There goes Ezy
Ezy Rider
Ridin’ down the highway of desire
They say the free wind
Takes him higher
Tryin’ to find his heaven above
But he’s dyin’ to be loved
– Jimi Hendrix

Ezy Ryders, by Cate Dingley, The Artist Edition (2022)

The cover of Ezy Ryders features Larry O of Outcast MC of Brooklyn. [Cate Dingley]
Photographer Cate Dingley gained the trust of New York City’s Black biker scene, and over a 5-year period took portraits, interviewed riders, and documented their activities.  Working with publisher The Artist Edition, Dingley’s beautifully presented book mixes her photos with the words of ten members of various motorcycle clubs (MCs), men and women, scattered among the five boroughs of the City.  As a testament of this rarely documented scene, Ezy Ryders moves towards filling a gap in the literature of American motorcycling, and the narrative of American motorcycle culture, by acknowledging the existence of Black riders, their MCs and some of their motorcycling history.

The late lamented Austin ‘Brown Sugar’ Johnson with his longtime favorite, White Hot. [Cate Dingley]
Ezy Ryders is an apt title, as Jimi Hendrix’ 1969 psycho-funk anthem ‘Ezy Rider’ was an alternative take on the film Easy Rider’s themes of freedom, chasing dreams, and self-delusion, with an undertone of death (Hendrix’s ‘If 6 was 9’ is on the film’s soundtrack).  Similarly, Ezy Ryders presents another side of the motorcycle club (MC) phenomenon: the rarely documented Black MC scene.  Of the 75 books in The Vintagent Library featuring chopper, 1%er, and motorcycle clubs (MCs), only one features a Black MC: Tobie Gene Livingstons’ Soul on Bikes (2003), his autobiography as President of the East Bay Dragons MC.   There’s also Eliot Gold’s 2015 photobook on the Chosen Few MC, The Chosen Few: A 40-Year Look at an Outlaw Motorcycle Club – but that club was mixed-race.

Cruising with the Southside Soldierz in Brooklyn. [Cate Dingley]
The history of Black MCs is poorly documented and recorded, and Ezy Ryders leans heavily on reminiscences of the late Austin Johnson for context. Johnson, nicknamed ‘Brown Sugar’, shared his 60-year history as a Black biker in NYC, his founding of the South Side Shifters MC in the 1970s, his encounters with other Black MCs (including the first female members, in the Cobras MC) and the 1960s appearance – and 1970s disappearance – of Black chopper riders in chopper magazines.  While Dingley’s interviews of all the riders are fascinating (and at at times harrowing, as with Priest’s tale of betrayal),  it’s Austin Johnson who gives the book its roots.  Johnson’s is a story worth repeating: he contributed significantly to my book The Chopper: the Real Story (2014), and is featured in the film Sugar and Spade (2017), about his 50-year friendship with ‘Spade’ George Bennett.

Prez Shifty of Blaque Pearls MC in The Bronx. [Cate Dingley]
Ezy Ryders deserves a place beside Danny Lyons’ The Bikeriders, the original photobook documenting MCs (the Chicago Outlaws in Lyons’ case), not least because it is formatted similarly, with statements by its subjects providing a verbal ‘snapshot’ of their lives and relationship with motorcycles. Their life stories are as obscure to mainstream audiences today as Lyons’ White underclass bikers were in 1968, although the image of the White outlaw biker had been exploited to the point of cliché for 15 years already, after The Wild One (1953). Cate Dingley’s photographs are compelling, intimate, and full of compassion. And beautifully printed; publisher The Artist Edition used Danish printer Narayana Press to create a physically impeccable book.

Prospect Graham of Katz MC in Brooklyn with his favorite mural. [Cate Dingley]
Don’t miss the excellent Foreward by journalist/activist Jimmie Briggs, “A significant factor in the invisibility or willful blindness to the history and value of Black riders and MCs is the unsurprising bias to their very existence.”  He quotes sociologist Jason Eastman’s 2015 study of two motorcycle events in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina: Harley Week and Black Biker Week.  Analyzing 8600 online comments about these rallies in the Mrytle Beach Sun News, Eastman concluded that one event is seen as a gathering of ‘underclass criminals who attend the rally to steal and murder’, while the other is a gathering of ‘exemplars of American Individualism.’  No points for guessing which is which and who is who.

Stunting on St. Marks Place in Brooklyn. [Cate Dingley]
Cate Dingley’s book, besides being an exciting photographic essay, slides easily into your bookshelf, filling a long-missing piece of the American motorcycle story.  Check out her website here.



Paul d’Orléans is the founder of He is an author, photographer, filmmaker, museum curator, event organizer, and public speaker. Check out his Author Page, Instagram, and Facebook.


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