Easy Rider

The Year was 1969.

Freedom was under siege in America. The news from Vietnam was brutal. Politicians were trying to justify tens of thousands of deaths on the battlefields. The war was hell on earth by all accounts.  

State side, young people were becoming disillusioned and restless. Young men were burning draft cards to protest the war, antiwar demonstrations were going on throughout the land. Outrage against the war was confirmed by a Gallup poll in October 1969 when 52% of the Gallup respondents said U.S. entry in the Vietnam War was a mistake.

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Art by famed artist – Michael Knepper.


I was a young boy racing my bicycle around the lumber camps of northern Ontario, Canada in 1969. My first exposure to the Vietnam War stories was when a bus load of men were brought into the camp to work at the lumbermill. Several of the young men were Americans trying to flee the war…aka: draft dodgers I later learned.

Many Canadians were not fans of the Vietnam War. On May 22, 1969, the Canadian government announced that immigration officials could not inquire about immigration applicants’ military status if they showed up seeking permanent residence in Canada. There started the draft dodger movement into Canada and thus, one of my early experiences to the American Way. See Toronto Star Immigrations Reporter, Nicholas Keung’s excellent article on this topic for a deeper overview.

With this 1969 cultural backdrop, a group of young producers and directors in Hollywood were working  on a low-budget film titled, “Easy Rider”. This iconic movie came to life under the direction of Producer, Peter Fonda and Director, Dennis Hopper. Both also wrote the movie and starred in it. Talk about turbo multi-tasking!

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Easy Rider Available at Amazon.com 

It is difficult to explain why, Easy Rider the movie, has had such an impact on an entire generation of bikers. Perhaps it was its attempt at uncovering the true American culture of the times, perhaps it was to bring discrimination to the consciousness of the people or maybe it was to simply exhibit America’s spirit for freedom of the open road. Who knows? All I know is that the movie’s story caught my attention at an early age and both Fonda and Hopper were added to my inventory of heroes…right up there with John Wayne. See an excellent Turner Classic Movie  write-up on how the movie came to life.

Amazing film, Easy Rider. So amazing that it was added to the Library of Congress National Registry in 1998.

Let’s look at Billy’s bobber and Wyat’s chopper.

Both had hard-tail frames and Panhead motors. They were designed by two African-American custom bike builders, Ben Hardy and Cliff Vaughs. They built five bikes in total for the movie. Two Billy Bike Bobbers and three Captain America choppers. These two men deserve a tremendous amount of credit for building what is most likely, the most iconic of motorcycles in the world in all time. Thank you Ben and thank you Cliff. Great work.

My garage tribute to all the men and women associated with Easy Rider. Thank you for the memories. Thank you for the inspiration.

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Ride Safe Out There.

Motorcycle Marc

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Eric Herrmann Studios – “Captain America


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