Book Review: The Bikeriders
The book: The Bikeriders
Author: Danny Lyon
Pages: 94, hardcover
Purchase: Click here
Photography by Danny Lyon
Its dust jacket says that The Bikeriders, is a “tough, live-action close-up of the fast-moving, far-rambling world of the big bikes and those who like them.” And it is, but it’s much more too. Despite its brevity, The Bikeriders by Danny Lyon is really an anthology of stories about the 1960s American Mid-West’s world of outlaw bikers.
The book is divided into two halves: the first is photographic, the second written. And while the only common thread from photo-to-photo or story-to-story is the environment and characters, it isn’t a non-fiction in the traditional sense because there isn’t a linear storyline. Using vignettes, The Bikeriders provides glimpses into a romantic, violent world where the era’s common social conventions were replaced by codes no less strictly enforced. The themes contained now border on cliché: death, fights, women, guns, booze, drugs, and of course motorcycles; however, this is a primary source documented by someone who was a member of the sect, not a novelist imagining escapades.
But The Bikeriders isn’t all dirt and death, a substantial part of the story focuses on the bikes and the work that went into them, the weekend ‘scrambles’ (local dirt-track racing), and the long rides to out-of-state events. Perhaps most surprising is that in stark contrast with the Mr. Marlon Brando Wild Ones character, the men and women of the Chicago Outlaws had young families and formed familial bonds with one another. They weren’t loners who just happened to ride together. As with so many other small subcultures, their comrades were the family they chose.
Best of all, the photos were taken, and the stories compiled, by an award winning photographer, Mr. Lyon, who attempted “to record and glorify the life of the American bikerider” from his position within the club. His work has been featured in the Museum of Modern Art and the Art Institute of Chicago, and he is a multiple National Endowment of the Arts fellow.
To purchase the book, click here.