Custom-styled production choppers with a distinctive look, the 2008 Big Bear Choppers Merc Rigid and Merc Softail were introduced in 2002 and carried over for the succeeding years. The California-based company, which made custom bikes on a production line, fell victim to the recession and folded in 2011. The model names and styles have been revived as build-it-yourself kits under another owner (the original designer, Kevin Alsop, and his wife, Mona, who founded Big Bear Choppers, are affiliated with the new company), but as a production bike, the Merc no longer exists. Big Bear Choppers made no more than 600 motorcycles total in 2008 (half what the company made at its peak), so these bikes could be considered collector’s items.
Featuring 1638.7cc, air-cooled, four-stroke, V-twin engines made by S & S, both models have S & S Super G carburetors in an OHV-pushrod configuration, which requires a rider to put premium fuel in the 3.9-gallon gas tank. The big engine is paired with a Baker, chain-driven, five-speed manual transmission, which has overdrive. Weighing in at 700 pounds, these 9.5-foot-long choppers have 3.8-inch telescopic front forks. The Softail has a twin-sided swing arm rear suspension; the Rigid, as its name says, has a rigid rear suspension. Disc brakes in front and back provide stopping power. They ride on Avon Venom tires, with a fat 250mm on the rear.
The company described the Merc as having a vintage chopper style, with a low 23-inch seat, a radius dual down tube, a 48-degree neck rake, and an exaggerated springer front end, combine with spoke wheels and a curvaceous fuel tank. The Rigid, in Big Bear Choppers’ opinion, was perfect for a rider who wanted to make a statement and didn’t mind the unforgiving suspension. The manufacturer also boasted that the Merc was surprisingly maneuverable at low speeds and handled cornering well.
Both models come in the same color options: black cherry, candy-red metallic, charcoal metallic, electric blue, firecracker red, gloss red, orange pearl, satin black, and silver metallic. A buyer ordered the color and graphic package of his choice. Buyers always had the option of ordering unpainted parts and building their own bikes. And of course the Merc came with lots of chrome.