Big Bear Choppers looks to take a bite out of the bagger segment with the release of its 2008 G.T.X.
If it was Kevin Alsops' goal to build a bold bagger different than any other on the market, mission accomplished. Big Bear Chopper's 2008 Grand Touring X-Wedge (G.T.X.) will make you do a double take when you first glance at its stretched-out lines. With its innovative rider positioning, smooth fiberglass bags and extended wheelbase, it only takes a second to realize this isn't your dad's bagger. Maybe that's what helps it rank high in the cool factor.
So when you've made a name for yourself by building more traditional choppers and Pro Street platforms, why mess with the recipe for success that got you where you are today? When your web address claims that you build "The Best Bikes on the Planet," you'd better have your finger on the pulse of the industry. Right now baggers are a hot commodity. This boils it down to a simple case of supply and demand. Baggers are in demand so why not add to the supply, especially if you're offering a product unlike any other in your niche? Sounds like a legitimate case of dollars and sense. Common sense, that is.
A big part of the appeal of BBC's new bagger is how cleanly the bags integrate into the design of the bike. Instead of looking like suitcases have virtually been slapped on its sides, the G.T.X's fiberglass saddlebags don't detract from the lines BBC worked so hard to establish. Contrarily, they complement the flowing symmetry that runs the length of the bike. The top of the compartment is cut to mirror the shape of the pillion and the long, deep bags are color matched to the tank and trim. The bags obscure the tubular swingarm, but unless you're trying to put your fat 300mm rear on display with a single-sided swinger, then out of sight, out of mind. In addition to providing much-needed touring-style storage space, the brake and turn signals are integrated into the tail end of the bags, adding function to the bagger's already sculpted form.
Baggers are a hot commodity in the custom market right now. Big Bear should have no problems peddling its G.T.X. models as fast as they can build them.
Another innovation Alsop experimented with on the G.T.X. is rider positioning. The 115-inch bike, tire to tire measurements provided by BBC's Creative & Marketing Director Andy Meadors, gave plenty of room for Alsop to place the rider centrally in the bike. The first step to accomplishing this goal was a midsection stretch after the tranny, adding 12 inches to the frame. The rider's position is slightly more forward than a drop-seat bike, but the design places the passenger directly on the frame instead of over the 300mm back tire. The result is two-fold. Obviously, more weight is moved to the front of the bike, but more importantly, it lowers the bike's center of gravity. Overall, Alsop is aiming to produce a better handling bagger that still provides a comfortable riding platform.
Stretching the frame and pushing the rear tire back created space for an additional auxiliary 2 gallon fuel tank under the seat. It connects to a standard 3 gallon backbone-mounted cell via 1/2-inch fuel lines. The stretch also left room for mounting a large BBC oil tank with a capacity over 5 quarts. Additionally, the area houses the G.T.X.'s horizontally-mounted Progressive Suspension dual shocks down low, tucked neatly out of sight. Big Bear fabbed up special side plates that will keep the uninformed guessing as to what's concealed under the seat.
While the first G.T.X. production bikes will roll off the line with the BBC/S&S SMOOTH 100 engine, the second set of G.T.X.'s are slated to run the new S&S X-Wedge powerplant, billed as more powerful, more torque-filled, smoother and EPA compliant.
And while Big Bear's innovations under the seat are out of sight, the G.T.X. leaves its powerplant prominently on display. While the first ten bikes to roll out of production will have BBC's tried-and-tested S&S 100 SMOOTH Evo-style engine with EFI, the next batch of ten will be running S&S's brand spankin' new X-Wedge EFI mill. The X-Wedge Big Bear decided to roll with will boost the 100 cubic inches of the SMOOTH's displacement to114 ci. The X-Wedge shifts away from the traditional 45 degree V-Twin configuration as the triple cam mill is set at 56.25 degrees. The revolutionary X-Wedge includes three belt-driven camshafts, a completely new internal oil pump, and a one-piece crankshaft. S&S aimed at providing an engine that met the increasing EPA limitations on emissions while simultaneously providing more power and more torque in a smooth running package. For a long time, custom builders were able to skate under the EPA's radar, but this isn't the case any more. And though Big Bear got its start doing repairs and building one-off customs, its move as primarily a production house brings along greater scrutinization by the powers that be. Big Bear is wise in its decision to utilize the lump in its latest creation. Its environmentally-friendly billing is definitely a positive selling point.
The 2008 G.T.X. has a 12-inch midsection stretch that allows Big Bear to place the rider and passenger centrally on the bike on the frame instead of the rear tire.
Power is provided by an industry-standard Baker right-side-drive six-speed connected to a wet BBC primary drive. The G.T.X.'s final drive is chain. Four-piston brakes on a 21-inch Big Bear custom wheel provide stopping power up front while a BBC four-pot BrakeDrive system puts the clamps on the 18-inch rear wheel's action out back. Riders will engage the brakes with a squeeze of the BBC hand and foot controls. Maintaining control will be courtesy of two piece, clip-on style handlebars that will direct an inverted fork with 43 degrees of total rake (36 degree rake angle plus 7 degrees on the triple tree).
According to Meadors, full-scale production on the BBC/ S&S 100 SMOOTH-equipped G.T.X's will begin by next week. The first ten should hit dealers by late November, early December at the latest. The X-Wedge powered versions will follow soon after. Riders looking to throw a leg over the premier BBC baggers will have to dole out $34,900 for a chance to ride one. Once the X-Wedge-powered version hits the streets, the price for the new mill pushes the MSRP up a grand more.
Which leads us to Big Bear's second 2008 release, the Paradox. The paradox for Big Bear was to build an avant-garde motorcycle that wasn't all show and no go while being both comfortable and reliable. BBC's answer to the challenge is the Paradox.
The second addition to Big Bear Choppers' den for 2008 is its Paradox, a muscular Pro Street design with lines that conjure images of a '70s Stingray.
The motorcycle maintains the smooth, modern lines established in the G.T.X. Almost none of the tubular frame is visible. Big Bear has fabbed up a sweet fiberglass downtube cover that mirrors the curved construction of the gas tank. The styling cue extends to its fiberglass oil tank covers below the seat. Additionally, BBC added its touch to the stamped metal piece over the tubular swingarm. The color-matched swingarm design covers up the axle adjuster and tidies up the look of the rear end. When I look at the overall symmetry of the bike I can't help but think of the subtle rounded fenders on the early '70s Corvette Stingrays. Maybe it's the fiberglass link, or maybe Alsop has an appreciation of vintage cars. Take a look at the two and see if any similarities strike you.
As far as the Paradox's reliability goes, Big Bear addresses the issue by using an engine whose credibility has already been tested in its Pro Street and chopper platforms, the S&S 100 SMOOTH. Riders can order it either carb-fed or with EFI. But like the G.T.X., a third option will soon be available in the form of the 114 cubic inch S&S X-Wedge EFI mill. Connect this to a Baker six-speed transmission and you've got a powertrain that has a proven track record.
For handling, BBC is banking on a huge 23-inch 120mm front tire and a 20 inch 300mm rear . The 23" X 20" combo is claimed to be a first for a production bike. Maybe the stability of the mondo-sized front will minimize the push at the handlebar needed to muscle a 300mm rear. A low seat height and forward foot controls will also benefit rider's confidence behind the pull back handlebars and should enhance the Paradox's rideability.
The 2008 Paradox has a huge 23 inch front wheel that should help stabilize the fat 300mm rubber in back.
Unlike its 2008 brother, the ergos on the Paradox are conventional. The frame has a modest stretch, but nothing like the G.T.X. The rider sits bucked up to the rear tire in a standard drop seat. Without the bags, the emphasis of the Paradox's rear end is on its custom swingarm, the shine of its polished chrome wheel and the girth of the 300mm meat. The final touch on the rear is the gleam coming off some twisted chrome dual exhausts.
MSRP for the Paradox starts at $31,900 for the 100 SMOOTH carb-fed version. To equip it with the 100 SMOOTH EFI rendition bumps the cost up to $33,200, and the price for one with the X-Wedge mill tops out at $34,200.
Rounding out Big Bear Choppers' 2008 line is a redesign on its Venom model. Included in the changes are a new gas tank, seat, and handlebars. The bike will still be available in either Pro Street or chopper form, with an unassembled version ready for the more adventurous who want the satisfaction of building their own custom.
And while Big Bear has been busy establishing itself as a production house that sells factory direct, fully licensed OEM customs, kits, and parts through its nationwide network of 55 dealers, it hasn't completely abandoned building one-off customs. They are currently building a bike for Criss Angel, the popular illusionist and entertainer of "Mindfreak" fame. If you've ever seen the show, you know Criss isn't going to settle for anything else than one pimped-out ride. The bike is based on BBC's Athena Chopper but with plenty of bling and chrome bits.
While the G.T.X's bags conceal its rear, the Paradox's tail end prominently displays an exclusive BBC swingarm, a polished chrome 20-inch wheel and a meaty 300mm Avon tire.
Big Bear Choppers' ability to combine innovative designs with state-of-the art technology has helped it grow from a one-man show working out of a small shed to a full-scale production house with 100 employees. Sound business decisions, like being one of the first OEM's to utilize S&S's new eco-friendly X-Wedge engine, have helped them develop into one of the premier builders of custom-styled production bikes. Its network of 55 national and 18 international dealers attest to that fact. Big Bear also pays its dues on the rally scene. The next event on BBC's schedule is the Lone Star Rally in Galveston, Texas, from Nov. 1-4. Long known as the home to another American manufacturer of iron horses, we could see a Texas-sized duel for two-wheeled custom supremacy. Who gets to play the roles of Santa Anna and Davy Crockett to be decided.
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