The art critic Robert Hughes called the custom motorcycle a distinctive form of American folk art, but “I would go further,” Paul d’Orléans writes in the introduction to The Chopper: The Real Story.
He calls the Chopper “the ultimate American folk art movement, a culturally explosive mashup of particularly American traits; the cowboy/outlaw,
free of family, property, or history, free to explore endless highways, free to express one’s individuality through dress and choice of transport.”
Distinguished by its extended forks, lack of rear suspension, and tall sissybar, the Chopper was preceded by styles like the bob-job
and cut-down, and grew out of efforts to make Harley-Davidsons and other bikes lighter, faster, and more agile.
But in d’Orléans’ telling, it was more than a question of mechanics. It was the culmination of decades of motorcycle culture, spurred on
by American societal shifts brought on by World War 2, changing race…
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