Looking as cool as ever sitting astride a replica Captain America star-spangled motorcycle, Peter Fonda smiled and chatted with fans and friends on Saturday evening at Troy Lee Designs in downtown Laguna beach. Fonda and Lee worked together to create helmets and gloves inspired by the film "Easy Rider."
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In the 1969 cult classic, Fonda portrays the character Wyatt, also known as Captain America. He travels the U.S.A. with Billy, played by Dennis Hopper. The film takes a look at drugs, hippies, and alternative idealogies of the late '60s.
Fonda contacted Lee about collaborating on making quality gear with an "Easy Rider" twist.
"I had worked with Steve McQueen, Bruce Brown and others," said Lee. "Peter called me and said, 'Man, I like what you're doing.' I couldn't believe he really called me. I went, 'Are you sure this is really you?'
"I admire what he's done," said Lee. "I thought, 'I'd love to make his helmet. It's probably the most copied helmet in the world. But nobody's really ever made [it]. I wanted to make the authentic one ... the Peter Fonda helmet."
The two worked on the helmet first, and then gloves. Next came "Easy Rider"-inspired t-shirts. Lee thinks there is a lot of potential with the red, white and blue star-spangled collection.
"I want to make sure Peter's digging what I'm doing," said Lee. "I'm digging what he's doing. I'm excited ... it's fun."
Fonda said that riding his MV Augusta F4CC brings freedom to his life.
"No fences on the road," said Fonda. "Don't ride freeways. Ride the roads. See the country. You don't have to race across, you can just cruise.
"You need to have [protective gear]. When I see guys riding around in shorts and slaps ... and on crotch rockets, too ... whoa, hope they don't have to 'put it down,' because they're screwed."
Fonda explained that, back in the day, Hells Angels would take a pair of jeans and soak them in oil and grease at the bottom of oil change pits. These were dried and called "slicks." The HA's would wear clean jeans underneath the slicks.
"Those were the old-fashioned leathers, because you could hit the bottom and it wouldn't grab you. If it grabbed [your jeans], it would really rip you up. With the slicks on, you can ride like we do now with leather. And now we have really good leather items from Troy Lee available. Don't go unprotected ... it's like sex."
Fonda rode a chopper-style motorcycle in the movie. He explained to a visitor at the event that choppers were created after World War II. Soldiers returned to the U.S.A and bought motorcycles. To go faster, riders began taking pieces off of their bikes. According to Fonda, the new "chopper" look had a "down and dirty" feel to it.
The builder of the replica "Easy Rider" chopper is Jim Beck. He got started building bikes after he returned from Vietnam. He was working at a gas station in Pomona when he decided he was going to open a bike shop to support himself, his wife, and their three children.
Thousands of custom bikes later, Beck has built five replica "Easy Rider" choppers for clients including Los Angeles Times publisher Otis Chandler and the Harley-Davidson Museum. The original bike for the film was designed by Cliff Vaughs, Ben Hardy, Peter Fonda, Tex Hall and Dan Haggerty (of "Grizzly Adams" fame). The original motorcycle was blown up during the finale of the film.