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GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM


THE ART OF THE MOTORCYCLE

GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM


Digitized by the Internet Archive in

2013

http://archive.org/details/artofmotOOsolo


THE ART OF THE MOTORCYCLE


THE ART OF THE MOTORCYCLE

GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM


Contents Preface

Thomas Krens

Issues in the Evolution of the Motorcycle

Charles M. Falco

Cycles of Paradox

Mark

C.

Taylor

and Jose Marquez

44 Song of the Sausage Creature Hunter S. Thompson

48 The Art of the Motorcycle: Outlaws, Animals, and Sex Machines Ted Polhemus

60 Bikes were always work for

me

Dennis Hopper

68 Freedom or Death: Notes on the Motorcycle Art Simon

82 Bosozoku (motorcycle gangs) Ikuya Sato

90 To the Edge: Motorcycles

Melissa Holbrook Pierson

and Danger

in Film

and Video


96 Inventing the Motorcycle: 1868-1919

The Machine Age: 1922-1929

New

World Orders: 1930-1944

Freedom and Postwar

Mobility:

1946-1958

Popular Culture/Counterculture: 1960-1969

298 Getting

Away from

It All:

1969-1978

342 The Consumer Years: 1982-1989

368 Retro/Revolutionary: 1993-1998

398 Motorcycle Books Charles M. Falco


Catalogue Index

43

Demy

1957 42.

MV Agusla

1956 41 Vincent Black

Shadow

Series

1954 • United Kingdom, p. 234

40 AJS £ -95 1953

39

DKWRT125W-

1952

122

CC'

West Germany, p 228

'499CC

United Kingdom,

p 230

C

998 cc

* Italy,

500 Grand Prix

p 238

497 cc

Taon • 124 cc

• France, p.

242


48 Honda CB92 Benly Super Spoil • 125 cc 1960

>499cc p 260

47 BSA Gold Star Clubman's I960

46 Triumph Twenty-One • 350 cc 1958 • United Kingdom, p 252 45 Harley- Davidson Sportster

1957 44 Harley-Davidson

1957

KR •750cc>

United Stales,

p.

246

• United States,

p 248

XL'883cc

United Kingdom,

Japan, p 264


93 Morbidelli V8 1997 92

BMWR1200C'

1997 91 Beta Techno

1997 90 Honda EXP-2 1995 • Japan,

89

Aprilia

1995

Moto

• Italy,

6.5

p 380

»649cc»

'402cc

p 384

• Italy, p.

272 cc

386

1,170

Germany, p 388

cc

• Italy, p.

390

847 cc


88. On. .in

1994 •

87

Britten

1994

86 Yamaha GTS1000 1993 • Japan, p 374 85. Ducati

1993 • 84 Yamaha

1989

Vmax

• Japan, p.

1.198 cc

MV Agusta

1998 •

1998 •

Formula 50 LC

Italy, p.

p 372

366

95

94. Italjet

M900 Monster"

Italy,

392

»49cc

Italy, p.

F4

'750cc

394

904 cc

1.003 cc

V1000

New

985 cc

Zealand, p. 376

916

Italy.

P

916 cc

I'"S


THE ART OF THE MOTORCYCLE

Solomon

R.

Guggenheim Museum, New York

June 26-September 20, 1998

The Field

Museum

November

7,

of Natural History, Chicago

1998-March

21,

1999

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao fall

1999

This exhibition is The Frank

0.

made

Gehry installation

Transportation assistance

is

is

possible by

made

BMW.

possible by Banana Republic.

provided by Lufthansa German Airlines.


Sponsor's Statement

More than

Thomas Krens approached

eight years ago,

phenomenon. For

featuring the motorcycle as a cultural in

this

way seemed

influences,

and

it

was

every

bit

creating motorcycles of

as natural to view the motorcycle as a

—

influenced by, culture

is

Mr. Krens, looking at the motorcycle

BMW. which has been

perfectly natural. For

character since 1923,

BMW with his idea for a museum exhibit

phenomenon

that

other words, not merely as two wheels and an

in

much more

engine; not just as a motor vehicle or industrial product; and

than a halfway point

between bicycle and automobile.

The world's the

first

first

motorcycle was assembled before the turn of the century, a year before

automobile. At the time, the motorcycle

internal-combustion-engined cycle; yet tation, society,

BMW's own the R32, In

history

made

its

began

debut

in

at the

more than a melding

little

of bicycle

was a development whose relevance

it

and prosperity would begin 1916 with

was

to transpor-

become apparent some two decades

to

engines;

aircraft

1923. the

in

first

and

BMW

later.

motorcycle,

Pans Auto Salon.

the motorcycle, one sees an all-encompassing reflection of the very nature of mobility.

At the turn of the century, mobility

was a

necessity:

mobility of course remains a necessity; but

Over the century of the motorcycle's existence, reflecting society

and the diverse

directions

a vehicle of necessity, has evolved

meant work, bread,

it

it

is

also

much

be

there.

to

has ridden the high and low points

of history,

has taken. The motorized two- wheeler,

a means of expressing

into

it

be when we want

to

individuality

Today,

survival.

advanced societies

where we want

of being

more: an expression of freedom,

in

it

the world's

originally

and a symbol

of

active, optimistic lifestyles.

As the motorcycle's to society.

From the

artistic

and

of form, design,

has evolved, so has

role in society

viewpoint

it

its

is

aesthetics, always reflecting the time

produced. Without exaggeration,

it

is

Guggenheim has recognized

its

achievements

particular

meaning

Guggenheim and BMW,

lead

societal

trends,

culture.

it

is

Both

institutions feel

richly

in

is

deserves

art;

and

an obligation

conceived and

one

of the icons

BMW

this recognition.

to illuminate the synergies to observe, act

upon, and

new concepts, both

cultural values

Both perceive technology and

today's world. Both institutions think not

is

value

a raison d'etre to continually challenge the

as well as to support the development of

technological and cultural.

it

20th century and shares with

for the

merge the boundaries between technology and

between engineering and

which

its

many elements

both technology and culture. The

in

the belief that the motorcycle, as an object of cultural value, For both the

in

possible to say that the motorcycle

of our century, representing significant

ordinary; to

design; so. equally, has

three-dimensional: a composition of

as equal elements

in

merely national, but rather in global dimensions;

the unconventional. both are prepared to pursue the new, the innovative, is proud and motorcycles. of On the occasion of the 75th anniversary interaction far-reaching the illuminate we think will help

BMW

BMW

honored

to

sponsor an exhib.t.on that

between technology and Motorcycle,

we

culture. For the outstanding exhibit

are profoundly indebted to the

—Bernd

Solomon

R.

and catalogue The Art of the

Guggenheim Foundation.

Pischetsneder, Chairman of the Board,

BMW AG


Project

Team

Exhibition Design

Curator

Frank

Thomas Krens

Gehry and Associates

Exhibition Graphics

Curatorial

Arnell

Charles Falco, Curatorial Adviser

Drutt.

Associate Curator

Sarah Botts. Executive Assistant

for

Be Neon,

Inc.,

New

York

Research Art Services

to the Director

and Preparation

Karen Meyerhoft, Director

Proiect Curatorial Assistant

Vanessa Rocco,

Group

Let There

Ultan Guiltoyle, Curatorial Adviser

Matthew

O

ot Exhibition

and Collection

Management and Design Guillermo Ovalle, Assistant Registrar

Film and Video Program

John Hanhardt, Senior Curator Mana-Chnstina Art

ot Film

and Media Arts

Villasehor, Assistant Curator ot Film

and Media Arts

Eleanor Nagy, Associate Conservator

Nobby

Manager

Peter Read, Technical and Historical Advisory Board

Barry Hylton,

and Design

Ad

Exhibition Technician

Services and Preparations Proiect Leader

Stephen Engelman, Fabrication Specialist

George Barber

Derek DeLuco,

Beverly St Clair Baird

Art

Handler

Jack Davidson

Otis Chandler

Jen Doyle

Clark

Matthew

of Exhibition Fabrication

Richard Gombar. Construction Manager

James Cullmane, Senior

Krens. Chairman

Richard Gaul, Cochairman

Nobby

Sculpture

Scott Wixon, Manager of Art Services and Preparations

Simon, Guest Curator

Thomas

tor

Clark, Technical Consultant

Craig Drennen

Drutt

Megan Dyre

David Edwards

Matt

Bud Ekins

Schwede

Jocelyn Groom, Exhibition Design Coordinator

Don Emde

Ana Lmnemann, Graphic Designer

Charles Falco Ultan Guilloyle

Catalogue, Design

Stetan Kmttei

Richard Pandiscio

Helmut Krackowizer

Peter Stemmler, Senior Designer

Harry Lindsay

Yves Macaire

Sammy

Catalogue, Editorial and Production

Miller

Anthony Calnek, Director

Peter Noever Karl

Reese

Elizabeth Franzen,

Bernard Salvat

Domemck

Thomas Trapp

Ammirati, Editorial Assistant

Melissa Secondmo, Production Assistant

Joachim Vogt

Stephanie Fleischmann

Ed Youngblood

Lisa

Cohen

Deborah

Photography

David Heald, Chief Photographer and Director ot

Photographic Services

Photographer

Kimberly Bush, Photography and Permissions Associate

Werner Diesenroth Gabnele Diesenroth-Sinus

Drier

Olga Han Anita Leclerc Phil

Patton

Emily Russell

Diana

Stoll

Thad Ziolkowski

Joset Holzl

Chnstoph Kuhn Flonan Rappmannsberger

Interns

Regmal Harper

An Hiroshige L

Frances Hui

Chnstiane Ibach Sylvia

Omedes

Beatrice Trussardi

14

of Editorial Services

Carol Fitzgerald, Associate Editor

Tooth

Ellen Labenksi, Assistant

Manager

Esther Yun, Assistant Production Manager

John Surtees Phillip

of Publications

Elizabeth Levy, Managing Editor/Manager of Foreign Editions


Lenders

The Solomon

to the Exhibition

American Honda Motor Company.

Inc

.

Torrance

Honorary Trustees

in

R.

Guggenheim Foundation

Perpetuity

The Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, Birmingham. Ala

Solomon R Guggem

M Bator BMW AG. Munich

Peggy Guggenheim

Glenn

Dominique Buisson

Ron Bussey

Honorary Chairman

King Juan Carlos of Spam, courtesy of Cagiva Motor SpA, Varese

The Otis Chandler Vintage Museum Oxnard,

Ron

of Transportation

and

Peter Lawson- Johnston

Wildlife.

Chairman

Calif

Commo

Peter

B Lewis

Alain Cortot

A

Derbi-Nacional Motor S

Barcelona

,

President

Deutsches Zweirad-Museum. Neckarsulm, Germany

Ronald O. Perelman

Deutsches Museum, Munich Ducati Motor SpA. Bologna

Vice-Presidents

David Edwards

Wendy

William Eggers

John

Elf-Antar France.

Laurence L

L-J.

S.

M

Wadsworth,

Jr

Pans Vice-President and Treasurer

Forstall

C

Stephen

Mick Frew

Swid

Gagan

Peter

Michel Gagnaire

Director

The

Thomas Krens

Gilbert family

Gerard Gruschwitz

Museum &

Henry Ford

John Hoover, courtesy Mr.

Secretary

Greenfield Village, Dearborn, Mich of

Kawasaki Motor Corp., USA,

Edward

Irvine, Calif

M

James Italjet.

Rover

Honorary Trustee

Hunter

Claude Pompidou

USA, Huntington, New York

Matthew

Janquitto, Vintage Imports Trustee Ex Officio

Dale Keesecker

Dakis Joannou

Sauvage

Chris Le

D

F

and Mrs Dennis E Huaman

Luigi

J Ught

Moschen

Harry Lindsay Oirector Emeritus

Jean Malleret

Thomas

Reed Martin Mark Mederski, courtesy

of

The Motorcycle Heritage Museum.

Westerville,

Sammy

Moto Guzzi SpA, Mandello I'lle-de-France.

Musee des

Arts et

del Lano, Italy

W

Eric

C

Per.

Jon Imanol Azua

Ronald

Peter M. Bi

Frederick W. Reid •kind

Mary Sharp Cronson

Sceaux

Elizabeth T

Metiers (CNAM). Pans

Gail

Karl-Heinz Mutschler National Air and

Meyer

Giovanni Agnelli

Museum, Bashley Manor, England

Miller

John Mishanec

Musee de

Messer

Trustees

Franck Meneret

The

M

Ohio

Space Museum, Smithsonian

Institution.

Oddy

David Perci

Washington,

DC

Dingman

Denise

emel

May Engelberg

Daniel Filipacchi

James B Sherwood

Barbara Jonas

Ra|a

David H. Koch

Seymour

Thomas Krens

Stephen C. Swid

Barbara Lane

John S Wadsworth,

Peter Lawson-Johi

Cornel West

W

Sidawi Slive

Alain Petitiean

Pnmm

Racing CollectionA/mtage

Private collection, Verona,

Maxine and Kurt

SCM

Iron.

Fresno, Calif

Italy

Samuel

Ritthaler

Jack Silverman, Silverman Daniel

K

Museum

Racing, Aspen, Colo.

Andrew Sturgeon Peter Swider Jerry Tamanini

Mr and Mrs Alexander B Wattles Webster

Motor Corporation. USA. Cypress.

Peter Uttmann

Wendy

Statnekov

Doug Strange

•iaha

J. Lei

Peter B. Lewis

Group, Rimmi

Calif

L-J.

McNeil

/vllmerdlng

William T Yivisaker

Jr


Thomas Krens

Preface The motorcycle

is

a perfect metaphor

ning of the industrial age. obiect

and

its

fantasy,

ner

in

evolution tracks the

rebellion, desire,

speed,

city or

would seem

without leaving tions.

town

in

latest Ducati, Harley.

the world, and a

crowd

to

century embodies

reached the end true.

of

T.

.

certainly

it

much

It

is

its

own end-game

it

is

hard to imagine

motorcy-

built

any bigger or faster

must have

its

own

of relentless

end

somehow we know

limita-

improve-

of the

paradox. Logic and physics suggest

of its evolut.onary potential, but

As such, however,

street cor-

on a

reflects, the

evolution, the motorcycle as a form class at the

Krens, notes from

that

it

20th

has

cannot be

a quintessential symbol of the insecurity

Guggenheim Museum

work

curatorial meeting, Oct.

of Walter Benjamin's prescient

Mechanical Reproduction" (1936)

threat to the original

and

of art.

is

an

explicit

1993

essay "The Work

of Art in

warning about technology*

Benjamin suggested that increasingly sophisticated

purportedly "authenticreproducing imagery could lead to an attenuation of images, which do not second-generation of cultural experience through the proliferation of new mediums like photograhave the "aura" of the original. Furthermore, the capacity wider audience tends to erode the traphy and film to extend the reach of culture to a far that has defined the history of art over

means

16

gather.

have an uncertain future They cannot be

The principal message Age

For

of our time.

—

the

will

BMW

or

modern age

the road, and space-age des.gn

ments and des.gn

optimism

Honda,

As a practical machine whose history has been one

completely

The

currents of modernity

freedom, love, sex, and death.

the motorcycle twenty years from now. Like the cle

mam

the begin-

at

of fascination, motorcycle remains a forbidden indulgence, an object

and danger Park the

any

Invented

20th century

engineering, innovation, history represent the themes of technology,

design, mobility, of society, the

its

for the

for

ditional aesthetic .deals

the course of the

and

refined artistic

last century.

purpose

While Benjamin's immediate objective

was

to

use

this

funda-


mental insight to leverage a Marxist analysis

ment against Fascism,

it

and aesthetics

of culture

a

for

political

argu-

evolution of aesthetic valhis observation about the gradual

is

rationalization of an exhibition of motorcycles in ues that has a particular relevance for the of the (cultural) superBenjamin's conclusion that "the transformation

an

museum.

art

structure

.

.

takes place

.

mechanics

essential insight to the

that of the substructure"

more slowly than

far

of cultural

is

an obvious but

change. He notes that as our uses

of the expressive potential of ture multiply through the exploitation

for cul-

new mediums, new

number of outmoded concepts, such as creativity attitudes emerge that "brush aside a for culto posit a significantly broader framework and genius, eternal value and mystery." tural exploration It

and experience.

seems obvious

an exhibition

that

heim challenges the conventional notion broader framework.

of the art

the institution's original

If

The Art of the Motorcycle

like

museum

mission

is

Guggen-

at the

by exploiting the significantly

mandate

interpreted as a

to pre-

ramp. motorcycles have no place on the Guggenheim's sent paintings and drawings, then The objects. sacred longer simply a sanctuary for But the contemporary museum is no social have been taking place for years. Like all other gradual changes in the substructure new directions in has continued to evolve, responding to institutions the art museum better educated, informed, pressures and demands from a better artistic creativity and to exhibitions

and more demanding audience. Special and more

informative,

have become works

carefully

of art

in

general are

more complex, more

The containers designed and presented than ever before. are particdevelopments of themselves. None of these

and

in

ularly

new-mapr museums

years

Frank Lloyd Wright,

have had departments devoted to design

many

a good

for

architecture as others, established the notion of

among

art,

Treaimaginative and sophisticated since The and exhibitions have become increasingly environthe that What is new is the widespread feeling sures of Tuthankhamen in 1977. longer models for cultural mediation are no ment has changed, that the traditional forms and institutions are in the

adequate, and that new,

infinitely

complex

cultural

process of formation.

aurat.c

the troubled by the replacement of Perhaps Benjamin would have been distinction that but motorcycles, ob.ects such as work of art w,th mechanically produced has substructure changes in the discourse. The accumulation of is .relevant in today's scarcely recognize. and diversity that he would produced a new world of cultural act,v,.y new paradigms Although been profound. of the superstructure has

The transformation still

need

ated

new

to

be defined, a wider

responsibilities

v,s,on of art

and opportunities

new museum has a complex

m,ss,on.

and

for art

culture

in

society has nevertheless cre-

museums and

cultural inst,

to must, on the one hand, continue

u ions The fulfill

presentation of

.mportan

collection, preservation, and toncal role of stewardship: the address a broad ra e A, the same „me. , must works o, art and cultural developments. Significance and «*Jfor example, the responsibilities. It must recognize, of

new

implicit

o new

generations o, creative

In shaped by MTV. as

rap mus.c. the

traditional art history.

It

whose work, ideas, and Internet, and contempora^

language hav

visual

art,s«s

as

cr„,cal theory

demands on must also respond to evolving

its

capacity for cul-

sophisticated audience. education from an increasingly tural mediation and opportun,, the art museum has the this complex Situation,

M

W„h,n

ership role, both as interlocutor

and complexities t le„es

of

a

and

role participant. Necessarily. fh,s

late

century culture

In this level of ,nterconneo,iV,.y.

unprecedented an exhLion

Xatnale.

we

pro,ect.

and

is

new

e.lec

boun

w„h siting

,

territory.

for the o, particular s,gn,.,cance

structure offer

must

he sub

»^

The Art o, the Mo,c

Guggenheim.

a multi.aceted opportunity

.

Its

for information

oonte

and

cycle,

on

.nterpre-

17


The centerpiece

tation.

of the project

(fig.

i),

speed

of

MV

installation

Agusta

170 miles per

evolution of the

1 1 1

machines

—from an 1868-71

a sleek, Italian-designed sportbike capable

(cat. no. 95),

the

In

Guggenheim Museum, Frank Gehry's

Frank Lloyd Wright's rotunda to express fantasies of movement and

speed, Gehry has fashioned a space that

highly reflective stainless steel,

is

as

evocative and technologically

artistically

Guggenheim rotunda

in

Gehry both transforms and emphasizes the essence

of

interior of

and suggests the sensuousness and

the

industrial

elegance of motorcycle

design. Art, architecture, and industrial design mirror each other

ways. Equally integral to the exhibition

white against a minimal white

of the

in

of the checklist.

commentaries

of

in

A range

of

black and

the catalogue and the exhibition have

renowned motorcycle

situate motorcycles

in

to neutralize the surrounding envi-

a standardized format. The detailed entries and

documentation accompanying each motorcycle

been contributed by a group

constantly shifting

motorcycles photographed

background— attempt

ronment and present the machines

in

this carefully crafted catalogue. The images

is

reproduced here— particularly those views

cal

extraordinary

an integral part of the experience. Recognizing the

for the exhibition is

savvy as the machines on display. By cladding the

Wright's structure,

historians to support the integrity

superb essays as in

as nine personal and

well

a broader historical context

and

of the project

Motorcycle then,

a

is

motorcycles occupy is

in

film

program, which evaluates the

real

and mythic place

sum

the

of

its

in

the documentation and contextualization

reflection in the instal-

of the objects in the catalogue

and the in

media

discussion.

The Art of the Motorcycle then

organized as a cultural event. The distinctions

is

separating content from context are blurred; the exhibition ative experience that

its

in

The Art of the Motorcycle

museum

becomes a contemporary

various richness of choices mirrors our is

own

in

tradition

Street Journal (22

faced ploy to bring

and

an obvious challenge to the conventional mission

May in

But

history.

is

as

it,

1998), staking out his position

in

at

work

here,

something

cles," or

is

reflects

the subtle shifting of the uses, functions, and cultural institutions.

arship, seriousness of purpose,

Guggenheim continues

tain level of

advance

of the

and

The Wall

rolling in

more

on motorcy-

evolutionary, that

purposes— and perhaps

As a contemporary

traditional

in its original

softer,

told

of the event, "a bald-

money and whatever attendance might come

there a deeper impulse

expanding frame— of

Kramer recently

critic Hilton

cre-

environment.

to present those objects of high material culture that are authentic, unique,

grounded

the

that

the historical evolution represented by the

parts:

impressions of the contributing authors; and, the representation of motorcycles

and

last ele-

20th-century media. The cultural experience of The Art of the

machines themselves; the notions of thematic transformation and lation;

criti-

cultural milieu,

from individual experiences to analyses of the iconic value of the motorcycle. The

ment

and

history of the motorcycle describes the history

The

hour,

modern age.

design

implicit potential of

and scope

Michaux-

a 19th-century big-wheeled bicycle with a steam engine attached under

the seat, to a 1998 of a

the precise and comprehensive survey of the his-

expressed through

tory of motorcycle design

Perreaux

is

institution

the

engaging schol-

methodology, and considered interpretation,

mission. Designed as an event,

and with a

cer-

authority— the luxury of sheer numbers of motorcycles affording a detailed

and subtle presentation— The Art of the Motorcycle signals the beginning

of the transfor-

mation of the cultural superstructure. 18

A

precise Collection Of Circumstances has shaped

five years,

the

Solomon

and now has museums

R.

this exhibition

Guggenheim Foundation has been expanding

or exhibition

spaces

in

For the past

internationally

four countries. With the Gehry-designed


Guggenheim Museum one

built

its

artists

made

has. perhaps,

today

in

From a should for its

in

that other

of Michael

museums

to estab-

concise and focused

to

art in a single narrative.

Max Beck-

new

art,

new

The Guggenheim Foun-

artists,

and new mediums.

Kimmelman, "extend(ed) the reach don't imagine." (The

practical perspective,

short-term impact as such, but

New

of the art

It

muse-

York Times, 19 April 1998)

special-exhibition

programming

exhibition project should not only

be considered

an

Any given

into a strategic plan.

fit

innova-

in

Russia, and China: 5,000 Years, which brought

in

a commitment to exploring

the words

ways

collection

the careers of historical figures such as

modern

together ancient treasures with

um

in

devoted to the avant-garde

dation has

its

Delaunay, to broad cultural overviews such as The Great Utopia, an

mann and Robert exhibition

has expanded

such as Robert Rauschenberg,

on important periods

exhibitions

It

1997. the Foundation has

in fall

programming has ranged from major retrospectives devoted

20th-century

lished

opened

of the greatest buildings of the century.

ways, and

tive

Bilbao, Spain, which

in

art

how

it

museum's

influences the long-term profile of the

insti-

ideas, and concepts that determine tution by contributing to the definition of the issues, institution, has defined its misinstitution's cultural "voice." The Guggenheim, as an

the

sion to explore 20th-century and contemporary culture

of

in all

its

richness and presence.

new

design, photography and This includes painting and sculpture, architecture and

those of Europe and Amermedia; the arts of Asia. Africa, and South America, as well as ica,

and

insight or perspective

Guggenheim

that

active participation

in

will

is

ideas.

broaden the museum's

cultural

the interpretation of contemporary

That the Guggenheim

is

thematic frame has already been established;

intended to be the four main elements of ing

base and increased competency

programming

part of that trajectory of exhibition

The Art of the Motorcycle dates from 1991; the of several

some

cultural preoccupations.

on current

The Art Of the Motorcycle the

that offer

and other non-20th century manifestations

classical, historical,

in

its

reach and engender

art

and

culture.

expanding

its

art. architecture,

portfolio.

design,

The impact

of the

at

more

The genesis

project results from the international

its

of

convergence

presence and

and new media

are

Museum's expand-

the conceptualization and organization

of exhibi-

specific in-house can occasionally take on projects outs.de its powerful cultural commentaries. More specifiexpertise and develop them into clear and

tions

means

that

it

at the Royal Academy of Arts however, Norman Rosenthal. Exhibitions Secretary exhibition when he provided the conceptual framework for this in London, inadvertently on an exhibition of 20th-century pa.nting and invited the Guggenheim to collaborate

cally,

which-like other end-of-the-century sculpture, the overarching ambition of celebration efforts-was to capture the

spirit,

summary and

essence, and complexity of the 20th cen-

in exhibition proved impossible to realize tury in the visual arts. Ultimately, the

Not only was the topic and

range vast and resistant to

its

from a practical perspective

immediately

it

became

those works to the

sible to

works

make an

seminal works were

definition of institutional

exhibition of

York.

clear that denial of important loans

Major institutions with would become an insurmountable problem. portentous time precisely because reluctant to part with them at such a of

New

comprehensive summary, but

achievement.

In

of the

other words,

it

importance

was impos-

most precious and rarest the 20th century and include the be revealed through prithe themes of the century could

of the 20th century. That

mary and secondary

if

and less appeal for the Guggenheim, not seminal works simply had

staging an exhib.t-on that captured from the project. The notion of it ultimately w.thdrew prevailed however. Genera, of the 20th century the spirit, development, and imagination

research into motorcycles

was

initiated.

Âť9


One hundred and forms

we

engine ers

in

and

thirty

are familiar with.

the

first

years ago neither the bicycle nor the engine existed

From 1868-71 Louis Perreaux

installed

,

in

the

and patented a steam

commercially successful pedal bicycle; by 1894, the Hildebrand broth-

Alois Wolfmuller

bicycle type frame, the

had patented a water-cooled, two-cylinder gasoline engine

first

in

a

commercially produced motorcycle with an internal-combus-

revolution, the motorcycle quickly took tion engine. More than a product of the industrial of speed, rebellion, on broader significance. Embodying the more abstract themes cultural freedom, sex, and danger, the motorcycle has been immortalized as a

progress,

icon that has transformed with the times. function of the motorcycle,

The

and the breadth

limits

imposed by the possible form and

of variation that

have been expressed within

motorcycle as a possible metaphor these limitations, provide a vehicle for examining the 20th century.

for the

The approach rigorous.

A

tO Constructing a

definitive

team with a deep sense

curatorial

survey of motorcycles

for the material

was

serious and

and a broad information

net-

presenting the motorcycles identified, and the methodology for selecting and

work was

was adopted and implemented. The Art of the Motorcycle are

criteria for selecting

machines

straightforward. Except

fairly

to

be included

The

in

the seven pre-production

for

the century of motormotorcycles that open the exhibition, the selection not only spans of steam engine and production that evolved from the first patented combination cycle

bicycle frame

cultural, sociological, 1868, but also the technological progress and the

in

and economic factors

and characterize the 20th

that define

century.

the marketing, the expectations and desires of consumers, and

economies are

number

all

manifested

of types of

the

in

motorcycles— production,

and the many categories

additions,

components and form

In

addition to these,

ebb and

flow of national

of the motorcycle.

The sheer

studio-built one-offs, customized, sidecar

racing— is

of motorcycle

vast.

To extract a narrative

represent, the choices have from the array of functions and dictates that motorcycles technological innoof singularly 20th-century defining elements:

been

refined to a

group

vation, design excellence

exhibition are a product of

The

pursuit of

more than one

of our

concept

of

of military

of distance.

every industrialized country

The

earliest

in

machines on the market today were

of light,

machines

in this

place

in

Competition and speed provided the impetus

American phenomenon

the

advancement

exhibition are the

technological innovation that first

and competition, in

in

of sin-

sound, and atomic particles

the nature of warfare, to the transformation

the world. By the

of intense experimentation

early years; the

criteria.

from the measure

weapons and

period of tremendous experimentation and

decade

these

speed can be seen as a primary factor

gularly 20th-century technologies,

to the development

social function. All of the motorcycles in the

and aesthetics, and

practically for

all

all

in

a

the features of the

motorcycles

development

of

of a

century, after

years of the 20th essentially

outcome

was underway

in

production.

motorcycles

in

these

their of board-track racing (where the riders rode

machines around a steeply banked wooden course) riders and spectators. The Indian attracted large audiences, and often fatalities for both

stripped-down and

Board Track Racer the

incredibly fast

(cat. no. 10).

which debuted

in

1911. garnered valuable publicity

company by winning numerous championships and

setting

new

for

track records.

between race-ready and road motorcycles As as a performance and narrowed, and increasingly race technology has been adapted while Grand Prix racing that customers are ready to pay for. But the century continued, the division

20

marketing essential attracts

huge audiences

via television

1990s motorcycle technology

still

and pays huge dividends as a marketing device.

hand-built nature reflects the individualist, experimental,


of early

motorcycle development, as embodied by the radical and successful Britten V-

by designer John Britten

(cat. no. 87), built

1000

new

harnessing technology to conquer

1994. The 20th century's mania

in

pure form

territory finds its

for

the motorcycle;

in

since the early days of board-track racing, and Glenn Curtiss*s spectacular record-breaking

accomplishment

1907 on

in

experimental Curtiss V-8

his

tition

motorcycle technology and audiences, such as those

The

story of 20th-century industrial design of the motorcycle's functioning

arrangement

to the

BMW's R32, 1923 design, with

its

(cat.

no.

as

16),

emphasis on

the

in

racing.

many approaches

elements catalogued

one example,

just

special-interest

of

and enduro

for trials

manifested

is

myriad compe-

(cat. no. 3),

categories have developed to accommodate new areas

in this

exhibition

a model of Bauhaus-caliber

is

of being

and sleek forms capable

practicality, efficiency,

mass-produced through the use of inexpensive, industrial materials. Motorcycle design runs the gamut from styling— the projection of technical sophistication or a look which functions to project something about the identity of the rider— to machines nical

components

find

a harmonious union with

parts. Beautiful design at the

hands

of a technician

no. 37), designed by Norbert Riedl,

frame broke with of the

postwar

that creates a

manifested

whose ingenious

The Suzuki Katana

styling to create the

is

whose

tech-

the distribution of their in

the Imme, 1949

(cat.

reorganization of the machine's

years of tradition to create one of the most innovative motorcycles

fifty

era.

their function in

most

was an example

(cat. no. 77)

of successful design

radical-looking production sportbike of the early 1980s. Design

mythos about the motorcycle and

its

rider

found

its

origins in the great mid-

Indian, and at the hands of century American motorcycle marques Harley-Davidson and on the Californreturning from the war who customized their bikes for performance

Gl's

ian dry lakes.

These "Bob-Jobs" evolved

"Choppers" known

into

and appearance, and the Easy Rider Chopper

(cat.

no. 61)

for their

the exhibition

in

performance is

one

of the

enduring icons of the Californian 1960s.

With the Super antithesis of Marlon

Cub

(cat. no. 56).

Brando

in his

automatic clutch and the use ful

red-and-white

styling,

Wild

Honda

One

of plastic for

targeted the

incarnation. its

From

leg shields

the Super Cub was designed

new

rider

and proposed the

technical innovations like

and

front fenders, to

its

its

cheer-

non-motorcycle

to appeal to a

changing economies and demomarket. Motorcycle production has been buffeted by of daily life. Early attempts at margraphics, but in turn it has also impacted the function keting motorbikes for

Moto Legere. 1922 operated their

this

women,

(cat.

like

no. 14),

the Megola, 1922

nicknamed

machine without entangling

apotheosis

in

(cat. no. 13), or

the

Monet & Goyon

"priest's bike" (afrocked clergyman could

his clothes)

and the Velosolex

the Super Cub and Piaggio's Vespa

(cat. no. 55). In

have

(cat. no. 36), find

both Depression-

to broaden their markets and sustain era and postwar Europe, manufacturers sought

cheap mass production. More leisure activity. Radical tries

and events

recently motorcycle riding has

changes

for recreation

in

become

almost exclusively a

evolution of industhe work/leisure landscape and the

have contributed

to the appetite for sport

and

luxury bikes.

support and efforts of a great many indiThe Art of the Motorcycle has resulted from the am espeacknowledged elsewhere in this catalogue. viduals and institutions, who are whose team, his and BMW Chairman and CEO of cially indebted to Bernd Pischetsr.eder. would inspiring. of th.s project have been support and enthusiasm from the inception and Frederick W. Reid. a Guggenheim also like to thank Lufthansa German Airlines of th.s project. for their generous support Trustee and President and COO of Lufthansa I

I


Charles M. Falco

Issues in the Evolution of the Motorcycle

at its core, is both

The motorcycle, it

embodies the dreams and desires

turn,

of

an object of commerce and a its

As such.

fetish.

owners and enthusiasts. These expectations,

progress of have been shaped and abetted by the breathtaking technological

of cultural, sociological, tury. This, together with a novel combination

specific motorcycles.

cannot capture

Because these elements

this evolution in

all

its

the designs of

in

overlap, a strictly chronological

richness. Moreover,

in

field of

a

cen-

this

and gender-related

has determined when, and why, certain technologies appeared

factors,

in

approach

design dominated

of development. by technology, a year-by-year chronology risks implying a linear sequence

As

we'll see, this

would be

from the

far

truth.

Conceptually, the 1871 Michaux-Perreaux and the 1998 tle

MV Agusta changed

bicycles with engines, but that the motorcycle has

more than

between these two machines engine existed

in

the forms

is

in

F-4 are both in

the

1

lit-

30 years

obvious. Indeed, 130 years ago, neither the bicycle nor the

which

we now know them. The

nology date back to the steam engines of

origins of motorcycle tech-

Thomas Savery and Thomas Newcomen

in

the

experimentation and 17th century. Toward the end of the 19th century, however, the pace of

development picked up dramatically.

A compact

engine

may be

the most obvious

nent needed for making a motorcycle, but the invention of pneumatic Michelin, 1895), the roller ley.

1886) were

changes

all

about 1890, Late

just

in

was

that

lacking

what type

the

1

personal vehicles.

engine

And

taking place, these elements

short time,

early

were coming together simultaneously. Within a very

was a

motor

hundred years

for industrial uses.

England as

of

practical, self-contained

that

a design that would

earlier.

become

Until

would be was an open question.

emerged as a power source

for propelling

James Watt had perfected the Newcomen steam

On December

in

public use

in

26, 1868, Louis Guillaume Perreaux patented

the steam engine to be installed on the

cessful pedal bicycle, built by Pierre

the Michaux bicycle, which

motorcycle engine.

Large steam-powered carriages were already

as the 1820s.

(Star-

thanks to the extraordinarily rapid technological

9th century, the steam engine

A

(Dunlop, 1888;

chain (Renold, 1880), and an appropriate frame geometry

equally necessary.'

all

tires

compo-

and Ernest Michaux

was manufactured

in

first

commercially suc-

France. The solid iron frame of

at a rate of several

hundred per

year,

made


it

a natural choice

for

the 61 -kg Perreaux engine.

and pedals from the

front wheel, substitute

steam engine, and add

pulleys for transmitting the

was described

ification

in

a June 14, 1871

87-kg motorcycle was fabricated

way

torcycles were under

Sylvester Roper's machine,

between

their legs,

power

who

to

remove the cranks

make room

addition to Perreaux's patent,

,

and the

mod-

resulting

develop steam-powered mo-

the United States.

In

was another

1869,

for the

to the rear wheel. This final

later that year. Similar efforts to

built circa

all

was needed was

other countries, as well.

in

Fortunately for those boiler

that

All

an arched backbone to

early example.

cringe at the thought of sitting with a steam

but a few motorcycles produced today are pow-

ered by four-cycle internal-combustion engines. The four-stroke cycle— the

and

induction of a fresh fuel piston, the ignition

the piston, and

was

first

mixture into the cylinder,

air

and subsequent expansion

proposed by Alphonse Beau de Rochas

and created the

first

Motor

to focus

more years

and Daimler soon abandoned

the

first

atmosphere-

later.

into a

Gottlieb Daimler it

in

wooden

a

"motor-cycle" powered by internal combustion. But

on producing a for

work against

1862 and made

1876. Nine years

in

crude vehicle had four wheels and bore only a

actual motorcycle,

nine

in

a lightweight version of one of these engines, installed

built

chassis,

to

the expulsion of the spent mixture into the

finally,

working engine by Nikolaus Otto

this

compression by the

its

gasses

of the hot

superficial

his

practical automobile.

commercial production

of

resemblance

to

an

Reitwagen mit Petroleum took

It

motorcycles

to begin. In

1894,

years after abandoning

five

their

own steam-

engine project, Henry and Wilhelm Hildebrand )Oined with Alois Wolfmuller of Munich to patent a water-cooled, two-cylinder, fourcycle gasoline engine in

in

a bicycle-type frame.

Made under

license

France, approximately one thousand of the machines were

eventually produced. Unfortunately, their design, which linked the

connecting rods of the massive rear wheel,

rapid

was fundamentally

developments

company went

in

,489-cc engine directly to the

in

1897.

company was

Daimler's experimental vehicle of a of for

keep pace with

the nascent motorcycle industry, the

out of business

the founding of this

1

flawed. Unable to

many ways, however,

In

every

bit

decade

machines produced indicates the demand

as significant as

earlier.

The number

that already existed

two- wheeled transport.

Another representative early production model was the 1901 Indian, whose engine

was derived from that of the De Dion Bouton automobile. By copying and Oscar Hedstrom were able

to enter production relatively easily. Their

success; along with Harley-Davidson,

it

was one

a glance that the Indian's engine

It's

thought to

standard bicycle frame. By contrast,

FN was

into a

specifically

clear at

manufacturers were producing strengths of the

it's

designed to house an engine. The engine

Paul Kelecom's complex shaft-drive, four-cylinder

much

FN design kept

it

in

George Hendee

company was

two U.S. manufacturers

of only

vive into the 1930s. fit

it,

was

at a

By 1903, the engine had found

its

more than twenty

final resting place

in

and the spray carburetor and magneto had been developed face carburetor and the hazardous open flame of hot-tube

'

'.isee

de

riie-de

Steam Velocipede

181

I

nOllei

i

489

«

1894 Germany

after-

particularly remarkable.

machine appeared

for

M

evident that the frame of the

itself

time

when most

cruder one-cylinder, belt-driven machines. The

production

i

a

to sur-

was adapted as an

Rg

the

intrinsic

25

years.

space beneath the

tank,

to replace the unreliable sur-

ignition.

Everything

was

essentially


in

and the changes since then have mostly been gradual

place,

many

finements. But those refinements improved performance

times over. The 1901 Indian weighed

and produced

less than 2

1920s, developments industry of World

in

War

cc engine to more than

I

1

hp from

its

some one hundred pounds

16-ci (260-cc) engine.

engine technology originating

had boosted the output 5

By the

the aircraft

in

of a typical

300-

power

with-

hp. Harnessing this additional

out twisting or distorting the frame required an increase

weight to approximately three hundred pounds. The

916 weighs

re-

1

in

overall

994 Ducati

50 percent more than these machines, yet

only

engine produces nearly ten times the power. This

was made

its

pos-

by the development of materials technology, which allowed en-

sible

gineers to design structures of tremendous strength without a cor-

responding increase of

aluminum

A

weight.

in

simple example

is

the substitution

Although the reduced weight of aluminum pro-

for steel.

vides significant performance advantages over low-carbon structural steels,

a

typical

aluminum

alloy

costs roughly

five

times as

much

per kilogram as steel. However, the aluminum frame of the 1925 Molteni

shows

that motorcycle designers

were already

exploiting the

advantages of high-performance materials.

The Racer's Edge color,

Valve Board Track Racer

was designed

track faster than Indian Single. 16

The Otis Chandler Vintage

ci.

1901. United Slates

Museum and

of Transportation

Wildlife,

Oxnard. Calil

988

cc.

4

Brough Superior SS100 Alpine Grand Sport,

1926. United Kingdom Silverman

Collection ol

Museum

Jack Silverman.

Racing, Aspen, Colo

number

as the 1953

was a Fig

its

veloped by Oscar Hedstrom several years lished a

of official world

AJS E-95

every aspect of the 1915 Indian 8-

Other than the choice of

competitors.

Its

earlier with four valves for

very successful dirt-track racer of the

all

to

compete

around the

each

cylinder, estab-

similarly specialized.

in its

within a set of rules that typically specified

weight and other mechanical aspects,

in

The Harley

1950s and 1960s. One should not conclude,

however, that such racing machines represented motorcycle design

each was designed

it

speed and distance records. Other racing machines, such

1957 Harley-Davidson KR, were

or the

solely to get

high-performance engine, de-

purest form, for

minimum

over-

addition to engine size. Nonetheless, the im-

pact of racing on the evolution of motorcycles cannot be understated. In

1926, George Brough guaranteed that the Brough Superior

SS100

Alpine Grand

Sport could reach a top speed of 100 mph. although few of England's roads of the time could sustain such a speed.

Produced

Brough Superiors were of the

virtually

marque's most famous

at

handcrafted. Over an

riders,

(and one SS80) models before he to avoid a bicyclist that

few could

lives at

was

killed

on one

have been

for

changing

speed

of

on machines a

tires set

it

apart from it

in

T

a low-speed crash

E.

third of

the size.

emerged

six

SS100

for

performance

C was

its

their

Such has continued

to

designed to exacting standards foot controls, the

that also pivoted to elevate the front of the

contemporaries. At the time

it

was

use

of

machine

introduced,

its

top

the fastest production vehicle available.

Design trends beyond those of motorcycling have also influenced the results often

Lawrence, one

when he swerved

pay a premium

and performance. The adjustable

and the dual side-stands

120 mph made

1-year period,

willing to

be the case. The 1954 Vincent Black Shadow Series

stainless steel,

a period of twenty years,

Motorcycles such as the Brough Superior spent most of

easily achievable

of materials, craftsmanship,

1

for

averaged 27,000 miles a year on a series of

Historically, cyclists

effectively use.

speeds

a rate of fewer than one a day

in

diluted form.

An

Art

Deco

influence

is

styles,

although

visible in several of the


machines from the 1920s and

'30s. At other times, cultural forces

itself

weight magnesium castings and overhead camshaft,

numbers

limited

for the

configuration

was

purpose

of winning races.

minimum wind

sitioned to achieve

one

G50

cylinder, the

gained

was an example built British

of

prompted manufacturers Venom. With

in

rider.

With an engine

this

of only

multi-

to the

Grand

Prix racing of the time.

so they took

motorcycles to have the ap-

their

cues from such machines. This

their styling

to design production

it

The enthusiasts who

machines such as the 1963 Velocette

large fuel tank, alloy rims, twin-leading-shoe front brake, lowered handlebars,

its

Venom emulates

racing-style seat, the

a machine intended

the style of the

surfaced

first

G50

everyday use.

for

The minor cosmetic modifications made chines that

maximum speed— although

and maneuverability over machines with

"Cafe Racers" of the 1950s and "60s wanted Prix racers,

very

somewhat reduced maximum horsepower. As such,

one approach

pearance of Grand

light-

in

The handlebars and the seat were po-

resistance and therefore

reliability

its

was designed and produced

not necessarily the most comfortable for the

cylinder engines, at the cost of

and

from within motorcycling

have played major roles- The single-cylinder 1962 Matchless G50, with

postwar America

in

ma-

to stock

(for

example, see

the 1940 Indian Sport Scout "Bob-Job") were the

first

stirrings

of the impulse that eventually led to highly stylized "Choppers,"

epitomized by the motorcycles crafted

extended

clean,

front

ends

of

for

machine was

styled

in

central

was made

Illinois

an independent designer.

ing as

can be contrasted

it

by Craig

The

(1969).

those bikes can be seen

1973 Triumph X75 Hurricane. Although this

Easy Rider

in

in

the

England,

Vetter,

work-

Vetter's "American" design

directly with the "English"

design of the

BSA

Rocket

3, since Vetter began his work with a standard 1969

Rocket

3. In general,

however, mainstream motorcycles have

less strongly affected by fashion trends than

been

have other

items of industrial design. The 1973 Triumph X75, which, retrospect,

in

not such a radical departure from the conven-

was

designs of the time, was viewed with considerable skep-

tional

when

ticism

first

it

appeared. Fewer than 1.200

of the

ma-

chines were sold, compared to 27.000 of the Triumph Trident,

a more traditional design. (The 1967 T120 Bonneville ilarly

is

a sim-

traditional Triumph.)

Contrary to the cliched perception that motorcyclists are individualists

unique

who choose

identity,

they are,

to ride as a in fact,

way

of demonstrating their

quite conservative. Manufacturers are keenly

aware

that

Fig

5

cyclists have been reluctant to accept revolutionary designs, even ones with performance

BMW's 1985

advantages. Although parture from

mounted later,

its

it

radical de-

its

like

innovative Telelever front

suspension on machines such as

was styled to resemble the conventional

used to seeing. Now, as contemporary designs

well

as

in

front

ends

that motorcyclists

the past, motorcycle designs that push too

risk failure in

far

significant departure

Sei

The Otis Chandlfl

of Transportation and Wildlife

;

•

Fig. 6.

Matchless G50. 49l

ited

Kingdom.

Birmingham, Ala

were

beyond 27

the marketplace.

The 1993 Ducati M900 "Monster" was a

Shadow

pioni

was

the older engine. Again, ten years

the frame and styled to look

in

BMW introduced

the R1 100RS.

K100RS was a

sixty-year tradition of air-cooled transverse "boxer" twins, the engine

transversely

when

water-cooled, four-cylinder

vincenl Black

from design norms.

either as By the late 1980s, most large-displacement street motorcycles were created such as machines "cruisers" or as "sportbikes." The cruiser category was represented by


rider the 1971 Harley-Davidson Super Glide "Night Train," on which the

moderate speeds along

sat upright while traveling at

The modern sportbike evolved out

verability

on

placed the

machines such as the 1985

of

twisting roads.

rider in a

They were designed with a

crouched position

and

trast to cruisers, several national

reduce wind resistance.

to

As

their

had hidden most engines

some aspects

of the

Because R1100RS, 1.085 CC 1998, Germany Courtesy

ol

BMW AG,

Munich

fairings are

levels

have escalat-

decade, put the

for the previous

new

trend,

rider in

one

that

of sportbikes.

easy to damage but expensive to replace, be-

sameness cause motorcycles can function without them, and perhaps because of the fully

into

faired

damaged

machines, young riders of the 1990s have taken to turning

stripped-down "streetfighters." A damaged

be purchased

for a third of the price of

a

a

com-

"naked" styling of cruisers with the high per-

formance and maneuverability

BMW

production coun-

dispensed with the fairing that

more upright position, and thereby established a

7

their

performance

ed considerably. However, the Ducati M900

Fig

con-

In

a consequence, considerable developmental effort has been

devoted to these machines, and

bined

and

fairing

full

international racing series exist for

modified sportbikes, which has affected sales of terparts.

maneu-

built for

which resembled the high-speed racers

Suzuki GSXR,

straight roads.

fairly

of

sportbikes

sportbike that's only a few years old can

new machine,

yet

engine that produces only a few horsepower less than the

provides

it

its

owner

with an

model. Removing extra-

latest

or her neous parts boosts the power-to-weight ratio and allows the owner to exercise his

as

creativity,

well.

No doubt these

streetfighters

will

influence styles of the

coming

years.

The Lady Riders Examining the open-loop frame of the 1922 Monet & Goyon Moto Legere, one might

conclude that

it

was designed

vide transportation for the ing their cassocks.

for

many

a

woman.

machine was developed

Actually, this

parish priests

in

France, allowing them

With few exceptions, motorcycle designers have been male, and most

designs were developed specifically to appeal to men. Even today,

than 10 percent of at the turn of

all

motorcycle riders

the century. That

cycles from the earliest torcycles

England

in

open-frame

style of

is

in

women

the U.S.. and the percentage

not to say that

women

was

for less

surely lower

haven't been involved

made

specifically for

women's

women. They were manufactured

bicycles of the time.

in

motor-

In

that

same

year. Mrs.

F.

using the

H.

de Veulle

motor bicycle the hundred miles from Coventry to Lon-

don, where she received a diamond ring from the company's owner ment. To appreciate what was involved in

account

times. As early as 1897. both Coventry and Humber marketed mo-

rode a Coventry Motette woman's

paved roads

to pro-

to ride while wear-

in this ride,

understand that

in

for her

accomplish-

1897 there were no

England, other than those that were covered with irregular cobblestones.

Moreover, the ignition system on Mrs. de Veulle's motorcycle consisted of an open-flame burner on one end of a platinum tube inserted into the cylinder, and the carburetor ply a

pan

of fuel

whose vapors were sucked

dent often resulted

in

into

sim-

a conflagration.-'

The Vespa and the Honda C100 Super Cub were out simultaneously alienating 28

was

the engine. Even the most minor acci-

men. Both sold

in

styled to appeal to

women

with-

very large numbers, influencing other

manufacturers to copy the designs. Despite the popularity of such models, however,

women

still

constitute a

consequences

for the

fairly

small minority of motorcyclists. This fact has had significant

designs of the machines. Although the styling of certain industrial ob-

jects—pens, razors, even automobiles— might be aimed

at

men.

their functionality is


largely gender-neutral.

Such

is

not the case for the motorcycle.

machines. The

thing, there's the sheer physicality of the

For one

unique single-sided front suspension of the 1993 Yamaha

developed by James Parker to bypass some conventional telescopic fork suspension, which

World War

shortly after

GTS 1000 was

of the limitations of the

came

widespread use

into

II.

With any suspension system, the farther

can telescope, the better a motorcycle can react

it

to irregularities in the

pavement. The 31 -inch height of the GTS1000's seat was a compromise the designer

mon

suspension and physiology. The most com-

made between

modern

configuration for

the ground with both feet are as

30

street motorcycles puts the seat

inches above the ground, which allows the average male

when stopped. Fewer

rider to

to

32

touch

women

than 3 percent of

as the average man, and they generally lack the upper-body

tall

strength to support a

450-pound machine.

What's in a Motor? Most

motorcycles highlighted here were powered by four-cycle engines. The twothe remarkable of the internal-combustion engine was patented in 1892, and

of the

cycle form

water-cooled engine

in

Scott Squirrel Sprint Special

the 1929

efforts of Alfred A. Scott, beginning

mined

as early as 1900.

was

In

Fig

8 Monet & Goyon Moto Legere. 117

CC,

192

Collection ot Michel Gagnaire

the result of the deter-

the Scott engine, induction

compression and exhaust overand expansion processes overlapped during one cycle, with number of power impulses as the produced twice lapping during the other. As a result, it

a four-cycle engine during every revolution. With

power output, the Scott

Squirrel

won

its

combination

the 1912 and 1913

of light

Man

Isle of

low most prestigious motorcycle races of the time. With the engine ple fuel tank

stowed below

loop-scavenging system, were

was one the

later in

DKW

and

its

pur-

Schnuerle to the two-cycle engine, such as the elegant

first

deployed

in

Germany

in

such machines as the

DKWs

the most advanced designs of the time, and

of

Senior TT, one of the the frame

half-century the seat, the basic Scott design lasted for a

Subsequent improvements

This

in

weight and high

DKW

RT125.

was seen

influence

BSA

were copied from Bantam and Harley-Dav.dson Hummer, both of wh.ch the power output 1960s, the During were taken as war reparations.

drawings that

not exclus.vely-to the work of these engines increased considerably, due largely-but was a direct result of those Kawasaki Mach Suzuki, along with Kawasaki and Yamaha. The

of

III

motorcycle was able to accelerate

of only 498 it had an engine two-cycle vehicle on the road. In one decade, the other any practically than more rapidly engine the for inexpensive transport to engine had evolved from a device suitable largely

efforts.

of

cc, this

Although

choice

for

many

Alas, the engine ,t

was

teams and high-performance

racing

was

not explicitly banned,

Protection Agency. Although to run afoul of the U.S. Environmental it

was

to nearly impossible for a two-cycle engine

emissions standards. An exception was the strated that with sufficient

effort,

it

was

Yamaha RD400

possible for

then-current regulations. But the lengths to which cation

made

this labor

far

air

of the

meet exhaust-

mid '80s. which demon-

the a two-cycle eng.ne to comply with

Yamaha had

a less than practical engineering

the environmental costs of

enthusiasts.

to

go

to obtain

solution. Certainly,

EPA

certifi-

one cannot ignore

the two-cycle eng.ne pollution, yet the fact remains that

which fewer working parts than a four-cycle engine,

means

has

a lower product.on cost and 29

the emiseng.neers continue trying to overcome hence a lower purchase price. Consequently, port that eng.ne has a valve in the exhaust sions problem. Honda's experimental EXP-2 is an enresult The cr.tical per.od of the cycle. controls the pressure in the cylinder dur.ng a

as well as increased gine that has significantly reduced emissions

fuel

economy.


Words such as

seems

carburetor, which

three essential functions:

It

component

to describes a different

A head

the performance of the head.

entirely, refers to

Desmo

aspects of the head of the engine. Even dual-

refer to specific

all

overhead-cam, or

sidevalve, four-valve,

delivers

air

and

performs

the inside of the en-

fuel to

the hot gine, dissipates the heat generated by combustion, and expels

gasses. The head

is

most important

the single

has received the attention of generations of engineers,

designs that are beautiful

in

own

their

and

part of an engine resulting in

many

example, consider

right; for

the heads on the engines of the 1914 Cyclone, 1953 AJS, 1962

MV

Matchless G50. 1974 Ducati 750SS. and 1973

A air

and

Agusta 750S.

motorcycle engine generates power by ingesting as

fuel

as possible (15 times as

much

air

as

fuel), igniting

much

it.

then

venting the spent mixture with minimal restriction. Unfortunately, the

much

laws of thermodynamics dictate that the burning fuel

is

lost in

the more wasted heat

the form of heat rather than delivered as

generated. Very

is

wasted power other than removing

damaging the engine. on

cle engines relied fer efficiently

energy released by

The more power extracted from an engine,

to the rear wheel.

power

of the

it

as

little

can be done about

efficiently

this

as possible to avoid

about twenty years ago, most motorcy-

Until

cooling, necessitating cooling fins to trans-

air

the heat from the engine to the

air.

The low-power en-

gines of the early years of the century generated relatively small

amounts iron Fig

of heat, so materials of low thermal conductivity

could be used, and cooling

9 Yamaha GTS1000. 1.003 cc, 1993. Japan Courtesy

as engine power increased, aluminum replaced cast

Corporation. USA, Cypress. Calif.

The heads on the 1924 Moto Guzzi C4V

ol

Yamaha Motor

came

essential.

the improvement Fig

in

fins

could be

iron,

such as cast

fairly small.

However,

and deeper cooling

and the 1962 Norton

Manx

fins

be-

illustrate

casting techniques during this period.

10 Scott Squirrel Sprint Special, 620 cc. 1929,

United Kingdom

The Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum,

Birmingham, Ala

The Cycling Century Taking one's hand of

the accelerator,

off

it's

fascinating to follow the gradual transformation

motorcycle shape and style as a whole, from the 1915

CB750

Triumph Speed Twin and 1970 Honda are outstanding

examples

yond what's needed work used

Edward

in

for

of

Iver

Johnson through the 1938

Four to the 1993 Ducati M900.

machines designed to provide a

basic transportation. The

level of

Turner's twin-cylinder engine for the

performance

quality of the materials

the Iver Johnson were significantly higher than that of

Speed

most

All

of

of

these

well be-

and the machine

its

contemporaries.

Twin, introduced at a time

when

sin-

gle-cylinder machines dominated the English market, proved to be one of the most longlived tire

designs

range

in

motorcycling history.

It

was used

for the next

fifty

numerous other manufacturers. Honda's CB750 was the world's four-cylinder machine.

Honda was

far

from the

first

and the economies

of

mass

production, the

30

the Ducati

M900,

cited

Triumph's en-

first truly

mass-produced

to

Honda's excellent design, high qual-

CB750

brought such features as overhead-

camshaft multi-cylinder engines and disc brakes earlier,

in

and was copied by

with this engine configuration— witness

the 1908 FN Four and 1910 Pierce Four— but thanks ity,

years

of vertical twins (and triples), including the Bonneville,

by boldly stripping

to the general motorcycling public.

And

created a

new

away

the ubiquitous

fairing,

and extraordinary hybrid machine.

These transformations serve but there have been

many

to illustrate the overall evolution of motorcycle design,

interesting,

and sometimes important, digressions and discon-


as

tinuities,

Consider the 1922 Megola. the 1922 Neracar, the 1925 Bohmerland,

well.

Majestic. Although the Megola"s design

and the 1930

sand were produced over with sheet metal

forward riding position and

The Megola's

providing 15

ratio,

impulses

firing

rider

feet-

engine

for

each

was unusual

was coupled

for

machines

of this period.

to the front wheel via a

6

to

1

gear

revolution of the wheel. This design resulted in

operation. However, overcoming the inertia of the rapidly spinning

an exceptionally smooth

30 kg made turning sharply more

difficult

than

is

the case with a

more conventional machine.

to protecting riders from the elements.

The Neracar represented another approach like

two thou-

machine shielded the

touring version of the

rear springing, which

five-cylinder, four-cycle

quite unorthodox, nearly

from the elements and adopted a comfortable

The

four years.

for partial protection

was

Un-

the Megola. the Neracar was designed as an inexpensive

machine.

was

It

first

drive,

itive friction

produced with a two-cycle engine and prim-

although

versions had a four-cycle engine

later

of with a gearbox, as well as rear springing. In spite

ism, the Neracar's low center of gravity innovative,

were quite pleasing.

A decade

these ideas

one step

and the

later,

broader spectrum of

styling of the

steering

bodywork was very

his remarkable Majestic.

some

making the machine

oil,

attractive to a

riders.

Like the Megola. the Bohmerland deserves special

men-

motorcycles ever produced tion as one of the most unusual quantity. Albin Liebisch

designed

his

to carry three people and produced

1923

in

long-wheelbase machines

them

in

various forms from

1939. These machines were remarkable not only

until

of

Roy went

enclosing the Majesties engine to protect the

from grease and

rider

and hub-center

designer Georges Roy revisited

when he produced

further, fully

its utilitarian-

for

from large-diameter tubing their length and their construction contrasting colors at a but also for Liebisch's use of bright and

when muted tones were

time

Truly,

the standard.

amaztwo-wheeled motorization has undergone a vast and steam his installed Perreaux G. the day L.

ing evolution since

engine

in

a Michaux bicycle

What began as a mongrel

some one hundred

fleet of finely

that

pedigreed machines. The

was never meant

dream

of rolling freely

down

interaction of society, culture,

gave for

r.se to

the

open

was never intended

to propel

it,

evolved mto a

Fig

11

Honda CB750F"--

Collect'

and the chopper, the scooter and the embodied evolutionary dead ends-all of them

cruiser

the sportbike, the magnificent eccentrics and

the

years ago.

contraption fabricated out of a bicycle that

be motor.zed. and an eng.ne

to

thirty

road.

What good

fortune

It

was

that

such a un.que

Hid.

nofD

J

i

598

cc.

1925. Czechoslovakia.

"I'n

technological progress, and gender, and design innovation and that has stirred hearts conveyance even intimate, means of

an individualized,

generations.

Notes 1

2.

C R Caunter. Motorcycles

Maz

A

Harr.s. Bikers: Birth of a

Her Majesty's Stationary 0ff.ee. 1982). Technical History, 3rd ed. (London

Modern Day Outlaw (London. Faber &

(London 3."lxion7B H Dav.es. Motor Cycle Reminiscences

lliffe

&

Faber, 1985).

Sons, ca 1920).

31


Mark

and Jose Marquez

Taylor

C.

Cycles of Paradox

Most people

live

completely absorbed

benchwarmers who do not take ballet

dancers and have

down

again,

and

ately, is

more

or less

unhappy

diversion

one needs only

them the

to see

seems

to

to stand

this

is

the

of infinity are the

skill,

not unlovely to see.

is

the posture immedi-

that they are aliens.

but even the most not

need

to walk, to in

to see

in

in

into

life

a purpose

for

rules

each

and

is

of

individual

worth playing

well.

1843

a tremendously exhilarating and challenging game.

barriers. There's

who

something to win, something to

plays the game.

a major mistake can be severe

consequences

into

the pedestrian— that only the knight

one and only marvel.

Riding fast on a motorcycle

game has

the

such a way that

change the leap

—Soren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling,

This

of

skillful

them

It

touch and have touched the earth—

be able to come down

and

walking, absolutely to express the sublime

can do. and

shows

One does

instant they

and then one recognizes them. But instantaneously one

to their

wavering.

and

assume

they are unable to

conspicuous according this

and sorrows; they are the

The knights

the dance.

they waver for a moment, and this wavering

these knights cannot hide air;

not an

come down,

in

worldly joys

They make the upward movement and come

elevation.

this, too, is

But every time they

part

in

It

demands

lose,

and

your attention. The

—severe enough to make the game

—Keith Code, A

Twist of the Wrist,

1983

The Road, the Writer The motorcyclist encounters the road as a approach, no correct path, no true

and debris

tracks 32

left

To

ride

writer

encounters the page. There

The page

who have gone

by those

intersections without warning signs. straight

line.

The road

is

never blank but

before. Lines cross

twists

and

turns,

is

to write

and

to write

is is

to read

and

rewrite a text that

and

always

is

no proper

littered

with

crisscross to create

banks and slopes, becomes

and narrows down, develops a new surface, throws up

Neither writing nor riding

is

gravel, sand.

has already been

possible without a certain violence,

As the

oil.

water.

written.

writer inscribes


paper with

and words, so the motorcyclist cuts a

ink

through sheer space using

line

angles and velocity as letters and punctuation. Whether ink or rubber, the trace

even when the course seems

direct is

a

the

straight. Far

resistance that solicits the imagination of the

site of

drift

to the

the pretext, the

is

the road, improvisation

can never be written

rider's lines

The body

A

in

of the road forces

right

curve the

line to

the road

in

Though

right.

advance. Where rubber meets

become

the next bend. The rider must

of the road by reading signs that are never completely

legible.

Nothing

fully

aware

— readi-

secure

is

is all.

The two

never

unavoidable. Since curves unexpectedly appear and disappear,

is

know what's around

the rider can never

ness

rider.

before carving out a long, deliberate

left

is

from a passive medium, the road

of the rider/bike to negotiate a high-speed balancing act.

body

leads the rider to the road

be

to

ride

inscription of the line

it

same way.

the

the mark of style.

is

Though

the road

seems

fixed,

no

not the words but their inflection, their rhythm, their bal-

It's

ance, their spacing that creates

style. Slight

changes have important consequences; the can change everything

turn of a phrase, like the turn of the wheel,

in

the twinkling of an

eye. Never lightweight, seemingly minor adjustments might be matters

of

life

and death.

Riding and writing are deadly serious endeavors. Mistakes, which can never be erased,

sometimes

are

The

fatal.

curve, which

may

last only a split

second, can become a

death sentence.

The bike

yet one. the

two but not

longer

tale of the

and road

joins rider

The bike

rider.

is

of the road

trail

No

at the hip. is

the

a pen. the road, the

unfinished autobiography.

rider's

Lane-Splitting, Margins

As the motorcycle accelerates between two lanes heavy highway a truck on the

traffic,

right,

virtually

is

left

of

and

impossible not to cry:

."

"Dear God, she's.

A

it

overtaking a car on the

.

.

critical situation.

If

nobody moves, nobody

gets hurt.

The

who

rider

on nearly

splits lanes relies

mystical vision to guide her along the thin painted lines

on the road. Like a trapeze

artist

walker, the lane-splitter never looks ing

To

window

of opportunity that

dangerous

of

its

is

something altogether

invisibility.

Unlike the

down

but only ahead; she gazes into an ever-shrink-

opens and

closes between fast-moving lanes of

both the security of a motorcycle's superior

know

lane-split is to

or tightrope

Passing speeding cars

parasite

who

many aspects

always occurs

lives off

at

and the

risky,

of motorcycling that tend to

surrounding

traffic.

be highly

riding.

The

individual

lane-splitter

Laguna

i

in

the

is

a

Never following the road proper, lane-splitting

company

gambles by taking seemingly senseless drivers

Prix,

and

there, the

of others.

for herself an unstable the motorcyclist rides between lanes, she secures Riding the edge, she opens position that is both apart from and yet integral to the road. regulated flows, the lanea space that is nowhere. Always venturing beyond society's

and truck

S Gfand

insecurity

When

to car

II

but lane-splitting

Neither here nor the boundary, on the edge, along the margin.

(un)canny motorcyclist rides alone

splitter

1

different.

personal, lane-splitting lends a social dimension to

strictly

agility

may sometimes be

Fig

traffic.

who

risks.

Simultaneously attractive and repulsive

provoke fear play by the rules, lane-splitters both

and

loathing

33


and

inspire

envy and jealousy. "What was that?" asks the dazzled driver as she

by a motorcyclist passing on her

For a

right.

be traced. Coloring outside the in

drivers sitting

sponsibility

recognition

is

stake

at

and

and how you

sit

child's

in lane-splitting is

are unwilling to

fill

know

often deride

other an unthinking

can stay on the

or

left

Car

culture

on the

right.

that the

meaning

of re-

of traffic: a struggle for

mixed vehicles on shared roadways. passengers are

their five-seaters with other

the only action that counts

insist that

fool.

lies at

surprisingly,

wagons

game

reluctant to share lanes with motorcyclists. Lane-splitters scorn those

and narrow and

game. Not

ride.

precisely the social

self-definition in the interplay of

who

tary car drivers

be a

irresponsible. But lane-splitters

and

determined by where you

is

What

lines is said to

their sports-utility vehicles, minivans, or station

motorcyclists as childish

buzzed

however, roads have no lanes but only lines wait-

"within" her lane. For the motorcyclist,

ing to

split

is

second, the motorcyclist appears to be

who

Soli-

just

as

stick to the straight

on the margin. Each considers the

is

lane-splitting than lane-splitters

can no more tolerate

Both reckless prank and practical

tactic, lane-splitting

the heart of motorcycling's largely misunderstood methodical madness.

Helmets, Style With the exception its

of rare

transcendent experiences, motorcycling

styles are as varied as the cultures

American West, the helmetless motorcyclist

backdrop at

all

of simulated frontier living, the

but, rather,

which

in

it

is

makes sense.

not one but

many-

modern-day

as ubiquitous as designer jeans. Against

is

choice to ride without a helmet

an unavoidable demand

the

In

is

this

often no choice

of fashion.

Beyond the serpentine coastal roads

of California,

western highways usually follow

an emphasis on controlled cruising that makes

perfectly straight lines. This trajectory leads to

the fast -cornering motorcycle of European and Japanese racing culture both unnecessary

and

impractical.

On

the straightaway, the preferred ride

is

a low and heavyset galleon:

a Harley or a Harley wanna-be. With foot pegs only a few inches

Harley-esque

wanted

rider

scraping the road.

In fact,

style of motorcycling, the bike

in this

to maintain a respectful distance at

all

becomes an Easy

highways becomes a

Rider.

As the

rider's

low-maintenance

pantomime

to go.

Since only a handful of components

cycling,

makes

it

little

gear— as an

safety

sense

is

transformed, and

the helmet

As rarely

is

life

mend

as

is. in

when

lifestyle, is

No element

some

drifts

the helmet

needed

is

the

of

is

34

scious

piece of "baggage"

first

secondary significance because

when

in its

In

all

are

the helmet goes, the bike the story of motorcycling,

presence.

insurance policies go. the helmet

is

a good investment. Traumatized brains

as cleanly as shattered bones. Faced with such dreadful odds, the simple-mind-

ed accountant wonders why anyone would be so reckless as to hicle at high

motorcycling over

to create a given tableau of motor-

sense, primary. Thus,

absence as

art of

from high-performance machinery

the bike changes, the helmet goes.

telling in its

and the road are

any element— whether fashion, machinery, or

to refer to

accessory.

interrelated; every piece

the

strangely laid-back leisure sport. Every rider

emphasis

to the

of a

if

times.

Having done away with fast-paced cornering, the deserted, rectilinear

the ground, even

chrome components— especially polished

the very presence of

chrome foot pegs— suggests that expected

off

to take a tight corner at high speeds, he could not avoid

speeds without a helmet. The answer,

risk analysis

but

in

it

appears,

is

ride

not to

a two-wheeled ve-

be found

in

any con-

the dictates of an aesthetically designed experience that

wholly dependent on context for content.

In

the world of casual cruisers, crashing

is

seems

as impossible or as unlikely as suddenly encountering a series of switchback turns on a flat

desert highway.


The helmet

or

absence corresponds

its

an

to

imaginary vector by reflecting a particular understanding of riding as occurring in

meaning

of the

The

particular place.

and through a

pseudo-practical,

litany of practical,

blatantly impractical objections to helmets are ra-

and

made

tionalizations of decisions

wear a helmet

refusal to

is

other reasons. The

for

not an act of courage but an

aesthetic statement.

the use of helmets

creative than

and

contrived

any

in

where racing motorcycles

city

In this setting,

supreme.

on display

of the helmet are

The aesthetics European-styled

reign

no less

is

conscious eschewal. But

its

AfS

in-

stead of riders flagrantly parading through the streets with

around

heads, one

little

more than bandanas

finds

a dazzling array of helmets ranging from cheap to expensive, and stock to painted

The difference

intention of actually scraping his foot

may have no

racer")

met projects

precisely the opposite image.

helmet during a crash

The helmet

urban street racer

of posture: while the

one

is

tied

their

is

insignificant

is

the

In

final

when compared

Fig

2

Italian

Grand

Prix,

Mugelio. 1997

less charitably, the "cafe

(or.

pegs on a

tight turn, his

fancy hel-

analysis, the accidental function of a

to

a matter of style rather than substance,

gear.

overdetermined aesthetic

its

and

effect.

of aesthetics rather than

utility.

Pipes, Postscript

On

the street, the intense camaraderie between motorcycle riders

anachronism sion

a

is

in

fallen

age

this

and

of virtual

expect help from other motorcyclists, pickup truck, the

often

woman

members At

of

rival

glance,

first

soil of

barren

it

impromptu

of this

they stem from what

together might

many

in

their

own

and

appear

if

of opposition: the

born

that any

solitary

to

be a

some

come

Having

of

spirit.

rider,

road,

in

tradistinction to car drivers. survival of the

and car what lethal

the

is

The

do

grow

As

is

is

bike,

in

biker

is

of need.

the seemingly

experienced,

what binds

first

riders

and unique

their discrete

community

often the case,

is

forged as

traffic,

in

which they had

their

own

what the

driver

is

in this

not so obvious to the vast majority of travelers

between bike

day and age. the car

who do

simplicity cars are. Their very safety, security, and

con-

in

not and, of course, vice versa.

daily l.fe-and-death struggle

the road. Obviously,

roads.

however, most contemplate such a

motorcyclist defines himself or herself

two-wheel species turns on a

(or truck) for control of

more

the

in

their "drivers."

would be one

the crucible of mixed

fantasy with indignant scorn. The modern

The

and

equivalence based on

moments

immediate and universal bond among motorcyclists

motorcylists. an ideal world

age

in

Since motorcycling

encounter of

spiritual

roots can

communal

from without by the constant threat of cars and For

The man

distress.

is in

experiences. But something else draws bikers together. is

disguise.

the general society of motorcyclists

seem a marvel

silent

initially

can always

of assistance in

society of motorcycle riders are not occult, nor

a motorcyclist's lonely and aloof

and foremost, as a

appear

have identified as antisocial or misanthropic tendencies. Even

clubs share

might

need

rider in

initially

behind the counter, the delivery boy. the well-heeled exec reveal

themselves to be motorcyclists when one of

The roots

a

battery,

who

an

of

gated communities. Whether the occa-

non-virtual

dead

bike or merely a

something

is

is

king.

not ride motorcycles

enable them

to

is

maim and

But

how 35

kill

all

efficiently.

RÂŤd.ng a motorcycle "light" truck,

demands

by contrast, requires

total

little

now-popular concentration; driving a car or the

more than a

single hand, leaving the other

hand

free


make telephone

to

send faxes,

calls,

w,th the radio knob, or turn the

pages

often rests

dl stract.ons. his fate

in

log on, apply

makeup, eat a

a newspaper. While

of

hands

burger, drink

a

beer, play

the motorcyclist res.sts

all

such

on the wheel. When worlds as

that are not

well

.nvolv.ng a newscasters .nvariably report "an accident as bikes collide, helicopter-bound coevolut.onary were a parasite engaged in an endless motorcycle." It is as ,f the motorcyclist

struggle with a host that

is

trying to eliminate him.

Living on the marg.ns

qu,ckly realizes she rider to

become

The presence is

In this

ma.nstream automotive

welcome on

not

the

society, the motorcycle r.der

open road. Indeed,

it

is

uncommon

not

for the

b.zarre sense of four-wheeled just.ce. the target of a car driver's for automotive soc.ety: Who motorcyclist poses a troubling question

of the

dec.sion The motorcyclist makes a conscious

the outlaw?

traffic

is

of

casting of

lots,

the rider has no cho-ce but to

stakes as well as the rewards of

riding.

For those

comes

motorcycling not what they do. the bliss of

who can

not only to ride but to r.de

become

all

too aware of the

forgive fellow travelers

prec.sely from

in

who know

know.ng that the road must

tactics. Never safe only by deft maneuver and guernlla be reclaimed, aga.n and aga,n. l.nes. different affirm her presence along and secure, the motorcyclist seeks to generates a variety of codes, Whence the kinsh.p among motorcycle r.ders that mogroup rallies, which inspire thousands of badges banners, and rituals. There are the stosacred where bars in one fell swoop; there are the torcyclists to reclaim a special road different tr.bes and there are esoter.c magaz.nes devoted to ries are spun and tales retold; motorcyclists from one texts, fabr.cs. and colors distinguish their specialized fashions. These marks of difriders from dr.vers. Among all these another and. more importantly, differentiate tail p.pes. and telling than the sound of the motorcycle's ference, none is more pronounced never a but ellipsis an or mark exclamation The sound of pipes trail a bike like an if

period.

A

phrasing, which begins with rap.d

firing in

from the bike's engine, quickly issues

American tutored ear. the deafening roar of an pipes as expressive exhaust. To the street Japanese of a zip Italian sport bike, the clean cruiser, the throaty gargle of an of model the make and In addition to identifying racer are each layered with associations.

the

ta.l

myriad mean.ngs a bike, these signatures convey trian

exceeding the

The approval-or myopic obsession with acceleration.

clist's identity

what the unconscious

reservoir of feeling

one must

is

and meaning, which tw.ce for

listen at least

The contours tattoos

all

of

is

in

is

maintained by the sound of

for

pedes-

both cases,

departed

its tail

p.pes.

polished chrome, or an armful

the blink of an eye

finally fail to inspire

of the

spirit. In

a remainder of a collective

a sleek bike, the brilliance of

moment. But the sound

need

p.pes are to the motorcy-

those with ears to the significance of the utterances. For

appear and disappear

cent as images, they

rider's

inaccessible to the Freudian sub,ect: a largely

hear, the invisible society of motorcyclists

ful

far

or the tw.st of the wrist.

witnesses with any lasting prom.se of motorcycle, the postscr.pt of

its

life

of art-

Evanesafter the

pipes, lingers, re-

mains, and beckons.

Knee Pads, Balance motorcycle between your legs, the road lmag.ne traveling alone at 60 mph. with a roaring curve aplight helmet on your head. As the rushing beneath you. and nothing but a toward knee your your weight as you lower proaches, you lean the b.ke and smoothly shift abrupt, you find yourself "hanging out." the ground. With a suddenness that is not we.ght of the mowe.ght/counterweight. To "hang out" is to counter the Act.on/react.on you are traveling as you head into the torcycle with the we.ght of the rider. The faster close turn. The a.m. of course, is to cut it as curve, the lower you must lean to "make" the .

.

.

as possible without

falling.


When

becomes

the angle

pad

weakness but a badge

not a sign of

is

becomes

precarious, the knee

Pads are an

a third wheel.

be peeled when not enough becomes too much. The knee

extra layer of skin waiting to

courage worn proudly by

of

achieved extraordinary technical mastery. Hanging out

is

elite riders

dream

the

who have

many

of

that

is

realized by few.

The pad marks the turning point is,

It

cate as

Where

complicated.

is

it

It

is

is

It

as

meet there

the vectors

guishable.

An

in

the complex relationship of bike,

rider,

as always, a matter of balance. Force and counterforce stage a play that

a

is

and bike were moving

rider

if

seems

to

be

if

at

all

rest

—only momentarily. Like a

sandpaper, the knee pad scrapes the surface

and confirming

deli-

become .

.

.

indistin-

one-m-three.

perfect.

Balance can be maintained

textures

and

a strange calculus that never quite adds up: three-in-one

equilibrium that

as

three directions at once.

in

point at which motion

still

and road. is

finger running across

of the road, informing the rider of the road's

his angle of descent. While the rider writes

the road, the road writes by scraping lines into the

by carving

rider's skin.

lines

through

Pads do not merely

protect but also offer supplemental writing surfaces waiting to be inscribed. For those

know how

pends on

fragile joint,

yet,

as long as

for

can

I

for

much

so

My

ride.

to turn the knee.

which, as every athlete knows,

who

gone over the edge and

de-

life

it

all,

And

the pivot of riding. The art of motorcycling

is

precisely the continuous negotiation

though

after

is,

It

easily injured.

is

forward only on bended knee. For the motor-

we can move

cyclist, the knee

ble

taking turns, I've

"In

it."

seems odd

It

a

knee pad declares:

do so again and again

will

I

to read, the

may seem,

always angular— they are

is

angles. Improba-

of critical

the best riders never quite

fit

but are

elbows and knees."

"all

Fall, Falling

To

fall

a speeding motorcycle and survive

off

that underwrites falling

all

motorcycling. The

from day one. Falling

is

happen

also

to

their attention. This

spoken

indirectly:

be good lie is

fate that

that leads to the traffic,

liars,

sometimes

fall.

not simply false but

of

is

fall is

The obsession with

deferred. Riders,

must be permanently the thought of

falling

a necessary self-deception falling

inevitable yet avoidable. falling

beyond the road by simultaneously

is

not thinking, the heaviest thought

it.

What

lends this nothingness

its

rider

It

is,

becomes

weight

is.

3 Austrian Grand

Prix,

the Oeslereichnnrj.

1996

never claims

which

truth

is

as always, self-consciousness

paralyzes the rider moving into heavy

must negotiate

thinking

in

Fig

but never acknowledge the thought.

rider creates a deadly hesitation heading into a turn, slows the

should be speeding up. The successful far

aware

insist that

the rider must always think of

Paradoxically, the

is

the inevitable catastrophe that nev-

ertheless must be avoided, the inescapable

who

the impossible event

is

motorcyclist

and

twists

not thinking of

light—as

frightfully

if

down when he

and turns falling.

that extend

When

thinking

there were nothing to

of course, the incontestable fact that

we

are

physical, vulnerable, mortal.

Having

fallen

and survived, the

rider faces

an important decision: "Do

I

continue to

asked when confronting the fear a sense, this question has always already been Those who say "No" significance. of falling. Yet, in the world of the fallen, it takes on added understand their fear and forgiven, for their brothers and sisters ride?"

and

In

turn

know

its

however,

away

are usually

force

all

who

too

well.

insist that

Not

riding

is

no

you cannot be a

sin for

those

real biker

who have

until

you

fall.

fallen.

There are others,

For them, biking begins

37


ends with

rather than after

a

fall is

to

confess weakness

into strength.

it

The

be learned by

only

When

1

Do

decide:

course? rider

I

that transforms

some

initiated realize that

lessons can

falling.

release the bike, or

may go

do

over,

he must

attempt to change

I

its

nothing can be done to avert the crash, the

If

must abandon

and

way

a

in

the rider senses he

quickly create as self

To say "Yes" to motorcycling

falling.

motorcycle.

his

much

he very

crucial that

is

It

distance as possible between him-

his motorcycle.

the gap

If

is

own

being run over or crushed by his

too small, he risks

motion

bike. Unruly

cannot be mastered by strategies of control. 2. At

himself absolutely limp. Fig

4 U S Grand

Prix.

Laguna Seca,

Calil

,

1993

torcyclist hits the

ground

he

stiff,

without resistance, the impact

To relax suddenly— a

tures. rider

from suffering grave

a sentient corpse, the

ball

rider

must

slide

is

tect fallen riders from losing their

made

To survive a

The only way

fall,

but to learn to his

fall

is

by

were always a world

in

not yet over.

nothing

will

name in

Little

moving.

is

more than

the rider at-

If

bounce along the ground go and

the rider simply lets

it

like

allows body and

possible to sur-

is

of release, opposites collide: stunned, scarred,

seems

and racing

suits

to

not,

is

be

in

one

piece!"

as many suspect,

skin.

While weatherproof synthetic materials have still

re-

the most effective low-

to

let

If

one lesson:

learn that the three rules of the road teach

go.

The problem

Though the

is

rider is

not to avoid

falling,

which

is

constantly responsible, the

impos-

outcome

resistance can be resisted by translating "No" into "Yes," dread-

blissful fatalism.

of crossing the line

proper

its

save the

nothing superfluous about these animal hides, which pro-

must

For the professional racer,

a sport

until

is

the rider declares: "Everything

own

gracefully.

hands.

can become

mph— can

fall

frac-

Peeling skins allow the rider to glide across the road's surface.

riders

hang on

to

always out of

ful fatality

60

the road at

inroads on the riding apparel market, leathers are

friction protective material.

is

If

of leather in motorcycling jackets

a bold fashion statement. There

sible,

along the road

moment

horrified, yet thrilled, joyful, ecstatic,

The use

however, he accepts the

separate ways, gliding across the surface of the road,

their

vive virtually unscathed. In the

cently

hitting

mo-

injuries.

about to be shred from the impact.

go

bike to

If.

body and he may avoid serious

get up before coming to a complete stop, he

tempts to

a toy

through his

must make

rider

struggling to avoid his fate, the

impact, the rider cannot move, for the ride

Upon

3.

ripple

second before

If.

bones.

risks shattering his

will

split

moment, the

the critical

falling is

not a question of

between chance and

but says:

"I

had

lies

fatalism, the rider

to put the bike

control. "Dropping." "going

which death

but "when." Having

"if"

down"— as

down." "breaking

elsewhere— beyond the realm

if

in

no longer in

made

refers to falling

moments

the leathers"

of motorcycling.

of falling all

he

suggest

Ecce Homo:

the Risen Rider.

Rider, Riders In

the mid-'80s. Marvel

Comics popularized the

with an eerie ability to conjure 38

as an ail-American group

of

story of a group of motorcycle stunt

up a supernatural motorcyclist named Ghost

Boy Scout types

men

Rider. Disguised

with a propensity for stumbling into

difficul-

ties,

they toured the United States staging a motorcycle circus for

audiences young and

old.

When

would

coma

trouble found the apparently innocent stuntmen. they

of sorts,

and from

their collective

dream the

figure of the

all

lapse into a

Ghost Rider would emerge.


Dressed

a black-leather jacket with matching pants, and seated on an incredibly

in

powerful black classic motorcycle, the Ghost Rider

kills

the bad guys and saves the day.

Performing morally ambivalent acts of heroism on behalf of the

Ghost Rider

What

tive?

is

mere flaming skeleton. Death

a

haunts

spirit

A man on a

go

playful child lets

cycle slowly roars

and

of his father

down

young son a

giving his

is

city streets,

or evil? Creative or destruc-

through the streets of downtown. The

ride

arms

raises his skinny

to form a cross.

the father follows the boy's lead and

dlebars. With no hands steering the bike, the machine

is

guided by

Driving through a deserted, postindustrial neighborhood, a

motorcycle behind him. Noticing that the bike torcyclist,

dressed

in

black pants and black

dark sunglasses, the driver suspects he of

ful

committing a moving

engine and passes him on the er

their joint

man

As the motorgo

of the han-

balancing act.

a car detects a

in

is

wearing a white helmet with

being followed by a Highway Patrol

Fear-

officer.

as the motorcyclist revs his

just

Only then does the driver of the car realize that the

masquerading as a motorcycle cop and

just

is

left.

is

lets

a black-and-white cruiser and the mo-

is

leather jacket,

he slows down

violation,

stunt riders, the

and bones?

this blazing skull

Harley

Good

or life?

comatose

heading to one

is

rid-

of the area's leather clubs.

Befuddled, the driver picks up his pace and focuses on the next stoplight

There

is little traffic

during the

the country general store.

and walks

the red sports bike arrives with rider and passenger, the

"One more crotch

clerk reacts warily:

the bike

When

into the store.

rocket,"

Removing

walks into the

if

riders are in their forties

The

their

years

the rider

clearly.

Though

and

in

is still

the

African-American brothers

who

live

mam draw

unleaded.

that

is

recent years, the presence of a growing

all,

theirs

a tame out-

with enough white beards among them

fifties,

of the club.

riders. After

for ten dollars of

meets by the loading docks

Japanese cruisers has begun to put a damper on tenance

off

buy some gas. Sure enough, the

will

and asks

store, takes off her helmet,

As motorcycle clubs go, the chapter fit.

he thinks to himself. The passenger gets

her helmet, she asks to use the bathroom. "Round

the side," the clerk answers, waiting to see rider

the tree-lined, two-lane road that passes by

week on

their

There

is

DIY

plenty of

the only club

is

spirit,

in

mark

to

number

of

the art of motorcycle main-

good cheer

in this fraternity of

the state formed by and for the

to ride.

Around the corner from the motorcycle

repair

shop

is

a

dingy, smelly bar frequented

grasshopper- styled dirt bikes to garmostly by motorcyclists. The bikes outside range from customers of the repair shop like that gantuan touring machines. It just so happens parked by the bar. Their reactions range from to stand outside and look at the bikes admiration and envy to condescension and scorn. are

engaged

Italian

in

the usual motorcycle

sports bike parked

ulat.ng

about

in

On

this particular day.

when

talk outs.de the repair shop,

front of the bar. Filled with interest

how much mechanical know-how

it

and

two young men

they spy a classic

desire, they begin spec-

takes to keep such a classic bike

in

run-

must be a master mechanic," a man in ning order. Having just concluded that "the owner of the bar. "Another lawyer." one of the a neatly tailored two-piece suit and tie walks out

men on

on

scoffs. "Probably getting

that black

K

his classic Italian sports bike, kick starts

bike." But, of course, the it,

and takes

off

man

in

the suit jumps

without ever looking back.

Dirt Bikes, Levity For the architect, building to shelter, structures are

is

as

if

these buildings were

completely clean, but

light.

designed to display

one has ever seen buildings is

a matter of

light is

like

Even though they are constructed light.

those pictured

made

to

in

Though they seem

in

order

real,

no

magazines, journals, and catalogues.

be photographed. Not only

captured

undeniably

at the precise

moment

its

is

everything

in

It

place and

glow seems most

perfect.

39


to biking as they are to

Magazines are as important The

architecture.

between

relation

text

and image, on the one

hand, and structure and event on the other,

is

neither simple nor

much

one-way. Texts/images produce structures/events as structures/events generate texts/images. For the stunt

is

audience as much

dance between

as

the pleasure of the

for

and

rider

camera and the

of the

gaze

for the

performed

dirt

bike

is

an eye to the photographic image.

carefully

On

rider.

thrill

The

of the

stylized

choreographed with

the glossy pages of Dirt

Bike Magazine, motorcycles and riders are undoubtedly

even though tured

in

As page Fig

5 Extreme biking

ground of a horizonless that

it

the camera's shutter have actually occurred.

page

after

world of

sky, the

is

dirt

real,

moves cap-

hard to believe that the extraordinary

flick of

the

as the

dirt biker,

biking

riders against the back-

images frames

of

appears to be suspended above a ground

has vanished. to boot with dust

Covered from helmet

and mud. the

roams on two

biker

dirt

addition to watching for wheels where most four-wheel-drive vehicles dare not tread. In worry about the consistency of the rocks, trenches, and bushes, the dirt biker must also road. While

most on-road motorcyclists dread the thought

puddle on the

a turn, the

far side of

dirt

biker

his

disappointed

is

surprises his way. Weaving, dodging, crouching,

and

high-suspension machine, defiantly navigates

rugged

earth.

When nowhere

Traversing a road that

is

is

all

the

succession

twenty, even cles are

made

to

dirt

of

series of stunts.

biker transforms

situation into a matter of course. His trans-

who

always out of bounds. The

is

maneuvers

of

be photographed,

is

the

shrill,

dirt

biking

meant

to do. Carefully crouched, the rider

muddy ramp,

rolls

dirt

sound

tinny

suspends the foundations bikes are

the throttle, and lets go.

aims the

As

lightly.

front fender at

of

The

skill

hidden crevices and covered with scattered debris. Since

of release

pull of gravity,

and

who

negotiating the boundaries dirt

lightness of the

Shifting,

lands as

biker

is

ground

is

what motorcy-

an insanely steep

of the off-road rider

and

is

trails

is

demon-

pockmarked

the levity of riding

with

can never be

always making double move-

lands without wavering or missing

taking off has learned the priceless lesson of

that

a levity that

earth. Neither too

somehow

is

never

fully

heavy nor too there.

light,

the

The improbable

deadly serious.

Punctuation

Cars and motorcycles are heading mission and cruise control as chines,

if

biker

dancer who

between heaven and

biker covers

dirt

artful dirt

return. Like a ballet

a step, the motorcyclist

accomplished

the

of

of

soar— ten,

bike departs earth, the rider rises from

strated less by the takeoff than the landing on dangerous tracks

separated from the

built to

air— in arcs that confound our expectations

feet in the

fifty

his seat while clinging to the handlebars ever so

40

perched on

the ups, downs, and in-betweens

mass, weight, angle, contour, and surface. Lightweight

ments

does not throw

trail

bike's whining two-stroke engine.

dirt

or

the

not a road, the aggressive perversity of the

his bewildering

Like architecture

hill

if

stretching, the dirt biker,

gressive gestures suggest the aesthetic of a trickster in

encountering gravel or a

becomes an endless

off limits, riding

the art of staying on top of an ever-changing

only constant

of

and

televisions,

in

opposite directions. Equipped with automatic trans-

well as plug-ins for

computers,

cellular

telephones, fax ma-

automobiles are becoming an ever-more automated auto-mobile.

At the end of this road

lies

the computer-operated

automated highway, which makes

increases the drivers obsolete. For the motorcyclist, by contrast, improving technology

need


for timely

knowledge, manual

smoothly only when

and physical

agility.

Shifty riders

know

that lines flow

punctuated.

skillfully

The motorcycle

dexterity,

necessarily a manual machine that requires the rider to

is

if

with

shift

must operate as

footwork. Hand clutch and a smooth combination of hand and or merely balancing on the straightaway, effective cornering when As were one. foot lever

shift-

they

the rider's ing is impossible unless

mind bends

body and her body becomes an

into her

of the motorcycle's engine are opaque to the extension of her mind. The complex contours accelerates, shedding one gear after another, while eye but visible to the rider's body as she motorcycle want to be shifted from first to always asking herself: "At what point does this and third gears? Can the course from second? Where is the engine speed between second first

to

gear be handled

fifth

a

in

way

that erases disruptive periods

the interruption that

is

When

shifting,

eling at great

speed

test of the rider's

makes

coordination is

skill.

The

continuity possible. is

not merely a

means

avid motorcyclist longs

machine created by smooth

shifting.

There

to an

end but an end

for a silent

is

Trav-

a true

harmony between person and

are. of course, riders

speed quickly and

to achieve with motorcycles engineered solely

in itself.

great speed; only the latter

same as approaching

not the

contin-

velocity?" Neither starting nor stopping, shift-

greater uous smooth curve toward greater and ing

and creates a

who

like

effortlessly.

to cut corners

These "crotch

and daring rather than cultivated sk.ll and knowrockets" require mindless concentration however, shifting is a form of meditation whose how. For riders who seek self-knowledge, lesson

discontinuity. the inseparability of continuity and

is

Speed, Slowness

Q: "What

"Dead

A:

There than

is

is

the

human body

a special fondness

exponential multiplication of

and

for

speed

in

our

age-a

virtual fetish for

models-are Motorcycles-especially the newer, high-tech

fast.

mix of death and sex drives as

Ing

100 mph?"

at

weight."

cellular

visible proof that the

mass by

velocity.

From

all

things faster

often thrown into the

boundaries of gravity dissolve with the this

telephones seem to go hand-in-hand

pent

of view, electronic stock trad-

with fuel-,n,ec.ed. air-cooled

motor-

bright red. cycles painted either bright yellow or

But to equate motorcycles with miss the pointlessness

of the

ness" nor "the speed of nor does

it

speeding

life."

this

sense

of

Motionless and effortless speed

neither "the bike. Motorcycles travel at

The motorcycle

actually

speed

is

to

of busi-

has nothing to do with "rush hour

by Guaranteed Overnight belong to the frenzied universe created

;

Delivery. In

and pam.ully ,n motorcyclist approaches speed slowly contrast to purposeful speed, the no concern for direction or arthan a few seconds, which betray rushes lasting no more rival

To

ride

a motorcycle seriously

Speed

,s

acceleration, a

is

to

go nowhere

fast.

adequate the motorcyclist. Without both necessary and superfluous to For reainert. its side and remains two-wheeled bike simply falls over on

Thus, there can be no the lifeblood of motorcycling. creating speed is tantamount of the motorcycle as motorcycling without speed. But to think Speed, like the a,r pulthe air that nourishes them. to insisting that human lungs produce

sons

of basic physics,

speed

is

elsewhere. sating through us. always originates It

vehicles

,s

do

of ccurse. undeniable that

not. But

miles per hour or

motorcycles inspire a sense

what the speeding biker

managing revolutions per

registers

of

has nothing to

mmute clocked on a

speed

that other

do w,.h increasmg

tachometer.

A

different


economy In

is

at play: the

speed

of the

motorcycle leads to release rather than accumulation.

the a certain sense, a motorcycle exhausts speed by allowing

to experience

and escape

As the mechanical rhythms

it.

of the bike

rider

simultaneously

and road overtake the

not body and mind, a paradox gradually emerges: while traveling very fast, you do is transformed motion and slowness becomes seem to be moving. At a critical point, speed rider's

into rest. This rest

is.

however, precarious. Physical stimuli inform you of your particular bod-

response. Your predicament, but you remain at a loss for an adequate psychological to your own vulnerable extremely makes you violently unstable position in time and space catastrophes arising from mistakes and to the errors of others as well as to unforeseeable ily

the intersection of bike and road.

can never be conquered. must, as always,

Locked

let

All

When

everything hangs

you can do

in

is

"ride

it

out."

speed

To hang on you

go.

into patterns of repetition, riders

the scope of the motorcycle by reducing

it

who

test the limits of

speed always narrow

to a variant of the rocket, the arrow, or the

suring stick. But motorcycles are not built for the straight

mea-

contrary, the

and narrow. To the

When you

best bikes are designed to navigate tricky curves. finally

the balance, you learn that

to "hang on" and

reach the end of the road, you

turns on the act of cornering.

discover that the meaning of speed

Cornering "

"Once you go sideways you never come back

—License-plate holder, bolted sideways

on a red Honda Hawk

Make no mistake about

it,

cornering

engine, no design trend, no biker fashion

is

is

San Francisco

in

No model, no

the essence of motorcycling.

as central to the experience and meaning of

motorcycling as the act of cornering.

Since motorcycle

tires

cannot turn

speeds, the

at high

around the curve. The faster the motorcyclist

is

rider

traveling, the greater

must lead the bike she

will

have to lean

her body and bike into the curve and the farther she stretch her arms across the handlebars of the turn. This strange

and counter- steering the coordination of it

in

combination of leaning

away from

it

is

will

have

the opposite direction into the turn

called "cornering."

Odd

as

these two opposite movements might seem,

constitutes the alternating rhythm of riding.

As one's body one. Even

if

leans into the turn, rider

and

riding

become

knees do not scrape the ground, the angle of lean

allows the rider to "dip" his hands into the rush of the road. Cornering reveals the true

dynamic

of the motorcycle:

as the bike

leans into the turn, the physical laws, which give the motorcycle

its

magical charm,

gravity,

finally

become

visible.

Apparently defying

the motorcyclist lowers the bike while accelerating; the

lower the lean, the greater the acceleration must be. The technical goal is to Fig

6 Michael Doohan, 1995 500 World Champion

perience that results

Though the

42

ing

can be held

of forces

needed

when

situation

in

seems

or kept back.

to drop

instructed to slow

this is

down

and in

lift

balance centripetal and centrifugal forces. The ex-

achieved

is

sheer exhilaration.

tense, the rider

The

must always exhale when cornering. Noth-

slightest hesitation

can topple the delicate balance

the bike through a twisting curve.

turns, the motorcyclist

Whereas

car drivers are

has no choice but to accelerate while


cornering. Increasing

The

speed catapults the

rider into

places unknown

practical implications ot cornering are often

the motorcyclist must along a winding, mountain road, straightens and can only decelerate when the road

slowness must be repeated

at

every turn.

When

confounding. While descending roll

the throttle before each

out. This inverted cycle of

bend

speed and

entering a freeway entry ramp, the

mo-

arc of acceleration as the turn slowly narrows. Contrary torcyclist begins a long, gradual to expectation, In

speed

stabilizes,

the act of cornering,

all

if

only

posites no longer collide but are held this instant,

briefly.

the paradoxes of motorcycling in

balance, danger

the motorcyclist expresses the sublime

passes as quickly as

Those who

it

arrives and, thus,

play the

game

in

is

come

into play.

When

op-

momentarily domesticated.

the pedestrian. But the

In

moment

must be repeated again and again.

live to ride. of motorcycling well not only ride to live but

43


Hunter

Thompson

S.

1995

Song of the Sausage Creature

There are some things nobody needs one

of

need one. That

is

warp-speed 900 cc cafe racer days

I

actually believe

I

is

world, and a

in this

them— but why they

many

stupid animals

in

I

some

are dangerous.

two-lane blacktop roads, but not often. There are too radar cops and too

hunchback,

want one anyway, and on

Some

Everybody has fast motorcycles these days.

bright red,

people go 150 miles an hour on

many oncoming

trucks and too

the way. You have to be a

little

crazy to ride

these super-torque high-speed crotch rockets anywhere except a racetrack— and even

they

will

scare the whimpering

of difference

out of you.

shit

between going head-on

.

.

There

.

into a Peterbilt or

after

is,

sideways

all,

many

there,

not a pig's eye worth

into the bleachers.

On some

days you get what you want, and on others, you get what you need.

When

got uppity and

I

my

"We

it

take

"Balls,"

We

friends

on the superbike

to the track said.

I

to ask

I

would road-test the new Harley Road King, It

seemed

like

a chic decision at

got very excited. "Hot damn," they said.

circuit

and blow the bastards away."

"Never mind the track. The track

is

punks.

for

We

are

Road People.

are Cafe Racers."

The Cafe Racer

is

a different breed, and

gear on a 5,000-foot straightaway

sixth

el-strewn downhill ess turn

we

But

freeway

like

traffic to

it.

is

low

style,

all its

I

our

own

situations.

pure speed

in

somebody

night through a fog storm in

will

ride

told

him was the

all

ugliest

and

tightest de-

Khan invented the corkscrew.

mainly a matter of taste.

It

is

an

atavistic mentality,

a peculiar mix of

to the Cafe Life

and

am

a Cafe Racer myself, on some days— and many nights

of

my

finest addictions.

not without scars on

my

brain

matter— and

am

Pure speed

gear on a grav-

in third

high speed, pure dumbness, and overweening commitment

a shudder into

is

dangerous pleasures. ...

for that

we have

thing, but

A thoroughbred Cafe Racer

put himself into what

Cafe Racing

is

one

quite another.

creasing-radius turn since Genghis

44

if

said I'd rather have a Ducati superbike.

the time, and will

me

Cycle World called

in

my

it

is

one

I

spine every time

I

and my body, but

see a picture

a public restroom and hear crippled

men

of

I

can

live

with them.

a Vincent Black Shadow, or

whispering about the

terrifying

I

still

feel

when walk

Kawasaki

I

Triple


...

I

have visions

of

compound

me down on

holding

gether with a stitching

God

in

white hospital suits

my

scalp to-

drill.

God

Ho, ho. Thank (until

men

femur-fractures and large black

a gurney while a nurse called "Bess" sews the flaps of

for

sinks his teeth into

these flashbacks. The brain

Some

it).

such a wonderful instrument

is

people hear Tiny Tim singing when they go under,

and others hear the song of the Sausage Creature.

When in

New

said

the Ducati turned up

people said

me.

to hurt

Of course. You want to

some

include

Which

is

true.

Hot Rod magazine." with burning

head

er bars with sey,

here to

I

I

oil

last straw.

the

it's

It

when

was

it

had

be the work

to

billed

people

enemies, or

of fast motorcycles

anything

for

all

racer.

my

life.

Ron

it.

And

fast.

bought a

I

as "the fastest motorcycle ever tested by

on the Ventura Free-

traffic

through Beverly

Triple

Hills at

have ridden with Sonny Barger and smoked weed Slick,

for

I

on my legs and run the Kawa 750

you that slow

will tell

you that

tell

So when

I

realized

fast

I

is

is

Zigler,

and my

infamous old

cannon

of a

reled

will

in bik-

Ken Ke-

friend.

why God made

Bubba.

New

York and found a

fiery

was back

in

same

way.

And

judge

I

Cafe Racer

My garage

filled

me

quickly

motorcycle. The

del

.

.

red rocket-style bike

other

in

of big-bore

death-defying

with feelings of lust every time

certain

for drooling

on a public

games

Woody Creek

feel like

it.

.

.

Which we

.

of "chicken" at

Some

we need

For that

had— no

of

fine

felt

superbike groupies. They

my new

of opinions, besides

my own,

to prop-

Pacific

Facility is

a

Coast Highway,

head-on against each

to race

who

in

a

ball

want to stay out of the

traffic in residential districts

whenever

Machinery.

doubt about

expensive-to farm out

Others

100 miles an hour.

that.

me

the

The Ducati people

900SP

crazy-fast, state-of-the-art superbike track racer.

who

garage.

evaluate

us are decent people

opted, for reasons of their own. to send

prohibitively

it.

Perverse Environmental Testing

blast through neo-gndlock

still

at

a high-dollar torque-brute yearns to go out

who buys

street in L.A.

emergency room, but

my

in

me

who would be spectrum

looked

I

to help

first

Kawasakis and Yamahas are said

No. Not everybody of fire

of

Supersport double-bar-

long way from Daytona or even top-fuel challenge sprints on the

where teams

it's

.

Mundo Desmodue

became a magnet

need a

did. of course,

this

this,

I

spite of the trouble

in

the road-testing business.

quarreled and bitched at each other about toy. ...

some days— but am

be, on

always be better than being squeezed out

fast motorcycles,

got back from

magnum

may

it

always believed

better. I've

is

good— and

The brand-new Ducati 900 Campione

we

was

lawyer

and they knew would go

have ridden a 500-pound Vincent through

I

my

of

Send him a 130-mph cafe

a streetbike. He's queer

have been a connoisseur

Jack Nicholson, Grace

a tube. That

erly

My

life.

I

Witness Protection Program. Other

kind of bait,

vilest

think

he'll

of acid ...

full

was

It

Lightning

caused me. Being shot out

the

it.

a legendary Cafe Racer.

Some

I

do with

and people had threatened my

cripple the bastard?

license plates, so

brand-new 650 BSA

night with a

to

had something to do with the polo crowd.

it

who wanted

people

nobody knew what

enroll in the Federal

The motorcycle business was the

way

driveway,

York, covering a polo tournament,

should give myself up and

I

my

in

for testing to

for

New

Jersey had

testing-rather than their 916

was

It

in

far

a gang of

too

fast,

they

said— and

half-mad Colorado cowboys 45

think they're world-class Cafe Racers.

The Ducati 900 admired

when

it

its

is

racing lines.

was

standing

a

finely

engineered machine.

The nasty

still

in

my

little

garage.

My

bugger looked

neighbors called

like

it

it

was going 90

beautiful

and

miles an hour


of

speed

on the road, though, was a genuinely terrifying experience. had no sense was going 90 and coming up fast on a bunch of pickup trucks going into I

Taking

it

until

I

a wet curve along the

river.

most went end over end. still

New Age

these

for

my

both brakes, but only the front one worked, and

for

which

rear brake pedal,

roadracers; they are not

rearset brake pedal was not where

but

do

I

would be. Midsize

it

Rome

a

in

teeth, f-cked-up for the rest of

We t0

love Torque,

all

time— and

and Fun

there

always Pain

is

screeching or squawking around

have taken

of us

No. This bugger digs

On my first

takeoff.

blacktop highway

was

And

in

monster on. BOOM! Instant

this

I

mph

got

go

This

goddam

straight

went up

down on your tongue

the pipe, for

I

to third,

I

limit

good

or

ill.

on a two-lane

was going 75 and

.

second wind. From 4,000

its

let

to 6,000

Bubba. you

after that,

saw

that

It

still

take you

in third will

have

fourth,

and

fifth,

in

gether

I

was going way

I

too fast and that

bold and reckless move, but

I

down on

tried to spit

my

was

it

somehow

.

.

rain in

and

claws and the

I

I

stopped and turned

went

into

a trance

and calm down enough

went the whole way

in first at

Whoops! What am and we

But

unless you're ready

scream

in

your throat.

has unnatural

capabilities.

chance was

some

railroad

and screw

to veer right

I

for

I

Evel

felt like

I

to-

passed them, but my mouth was too

my

grip for a

moment as

seconds came

the Ducati

face to face

I

down and

the engine.

off

pull off into

My hands had

nauseous and

felt

30

or

40 seconds

home.

to ride

40 miles an

saying?

I

was

I

until

right

and

an abandoned seized up

like

cried for

my mama,

but

was

able

I

finally

too hysterical to

shift

to light

gears, so

I

hour.

Tall stories,

ho, ho.

ride very fast motorcycles,

we

whatever's funny.

abuse a substance here and

worked:

passed a school bus on the

I

shit

at

it

my eyes and my jaws clamped

lost

We

laugh

when we

I

And

For two or three

traffic.

my body was numb.

rest of

nobody heard, then

tall

it

sim-

is

.

the brute straightened out.

gravel driveway where

walk

a shameful admission

traffic

silent

necessary.

then got the bike under control long enough to gear

46

is

to a sharp turn across

only

the tracks as

of the road

oncoming

Sausage Creature.

a cigarette

and a

fire

made my approach

landed hard on the edge

But

normal road

of

the right direction at high speed, though,

fishtailing crazily into

with the

any kind

soared across the tracks with the

in fear.

dry. ...

began

I

This

you something, old sport: This motorcycle

tell

in

fifth.

a desperate attempt to leapfrog the curve by going airborne.

was a

Knievel as

I

me

into

the centerline with your nuts on

down

totally, in

deep

didn't get

I

speed

fast to ride at

unwittingly discovered as

I

tracks,

on

.

.

two seconds— and

in

down

straight

By the time

traffic.

never got to sixth gear, and

When aimed

it

it

a full-bore Cafe Racer, but

ply too

to

when

that's

and shoots you

above 4,000 rpm.

no

takeoff,

fear.

second gear and went through the speed

hit

I

from time

also Fun. the deadly element,

is

Ho, ho.

sixth.

for

like to

prone position might

Sausage Creature with

a

off.

a fool with your teeth clamping

like

right in

ranch

of

full

barely

from 75 to 95

pimps who

Italian

flat-line

straight over the high side

it

that. ... But there

and your mind completely empty of everything but

the tach

tall

its life.

and some

what you get when you screw

is

too

a person diving into a pool that got emptied yes-

like

terday Whacko! Bashed on the concrete bottom, flesh ripped

no

am

I

than five-nine, and the

rider taller

not.

was hunched over the tank

I

just couldn't find ...

I

any

built for

thought

I

race from one cafe to another on the boulevards of like this,

al-

I

out of control staring at the tailpipe of a U.S. Mail truck,

was

I

frantically at

stabbing

went

I

there, but only

when

.

.

.

We

are motorcycle people;

on the chests ride with

it's

right.

immaculate

The

we

of the Weird.

final

sanity.

measure

of

We

might

any

rider's


body.

is

It

that simple:

you are a bad

If

cruising

you see a

not:

fast— it

is

The Ducati 900

so

is

finely

There breed

is

trying to turn

Vincent Black

Ducati

is

like

If

more

I

I

it

do amazing

will

it.

The bike

at the

same

in

time.

dare you to ride

it.

top speed

lit-

jet fighter

on

It

is

I

a

for

any length of

many

was

impossible. But so

remember

thinking,

it

was my

time,

new you

members

life

went

bullet that

Dallas that went sideways and It

straight; the

JFK and the

hit

terrifying

sideways

easily with the grace of a fleeing

goddamnit.

if

had screwed

I

it

on

lot further.

new Cafe Racer macho. My

you lame

like

not.

Creature strikes again.

not

are

there

on the 900SP. The bike did

could have gone a this is the

why

is

at

not

is

a

things. ...

would go airborne and the Vincent would

The Vincent was

Society.

tomcat. The landing was so easy

Maybe

just then,

Sausage Creature.

the

WHAMO! The Sausage

it.

That

die.

Shadow

leap across railroad tracks

little

rpm— and

5.500

at

engineered and balanced and torqued that

you rode the Black Shadow

the magic bullet

Governor of Texas

a

in fifth

a fundamental difference, however, between the old Vincents and the

of superbikes.

would almost certainly of the

Motorcy-

drastically.

Black Shadow, which would outrun an F-86

the takeoff runway, but at the end. the F-86 in

his

ride motorcycles.

equation

WHACKO. Meet

extremely quick and responsive, and

and there was no point

bad scars on

of

you go slow and crash,

through a 35-mph zone and get away with

riding the original Vincent

tle like

mph

in the middle of the road.

in fifth

this

If

a great leap forward. Take the Ducati. You want

bugger? Try 90

this

rider.

you should not

the superbike has heightened

speed on

you can do 90 mph

rider,

number

to the

and crash, you are a bad

you are a bad

if

of

moose

bull

Or maybe

ride fast

made such

cle technology has

optimum

you

And

rider.

The emergence

just

Speed

the inverse ratio of his preferred Traveling

skill is

little

turd.

Do you have

bike

is

so much

faster than yours that

the balls to ride this

BOTTOMLESS

PIT

OF TORQUE? of them.

On some

days they are about the most fun you can have with your clothes on. The Vincent

just killed

That

you a

lot

is

the attitude of the

New Age

faster than a superbike

will.

A

superbike freak, and

it.

is

many

times,

and

the Curse of Speed which has plagued

On my tombstone

they

will

carve.

am one

fool couldn't ride the Vincent

than once, but a fool can ride a Ducati 900 kind of fun. That

I

"IT

it

will

me

Shadow more

Black

always be bloodcurdling

all

my

life.

NEVER GOT FAST ENOUGH FOR ME

I

am

a slave to

."

47


Ted Polhemus

The Art of the Motorcycle: Outlaws, Animals, and Sex Machines Although the modern motorcycle

is

now 100

years old, the mythology half that

ern motorcyclist— the outlaw biker— has taken only larger-than-life In

vivid,

iconographic focus.

July 1947. the rural California

town

of Holhster (previously

70 percent of America's garlic crop) hosted a motorcycle

rally.

famous

What

was an

Hollister got instead (or in addition)

only for producing

The idea was

gether two-wheeled sportsmen from the surrounding area to compete ious events.

mod

of the

time to resolve into

to bring to-

for trophies

"invasion" of

in

filthy, dirty,

punk,

dam-

drunk and disorderly, barbarian "animals" who. according to various press reports, got

aged in

property,

Life

and

the fourth of July weekend, 4,000

roared into Fig

1

Holllster Riots. July 6.

report

magazine:

On

1947

contemporary

terrorized the law-abiding locals. According to a

var-

Hollister,

members

of a motorcycle club

California, for a three-day convention. They quickly tired

of ordinary motorcycle their

thrills,

bikes

and turned to more exciting stunts. Racing

down

the

mam

breaking furniture and

street

mirrors.

and through

Some

traffic lights,

rested awhile by the

curb. Others hardly paused. Police arrested

many

for

drunkenness and indecent exposure but could not restore order. Frankly, after

explanation.

"We

two days, the

like to

show

cyclists

off. It's just

left

a

with a brazen

lot of fun."

But

Holhster's police chief took a different view. Wailed he. "It's

just

one

hell

In fact,

of a mess."'

as Hunter S.

Thompson noted

in

Hell's

Angels, the

small police force of 29 actually had things under control quite 48

quickly; there

ers got ple

were

90 days

limited fines

in jail

were treated

for

and arrests— at most the

indecent

exposure— and

at the local hospital,

all

for

only

revel-

50 peo-

minor injuries/

Thompson's cooler assessment wasn't published

until

1966;

in


incident, the immediate aftermath of the Hollister

appeared, including Harper's iazzed-up. Raid

clist's

"

^culturally

It

was

influential films of

all

fictionalized

provided the

this story that

numerous sensationalized press reports account by Frank Rooney. "The Cy-

initial

inspiration tor

one

ol the

most so-

which starred time. Laslo Benedek's The Wild One (19541. a version of what happened in Hollister played

the young Marlon Brando.' This cinematic

dramatic part

in

But the seeds of a shaping the iconography of the motorcyclist.

scale moral panic had already been

sewn

full-

1947.

in

"God-fearing" Amer-

ica to

cut "decent." The photographs accompanying the Life article dressed barbarians on one the quick. There was the image of strangely

town's

mam

street,

and

nervous-looking cops in-between. There his bike, staring unblinkingly into the

mares, and

many

things their

was bad enough

into their

the sp,ne. Having little

in

a huge brute slumped back on

each hand. This was the

stuff of night-

cozy hamlet.

had always been suspected-bu. the very

from within, ally

camera, a beer

of

such satanic characters might

that

apparent eagerness to

down

was another

of must have trembled at the prospect a law-abiding American parent

such a barbarian horde roaring It

side of the

other, with only a couple of a clean-cut. small-town fold on the

won

realizing

it

from

II.

their

who

alleyways-such

motorcyclists, mobility of these degenerate

an urban habitats to small towns, sen.

the war overseas. America

how many

veterans of World War

the 1960s) were finding

travel

lurk in city

now woke up

those

who would

return from fighting

tedium of hard to ad,ust to the comparative

49

to a terrible threat

motorcyclists of these d.sturb.ng-looking

(like

icy chill

In

civilian

were actuVietnam life.

in


But

America as a whole was troubled by the reports of the

if

Hollister incident, the

members

respectable

American Mo-

of the

of the torcycle Association were devastated. Overnight the image

had been replaced by

motorcyclist as daring sportsman

that of the

and en-

beer-swilling, chest-baring, laid-back degenerate. Urgently

leaders and

ergetically, the

barded the press with

members

ordinary

an

letters in

AMA bom-

of the

spin control. Paul

effort at

Brokaw, editor of Motorcyclist Magazine, wrote to

Life to tell its

readers that:

Words

are

knowledge of

hellraisers

3

Still

disorder

We

regret to ac-

Hollister— not the act

in

much

larger

group

fact, drastic action is

recurrences of such antics. You have, however, noxious picture, seared a

of

nonmotorcyclmg

and mercenary-minded bar-keepers.

manner defend the culprits— in

Irom Dennis Hopper's Easy Rider. 1969.

was a

that there

shock. ...

4,000 motorcyclists, but rather a small percentage of that

number, aided by a

Fig

my

to express

difficult

pitiful

in

no

in

under way to avoid

presentation of this ob-

brand on the character

of innocent, clean-cut. respectable, law-abiding

We

of tens of

young men and

thousands

women who

are the true representatives of an admirable sport

defense. Responding

torcyclists—formed the core of the AMA's spirited of California Cities to

League

ban

motorcycle

all

rallies,

guing that "the disruptive cyclists were possibly torcyclists at the time.

troublemakers" from In

AMA

announced

The immediate, obvious

like

the Gypsy Jokers, the

would become the Hells Angels)

becoming a united force

The

who

in

other, arguably

Road

ing connotations of this

Rats, Satan's Slaves,

and

it

AMA its

finely

in

sought

AMA

"1

-percenters."

'

stemmed from

to the intention to kick these

itself

Hell's

An-

from the cinema, and here was a

fer-

S.

Thompson

points out

individualist,

if

in

not hero. By 1947,

tuned the idea of the outlaw as defiant nonconformist as Train

Robbery

(1903), which ends, strangely, with

camera and

firing his

was

gun

at

the audience, to

a figure that inspired not only

awe.

Indeed, that most archetypal character of the western, "the

outlaw

it

couldn't avoid resurrecting the deep, reverberat-

vision of

From The Great

loathing, but also

that

and the Booze Fighters (who

the AMA's action

as a verb— referring

Hughes' The Outlaw (1943), the Western outlaw

at least part

ar-

mo-

to bring together

regrouped under the badge of

significant, effect of

of the bandits staring directly into the

Howard

50

AMA's press release was

from which sprang visions of the outlaw as gutsy

well as social outcast.

of

would "outlaw" such "hoodlums and

word as a noun. As Hunter

the Hollywood western had

fear

it

opposition to both the police and the

even more

gels, this subculture largely derived

one

number

had previously been warring with each other. Thus,

officially

all

out of the organization— the

tile field

that

effect of the

the use of the word outlaw. While using

bums

a press release

of the total

membership.

its

those disparate motorcycle gangs

groups

AMA issued

so doing, the organization inadvertently mythologized the very element

to eradicate. all

the

one percent

from the

to a call

Only one percent of motorcyclists are hoodlums and troublemak-

Furthermore, the

ers."'

percentage of mo-

to isolate the trouble to a small

The same point— the attempt

a world that

is itself

good-bad man"

is

inevitably

outside the reach of the long arm of the law.'

Affording the western outlaw an appealing, even heroic dimension, Hollywood

tapping into American history (Jesse James,

Billy

the Kid, Bonnie

was

not only

and Clyde. Butch


Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Derringer) but also reaching back to European history

New

replant within the

such as Rob Roy, the

by

of his estate

World

that ancient

late 17th-

and

mythology

ot

early 18th-century Scottish clan leader

the English, stole cattle

to

good-bad, nonconformist outlaws,

and sold protection against

who, deprived

thieves; and, of

course, Robin Hood, the 12th-century English outlaw who, as every child knows, robbed the rich to give to the poor.

The American Heritage

Dictio-

nary of the English Language us that the

tells

word outlaw derives from

the Old Norse utlagr, which denoted

a person who, because of criminal acts,

had

to give his property to the

crown and could be crimination. This

killed

re-

obviously a dan-

is

be

gerous position to

without

in

no sane person would

and one

that

seek

actively

from Robin Hood to the pre-

out. Yet.

sent day, the outlaw has taken on

and often desirable

positive, attractive,

connotations— connotations that the

AMA inadvertently gave

as a

PR

pre-

sent to those they sought to eradicate

By labeling the

their midst.

from

Booze

and other groups

Fighters

law motorcycle gangs," the

"out-

AMA pro-

vided these riders with a mythologically

modern-day, industrialized, trenchant label which recast "troublemakers and hooligans" as

"righteous outlaws" who. instead of

his

own

country.''

ers—are held evil,

in

antisocial

in

may have a

wartime he becomes an

But whenever the powers

Still

Irom

I

I

that

long history, the extent of his attraction

"in-law." fighting

be— the

fire

with

government, the

on behalf

fire

of

king, tribal lead-

the role of high esteem by the general populace, he slides, irrevocably, into

villain.

century England

In

4

mere horses, rode powerful, motorized "hogs.""

While the outlaw as popular hero

has not been constant.

Fig

is

Conversely, the unpopularity of the king and the aristocracy

way

clear from the

that

in

12th-

Robin Hood's courage and chivalry were lauded

the tabloids of the day. the popular ballads that constituted both the "music charts" and

On

the face of

it,

therefore, the apparently

postwar America would seem an

sunny days

unlikely setting for

Yet, in addition to the "1 -percenter" bikers,

we

of

Eisenhower's prosperous

any return to a pro-outlaw mentality.

also at this time find the

emergence

of oth-

authority courted and sometimes er subcultures whose nonconformist rebellion against typically middle-class and openly embraced an outlaw mentality. The Beats in particular, of the status quo; in embrace college-educated, defiantly placed themselves outside the their

enthusiasm

for illegal drugs, they also

placed themselves

in

open opposition

to the

law of the land.

Beats and the tend to view these two nonconformist subcultures-the in the late 1940s and early '50s. bik ers-as opposed, it was often difficult to tell them apart While

The Beats,

we

of course, loved jazz

Marlon Brando both of jive-talking

saw The

Wild

dialogue and their

Perhaps

it

and

all

aspects of "hip" Black

One as a

comments

was so shocking

culture. Stanley

Kramer and

patter "hipster" film, as the movie's constant in

various interviews indicate.

people to the culture at large to discover

who had

de-

51


lifestyle that

an outlaw

they were lumped together, regardless of style

liberately

opted

for

of dress,

mode

of transport, political inclination, or

drugs and

entirely appropriate. In addition to

was

this conflation

many ways,

in

bikers. Of course, from earliest times the outlaw

of land fined by his (and theoretically, her) lack

placement. Like the pirate

were w.thout a

al.,

of

merry

a fondness

Yet,

for illegal

mobility forged a logical link a rejection of authority, a rootless, ever-search.ng

between the Beats and the

et

1

any other subcultural differences.'

men were

(a

home

seagoing form of

Sherwood

in

Forest.

Of course, Beats and life,

dis-

the Kid,

Billy

own. Robin Hood and

call their

counterparts, both chose the nomadic

like their historical

geographic

of

outlaw). Robin Hood. Rob Roy.

they could legitimately

squatters

illegal

ownersh.p and sense

has been de-

band

his

bikers, un-

rather than having

it

forced

upon them.

much

Neither had

in

common

ican Dream, which, especially

was

a brushfire. What

all

that drove the Beats, bikers,

it

tributed to a radical departure from that In

rebels

were choosing to

eject

it

is

Clearly

World War

and geographic

cozy

stereotype of

fatuous to suggest, as

had

mobility

like

II,

and

cultural fabric. Accelerating industrialization

urbanization, increased multicultural interfacing,

like

and other nonconformist rebels

become nomadic outlaws?

wars, had torn apart the social and

a very real sense, therefore,

Amer-

suburban multiplication, spread across the country

compelling them to

this paradise,

from

in its

with that landowning, white-picket-fenced(-in)

all

con-

Norman Rockwell's America.

have above, that these outlaw

I

themselves from Paradise: by

this time,

the American

Dream

somnolent could ignore this. had been revealed as a dream, and only the perpetually vision of smallhad never really existed, this persistent Norman Rockwell Arguably, too.

it

WASP America.

town.

But

now

where they were born, now

now

that

so many people were

that

and working

Anglo-Saxons were only a

that the white

even chickens were produced

living

many

factories, for

in

this

far

away from

fictional majority,

dream was.

all

too

obviously, history. In

addition, the

decade immediately

after

World War

II

saw an unprecedented

celebrated regional conformity brought to bear on a nation which had previously America brought across swept and personal differences. The system of franchising which level of

Howard Johnson's.

virtually identical

had previously been known

that

Carvels, McDonald's,

and so on

to cities

and towns

for their distinctive cuisines, attitudes, lifestyles,

and

imposing a remarkably uniproducts. At the same time, the new medium of television was form vision of the American

across different regions, classes, races, and religions—

Way

wood-paneled recreation room, and a vision of Mr. and Mrs. America and their 2.5 children, personal distinctiveness. TV pit that afforded remarkably little scope for

paved barbecue

and the advertising left

was

stew,

that

went with

it

turned up the heat on the melting pot

until all that

beans and a homogeneous, unappealing goo (instead of jambalaya. red

and

was

rice, Irish

pasta).

were two increasingly popSet against this ever-constricting funnel of conformity ular

good-bad outromantic visions: the freedom of the open road and the Wild West's have sent shivfrankly, didn't give a damn. Putting the two together may

law who. quite ers of fear

and loathing down the spine, but more often than most cared of longing

were accompanied by shivers

and

desire.

As Thompson

puts

to admit, they it,

cycle outlaws:

52

.

.

are acting out the

fiant insignia city

are thronged with

hands on

to

daydreams

of millions

and who don't know how

to

men who would pay

be transformed— even

for

a

.

who

don't wear any de-

be outlaws. The all

the

money

day— into

streets of every

they could get then

hairy, hard-fisted

brutes

the motor-


over cops, extort free drinks from

who walk

tenders and then thunder out

town on

of

raping the banker's daughter. Even people

ter

Angels should them. They

be put

all

command

to sleep find

it

terrified bar-

big motorcycles af-

who

easy to

think the

identify with

a fascination, however reluctant

borders on psychic masturbation

of desire over disdain for the outlaw

The gradual triumph can be seen

torcyclist

motorcycle |acket; year

in

Mans;

in

the massive biker get-togethers the popularity of musicals

in

Happy Days;

the

in

emergence

like

Harley-Davidson Cafes

City

and Las Vegas;

in

like

theme restaurants

in

the sales of like

the sky-rocketing prices

customized Harleys; and even

paid for in

in

like

York

rough and ready biker magazines

Easy Rider,

Grease and TV shows

of motorcycling

New

each

that take part

Daytona, Sturgis, and Le

more accepted

a

body decoration;

of

in

in

mo-

of the black leather

the extent to which

become

tattooing has

form

numbers

the swelling

in

embrace

high fashion's

the fact that the

Guggenheim Museum

has chosen to present a major exhibi-

we

The Art of the Motorcycle: But 1

tion.

can focus on

this

transformation most

how

succinctly by examining

three im-

portant films— The Wild One, Easy Rider,

and Rumble Fish— portrayed the outlaw motorcyclist In

not

1954. The Wild

one but two

varieties of outlaw

existentialist

there

is

Johnny (Marlon Brando)

to

come

voking or engaging (and.

Chico.

surly, brutish

Lee Marvin's

who seems

mo-

the angst-nd-

torcyclist. In addition to

den

One gave us

alive only in

a

fight.

when

pro-

Although

as such, monopolized our popular

Chico actually seems more characters

like Tiny.

sense,

it

is

vision of the outlaw biker for almost

Filthy Phil.

all

of

whom we

Chico rather than Johnny who

enculturated. outside

civilized

all

forever the enigmatic star

two decades),

real-life true to life— the fictional precursor of those disturbing

Sonny. Dirty Ed.

goo. Animal, and Buzzard,

Johnny who remains

is

it

Charger Charlie the Child Molester. Ma-

encounter

Thompson's

in

properly deserves the

conventions, he

is

Hell's Angels. In this

name The

the cinema's

first

Wild One: un-

portrayal of

an

ani-

mal on a machine. Unequivocally sexy and stylish on the one hand, Brando's Johnny decision and confusion on the other hand. Brando's acter's essential attractiveness ing through,

and thereby

the small-town

girl

who

is

explaining, the brittle fagade

almost

falls for

him.

end. an unacceptable option for escape. nor where he's headed,

skillful

undercut by a pathetic

how can we

If

we

flawed by

performance shows how frailty.

of his

find th.s

is

weakness keeps pok-

macho toughness.

outlaw

Johnny knows

His

initially

neither

in-

his char-

Like Betty,

desirable, but.

in

the

where he's coming from

contemplate going there with him? This

is.

of course.

53


exactly letting

him

how

had to be

it

1954. Benedek went as

in

as he could,

far

refraining from making us admire the outlaw biker's style but

a hero.

into

Things were

however,

different,

when

1969.

in

was

Rider get but phenomenally successful Easy

the low-bud-

released.

Billy

America (Peter Fonda) are (Dennis Hopper) and especially Captain (and. as the breathtakwestern straight out of any

good-bad guys

this ing scenery never fails to remind us,

As such they

are

a contemporary western).

is

heroes— "righteous outlaws"— from

So they bring cocaine over the border and sell man's got sleazy Phil Spector. But sometimes a

start to finish.

to a convincingly

it

to

do what a man's

sake of the dream. got to do. not only to survive, but for the dream is simply to America's Billy and Captain

On one

level.

and

get themselves

we

Gras. But

know

also

cally

tinged aspiration that ultimately

Chico and Johnny are fight to (in

dream

that their

just

(in

chivalry within their outlaw

"We blew

quest has been

in

we

it,"

vain.

When

Billy

we mourn

for

is

this ideologi-

heroes. While

from meaningless

life

operating with courage

When

domain.

Captain America

are not as convinced as he that their

they are

the sort of "normal"

killed (by if

overzealous. citizen

South Dakota

the public

was

so entranced by the motorcycle outlaw that

clearly

only as hero, but as a god. all-seeing manity. Mickey Rourke's Motorcycle

He

is

a presence more than he

terious periods, then

He

is

is

essary

evil. In

the end. he

of his brother's

We

have

must add

becomes

come

far

it

in

ethical

moment

to save

foibles of hureal

name.

for long,

mys-

a gang

fight.

his brother in

black and white. Having done

substance to

1983.

in

could accept him not

above the

vanishes into the horizon

it

all

as a gang

realize that violence is only

a nec-

himself for the a Christ figure, calculatedly sacrificing

redemption and (an environmentalist touch,

animal to deus super

But to

who

at just the right

he has the philosophical and

resides

so mythic that he doesn't even need a

a character,

so cool that he sees the world only

leader,

sake

shows up

is

and all-knowing, who

Boy

this)

a tank

full

of fish.

or delinquent from the image of mindless brute, worthless punk,

machma.

outlaw's heroic acceptability, this rational calculation of the motorcyclist

his role

in

them.

Fish By the time Francis Ford Coppola made Rumble SttlfQlS,

Mardi

have a purpose. As such

American who would have been a "good." The Wild One)

It

makes them

modern-day. motorized Robin Hoods

concludes.

for

Chico's case) or existential maelstrom

Johnny's case). Captain America and

and

Orleans

nothing less than mak-

is

stumbling through

psychotic retribution

they are

New

to

hey. the world) a better place.

America (and,

ing

chopper bikes

their

as an object of pure

lust.

For

good

or for

ill,

at his

we

worst as well as his

the raw frisson of sexuality on his (or her) best, this mythic character has always had machine fuse into a unique and side— as outlaw status and the thundering power of the impotence of conformity, system of desire.' Transcending everyday reality and the

potent

54

outlaw-whatever his not containable or castrated by social forces, the

mode

Maid Marion has always possessed tantalizing erotic power. Just as

fell

women succumbed to who refuses to bow to his

so have more contemporary ized

modern-day outlaw

who. thrusting

his center finger

up

to

all

his presence roars off into the horizon.

who would

for

of

transport-

Robin Hood,

the undeniable appeal of the motorboss's

strip

(or

him

the police's) authority and

of his individuality, his grace,


Fig

Primitive, unbridled, brave,

law biker offers a

icated by our society's quest

and

uncomplicated, and ultimately romantic, the mythic out-

glimpse of that

last, fleeting

No wimp, he has

civilized conformity.

"real

balls

man" who appears

to

have been erad-

compliance, middle-class respectability,

for politically correct

—even

"he"

if

able this daredevil, dashing, and dangerous figure. And, best of strings attached

moved on

—

for,

come

more

a dyke on a bike. The

is

more

constraining and inhibiting our computerized, ever-more-regulated world, the

desir-

he/she comes with no

all,

the morning, the outlaw biker of our

dreams has always

without leaving a forwarding address.

Sam-

Just look at him: the tough yet glossy leather adorned with zips, the hair wild as

son's before his encounter with Delilah, the street credibility of the rough, worn denim, the

gleam

and medallions, the tanned and tattooed

of chunky, esoteric rings

display of flesh.

The contrast with the almost invisible uniform of Mr. Respectable could not be more marked.

In

The Psychology of Dress,

J.

C. Fleugal plots the motivations and history of that

body

"great masculine renunciation" of finery, adornment, and, ultimately, the male Fleugal reminds us that even

in

the Western world

Revolution (as the bourgeoisie, especially

cesses of the aristocracy) that men

human

history,

been a

less exciting

it

was

in Britain,

lost their

not

sought to distance

peacock

feathers.'"

male appearance than

that

shapeless, sexless, nondescript uniform of the middle-class

World War

manner

wonder

II? Little

that

of sartorially distinctive

it

was

this

same

itself.

the aftermath of the French

until

from the ex-

itself

Has there

ever, in

all

of

which became the standard,

man

period which

in

decade

the

following

saw the emergence

male subcultures—from the hipsters to the

of

all

rockabillies, the

Beats to the bikers. While the image of the

"tribal," "primitive"

peacock male has been

(in

differing

adopted by hippies, punks, skinheads, new romantics, gothics. and a host cultures,

nowhere has

of the outlaw biker.'

9

it

realization than in the

had a purer and more sustained

Except

for

the Black and Hispanic hipsters (who,

flamboyant zoot suits and accessories, were often physically attacked let

wartime cloth

restrictions finally

the bikers were the while their

first

force them

to join

Western men to reclaim

their

gang uniforms may have been rough and

stylistic flair or

in

ways)

of other sub-

appearance

in their

expansive,

for their refusal to

the great masculine renunciation),

masculine status as peacocks. For

ready, they

were never devoid

of either

flamboyant embellishment.

Like his immediate predecessor, the black-clad Wild

West

outlaw, the outlaw biker

was

never unaware of his image. Because the Beats could not bring themselves to emulate the sartorial flare of

were the

first

white

man" was ipso leather

those Black hipsters

men

whom

to dismiss out of

they otherwise so admired, the outlaw bikers

hand the absurd but accepted notion

facto a visually restrained, unadorned, "invisible man."-'

and denim

clothes, the rich visual iconography of their

gang

that

a

"real

In their tight-fitting

insignia, their refusal to

8 Customized Chevy bike

1995


Fig

9 Deadwood. South Dakota

get a short-back-and-sides haircut, their flowing beards,

an appearance that was as

The

stylish

and sexy as

it

was

and

chunky boots, they cut

their

threatening.

and

outlaw bikers of America (and subsequently, Britain, Europe,

also displayed visual

flair in

their tattoo art.

Long disgraced

in

West

the

human body;

Church, which decreed that such adornment constituted a defilement of the later

as part of the renunciation of male adornment), tattooing had

definitive

mark

of

delinquency and antisocial

judgment was simply a form often continued

tendencies. More

tive,

of his outlaw status.

mythic figure

underlying

its

in his

own

authenticity

And as

The outlaw

biker readily

no coincidence And

ment,

this

must be seen,

if

like

man

was worth as a permanent

in

became a

in

Hugh Hefner

bol,

in

postwar California

is

today the tattoo has become an (almost) acceptable adorn-

at least in part,

as proof of

just

sexuality.

how

effectively the

image

of the

Even as recently as the mid 1960s,

could be identified by the refinement and elegance of his appearance,

the capacity of his clothes to signal wealth and hierarchy. Think of or

heroic, posi-

popularity— its very permanence

the outlaw biker, began

outlaw biker has shaped contemporary male the desirable

it

men who had

and proudly embraced

street credibility

That the "Tattoo Renaissance." surely

all

the outlaw biker increasingly

right, tattooing also gained

and

be seen as the

to

often than not, however, this

middle-class prejudice against the working

of

to delight in this art form.

the negative associations of tattooing, using the tattoo for

badge

come

Australia)

by the Catholic

(initially

a

silk

James Bond

in

a

suit,

dressing gown. Since the rise of the outlaw biker as male sex sym-

however, a completely opposite imagery has

Brando, Hopper, Rourke, and

all

those

real-life

become de

outlaw bikers

who

rigueur.

Now, thanks to

inspired their fictional char-


)

desirable acters. the sexy,

ments

that look like they

A

mean

big.

surrounds you

in

a pierced

tattoo,

it

either. "All that

no doubt gains

power between your legs"— may be it

currency from a

its

at

one's sex.

In

form— and

addition, however, motorcycles

who

which female friends of mine the inducement of vibration,

me

While the automobile

truth.

the motorcycle resembles a horse, another form of

In this,

erotic mythology. transport with a long and established

tell

or leather gar-

physical a womblike embrace, the motorcycle penetrates your

does so precisely

offer

and denim

ear,

have survived many a wipeout.

bike doesn't hurt

most,

like

a cliche, but.

male needs a

are cycling enthusiasts

shouldn't be dismissed.

explores the erotic associations Scorpio Rising (1963), Kenneth Anger pointedly bike as if showing the the camera pans slowly over details of a custom

In

of motorcycling;

body

of

star. Allen

a porn

Jones' video project. Manner, Wir

Kommen

"Homage

features a

sequence developed from the following notes: to Harley-Davidson"

1

Woman

leaning against Bardot poster.

2)

Woman

caressing pieces of unassembled machinery

3)

Close-up

4)

Male arm slowly unscrews

of

woman's

thighs astride shining gas tank.

cap

filling

pump

of tank.

nozzle into picture.

5)

Male hand brings petrol

6)

Pump

nozzle played around hole, then inserted.

7)

Pump

nozzle withdrawn to

let

helped to put nozzle 9)

Female booted

in

hole

drips

now

could 8) Female gloved hands

be seen going

restrain

into hole.

male arm and nozzle or have

earlier.

foot caressing starter pedal.

lines along complicated tubes 10) Lips or finger tracing

Brigitte Bardot's plicit in its

conjugate

homage

to the

of the bike

on side

of bike."

motorcycle- 'Harley-Dav.dson"-was

and the

erotic.

at least

Performing on French television

as ex-

in

1967.

black leather shorts, top. and th.gh-h.gh she straddled a motorcycle wearing skimpy studio-fan-generated wind, and sang: boots, her hair blowing in the

Je

n'ai

besoln de personne

Harley-Davidson

in

Harley-Davidson Je ne reconnais plus personne en

Je

vais

Et ye

a plus de cent

me

sens a feu et a sang

que m'importe de mounr

les

cheveux dans

magazines Every month, the photo spreads of

showing barely clothed

women

vent

le

like

straddling or reclining

Easy Rider make the same

on the featured custom

and hand-painted motorcycles. bodies fleshy accessories to the chromed tographs, the true erotic star

Marx decreed

more

Is

not the always the custom-bu.lt bike,

capitalist world, that in the .ndustrialized.

consumer

objectified whi.e

our desires.

is

there any

more

blatant

polished to perfection? Bikers I've

names-"Lucy." "Sexy

Sally."

objects,

"commod.ty

example

known have

"Martha the

of this

In

woman

b.kes. the,

these phoin

the bikm..

human beings become

fetishes."

become

ever

the focus of

devoutly than a gleaming motorcycle

b.kes with lovingly christened their

Hog"-and

point,

women s

"perfect our culture's imag.ng of the

gleam of chrome imperfect.ons of flesh into the often str.ven to transmogrify the erot-c female The extraord.nary, chillingly and the smooth symmetry of the sex mach.ne. Dal. s Young of buttocks limbs and robot of Metropolis (1926); the piston-like

woman" has


Own

Autosodomized by Her

Virgin

Hans Belmer's

obliging plasticity of

identical female

Busby

forms and

Chastity (1954); the

dolls;

the replication of

mechanical dance

their

in

Paco Rabanne's and Courrege's

Berkely's movies;

metal-clad models; the hard-edged symmetry of Richard Linder's

Woman

coated breasts

Jane Fonda's see-through,

(1970);

in

Barbarella (1967); the

Tom Wesselmann's Nude

plastic-

lawlessness of

flat

(1966); the half-flesh, half-chrome

androids of Hajime Sorayama's pinups; or any of the "sec-

ond

skin" creations of fashion

body with a gleaming,

and

fetishism that cover the

hyperrealist

patina— all render the

human body more

erotically

thetic qualities of a

machine. Obviously, the motorcycle

one but

many

of

powerful by allying

In

in this

with the aes-

erotic system.

point of fact, our culture juxtaposes

and

oscillates

between two seemingly contradictory and oppositional ic

constructs.

On

in

by culture and

when

on

biker

unhindered by the

civilization

rutted with

In

is

Animal— its

and

instinct ruled

women

Sex Machine heralds

of the

which desire

Conversely, the

tion.

erot-

the one hand, the perfectly lubricated,

pneumatic dynamo future

only

is

sex machine,

inspirations of the aesthetic of the

plays a fundamental role

it

it

a

sci-fi

friction of

emo-

beastly urges unconstrained

— harks back to a prehuman age sweating apelike

hairy,

abandon

men and

a jungle paradise.

in

the contemporary iconography of the outlaw his/her gleaming sex machine, these

two

erotic

con-

structs are fused: the natural, uninhibited, instinctive, hairy,

belching, groin-motivated, if-it-feels-good-do-it Animal astride a pneumatic, other-worldly, futuristic, emotionally oblivious, sublimely desire. sire."

artificial,

Man Ray once

perfectly realized engine of

wrote: "Reality

coming one enormous theme Fig

10 Oaytona Beach, 1990

World, where, as

Tom

Waits put

it,

is

fabricated out of de-

Jean Baudrillard has foreseen that the world

"all

our dreams are

made

park.

of

Welcome

is

be-

to Biker-

chrome."

Notes 1

Life,

July 21, 1947.

2 Hunter

Thompson,

S.

Hell's

Angels (Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books, 1967).

3 Frank Rooney, "The Cyclist's Raid," Harper's, January, 1951, cited

in

Maz

p.

67.

Harris, Bikers. Birth of

a Modern Day

Outlaw (London: Faber & Faber, 1985), p 23 4

Due

to censorship,

5

One

ot

these

is

The Wild One was not released

Chico wears a similar

arch-villain

in Britain until

1968

wearing a black-and-white, horizontally striped T-shirt. Interestingly, shirt

and

in

the

much

later

in

The Wild One, the

(1967) film Rebel Rousers, the

evil

Jack Nicholson

character wears distinctive, black-and-white striped trousers. July 28, 1947. cited in Harris,

6

Life,

7.

Quoted

and

in

Harris, p

8 Harris,

p.

pp 17-18.

Jan Hudson, The Sex and Savagery ot Hells Angels (London: New English 19 19

Library. 1967), p. 19.


"

1

official insignia

9 The

reads "Hells Angels" rather than "Hell's Angels

10 See "The Western"

in

Edward

F.

Dolan.

Jr.'s

History of the Movies (Greenwich.

Conn

Bison

12-43 Books, 1983), pp 1

Harris, p

12

In

20.

the mid '60s,

Sonny Berger's Oakland chapter

fight in offering their services to

Interestingly,

13

Motor Psycho at

home

writes

still

in

bohemian

Thompson, it

is

that both the

Sacramento and San Francisco chapters

time— "Teddy

p.

now

fiction:

of the Hells

seemed more

Hunter S. Thompson

Angels "began with

flavor" (p. 135). in

labeling

Rockers— the

British

term

Boys," despite obvious visual differences.

273. impossible, at least

in

the public imagination, to divorce the motorcycle as object from

The statistics are irrelevant; the connotations of rebellion and lawlessness. in

President Lyndon Johnson

as the 1967 Rebel Rouser and Russ Mayer's 1965

something similar happened when the press persisted

for bikers at the

16. For

to

bikes, would have chose to portray bikers as jive-talking hipsters who. sans

Angels

in Hell's

in Britain,

15.

late films

Angels wrote

Such Beatnik/bikers were not a complete a coffeehouse playing bongos.

a distinctly

14

Vietnam For some

even such comparatively

of the Hells

reason, Johnson failed to take them up on their offer

1

its

cultural

-percenter long ago became, at least

the mind's eye, the norm.

exploitation films Hell's Belles (1969) and Sisters 17. Consider the female biker 18. J.

in

Leather (1969).

of Dress (London: The Hogarth Press, 1971). C. Fleugal, The Psychology

Rockers and, in the 1970s. Greasers 19. Or, in British terminology, 20.

In Britain, this role

would be played by the Teddy Boys, and

21. Allen Jones, Projects (London:

Matthews

later

by the motorcycle-riding Rockers and Greasers.

80. Miller Dunbar, Milan. Edizioni 0, 1971), p.

22 Serge Gainsbourg, 1967.

59


Dennis Hopper

Bikes were always work for

Crash and burn outlaw glory

motorcycle tits

mamas

to the wind

beer-drinking drug-taking and -dealing

lead-footed angels not corporate tie-wielding execs from Wall Street

these angels were

my models

they were scary dark tattooed riders

whose thunder shook our

very foundations

The Wild One Wild Angels Hell's

Angels on Wheels

The Glory Stompers

were the movies we made about our myths Hells Angels

Satan's Slaves the

emblems

of our times

the Devil's wheels burned and streaked our highways crisscrossing our consciousnesses and lives like

that

the gingham-patterned oilcloth

covered our kitchen tables

and hung from our windows

and the gingham chicken feed sacks

that

we wore

as shirts under our bib overalls being born on a wheat farm

in

Dodge

City,

Kansas

not the black leather jackets, pants 60

stomping boots, chains, crosses, death's-head

skulls

swastikas, daggers dripping blood, that the cigar-smoking

bearded dragons wore from the coast

The West Coast

me


3

My

moved West

family

saw my having

first

to

Hells Angels

their pictures

was

1

in T.J.

taken with a Donkey

into flames

matches bursting

of their leather pants

seams

after a quick rub on the

cigar

I

Mexico

a cart donning sombreros

sitting in

stick

San Diego when

billowing from behind their beards

smoke

bottle passed the flashbulb pops the tequila

one the

and

biker

ram the

his bike

Donkey

carl

camera on legs topples

lurches the

their parked bikes the bikers scramble kicking

us

into a roar leaving

Ho

and a hearty Hi

a cloud of dust

in

Silver

photo

yelling they will return for the

Donkey show have

after the

Their heavy laughter

me

stayed with

for nearly half

Then

ready or else

it

and irreverence

and helped form my

attitudes

a century

saw The Wild One when was 14 I

I

starring

Marlon Brando

Every boy

in

America and

half

the world

would become "Sonny" Brando's character

in

the movie

James Dean had a motorcycle

made

but Jack Warner had

make Dean promise

his

agent

not to ride while

Fig

1

Biker.

1962

he was shooting

Rebel and Giant the two films (he only

was

I

made

Dean had

sat

watch.ng Vie

in

Dean

with

three)

on

his bike in the rain

Damone and

at their

wedding

he was

in

Pier Angeli

coming out

of the

church

love with Pier

she had asked him to marry her Eden, while he was making East of

his

first film

he asked her to wait

because

in his

mind

at that point

he had no career or money she

61

didn't wait

So we have Dean at her

wedding

so the story goes

crying

in

the rain on his bike


McQueen and had our driver's licenses away for too many speeding tickets

Steve

I

taken

got Vespas to drive

we

so

thinking

not get caught

we would

on motorscooters without licenses we used to race our Vespas on the

Coldwater Canyon

so many wrecks

we had

to the

after three

my

years of suspension

and two weeks

was

to recover

left

my

my wife-to-be Brooke Hayward Beverly back of my Vespa going to the

Brooke's hand

way

to the hotel

lanes erratically

the back

someone on

with

marriage

in

ticketed on the

changing

for

Hotel

Hayward and his Pamela Harriman) Ambassador be

(later to

was

Hills

wife Pamela

to ask Leyland

for

license

driving

on the

I

ocean

Vespa looked

wheels a crushed beer can with

like

I

way

the

all

firebreaks

could take from

we

Mulholland that

off

dirt

license another year without a driver's

become an amateur

Steve went on to

champion

dirt-bike

Then

had a bad accident

I

riding

down Sunset Boulevard an

hitting

flipped over

that

was a young I

ended up

swearing

in

would never

I

getting

and

my

kicks

ride

off

that dotted

my

off

the road for

me

dirt

roads

Rider

had made a bike mov.e

at

days

two wheels again

universe

came Easy

but then

Night Tide

Route 66

the canyons and desert

in

film

film that night)

the

the hospital for ten

four-wheel drive

I

actress

had been working with on the

we had wrapped I

mph

on me

ankle and her arm

my

breaking

doing only 35

slick

oil

The Vespa

(this

I

national cross-country

believe on a B.S.A.

called

The Glory Stompers that

I

starred

American International Pictures

Peter

Fonda had

a big

hit

that

starred

made him

Jack Nicholson was the

we were

all

in

Angels a bike movie called The Wild

a big star star of Heirs

Angels on Wheels

at A. I. P.

62

the director Roger

Corman made The

Wild Angels with Peter

and then had Jack

write a screenplay called

Corman had a way

with picking subjects

The

Trip

about LSD

in


Fig 2

Biker couple. 1961

were current and controversial

that

made movies

A. I. P.

Peter and

I

never

we

want

the John

movie market

promised each other

we would didn't

for the drive-in

make another

bike movie

become

to

Wayne and Ward Bond

of bike flicks

Peter had read The Last Movie

a screenplay that

from an

I

had Stewart Stern by

original story

to

then he and

wrote

I

me

produce

Peter wanted

write

it

Yang a script called The Yin and the with a

then

comedian named Don Sherman

we went

New

to

Peter to produce and

we found

meeting with Huntington Hartford

I

I

going to win the Cannes Film

would

didn't

it

to try

want to be disappointed

got up and said Peter

I

him

levitate in his office for

but decided not I

Festival, etc.

would give us the money

seriously thought about

I

who

passion

about how was

if

for the films

myself to direct

closed doors and Nos everywhere

we even had a because of my said he

York to find financing

let's

leave 63

When we I

went

left

to a

I

saw a pigeon

wing the street with a broken

Lucas Samaras show

Jim Rosenqu.st had I

in

found Dick

at this

left

desk

at the

Green Gallery

day Dick Bellamy's gallery that


Fig.

3

Still

1969 from Dennis Hoppers Easy Rider,

with Lucas' objects of broken glass

Jim had

and pins surrounding him

Dick for Leo Castelli Gallery

left

guarantee Leo had given him a sizable money Peter went to Millbrook to see

Billy

Hitchcock and Tim Leary

went back

I

to L.A. in defeat

airport crossing the bridge to Kennedy

the Beatles were on the radio with I

remember

"We Can Work

looking back at the skyline of N.Y.

the taxi crossed the bridge

we went under

as

"We Can Work as had

my

Sometime

trip

It

to the Big Apple

later

Peter went to

on

Canada on a press

promote The

to

the steel girders suddenly

Out" went to static

junket

Trip with A. I. P.

me in L.A. at 3 in the morning and tells me that Sam Arkoff the head

he

calls

of A.I. P.

movie would give us the money to make a bike if

Peter starred

in

it

64 I

could direct and Peter could produce

then Peter proceeded to

about

his idea of

tell

me

a couple of bikers

It

Out"


smuggling drugs from Mexico on they

sell

bikes

dirt

dope and get a couple

the

of beautiful

hogs

go across country to Mardi Gras have a great time

day

into Florida the next

go

and are shot by a couple Peter asked did

like

I

duck hunters

of

it

the money said Are you sure they said they'd give us

I

Yes he said I

said

so

sounds

It

this

Peter fine

fine

the beginning of Easy Rider

was

back on a hog one more time

My

greatest

memory was

across

riding

Valley chasing the dying sun

Monument

me

bore and the crew following

full

sun from Inspiration Point to catch the last rays of the

John Ford country

in

thank

was

it

God

chasing it

is

just

that light

I

experience

moment

of

my

and recording

the panning shot of

life

it

Monument

Valley in

Easy Rider

before the campfire scene

with Luke I

for that

the greatest

was

Askew

told

pushed

the shot

it

it

hitchhiking the stranger Peter picks up

but

was too dark

we had

a

new

kind of film

two stops out a beauty

came

Rider so with the end of filming Easy motorcycle so was the end of my riding a until

the kidnapping of Jack

The kidnapping

some

ten years later

Jack Nicholson:

of

Jack was shooting The Border Tony Richardson film in El Paso a

Paul Lewis

production manager on Easy Rider

my

and the producer and Chuck had it

Bail

of

my

The Last Movie stunt coordinator

written a script called

The Last Ride

was about some middle-aged

bikers

who had become businessmen town they had taken over they decide to go back to a a

la

The Wild One bad-ass bike gang they had belonged to a

when

no longer

fit

bikes are covered

in

their leathers their

they meet

some young

and wonder

if

cobwebs,

etc.

bikers on the road

they were ever that bad

when

they arrive at the town

much

to their surprise

1

celebrate .000 b.kers are there to

65


the 20th anniversary of their takeover the National Guard gets called

in

and the old bikers end up on the side as a colossal bike war erupts

was

it

in

of the National

the finale

a cute idea

the hope

was

Jack to commit to act

to get

in

it

and we could make The Last Ride but Jack

was working

and Jack doesn't read

4

Hopper and Victoria Duffy

on the MS-chanty Love

fc

We

gang

hired a bike

he's working

to involve him

Paso where Jack was working

in El

Rafelson as insiders

we used Warren Oates and Toby they were working on the

when

way

to find another

we needed

Fig

scripts

film

with Jack

they convinced him following our instructions

Mexico

that the President of

would

we

like

a meeting with him

Juarez

in

sent two Caddie limos

and the Stars and Stripes

with Mexican flags

the front fenders

flying off

and some to pick

Mexican

big

up Jack

Unknown

and bodyguards

drivers

he finished shooting on the set

after

Jack had thrown

to us

back out

his

and he decided

to take his four-wheel drive

so he could

down

lay

the back

in

Warren and Toby went with Jack and Jack's

who was

was a

there

driver

quickly informed about the plan by

limo

but as they

and

front

in

supposedly heading

for

a limo

in

back

Warren

of Jack's vehicle

Mexico to meet the President

the highway

hit

they were surrounded by the bike gang

and diverted

dark football stadium

into a

Jack's motorcade

pulled

and there we were, all

former A,

I.

P.

Adam Rourke and

As

I

surrounded by the bike gang

five of us, sitting

on our hogs

biker stars

Earl Finn

forget the

his truck

in

Jack

Starrett myself

fifth

stopped

the fireworks exploded spelling out

A

JACK'S NO.

1

helicopter with searchlights

came

into the

stadium

lowering a one-of-a-kind Harley-Davidson with Jack's 66

name engraved on

they lowered Earlier

he had that

it

the gas tank

between Jack and us with rockets exploding

on the highway when Jack was surrounded by bikers told

Warren and Toby

to

he couldn't move because

jump and save themselves of his

back

in air

Guard


when he saw me he managed

sitting

on one

of the bikes

and

to get out of his truck

then the cheerleaders from the

yelled

fell

to the ground with excruciating

he turned

naturally

down The

man. much

man

me

think about

why

said Of course,

doing a bike movie

on Hoppy. okay?

later

But what do you I

instructed

Last Ride:

That's going to be our retirement later

we had

back pain

not going well

was

this

get over here

local university

ran toward him smothering him with kisses as

he

HOPPER

not,

it's

keeping the bike?

got your

name on

it

he kept the hog

Jack

No.1

is still

my book

in

was some twenty

It

before this

years

time leading twenty-five thousand bikers

on The Love Ride, a Jay Leno and

J. P.

and on the back

of

my

charity for

MS

were chairmen joined by

I

Dwight Yoakum,

sat

later

got on a bike again

I

DeJoria and Peter Fonda

my borrowed hog

lovely wife Victoria Duffy

with the courage of her conviction to stick

on the back

of that bike as

I

going 80 mph those 60 miles

where Dwight entertained us

cemented my as

I

me

drove her to all

Lake Elsinore at this giant biker picnic

heart to her forever

wobbled through stops and

her love and belief

me

in

starts

never did

lopper

So ends I

the ride

until

and

Duff)

next time

mount a bike

crash and burn

and piss out the

fire

death before dishonor

when

I

get back from the

Donkey show

you better have the photo ready see how thanks

I

remember

for the

or else

that

memory

valuable footnotes:

Harley-Davidson wouldn't for

comp

us bikes

Easy Rider

and they thought because the protagonists were outlaws it

was bad

Cliff

for their

Voss a black

chopped and

image

civil-rights activist

rebuilt

the Harleys for Easy Rider

67


ion

Freedom or Death: Notes on the Motorcycle in Film and Video Vertov wrote "Hurrah for the poetry Of machines," Dziga drivmg; the poetry of levers, wheels, ing

grimaces of red-hot streams."'

and wings In h.s

Man

1922, "propelled and

in

of steel; the iron cry of

With a Mov,e

Camera

movements; the (1929), there,

blind-

amid the

and the airplanes-all the modern means automobiles and the streetcars, the locomotives conception of the Kmok. his transport-is the motorcycle. Knowing VertoVs mechanized

of

ideal revolutionary

documentarist

who moves

through the world recording

h.s preferred vehicle. Its slender

film facts,

one

frame enables

would think the motorcycle m.ght be construction permits the camera to shoot from access to the world at large, and its open into How better to capture the rhythms of daily life and "bring people unobstructed angles.

engine film sitting atop one, to straddle an closer kinship with machines" than to its

the camera'? pulse vibrate through to the hand that cranks more often Kmok Practical reasons, of course, placed the

in

a car than

and

let

on a mo-

work and a driver to navigate the course. torcycle-the camera operator needed room to mobile car," modeled on the agit-tram. a Indeed, Vertov wrote specifically of the "film idling." Still, it is projector is operated by the car's motor kept

Kmopravda

in

which "the

the motorcycle that best embod.es

exposed engine stands as the

some

literal site

of the principles of Soviet

of production,

avant-garde

art.

Its

and simultaneously appears as a

spoke and wheel like a Rodchenko geometric abstraction. Des.gn coexists with function, combustion eng.ne. But in Man With a Mov,e line composition set in motion by the Constructiv.st profile than for its conCamera. Vertov is less interested in the bike for its place alongside the spindles and the world of mechanized motion. It takes its tribution to

figuring the "revolutions" that factory cranks that turn throughout the film,

Fig

1

Still

. i

68

Irom Kim Wood's

ntunus

Girls.

1996

dustrial

and

pun

a

for

penchant

cultural production.

film largely

to in-

mechanized Moreover, the images of motorcycles offer a VertoVs Given urban. "cycles-human, labor, and

structured around

for hailing the

body as machine, one could also imagine

his celebration of their

motorized limbs. Spec.fthe motorcycle, the K/no-eye supported by of a merry-go-round, and then Vertov intercuts shots of motorcycle racing with those the Kmok ridathletes. In a couple of shots, we even see

proximity as located ically,

have come

briefly,

images

in

of track-and-field

not resting atop the handlebars. Vertov does ing behind the racers, the movie camera

let


movement

the these shots linger on screen, but instead subjects

so much

montage. As with

his

insert

contexts so as to collisions.

them

into the

immediate

their

more profound contexts

pace

of

athletics,

and temporal

spatial

of parallel

—

motion or

dialectical

He writes: "The geometrical extract of movement through an exciting succes-

images

sion of

and the motorcycles—from

labor,

urban locales,

of bikes to the

and actions

of the film, Vertov severs events

is

what's required of montage."- As extracts, the motorcycles are divorced

being filmed and are utilized as icons of movefrom any narrative having to do with the races with the left-to-right movement of the juxtaposed direction screen right-to-left ment, their more abstractly to draw (or drive) a line across the merry-go-round. Rather, the bikes work

frame and motivate the

movement

lateral

of the spectator's eye.

These

brief

images

the motorcycle synthesize the optical and kinetic properties mobilized throughout

Toward the end

of

Man

With a Movie Camera. Vertov uses stop-motion photogra-

phy to create the impression that the movie camera box,

mounts the frame on

of the

tripod, then spins

wooden

its

of the

film

legs.

and

is

assembling

to display

tilts

its

itself.

climbs out of

It

its

components before walking out

The sequence allows Vertov

how

to illustrate

cinematic

about a technology that technique can further animate the machine, and also to fantasize camera and the audience watchno longer needs human assistance. Vertov cuts between the framing device. The spectators movie's the functions as film within a film that the

ing

it

are

amused and impressed

in

approval for the

dynamism

Five years earlier,

in

with the camera's autonomy, and suggest Vertov 's wish of

mass

characterizing the early 20th century.

Sherlock

Jr.

(1924). Buster Keaton

had offered a

quite

literal

pre-

Playing the master detective sentation of self-driven technology featuring the motorcycle. of the film's

title.

the Buster must save his love, the kidnapped young woman, from

upon the handlebars of clutches of crime. The climactic rescue scene begins as he jumps a motorcycle driven by a

bump

driver.

in

But within seconds.

his assistant. Gillette.

the road, leaving Buster unaware that he

Through

intersections of city traffic,

a collapsing bridge,

approaching survive the

now

knocked

off

by

perched on a bike that has no

across country roads, on top of two trucks, over

between an exploding

log.

under a passing

tractor, in front of

an

miraculously a tense but unsuspecting Buster and the motorcycle

train,

trip.

is

Gillette is

Along the way Buster speaks to the absent

driver,

and only

unstably. discovered his predicament does the motorcycle begin to weave

to a stop after running

smack

window

Buster through the

into

a

pile of

wood

Still,

after

he has

only

comes

it

outside the criminal's hideout, throwing

with a force that helps him

subdue

While Vertov set his camera atop the handlebars,

fully

his lady's captor.

participating

in

the

new

suggesting the possible peril mobility, Keaton placed himself atop the handlebars, to mounmotorized '20s. Keaton's ride takes him from city streets

accompanying the

construction that dominated tainous country roads, tracing the route of highway and road the

decade

after

World War

I

culture and as the automobile transformed American

work crew and landscape. Indeed, at one point Buster rides past a roadside the face by

dirt flying off their

shovels.

In

Sherlock

Jr.,

is

struck

its

in

the inherent instability of the two-

dangers of mechanizalack of a protective shell underscore the almost crushes Buster. The perilous tion. Cars sink underwater, bridges collapse, a tram

wheeled machine and

encounter between ically slight

its

man and modern

times informs

much

but extraordinarily adroit comics would have to

of early film

comedy. Phys-

employ ingenuity and good

fortune to survive any given day. Like Vertov, tifying

the

enema

Keaton used the film-withm-a-film structure as a contributing force to the

new

for

mobility.

Sherlock

Here

Jr.

explicitly iden.

too, though.

Keaton

Buster dreams he is stepping envisions danger where Vertov saw sheer dynamism: when time and space produced by onto the screen and into the frame, the radical changes in


and hazardous world.

editing create an unstable

If

the

pace

of

be set by the "poetry

of levers,

suggested, the wheels, and wings of steel," as Vertov

Amencan

was going

the 20th century

less than confident

comic screen was Keaton and

his

historical setting that

allow

Love, Speed and

Mack

its

But

Thrills

conditioned their work,

of technology.

some image

this often resulted in In

about

chantability.

contemporaries insisted that danger could be

and given the

funny,

to

(1915), a motorcycle

Sennett to send various characters

flying

and sidecar head

heels over

Shy the countryside. during an extended chase through motorcycle, along with the auto(1922), Harold Lloyd enlists the horse-drawn wagon, en route to mobile, fire truck, streetcar, and proves more hazardous than saving the girl he loves; each vehicle Soup (1933). the motorcycle the last. In the Marx Brothers 's Duck In Girl

and sidecar represent the

humiliation of being

mobility eled by the era of mechanized

and

fully

realized by the

economic

in

left

behind, a fear fu-

which the movie was

failures of the

decade

made

that

fol-

Groucho. as Rufus T. Firefly, lowed. On three separate occasions. off with his motorcycle or its sidecar drive is left sitting while either

Harpo

(fig.

2).

Like the motorcycle

seems almost prepared

to drive

itself,

in

Sherlock

a symbol

Jr.,

for

Firefly's

machine

runaway technology.

The Wild One The post-World War

II

the period would redefine the image of

mobility a powerful degree of motorcycle, adding to this symbol of Orpheus (1950) used motorcycles to

menace. Jean Cocteau's

carry Death's leather-clad

speed

into or out of

he