusive video of the interview on page 2.
Though I didn't get any saddle time, I was able to observe other riders on the Greenie for one afternoon and got to inspect it closely. The Greenie is everything you'd expect in a well-constructed bobber, and the fun starts up front with its OCC mini-apes. The bobber treatment continues in a hand-molded 2.5 gallon Old School Mustang tank along with a brown leather Danny Gray custom seat with dual springs. Bobber cues on the backside include exposed twin-shocks and stylin' 80-spoke chrome wheels. The British Racing Green paint is a great color choice and obviously helped the bike earn its name.
Rolling Thunder continues to be the frame of choice for the Greenie but the S&S powerplants OCC used in the choppers has been switched out for a Harley-Davidson 1340cc black and chrome motor. The Baker 6 has also been traded out for a H-D 5-speed LSD transmission while a Harley-Davidson
enclosed wet primary completes the powertrain trifecta. I regret not being able to take advantage of the Greenie's tighter rake angle, smaller tires, and different chassis setup on the roads around Montgomery, but then I would have missed out on some NY-style brick oven pizza from Cascarino's and the chance for my face time with Jr. and Sr.
The Teutuls have enjoyed a meteoric rise in the motorcycle industry by producing quality hand-crafted bikes with high-end components. Just because they are now venturing into a production line, Senior guarantees that there will be no decline in craftsmanship.
OCC is working to ensure that buyers get top-notch support and service for their new bikes by establishing a dealer network of about two dozen outlets to start. In a few years, they estimate that they'll have up to 40 licensed OCC distributors. This includes expansion into the foreign market that has been expressing a lot of interest in spreading the OCC empire internationally.
Which means it's going to be fairly cutthroat to get your hands on one of the first production Orange County bikes. A limited production run for the first year means they're only projecting to make around 50 bikes. This number will increase down the road, but numbers are limited this year. Within three years, they expect to up the ante to several hundred production bikes per year. OCC also has plans to introduce two new production bikes at the V-Twin Expo in Cincinnati come February.
Though a limited-edition run will edge the opportunity to ride a hand-crafted OCC bike closer to more of the masses, it will still take a princely sum to park one in your garage. But it's hard to put a dollar amount on intangibles like the expression on Motorcycle USA's Adam Waheed's face after climbing off the T-Rex Softail
"Forget sportbikes. I need a chopper," Waheed exclaimed.
"Now that's the reaction we're looking for," Burkhouse laughed.
There are few experiences in life that can make you feel like a king. But OCC has been granted the Midas touch recently. Hop a ride on one of their bikes if you get the chance and see if you too don't walk away feeling like royalty.
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