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Viewfinder: The Story of the Chopper

“The Story of the Chopper” explores the surprising birth and history of the world’s most recognizable motorcycle style.

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The Chopper is more American than apple pie. This type of custom motorcycle — characterized by corner-aversive rake-angles, radical geometry and hacked (chopped), elongated and re-welded frames — is proudly homegrown and the embodiment of being bad to the bone. You knew that as soon as you laid eyes on one. But did you know that its emergence transcended cultural divides?

“People have a cliche that choppers are a white man’s game, but they’re not”, author Paul D’Orleans explains in this preview for his upcoming book, The Chopper: The Real Story. “Black bike builders in Southern California and Latino bike builders in Southern California in the 1940s…and white builders…together were modifying their bikes to become choppers.” If the chopper’s distinct look didn’t already have you dreaming of Easy Rider adventure, its lesser-known past will.

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