This is a story about riding a chopper, but also about riding THIS chopper. I had to have a torn rotator cuff tendon repair the next day. Why not go out with a bang? And ride a big 10-foot long chopper, for the very first time ever. Chris and Lisa met me at Left Coast Kustoms, where I was sitting on the Paradox, ready to head out of the parking lot. Chris came over to give me some props, since I guess I looked like I was about to puke. I mean the bike is a friggin’ 10 feet long.
The raked front end on this bike is almost half the length of the whole bike, and the handlebars are a flowing-V configuration that allow me to hang on easily, but turning them requires a l-o-n-g reach. When I full lock the handlebars in the parking lot to turn it around, my arm is pulling on the torn tendon, hard, and I’ve got a 5’ 9” wingspan. Yes, there is a learning curve.
First off, I have to give Jim Hicks the credit of trusting me with this bike. We all have insurance, of course, but do I really want to have this beauty come back on a wrecker? NO. There’s nothing else to do but run it in a straight line and then work on turns. Here is the plan that I have found works, which I take from my first experience, day one, jumping from a Honda 125 trainer in the MSF class, to a 650 lb. HD Dyna, when I first started riding 10 years ago:
Pick a known route, lay it out mentally. Know where you want to go. Pick some low-speed less-traveled streets. Keep it short. Then do this over and over and over. The reason to keep it short is, repetition. The shorter the route, the better you get to know the motorcycle you are riding, quickly.
A lightweight bike is easy, lots of give in the weight and balance. Going to a big heavy bike, you need to know now, where is your balance limit/speed requirement for each degree of lean. Going through your short route repetitively helps find this groove.
This may sound really elementary. However you have all seen guys on big heavy straight up bikes and also choppers who dump them over every chance they get, and blame gravel or whatever.
So after one Y-turn in the parking lot, I took the Paradox out on South Coast Hwy in Oceanside, northward, straight off the lot. I knew that straight line, would be no problem. Choppers with long raked out front ends want to go straight. That IS the problem: and why turns have to be mastered. I have 70,000 miles on the Dyna and a Softail Springer, but this softail-frame ride was a whole new thing.
So I went through my planned route, a long half mile straight, a left-right-rightright back to Coast Hwy, then same thing a mile this time south, and back to the shop. Lefts are easier because you have a wider radius to make the turn; the rights are what will kill you if you can’t crunch ‘em tight enough and then swing wide into oncoming traffic. Practice X 3! When it’s not hard work anymore, you’re there! So now I can assess what I liked about this experience and particularly this BBC Paradox that might help you compare it with other choppers out there.
I am used to pegs vs floorboards. I want to feel like I am gripping something with the heel notch in the sole of my boot. I like these pegs on the Paradox. A simple thing that nevertheless can make or break it along with numerous other small points about a bike.
Also I like the low 19” seat height. Your center of balance is greatly affected by your seat position, along with how the bike components are loaded in the frame. Paradox has a very low center of gravity. Also although the Paradox is a full OMG 10 feet long, a person 5’ 4” would have no problem being flat footed stopped, but might need peg shims to pull them back a bit for shorter leg reach.
The low seat height gave me confidence, but also the low slammed style of the bike itself I found less intimidating than some other custom chopper styles that have the neck at a much higher point relative to the rider. I don’t feel like I am sitting down behind it, nor perched on top of it; I feel comfortably in control with the bars at elbow height, feeling like I can see everything immediately in front of me very easily with a direct visual line down the forks. Yes the bars swing very wide on a full lock, but turning through a corner, you are leaning the bike over and pressing down on the handlebar, not steering/turning the bars. So, the initial concern I had was deceptive; yes as we know it is all lean when you’re at speed.
The Paradox’s acceleration is smooth on the Baker 6-speed vs. that chunky sensation on a lot of bikes. The digital speedo is easy reference, for me it was better than the analog style, here the numbers are in your face right up at the flow-through ‘riser’ area instead of having to take your eyes off the road to turn your head down checking your dash-mount needled analog unit.
The 280mm rear tire (20”X 10.5” wheel) of course is easy balance at a stoplight. Now the principle is though, that a wide rear tire makes it harder to turn a bike. And the Paradox also has a 120mm front tire on a 23” X 3.5” wheel. This compared to a 21” front wheel on most bikes, but then they also are usually equipped with like an 18” rear. Sounds like a lot of work getting this 44-degree raked combo through a corner but, it wasn’t, after a few passes. A bigger front wheel, you just lean it over a bit more- physics dictates the taller wheel takes a wider track. Again, practice!
I road-tested another wide tire production bike a while back and that was a 250mm rear on a mere 33.5% raked front end. I think the front end has more influence than the fat rear, on corners and twisties. This one feels well balanced front to rear and all the specs add up to it having been the best intro I could possibly have had to riding what I would call an extreme production chopper.
Way to play hurt, Randy! And I knew you could handle this bike. I myself am very used to riding a chopper, one with a rake almost as long and a rear tire of 250mm, so there was zero adjustment for me. That’s important, because the minute I hoped on the Paradox, I was loving it. The torque of that sweet 100” Smooth S&S engine with it’s 95 horses, the low-slung seat, the foot position and ergonomics of the controls, the handling and cornering (which I found to be very easy and almost intuitive) helped by the Baker right side drive 6-speed tranny, all added up to a chopper I’d ride on the freeway or in the mountains and on any road in between.
Now the wide handlebars I’m still not sure about, but I was getting used to them by the end of the day. And it sure adds to the overall look of this beautiful, bad-ass chopper. The fit and finish was typical BBC, and that’s a good thing. The sheetmetal alone was shockingly thick, 12-gauge steel front and back (think stiffness and rigidity) adding to the bullet-proof feel of this bike. Stopping power was perfectly ample with PM 4-pistons front and rear. And the view from the seat is awesome, with lots of sculpted metal, gobs of chrome, and easy visibility over the bars. No B.S, folks, my current ride may be hearing footsteps….