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From Boneshakers to Choppers: The Rip-Roaring History of Motorcycles

by Lisa Smedman

It is hard to imagine a better read for young motorcycle enthusiasts than From Boneshakers to Choppers. As the subtitle suggests, this book looks at the history of the motor bicycle, as it was first called – from “boneshakers” (early motorized bikes with huge front wheels and wood frames) to “choppers” (modern souped-up cycles), and just about every other version of those two-wheeled vehicles you can imagine.

B.C. journalist and fiction writer Lisa Smedman hits upon exactly the right combination of historical detail, amusing anecdotes, and nuts-and-bolts facts. She explains how motorcycles work, how their design evolved, and why people have found them so fascinating ever since the day in 1884 when an adventurous American named Lucius Copeland attached a motor to a regular bicycle.

Ever wondered why those big bikes are called “hogs”? Who Harley and Davidson were? How the Hells Angels were born? Smedman answers these and hundreds more questions about motorcycle history and culture in a peppy prose style that is perfectly complemented by the book’s outstanding photo-filled layout. Especially compelling are Smedman’s efforts to link motorcycles with larger trends in fashion, film, and music, such as her discussion of the role of small mopeds in the mod movement in England in the early 1960s, or the interest in hell-raising big ones inspired by the 1953 film The Wild One.

And, in keeping with the book’s central aim of presenting the world of motorcycles to young readers, Smedman includes thorough discussions of safety gear and safe riding throughout. In all, From Boneshakers to Choppers is an absolute must for any young reader interested in knowing more about motorcycles – or any young person with an interest in this fascinating area of popular culture and history.