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You can hear it from a mile away - thick and baritone - nothing like the irritating sounds of cheap scooters.

It grabs everyone's attention because no one has ever seen anything like it. It's more than a motorcycle and not quite like anything else - it's a chopper.

So what exactly is this machine?

"They're called choppers because all unnecessary parts from a factory-tuned and trimmed bike are chopped off," said Lee Hyun-eui, the founder and chief engineer of Seoul-based Moon Choppers.

"The common philosophy among chopper enthusiasts is basically, who needs front fenders, a windshield, big headlights, clumsy blinkers, crash bars and big seats? Just chop them off and make the bike sleeker and lighter."

Lee, a former engineer for GM Daewoo, left his plush job to begin Moon Choppers to live out his passion for building customized motorcycles.

"Since middle and high school I've been crazy about motorcycles and I used to rent out bikes during that time in my life and every time I would ride, the feeling I got was incomparable to anything else that I've done as a hobby," he said.

"I could blast away my stress in a flash just cruising around."

The difference between a factory-tuned motorcycle and a customized bike such as a chopper isn't just the looks, but there is also a significant price gap. At Moon Choppers, an entry-level model starts at 42 million won ($30,000) - a high price to pay to look like a hardened rebel.

"During the 70s-era of the Vietnam War, the whole anti-establishment image was born through motorcycle riding and being masters of your own domain. And those sentiments were provoked by the image of Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper cruising on their choppers in the open road, living off the grid and drifting from one vacancy to the next like tumbleweeds," Lee said.

"Those are some images that folks who seek choppers want. But what's ironic is, the characters idolized by that movie were penniless nomads. But my clients are all wealthy and very much part of the establishment - they are a very sentimental and romantic group of fanatics - fanatics with lots of money to burn."

Lee says his shop has 40 clients all working in a variety of professions from entrepreneurs, investment bankers, doctors and celebrities. According to Lee, it takes between 45 to 60 days to build a chopper from scratch.

"We choose meticulously, all of the components like premium engines and frames that best suit the style of the rider but it all ultimately comes down to what the client wants," he said. To read the rest of the article: http://www.koreaherald.co.kr/NEWKHSITE/data/html_dir/2009/03/21/200903210052.asp

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