Mike Lichter Presents Today’s Top Ten

Fave Photos from Classic Easyriders’ Ace Flick-snapper

Everybody in the motorcycle scene knows Michael Lichter. He is without a doubt the world’s best photographer of custom motorcycles and the biker lifestyle. His amazing and memorable images have been seen in Easyriders magazine for over 40 years and in many other periodicals and motorcycle-related books all over the planet. He is currently the Lead Photographer for the reimagined Classic Easyriders magazine.

          Mike will do absolutely anything to get a shot. I’ve seen him hang off the back of a speeding pickup truck to get just the right photo of a custom motorcycle as a pack of bikers roar down the highway right behind him. His photographic documentation of such renowned rallies as Sturgis, Laconia and Daytona are legendary as is his annual “Motorcycle as Art” museum show at the Buffalo Chip in Sturgis during the August Rally.

Classic Easyriders magazine is very proud to announce that Michael Lichter is lending his talents here to show you a personal pick of some of his favorite photographs in biker lifestyle history. Rather than try to nail Mike down to his all-time Top Ten favorites, we agreed that these represent and interesting collection of photos spanning many years of his amazing work. Call ‘em Today’s Top Ten.

We spoke to Mike about this proud pick of moto memories from his studio in Boulder, Colorado. He was working on his all-new website that features incredible galleries of his work through the decades. I mentioned that looking at his photos reminds me of images I had seen depicting the cowboys, gunfighters and Native American Chiefs of old. Here was the biker lifestyle captured in all its grungy glory by a discerning eye. Images locked in time of an age when human beings were wild enough to throw a fossil-fuel motor between their legs and roar around on two wheels. Future generations will no doubt look back at us and think that bikers were plum crazy.

Mike told me that he had very similar feelings when he was putting together last year’s “Motorcycles as Art” show at the Sturgis Buffalo Chip. The collection was called “More Mettle.” Here’s what he had to say:

Since I bought my first Harley in 1977, custom motorcycles have become immensely popular and evolved considerably, as has the culture surrounding them. It was once thought of as something for outlaws and renegades, but by the mid-1980s, perceptions started to change, and it became not only socially acceptable to pull up all clad in leather looking tough on a big Harley, it became cool! Motorcycle gatherings grew in number, as did their attendance, and for better or worse, they became more organized and commercial through the 1990s and early 2000s. The days when “we just pulled over to the side of the road, and after a little partying we’d sleep where we fell” as Sonny Barger, a past president of the Oakland Hells Angels wrote, seemed to disappear in seemingly direct correlation to the attention biking was receiving on television. 

Year after year, motorcycling grew, and then came the economic crash of 2008. All bets were off. Both riders and the motorcycle industry suffered a big hit. The outlook seemed bleak, but thankfully, beneath the surface, a new generation was coming of age with a different set of interests, concerns, priorities, and ways of being. There is a revival underway where there is less concern for what people ride and the accouterments of the culture. More attention is paid to the things that really count — like just getting out to ride and sharing the experiences around riding with friends.

Once again, I am encouraged to feel there is a correlation between my work documenting bikers over the last four decades and Owen Wister’s writing about cowboys in the changing American West more than a century ago. In the 1902 introduction to his novel The Virginian, Wister lamented that his romantic vision of cowboys and the American West had vanished. “What is become of the horseman, the cowpuncher, the last romantic figure upon our soil… His wild kind has been among us always, since the beginning: a young man with his temptations, a hero without wings… He and his brief epoch make a complete picture, for in themselves, they were as complete as the pioneers of the land or the explorers of the sea.” I do believe this brief “epoch” is not over and that these “romantic figures upon our soil” are back, stronger than ever, making this the best time of my career to be in motorcycling.

          —Mike Lichter

Looking Back – Paul Cox north of Bear Butte. Sturgis, SD. 2003

Hair flying in the wind, leather and brass, knives and power… Looking back in time to the bandits, pirates, Vikings and marauders that crossed the land before.

Looking Back

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