Born to Be Wild

The Rise of the American Motorcyclist

By Randy D. McBee

Born to Be Wild

376 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 21 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-5214-6
    Published: February 2019
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-2272-9
    Published: July 2015
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-2273-6
    Published: May 2015

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In 1947, 4,000 motorcycle hobbyists converged on Hollister, California. As images of dissolute bikers graced the pages of newspapers and magazines, the three-day gathering sparked the growth of a new subculture while also touching off national alarm. In the years that followed, the stereotypical leather-clad biker emerged in the American consciousness as a menace to law-abiding motorists and small towns. Yet a few short decades later, the motorcyclist, once menacing, became mainstream. To understand this shift, Randy D. McBee narrates the evolution of motorcycle culture since World War II. Along the way he examines the rebelliousness of early riders of the 1940s and 1950s, riders' increasing connection to violence and the counterculture in the 1960s and 1970s, the rich urban bikers of the 1990s and 2000s, and the factors that gave rise to a motorcycle rights movement. McBee's fascinating narrative of motorcycling's past and present reveals the biker as a crucial character in twentieth-century American life.

About the Author

Randy D. McBee is associate professor of history at Texas Tech University.
For more information about Randy D. McBee, visit the Author Page.


"A comprehensive work of cultural history told from the American road."--Wall Street Journal

"Bikers, obviously, will rumble for this book, but they're not its only audience. Historians and pop-culture fans could also find Born to Be Wild is the best thing off two tires."--Terri Schlichenmeyer, The Bookworm Sez

“A great book that is accessible to bikers and college American culture professors alike.”--Pennsylvania Literary Journal

"Fascinating, very well written, and full of interesting stories, facts and photos. . . . For anyone doing research on, or having a general interest in, the culture of motorcycles and their riders."--CHOICE

“This book deserves a place in every college and university library and on the shelves of everyone interested in American political, social, and cultural history.”--The Historian

“This book is at once a social history of the motorcycle and a provocation for rethinking the political realignments of the second half of the twentieth century. A rich sense of contradiction and a deep understanding of how political struggle can inflect the same slogans and themes with widely divergent meanings together elevate this book beyond a useful and interesting study of a hobby into a profound rumination on the role of culture in political life.”--George Lipsitz, University of California, Santa Barbara