One thing I like to do is compare movies, TV shows and books to real life. Is this something that could happen? Are the facts around the story real? Do the doctors on Grey’s Anatomy use actual medical terms and procedures? Are the arrests made on Law and Order SVU real charges? So, in taking this view on things, do you think the motorcycle that Peter Fonda rode in Easy Rider is street legal in Florida? After all, the movie’s last scene was in Florida. Let’s check it out.
First, let’s acknowledge that the bike used in Easy Rider was a real bike. It was one of four bikes built for the movie. Two Captain America bikes were built and two of the bikes that Dennis Hopper rode were built. The only surviving “Captain America” bike was auctioned off in 2014 and was sold for $1.35 million. Now close your eyes and picture this bike. Its flag colored tank and stretch front forks. Its exhaust pipes curving upwards and the high back passenger seat. And those handle bars; could they be any higher? Yes, this is the ultimate chopper. And as it turns out, very illegal for the streets of Florida.
To start with, all the safety features such as turn signals, horn, front brakes and seat springs were tossed to make that custom look. All motorcycles in Florida are required to have turn signals; that’s one strike. Top speed for the bike was 90mph. This bike was super stretched for that custom look making the bike unstable on the road. Jack Nicholson tightened his legs into Peter Fonda’s ribs to help balance the bike during riding. He tightened them so much at one point he broke one of Fonda’s ribs.
Those exhaust pipes and modified muffler system most assuredly made the bike have a loud roar, louder than is allowed by Florida law. Florida law states the muffler system can’t be modified to have the noise louder than the manufacturer’s specs; strike two. Last but not least, those handle bars. Florida law requires handlebars not be higher than the driver’s shoulders when seated. The Captain America chopper clearly has its handlebars higher than that; strike three.
There are probably plenty of other aspects of this bike that made it unsafe for the road. Any way you look at it, this bike was not street legal in Florida.