The First Chopper

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Billy's Machine

Uncovered in a barn in Humboldt County of Northern California in 2007, this bike is from the creative genius of a single individual, Billy Deere. A descendent of the founders of the John Deere Company, he built this bike in 1919.

Billy Deere was an amazing multi-faceted man, a combination of mechanical genius, philosopher, naturalist and forest mystic. His wisdoms were hard won from his experiences in WWI, his crazed youthful antics and a life of almost obsessive but highly intentional explorations of the true nature of the human species.

Born in 1890, he directly experienced the cultural transition from horses to engine-powered vehicles. As a child, he loved horses and connected deeply with them. As a budding mechanical designer, he fell just as deeply in love with motorcycles, as did much of the American public in the first decades of the 1900's.

As young men, Billy and William Davidson became extremely close friends and wild collaborators on motorcycle design. Both were genius level engineers, powered by the fire of youthful drive and inspiration. William stayed formally involved with the Harley-Davidson Company for his entire life, and Billy explored a large range of life scenarios. Although viewed by some in early Milwaukee as mostly wild young party animals on early motorcycles, none would ever question their both being true pioneers in American motorcycle development.

In his creation of this very first intentionally-chopped motorcycle design, Billy Deere planted the seeds for the completely American phenomena we know as Choppers. Thousands of Men (and now Women) have since enjoyed designing, building and hitting the road with their own versions of the proverbial iron horse.

See what details of Billy's bike speak to you about the nature of this man, the legacy he left, and how the road feels to you these days.