Our 'A Living World' columnist Eleanor Scott has an update on the 555:
The latest installment of the 555, begun in 2008 as a Knoxville-Portland, Ore. DIY motorcycle cross-country odyssey, is leaving on Sept. 13, this time headed for Portland, Maine. The name "555" is shorthand for the requirements of the participating vehicles: pre-1975, costing less than $500, and under 500cc's. In other words, "old, shitty, and slow," as Mike Fairman, an original instigator of the 555 puts it.
Participants must build their own bikes for the trip, and each trip features a theme. This time the theme is "Choppers," that is, each bike must be altered from it's original form. To the 555, a chopper is a hardtail frame, suspension removed, stripped of all unessentials to make it light and fast, comparatively speaking.
In addition to the mechanics of building their bike, the 555ers do all their own welding, painting, and ornamentation. Do these modifications elevate the status of these vehicles to art?
"It's definitely art," says Tim "Slim" Miles, owner of the Cycle Stop, which sponsors the 555. "Everyone has their own image of a chopper."
He gestures to the row of unfinished choppers parked in the shop.
"Each one is personalized."
Slim's own bike is an "old-school" 1960s "radical" concoction with a lot of chrome and custom-painted in red, white and blue. The other 555ers can literally park any one of their own bikes underneath it. It's definitely worth seeing first-hand.
If you want to check out Slim's and other custom bikes, the 555 is holding a First Friday art event at The Chop Shop, a hair salon on N. Central across from the motorcycle-themed Time Warp Tea Room, starting at 7 p.m.