Haut Moteur

The Art of the Chopper

Tom Zimberoff
17 min readAug 10, 2023


Praise the Lowered!

Imagine motorcycles unlike any others you’ve seen before, ornate mechanical confections like Fabergé eggs with engines, exquisite but hard-boiled — and big, resplendent in the variety of their design and spectacular enough to be arrayed on pedestals in a museum. In fact, they were.

Holy Roller by Mike Brown / photograph ©2006 Tom Zimberoff

Riding my Harley-Davidson through San Francisco on my way home to Sausalito — five miles more through traffic then freewheeling across the Golden Gate Bridge, I thought I’d wait out the sweltering heat of an early summer day. No hurry. No need to lane-split when I could park on the sidewalk in front of Pier 23, a funky waterfront bar and café, where passing tourists would stop to admire my beast and I could scarf a cold beer on the Embarcadero.

As I rode closer, it was hard not to miss several black SUVs with bubblegum lights on top parked near my spot on the sidewalk, indicating someone important was inside. The governor? A foreign dignitary? No one stopped me from rolling onto my usual slot. I put the kickstand down, dismounted, unfastened my brain bucket, and asked one of the men in black, speaking into his sleeve, “So who ya got in there?” He nodded sideways at the open front door, where I could see Bill Clinton sitting alone at the bar eating a hamburger.