Frank Kaisler was a contributing editor to Easyriders magazine starting in 1973 and moved on to be its editor from 1982 to 1987. He's been involved in every aspect of the chopper game and has seen plenty of good and bad people and trends come and go. A competent machinist, mechanic and customizer, Kaisler is still going strong. A regular at the Long Beach Swap Meet in SoCal, Frank knows and helps lots of the younger guys.
Frank's not some old dude who lives in a cave; he's aware of today's scene and more interested then ever. Although Frank has been there and done that long before many ChopCult members were even born, he always makes time to shoot the shit with just about anyone. If you you are lucky enough, he'll sometimes pepper those conversations with stories from the glory days of choppers.
Then vs. Now
Sometimes Frank has to laugh when he sees some of the fashionista nonsense going on in today's chopper world. Frank appreciates what lots of guys are building these days but can't help but trip out on what they'll pay for parts he and his crew considered junk back in the day. "Mostly garbage, total shit" is how Frank describes most of the "catalog" bits from the '70s. Are they shoppers or choppers? "Paying $800 for a piece of shit warbird taillight is just plain silly." When I asked Frank if dudes back then cared as much about old parts, his reply was telling. "We used old parts because that's what we could afford. We didn't really collect things for the sake of collecting. We rode old motorcycles, new motorcycles, whatever we could get our hands on." According to Frank, 40 years ago there were so few distractions and such limited access to parts that most people operated in a small circle of friends and had no idea what was going on somewhere else until they saw it in a magazine. The time of Googling something was decades away and information spread much slower. Despite the slower communication methods, trends still came and went quickly. A flip through Frank's photo album shows progression each year as things evolved with his own bike. Yes, he says, people were just as obsessed with "what's cool" then as they are now.
Kaisler and men like him should be respected not just for their contributions to the "scene" whatever that is or was, but for the wisdom and knowledge that only years of experience can provide. He was generous enough to entrust ChopCult with several of his photo albums to scan and share the images with our members. Some of the bikes and people you may recognize from the Easyriders heyday. So many photos, in fact, that Frank's CC interview is dropping on the site in three parts. Here's the first one. Enjoy.
This is Frank on the second generation of his panhead in Baltimore, around 1966–'67. The dude in the orange t-shirt is Frank's buddy Scott who used to let Frank store his bike behind his garage to hide it from his mom.
Frank shot these photos of Vern's crazy reversed head Triumph in a basement where Dutch used to live. Originally built by a certain club and featured in Choppers magazine, Frank borrowed the bike, grabbed a waitress from the Rock Store and shot one of the few (or is it the only?) ER cover with a Triumph. (A little more info can be found at www.nostalgiaonwheels.blogspot.com)
Note: these images are scanned from Frank's original prints. You can view larger versions here. Please don't post them around the Internet without giving full credit to Frank Kaisler