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Born to Be Wild

Born to Be Wild

A History of the American Biker and Bikes 1947-2002

Take an exhilarating ride through the history of the American bike, biker, and the biker nation in this fascinating and comprehensive chronicle of the biker era and today's ever-expanding legion of motorcycle enthusiasts. Impassioned, idiosyncratic, and razor sharp, Born to Be Wild traces a century's worth of the culture, the bikers, and the bikes themselves.

Who are these bikers? Are they those hard-living, leather-clad, tattooed guys often associated with images of the Hells Angels and Satan's Sinners? Or are they those clean-cut, suit-and-tie wearing riders with the sporty helmets you pass on your daily commute? In fact, they are both, for what began as a subculture of misfits and outlaws has grown into a flourishing society of men and women who celebrate the freedom of the open road and the brotherhood they find among bike enthusiasts of all stripes.

Today's biker has evolved from the rough-and-tumble antihero to a vast and vibrant biker culture populated by a new breed of rider including the RUBs, or Rich Urban Bikers, and championed by everyone from titans of industry like the late Malcolm Forbes to media celebrities like Jay Leno. And while elements of rebellion still remain intrinsic to the biker mystique, the culture has in fact expanded to include a plethora of riders from the American mainstream -- doctors, lawyers, and executives -- who love the freedom they find on their bikes and the camaraderie they find with their fellow devotees. It is also a multibillion-dollar industry that draws hundreds of thousands of participants and spectators to its annual events.

Born to Be Wild, written by motorcycle journalist Paul Garson and the editors of Easyriders magazine, captures as never before the spirit and evolution of the biker era. Beginning in 1895, Born to Be Wild traces the development of the modern bike, with special attention to Harley-Davidson's supreme contributions to the quality of the machines as well as the aesthetics of biker society. Featuring numerous fascinating sidebars that highlight the particular characteristics of the culture, the book also explores the socio-political events that have culminated in the great biker nation that we know today.

With more than two hundred photographs of bikes and bikers across the decades, Born to Be Wild is a definitive work that will open readers' eyes to a thriving society, one whose celebration of freedom and the open road precisely reflects what is best about our country as a whole.
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  • Simon & Schuster | 
  • 320 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781416575238 | 
  • August 2007
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Read an Excerpt

1895-1946: The Prehistoric Biker

History is what the winners say happened. In this case, the winner was Harley-Davidson. The Milwaukee Marvel alone survived the Hundred Years' War, a century of innovation and most often extinction. Scattered across the scrapyard battlefields of the first few decades of the twentieth century, you could count the rusting steel bones of around three hundred different American motorcycle manufacturers. Well, let's call them motorcycle builders, since some built only a handful, literally. So where have they all gone? We gave these machines names -- colorful, even memorable names like Apache, Argyle, Black... see more
Introduction

WELCOME TO THE BROTHERHOOD

The concept of the motorcycle outlaw was as uniquely American as jazz. Nothing like them had ever existed. In some ways, they appeared to be a kind of half-breed anachronism, a human hangover from the era of the Wild West.

-- Hunter S. Thompson, gonzo journalist

We were depicted as Vikings on acid, raping our way across sunny California on motorcycles forged in the furnaces of Hell.

-- Sonny Barger, former leader of the Hells Angels


Which came first, the bike or the biker? Or, for that matter, the biker lifestyle or Easyriders magazine, founded... see more

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