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Review: Chopper Hobo by Shovelhead Dave

A Book Review that kicks some sense & hits you with wit & wisdom

by J J Solari

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This book is gettin’ a lotta flack from people with no discernment complaining that it’s not Hunter S. Thompson or Jack Kerouak. The bwa ha ha’s and the ha ha ha’s seem to annoy them.

The book doesn’t have long paean - look it up - to the nobleness of destitution, suffering or sadness…... nor long tirades against the relentless oppression of the government and “the greedy corporations” and Man’s inhumanity to trees or anything else remotely whiney. This utter lack of depressing content and mega overdoses of relentless can-do-ness CAN be upsetting to some readers who demand to be driven to despair via their reading material.

And you are not going to get that kind of a book from someone who, from what I have read so far, is the human version of a river otter.

The target audience for this book is other chopper hobos or at least other chopper lunatics. I don’t mean chopper criminals, I mean chopper lunatics. The joy of captaining a Harley that has been transformed into looking more like an eel than a capybara is not for everyone, certainly not sane people, because motorcycles are inherently dangerous enough and this would be the case even in a world without automobiles - all the drivers of which consider an accident with a motorcyclist to be, if anything, a piece of good fortune. Because, let’s face it, they could have hit another car or even a truck. Hitting a motorcyclist?…….why have empathy for someone who is traffic-tie-up-proof and is going to get where he’s going before you do? This is how drivers think. Despite all the efforts of “biker awareness” lardheads who think slogans and activism is going to change all this. Auto drivers not only resent motorcyclists they don’t actually CARE if they hit them: THEY won’t be hurt. They’ll be like Superman accidentally flying into a goose. Except in Superman’s case it actually would be accidental.

Getting back to choppers: chopper fanatics turn an already really bad idea - the large-engine motorcycle - into a really enjoyable experience. But they also turn it into an even worse idea than it was to begin with! It is only lunatics who have this particular circuitry that translates turning an already savagery-filled machine into one that is even more-unwisely configured for safety but also a lot more relaxing and fun and still goes like hell. You cannot really LIKE chopper-riding…..and be normal. So they’re NOT for everyone. They’re for lunatics.

So the target audience for Chopper Hobo……is other lunatics. Lunatics don’t care if you say bwa ha ha a lot. Plus, he only says it when he has sublimely overcome what to anyone else would be a deal-breaking misfortune or piece of stupidly bad luck, or when he squeaks by via impromptu cleverness what could have been a real problem, either from an inanimate object or another human.

A “chopper hobo” should not be confused with the one category of “chopper addict” that existed in the “Chopper Hobo” days that was leagues-ahead in lack of “upper crust affiliation” and lack of personal couture than a chopper hobo, and that would be the “one-percenter” category. The chopper hobo of the Chopper Hobo book is as different from the one-percenters of the '50s, '60s, '70s and '80s as, well, a river otter is different from a Nile crocodile.

Getting back to Chopper Hobo, not only was Shovelhead Dave pioneering the exploring of the Great American Western Road System on a chopper, the chopper was laden down with camping and travel supplies. They ain’t designed for that. They ain’t designed for anything, actually, other than looking cool and killing you. Every day had so many separate either rewards or calamities that there is a reason they are recorded inside his head with relentless and accurate detail. Keep in mind this began in 1979: when anyone who did this sort of thing at that time was considered a demonic stooge acting under orders from Satan. Actually, as you continue along on this travel and adventure-log of exploration of “life as an individual” - you realize that this “hobo” is actually a mechanical technician, a woodworking expert, and a pool champion, and you don’t learn this LAST item except as a brief explanation almost at the end of the book of how he got even with a pest in a pool hall.

Can we talk about the woodworking?

Enclosed is a picture of the Neiman Marcus Rotunda in San Francisco. There is a lot of woodwork visible. A lot not visible. The guy that spends most of this book sleeping in the dirt, who would today be called “homeless” …. though that would have been news to HIM, and who very often for the years spanned in this book didn’t know where his next meal was exactly coming from….was part of the woodworking crew of artisans who did all the shit you’re looking at. If he wants to say bwa ha ha or anything else in his own book, I’m gonna take my hat off no matter WHAT the fuck he says or how many times he says it. To review?….the Harley bum who wrote this book helped create the interior you see in the photo. Of, no, not a Walmart: a Neiman-Marcus. They oughta hang a fucking sign from the imported-from-France ceiling that says “CHOPPER HOBO WAS HERE.”

Dealing with how you make each new day not only survivable but also enjoyable - even though nothing that has happened so far is going to resemble in any way what’s going to happen five minutes from now….and finding it all interesting and mostly cool as hell… what this book is all about. It’s not a book for the self-pitying. It’s a book for the enthusiastic. And if you don’t know what enthusiasm is….Chopper Hobo will walk you through it. Ok, ok, pack you down with bunji straps through it. Whatever. Jesus. Critics everywhere. BWA ha ha.

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Reader Comments

Wow, all I can say is I am honored and deeply humbled by JJ's kind words here on Bandit's fantastic Bikernet. You two wonderful guys and David Mann formed my very existence with your magazine in the early 1970s You guys are the trailblazing originals, I am merely your chopper cult follower. I'd also like to thank Mister Richard Sheehy for taking the interest and time to turn the inane gibberish into a book. Rich, without you, all the old memories would be lost to time and the faded pictures in the old photo albums would get tossed out in the garbage after I take the Big Dirt Nap.

I never intended to write any book, for sure. Back then, I was taking pictures of the interesting places where I rode, that's all. And I was sending the pictures back to my old riding partners in Texas, telling them goofy shit like "You guys should be here." And then they ended up being the smart ones cuz I lost my job and car and apartment. So, it kinda became the chopper and me vs the universe.

I'd also like to thank the guys across the western USA that would shoot pool in the bars and pool halls for 1 or 2 bucks a game. I tried to be a gracious winner and bought you guys beers and played the juke box. I'd usually leave the joint with maybe 8 or 12 bucks more than I walked into the bar with, and while that doesn't sound like much these days, it was enough loot to get gas for the bike and hot dogs and beans for the campfire, bwahaha.

Thanks to everybody who took the time to read Chopper Hobo. After 7 frame up builds on the thing, that Shovel Chop and me are still together, 50 years this July 2024. Til Death Do Us Part. Ride on forever.

Shovelhead Dave
Milwaukee, WI
Friday, April 12, 2024
Editor Response Keep the faith Dave...
I've not heard / seen JJ Solari's name in years. Motherfucker you inspired me to start writing while I was in prison in the '90s. I'd be dead now if not for your rants in biker mags. Good to stumble across you.

Gus Guess
Summerville, SC
Tuesday, January 30, 2024
Editor Response We are fortunate to have J.J. on our wild team of renegades. There are enough J.J. stories to keep you busy for awhile.
I have read this book gawd knows how many times, as its editor and getting it to print, its just raw nuts and bolts reading with no frills, it was a fun ride getting all of Daves stories together to turn it into some resemblance of a book, it is original in its own right as we left it as it was with the deliberately misspelled words as it gave it some sense of being there and a feel for the character recounting his personal experience's, too many Bwahahahas?..... not as many as i removed to get the word count down and make it fit into the pages.

As for JJs review.... no one could have put it better than he has done, it must be bad if he enjoyed it Bwahahaha.

As for my non existence of editor skills in producing the book....someone had to do it, Dave ain't no spring chicken no more, time is of the essence before he croaks it one day and all is lost forever, but now in years to come people can enjoy the book the way it was written and feel as if they are there with the bwahahas

Richard Sheehy
Wimborne, United Kingdom
Tuesday, January 16, 2024
Another article from J.J. Solari almost had me "paean" (look up the pronunciation) in my pants. The guys a national treasure.

Sunday, August 6, 2023
Editor Response Hang on!
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