Slang for either a motorcycle or helicopter.

Could also be somebody that chops stuff.

"Chopper" Read (full name: Mark Brandon Read), a Melbourne "head-hunter" who made his money by terrorising other criminals. Allegedly killed 19 people, though was only convicted for murder once.
Later he became a best-selling author. Written mainly from his prison cell, Read's nine books have sold more than 400,000 copies via word of mouth, in a country where a 10,000 sale denotes bestseller status. They are also said to be the most shoplifted books in the country.
Read was freed in 1992, proclaiming that he would never get into trouble again. Shortly afterwards, he was charged with shooting a biker associate. He returned to jail, married his girlfriend, Mary-Ann, and carried on writing.
Released from prison in 1998, he announced his retirement from crime, saying he had a wife and publishers to support. He moved to a remote farm in Tasmania with Mary-Ann and they have a 14-month-old son, Charles. When not writing more silly books", he chops wood for a living. He says he doesn't have many friends and keeps himself to himself.
The 1970s Raleigh chopper bicycle enjoyed a brief period of popularity when I was in junior school around 1980. I thought they were cool at the time.

This popularity ended after several kids had accidents on them. The slow braking due to the weight and the dificulties of steering the long, low bike with the undersized front wheel made them unsafe.

Come a cropper on a chopper rapidly became the schoolyard scuttlebut.

As amnesiac noted, the bike's styling (I hesitiate to call it design, as no thought to suiting form to function could have gone into it) has fortunately not been revived. BMX bikes were as much a fad a few years later, but at least they were well designed for riding and are thus still occasionally seen.

This film is a dramatization in which narrative liberties have been taken.
It is not a biography.

- Opening card from the movie Chopper
Title: Chopper
Director: Andrew Dominik
Writer: Andrew Dominik, Mark Read
Country: Australia
Release Date: 3rd August 2000 (Australia), 24th November 2000 (UK), 13th April 2001 (USA)
Runtime: 94

Eric Bana - Mark "Chopper" Read
Simon Lyndon - Jimmy Loughnan
Vince Colosimo - Neville Bartos
Daniel Wyllie - Bluey
Kate Beahan - Tanya
David Field - Keithy George

While in an Australian prison, serving time for murder, Mark "Chopper" Read wrote his autobiography, From the Inside. When released, the book flew to the top of the Australian best-seller list. This is the film of that book. While it is unclear how much of the truth is contained in From the Inside, the movie strays far enough away from the book that the statement made in the opening card is certainly warranted.

The movie charts the period from 1978 to 1991. In 1978, we start with Chopper in prison, we follow on to his release in 1986 and his inability to adjust to society. The murder of Sammy the Turk in the parking lot of the Bojangles nightclub lands Chopper back in prison and the movie ends with Read back in prison in 1991, a semi-celebrity after the release of his book.

It is clear that Mark Read has had a blood-soaked past and the film-makers had to make a decision about how to incorporate this into their movie. From pretty much the first scene, it is clear that they chose not to pull any punches - Read stabs fellow inmate Keithy George in the face over and over again, and while we are only shown this from behind Keithy's head, blood flies everywhere and we are shown Keithy sitting in a pool of his own blood with large open wounds in his face.

After this, a price is put on Read's head and we are shown the attempted 'hit' (perpetrated by the only two inmates who Read thought of as friends). Jimmy Loughnan stabs Read in the stomach multiple times and, as his shirt is removed, we are treated to a shot of a stomach with countless knife wounds, all with blood pouring from them.

Later, in possibly the most infamous scene in the movie, Read has his ears cut off by a fellow inmate. This is by Read's request and is so he will be transferred to the hospital wing. Now, I'm sure you've seen Reservoir Dogs, but you haven't seen an ear-chopping scene till you've seen Chopper. As Read himself states on his commentary:

"This is where Quentin Tarantino fucks up in his Reservoir Dogs film,
because when you cut someone's ears off, they don't stop bleeding.
I cut off my ears before anyone ever heard of Quentin Tarantino.
He should have contacted me for technical advice."

Chopper is very very entertaining and watchable, and I would say it is currently one of my favourite films. Andrew Dominik (directing his first feature film) controls the action very well and neither glorifies nor demonizes Read. Having said that, there is very little in the way of plot (the film is more a character study than anything else) and there seems to be no real end. It is unclear how much of the film is exaggeration and how much is fact. When it comes down to it though, this is the best Australian film I have ever seen (and yes, that includes Muriel's Wedding).

Eric Bana
The overall fate of this film completely rests on the shoulders of the actor playing Read - all the other characters are peripheral at best. Eric Bana gives one of the best performances of recent years in his portrayal of Read - he was in makeup for hours every day being covered in tattoos, spent time living with the man himself and gained a large amount of weight for later parts of the film. He has an astonishingly powerful screen presence and is uncannily similar to Read himself (compared with the man himself in the DVD extras, anyway).

The extras on the (region 2) DVD are:

  • Two full-length commentaries: a fairly interesting but bland one by director Andrew Dominik and a frank and brilliant one by Mark Read.
  • Deleted Scenes, including a conversation between Read and Keithy George about a billiard ball and Keithy George's wife and an alternative take on the Loughnan-Read stabbing scene.
  • A weekend with Chopper - a series of monologues by Mark Read on a variety of subjects related to the movie.

the breathtaking

By definition, a "chopper" is a motorcycle that has been stripped of every unnecessary item, making it as close to two wheels, a transmission, chain, handlebars, engine and controls as possible.

Back in the day, motorycles were not as high powered as the large, high-horsepower engines of today. A Harley Davidson "panhead" topped out at about 1200cc. So in order to try and eke as much speed out of their vehicles as possible, some people removed the heavy dual seats and replaced them with slim bicycle style seats. They jettisoned the high-weight touring bike front end with the wide tire, and replaced it with the much lighter front end off the 880cc, narrow tired Sportster models.

Wiring was reduced to the essential seven wires or so required to make a motorcycle actually run.

At the same time, the motorcycle was adjusted to make it more stable at speed, by moving the front wheel forward and out by lengthening the front fork tubes and changing the angle of the neck to adjust the front wheel outwards. Initial "engineering" attempts had no idea what "rake and trail" are, and as a result some of the initial experiments produced motorcycles that either handled terribly at low speed but acceptably at very high speed - or worse, extremely well at low speed and not at all at high speeds. (Rake and trail are measurements pertaining to the difference between a line drawn perpendicular to the ground at the front axle, and a line projected from the end of the forks, and the difference between a line projected from the end of the forks, and a similar line drawn from the neck.) A variety of engineering adjustments were used to correct these problems, including raked trees, which fixed a rake problem, and things like Sugar Bear's practice of putting the axle on the end of a curved bar connected to where the end of the fork would be, modifying the trail.

The practice of using a "tweek" bar, namely a connecting bar between the two fork tubes further down a particularly long set of forks, made the assembly less likely to "flex" under load and corrected some issues with length. 

The practical upshot of this was that you'd have a motorcycle that stood "taller" at the neck, and sloped long and gently out from that neck to a wheel, sometimes ridiculously far out in front of the machine. Making turns, or worse, a U-turn was difficult and in some extreme instances almost impossible with these machines. 

The chopper was usually also accessorized with Z-bars, bunny ears (a kind of curved handlebar) or "ape hangers" - namely tall handlebars desighed to put the rider's hands at shoulder height or higher. Forward controls were also popularly paired with these - making the rider able to "sit back" and stretch out both hands and feet for a far more comfortable distance ride.

There were some chopper builders back in the 1960s, but the real pride was in making your own - taking a metal saw to your frame and then heating the metal and bending the neck outwards, stripping the bike to the frame and only adding half the parts back, and chroming anything that could be chromed. Replacing tanks with a single, tiny "peanut" tank with a groovy metalflake or psychedelic paint job. Coming up with a bike that was customized to your personal aesthetic and taste.

Of course, it was also associated with the outlaw motorcycle club element, so pretty soon there were laws-a-plenty saying you could not have ape hangers, etc. etc. etc. making as many anti-chopper laws as possible. These are still in the books in most places, but usually ignored by law enforcement because of "rule of cool".

In the 2000s there was a revival of chopper culture, only this one was far less about shade tree mechanics and more about building up custom bikes from parts. You did have your Indian Larrys and Billy Lanes and Jesse Jameses producing painstaking metalwork the old school way, but the new style was buy parts, bolt them together, and bling it all out with as much billet aluminum as possible. Suddenly the market was flooded with Exile Cycles, Big Dog, Bourget, etc. etc. etc. all of whom were making high dollar machines by combining parts out of catalogs - the most famous of which was the soap opera reality television series American Chopper with the Teutul family.

That scene roared up and became HUGE, with lots of players and fortunes made, and just as quickly, fortunes lost. People spent tens of thousands on these machines and then suddenly they were near-worthless. 

To tell the truth, most motorcycles are customized somewhat - anything you have that personal a relationship with, you're not going to leave standard. It's been a reason for Harley Davidson's success, starting with a base price but making sure you know all about the chrome accents, new pipes, special bits and pieces and custom color schemes they offer as upcharges.

But to some people, buying a motorcycle, taking it home and then taking it apart is half the fun of ownership.

To go in the other direction see dresser.

Chop"per (?), n.

One who, or that which, chops.


© Webster 1913.

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