Copr Choppers' Ground Pounder is one of the cleanest builds around and was the overwhelming victor in our Motorcycle USA Biker Build-Off.
For one article, the writers here at Motorcycle USA are relinquishing their editorial driver's seat and are putting our readers behind the controls. Instead of reading articles about who we deem newsworthy, we gave readers the opportunity to tell us who they'd like to see featured in a custom builder article. In our Online Biker Build-Off, we introduced five custom builders we met at the Laughlin River Run - Count's Kustoms, Big Bear Choppers, Copr Choppers, Thunder Mountain Motorsports and Sik-n-Twisted Psycles - and asked you to vote for your favorite. The results are in, the votes are counted, and the winner by an overwhelming majority is Copr Choppers for its custom, ground-skirting bike, Ground Pounder.
We first met Copr Choppers' owner, Tony Martinez, in Laughlin at the 2007 Custom Bike Show
. Martinez was there as the reigning Colorado Biker Build-Off champion. The Ground Pounder was battling a Big Bear Chopper build for the title, only to be edged out of the top spot by a mere half point. After that, the Ground Pounder began a six show streak of "Best of " honors, giving Martinez confidence heading into Sturgis for the 2007 World Championship of Custom Bike Building. Ground Pounder's streak of victories came to a close as two board tracker-inspired bikes took top honors. These retro-cool custom bikes have been a hot commodity since Roland Sands came out with his KR V-5 Boardtracker
. But Martinez still put himself out there and gained recognition for Copr Choppers. If you're going to have a victory streak ended, there's no shame in being deposed by the likes of Chicara and Goldammer.
Martinez got the custom bike building bug about four years ago. He had been working on and modifying Harleys for about 12 years, but it was his first full-blown custom chopper, Blade, that breathed life into Copr Choppers as a business instead of a pastime. Martinez opened up shop in '05 and has been producing award-winning bikes ever since.
"After I saw how many shows I won with that one bike, I decided to stop buying other people's products and to start making my own," Martinez said.
We can see why. For his first custom build, Blade's an impressive effort. Low-slung, fat backed, with a high, arching backbone, a serious chopper rake, and a wicked custom tank, the bike has the classic components of a cool custom. Throw into the mix a fire-breathing Engenuity 147-inch engine and a clean design with a noticeable absence of visible wiring and you have the winner of the 2005 Red River New Mexico Bike Rally and the 2005 Thunder in the Rockies show. And life, as Martinez knew it, would never be the same.
As you can tell by the size of the brunette beauty aboard Kong, the chopper is one king-sized build. Blade is the blue chopper right behind her.
He got another taste of success this past spring at the renowned Rat's Hole Custom Show with his super-sized 10-foot-long chopper, Kong, the first-place winner in the Super Radical Class. The build has some of the same styling characteristics of Blade, like its high, arching backbone, handcrafted tank, and internal wiring. But its frame is monstrous, the rear tire is even wider than Blade's, and the custom risers and handlebars sit high on top of some of the longest forks we've seen. No need for ape hangers here. Though the 6-foot 4-inch tall owner of Kong has no problems reaching the bars, it would leave a vertically-challenged rider hung out to dry. Not to mention they wouldn't be able to see over the tank.
"You know how tall guys look real funny on standard motorcycles, they just don't fit them right. So what I did was build this chopper that was oversized everywhere, it was stretched and it fit him perfectly. But if I was to ride it I'd look ridiculous," said the 5'8" tall Martinez.
And while Kong was built up, the Motorcycle USA Biker Build-Off
winning Ground Pounder gets down. How low is low? The back tire sits even with the gas tank. There's no kickstand either. The air ride suspension and 360mm Vee Rubber rear tire eliminate the need for one. It's so low you have to take a second look to see if the frame's touching the ground. Martinez worked closely with American Suspension to bring his trick design from concept to reality. The majority of motorcycles equipped with air ride systems have air-only on the back and that limits the amount of ground clearance when the bike's lifted to a couple of inches. Martinez had American Suspension do a one-off custom front end for him that gives him air up front also. The result is a more rider-friendly bike with 4.5 inches of clearance and the ability to go over speed bumps without the anticipation of that awful metal-scraping-asphalt sound.
The Ground Pounder is certainly one of the cleanest builds you'll find. The art of concealing the wiring that Martinez experimented with in Blade and Kong is taken to a new level in the Ground Pounder. Take a look at the custom Copr Chopper handlebars. There are no visible clutch or brake levers. It's a grab-the-grip-and-go system. Martinez hid the internal clutch and throttle with the help of a Twist Clutch made by Exile Cycles. Martinez fabbed the custom handlebars to accept the mechanism while he welded them into place. Once into position, he had them painted black and then flipped the chrome billet grips over the Twist Clutch so that it concealed everything. However, this does make activating the clutch on the Ground Pounder a little tricky. The clutch is twisted clockwise to activate it and then the throttle rotates normally. As you take off, you have to release counterclockwise with your clutch hand and twist the throttle to get it in gear. Martinez says it takes about 20 minutes and a few spins around the block to deprogram yourself from the standard clutch action.
Martinez uses an internal clutch and throttle system made by Excile Cycles called the Twist Clutch. There's no speedo, mirrors or switch housings cluttering the handlebars either that makes for an ultra-clean look.
"You have to retrain your brain because you're so used to a clutch being there, and it's kind of scary at first, but once you get it down, it's second nature," he explained.
There's no switch housings, speedo, mirrors or hand brakes cluttering the bars either. The Ground Pounder does have front and rear brakes, but even those are hidden. The bike is equipped with 'suicide brakes.' This doesn't mean that stopping's a game of Russian Roulette. It just means that it's a linked system controlled by the right foot pedal. A short, stocky American Suspension B-17 fork made it easy for Martinez to hide both the brake and air ride lines. With no apparent brake lines running down to the front wheel, many people think that the Ground Pounder doesn't have front brakes at all. He uses a Baldwin & Wilson 360 Brake that connects directly to the hub of the 23-inch Tight Customs front wheel. Martinez says that it's about the size of a softball, but integrates so cleanly within the left side of the wheel that it goes unnoticed.
Out back, Martinez conceals the custom disc rear brakes by hiding the rotor and caliper under the low-slung saddle. He hid the brakes so well, the judges at one custom show weren't going to allow Ground Pounder to compete because they didn't think that the motorcycle had any brakes, and all bikes entered in the contest had to be fully functional. It wasn't until Martinez took off the seat and physically showed the judges the brakes that he was allowed to enter the contest.
Even the Cutting Edge Foot Controls have hidden shift linkage by running it under the Billet 4U primary up near the tranny. Having a five-inch-wide open belt primary facilitated the move, giving him plenty of area to conceal the linkage. It is this attention to detail that distinguishes Ground Pounder from other custom competitors.
The immaculate design of the Ground Pounder directs a lot of attention towards its burly 120-inch Engenuity powerplant. The mill is a "smoothie" motor where the spark plug wires are hidden inside, a perfect match for the overall design of the bike. The coil is also concealed, and Martinez has accentuated the chrome of the engine with stainless steel gas and oil lines. The square heads gives the engine a cool retro vibe. An S&S modified Super G carb feeds the lump and exits out of a short Martin Bros. 2-into-1 exhaust. We tried to pry some top speed numbers out of Martinez, but he hasn't thrown the bike on the dyno or ran it all-out. He did claim that the engine is one torquey SOB, and ran better for him than his bikes using the 147-inch Engenuity mill.
The coup-de-grace on the Ground Pounder is its sick paint. In the custom world, the paint can mean the difference between catching the judge's eye or having them walk on by. The original painter Martinez had lined up for the job flaked on him right before the Colorado Supershow so he took a gamble and went with someone he had met at several shows but had never worked with before. The stakes were high but Monte Moore of Maverick Custom Paint stepped up and saved the day. The sensuously-posed nude woman mural Moore painted on the tank and rear fender is reminiscent of the work of fantasy artist extraordinaire, Frank Frazetta. The theme is provocative but tasteful, and Moore's talent is evident in the work.
"I ran into him at a show and we had a few drinks at a VIP party and he showed me his work. It's hard for me to jump from painter to painter because a paint job is everything on a bike. You can have the best parts on a bike but if you paint it pink there ain't nobody going to look at it. I was real sketchy to go with somebody new," Martinez confided.
Copr Choppers got American Suspension to build them a one-off front end that gives the Ground Pounder air ride suspension up front and back with 4.5 inches of clearance when lifted.
Martinez credits his father with providing him with the skills and the drive to build custom bikes. His father was a master machinist and mechanic by trade, and the elder Martinez built choppers for his buddies out of his garage while young Tony was growing up. He took the machining and basic building skills handed down from his father and set out to learn more about sheet metal and fabrication. The father/son relationship has run full circle, because now Copr Choppers is a two-man show as pops helps out around the shop.
Copr Choppers name is no accident. When Martinez isn't working in the shop building bikes, he's taking riff-raff off the street in his duties as a sergeant with the Denver Police Department. Talk about alter-egos. Batman by day: Bruce Wayne by night. You might think there might be a conflict of interest between the two divergent lifestyles, but the 14-year veteran assures us that his co-workers on the force admire his custom-building skills. He was even featured on an episode of "The Blue and You," a police channel broadcast locally in the Denver area. They filmed Martinez building a gas tank and aired it for a solid month.
"There's 1500 officers on the force. I was getting questions and congratulations from people I didn't even know. I can't believe the ton of exposure I got from the show," he said.
Martinez has no plans of giving up his job on the force in the near future, but aspires to buy a commercial property after retirement complete with his own machine shop, fabrication shop and paint center. Some retirement. But when custom buildings in your blood, it's not really work. It's a passion. And when your passion gives you the skills to build bikes the quality of Ground Pounder, it would be a shame to let those abilities fade.
Are custom builders like fine wine, do they get better with age? Look at Arlen Ness and Indian Larry. They're more popular today than ever before. Their bikes started out as grapes on the vine but are now celebrated Cabernet. We'll keep our eyes on Copr Choppers and see if it becomes a rare vintage as well.
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