Big Bear Choppers’ Kevin Alsop marches to his own beat. I learned this quickly after the smoke cleared from the half-block long rolling burnout Alsop did on his ratted-out personal Big Bear Chopper during our first ride together. Here I am worrying about riding the $40,000 GTX-F cautiously as I pull onto Fox Farm Road when the sound of pistons screamin’ and black rubber shredding penetrates the air, the braided tail of Alsop’s hair whipping behind him as he cuts loose the nasty burnout.
So leave it to someone like Alsop to fuse ‘factory custom’ and ‘touring motorcycle’ into one and the same. With the premise to “build a bagger that is different in form and function from any other production bike,” Alsop and the Big Bear Choppers crew created the GTX-F, a stretched-out, ground-skirting custom bagger that sources the EPA-friendly S&S X-Wedge engine and has a patented layout for its passenger placement.
The GTX-F is the type of bike you can’t take your eyes off. Tall and regal in front, with 85 inches of stretch between the two wheels, and wide in back, with its chrome X-Wedge Twin tucked in tightly between the front end’s shrouded downtubes and the sharp angles of its BBC tank. The 21-inch tall front hoop sits out at a 42-degree angle but you can’t tell because you only see a short section of the proprietary BBC fork, thanks in part to the short space between the frame-mounted fairing and the front fender and the motorcycle’s dropped neck height. The lines of the wide front fairing are unique. Instead of running horizontally, they aim vertically at almost the same 42-degree angle as the front fork. The front windscreen is set at the same angle, and even the tank mirrors these lines before it bends back and disappears beneath the rider.
The bags on the GTX-F are long, deep, and narrow. Alsop chose to make them out of fiberglass because of its ability to be patched up easily.
The fact that the rear tire sits so far behind the rider could have made the bike appear asymmetrical, but long, sculpted fiberglass bags conceal the 12-inch middle stretch and help maintain the motorcycle’s front-to-back balance. Assisting the illusion is a 300mm rear draped in a tire-hugging 12 gauge steel fender. The inclusion of a two-up leather/vinyl seat also visually takes up some of the space created by the framerails that have been stretched 12 inches from behind the tranny to the swingarm pivot. Alsop filled the space under the seat with an auxiliary fuel tank and a five-plus quart capacity oil tank. The rear end also conceals a chrome pair of oil-damped Progressive Suspension shocks. In Big Bear Choppers quest to build ‘a bagger that is different in form,’ consider it mission accomplished. The GTX-F is unlike any other bagger I’ve seen.
Heading out for a spin around Big Bear Lake, the riding position is upright and my back is almost perpendicular to the ground with legs stretching forward to reach the small floorboards. The mini-floorboards can be dialed in to a rider’s preference, adjustable forward and back and capable of being tilted fore and aft. My arms are positioned slightly down with a relaxed reach to the bars that sit just below chest high. At 25.5-inches, the seat height makes for an easy reach to the ground when stopped and places me low enough behind the windscreen so that most wind blast is diverted overhead. The GTX-F has been designed to place the majority of the weight in the center of the chassis, and my initial impressions confirm that the motorcycle is well-balanced.
The motorcycle we rode had a 114 cubic inch S&S X-Wedge engine with polished case and chrome covers.
Kicking the Baker 6-speed transmission down into first, I am greeted by gearing that engages much quieter than the last factory-custom motorcycle I rode. Since both bikes source the same transmission, I was curious as to why the Big Bear Chopper shifted more easily. The answer lies in BBC’s proprietary primary drive. Not only do the forged aluminum inner and outer cases look sharp, but its main shaft features a triple seal design, internally it uses an easy-to-replace standard type clutch basket and a compensating sprocket keeps the power transfer smooth. The Right Side Drive Baker also allows BBC to use a 300mm Avon Venom on the back without having to offset the engine and transmission.
Running through the gears is a pleasurable experience. Shifts are reliable and deliberate and the Baker 6 never missed a beat. Muscling the 850-lb bike around Big Bear Lake’s tighter corners was more a labor of love. Add up the dimensions – 42-degree rake, 111 inches of length, and a 300mm wide back tire – and you’re not going to be dragging any knee pucks. At speed, the bike doesn’t toss side to side as much as it feels like it rolls on a pivot point. But I’ll give the GTX-F credit, there’s no front-end flop and you can reach impressive amounts of lean without scraping any hard parts. Alsop rides like the ‘King of the Mountain,’ and trying to keep him in sight gave me plenty of opportunities to test the bike leaned over.
Despite sporting an 85-inch wheelbase and a 300mm rear tire, the GTX-F is well-balanced and provides plenty of lean angle.
Rolling through the gears, the GTX-F performs best in the middle of the rev range. There’s not as much drive out of the lower range as I would have expected from a bike with a claimed 113 lb-ft of torque, but the 114 cubic inch SMOOTH X-Wedge engine does live up to its billing. It functions smoothly without a bunch of vibes and power delivery is linear. The 56-degree pushrod V-Twin’s efficient three belt-driven cams are set so that the pushrod angles to all valves are nearly straight. The 4.125-inch cylinder heads pump up and down the 4.25-inch stroke with car-like, low-mass rocker arms and the crossflow head is outfitted with direct injectors controlled by an S&S closed loop electronic fuel injection system. Best of all, the X-Wedge meets the ever-tightening 2010 EPA emission standards, and though it is built by S&S, the engine meets the specs established by BBC’s Alsop.
The GTX-F’s suspension package makes for above-average ride quality when compared to other factory-custom bikes I have sampled. BBC’s beefy front fork keeps the 21-inch chrome wheel planted while the dual rear shocks provide a comfortable ride on the rear. Give an assist to Alsop’s patented design that distributes more of the rider’s weight forward of the rear tire, taking a little pressure off the rear shocks. When it comes time to bring momentum to a stop, the front brake lever requires a hard squeeze but the dual discs on the front with Performance Machine 4-piston calipers work well. The rear pedal only has a single disc outfitted with a PM 4-piston caliper that isn’t as reliable as the double disc setup on the front.
The cockpit of the GTX-F I rode had a small, round speedo. The digital dash does include a low fuel light, trip meter, turn signal, high beam indicator, oil pressure, and neutral light. But if I were going to buy one, I’d throw down an extra three grand for the optional electronic package which includes a 6-inch, touch screen LCD Kenwood display equipped with GPS, CD, DVD, AM/FM, satellite radio and is iPod ready. I’m sure my neighbors would appreciate its six speaker system with 300 watts of power. Big Bear Choppers gives buyers more choices with the GTX-F, too, like choosing from ten forged aluminum wheels and one of ten base paint schemes, to a slew of custom paint options from the House of Color.
The King of the Mountain, Big Bear Choppers’ Kevin Alsop, on his personal scoot. Don’t let looks fool you – that ratted-out chopper can haul a#$.
I give BBC props for keeping things in-house, too. I don’t know of any other factory-custom motorcycle manufacturer that makes more of its own parts. It’s all about quality control. If somebody else’s product doesn’t work properly, who’s it going to reflect on? Alsop subscribes to the old adage, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” So the GTX-F has a BBC proprietary frame, tank, fenders, bars, front-end, primary drive, foot and hand controls, oil tank cover and more. Hell, even the flush-mount pop-up gas cap is made by Big Bear Choppers. No outsourcing here.
As a touring mount, it needs a little more cush for the tush. The leather seat doesn’t provide much padding for a touring bike. And the bags are thin, deep, and narrow and serve more toward the ‘bagger’ look than providing functional storage space. But, oh, what a look it has.
Stretched-out and low-riding, BBC’s custom bagger sources the EPA-friendly X-Wedge engine and has a patented layout for its passenger placement.
So on how many fronts did Big Bear Choppers hit when it set out to ‘build a bagger that is different in form and function?” We’ve already conceded that BBC was successful in hitting its ‘form’ mark. From its composite front fairing to its edgy tank to the unique bags, the styling of the GTX-F will stop you in your tracks. Utilizing an eco-friendly S&S engine is another savvy move. And moving the rider’s triangle forward in an effort to centralize mass is creative, to say the least. As far as function goes, the ride-quality is admirable, it’s well-balanced, especially considering its length, and the motorcycle is capable of lean angles that I’ve never experienced on a factory-custom before without dragging hard parts. The GTX-F has all the right pieces to the puzzle, but range, storage, and seat comfort prohibit it from being a full touring machine. For short jaunts, however, or to be the center of attention at your local bike nights, the GTX-F fills the bill.