When Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper meet an untimely end on a deserted rural road in the classic 1960s film “Easy Rider,” one of their motorcycles is engulfed in flames as the camera pans skyward. It’s a good thing the Intel Chopper never met the same fate. Unlike the Harley Davidson Hydra-Glides in the film, this one never even saw the road.
It turns out the four motorcycles used in “Easy Rider” were former police bikes purchased at an auction for about $500 in the late ’60s. Having four bikes ensured backups so that shooting for the movie could continue in case one of them failed or was wrecked. One, the famous “Captain America” emblazoned with the American flag paint job, was demolished in the final scene, while the other three were stolen and likely sold off for parts before their significance in movie history was known.
In a bold but also somewhat offbeat move to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Intel’s embedded business in 2007, Intel built a custom-chopper that would make the original “Easy Rider” bikes look like kids’ stuff. After three decades of silicon innovation, the company wanted to celebrate by building a super-bike filled with all the latest innovations. It was sleek, flashy, filled with gadgets, and not very rider-friendly.
The Intel bike featured dual V-Twin motors (four-cylinders to celebrate the company’s first quad core embedded processor) with a total of 250 horsepower. It also had GPS, a rear-view camera, fingerprint recognition start, a motorized kick-stand, and a low-power dual core (Core Duo) tablet that served as a virtual dashboard and control center. The tablet had a screen that was viewable in sunlight with digital speedometer, tachometer, voltage meter, and battery gauges. It also had WiFi and could be used to access the Internet.
But like many other custom bikes built by Paul Teutul Sr. and his team at Orange County Choppers in Orange County, N.Y., this one was clearly more show than ride. According to sources at Intel, the bike never saw anything more than a stage. Others said you wouldn’t have wanted to ride it, as the size of the engine made it difficult to get your legs around and balance properly.
It was fired up several times, and served mostly as a photo-prop at trade shows. Various Intel executives were seen posing around it but never took it out for a joyride as far as we could tell. But it surely drew attention. It had an 18-month run at trade shows and various events around the United States, including the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco in September 2007. Even the semi-truck that ferried it around from venue to venue was flashy. According to one person we talked to, the truck was once pulled over by the California Highway Patrol. The officer informed the driver that the boldly painted trailer carrying the motorcycle, which featured a large image of the motorcycle itself and giant graphics, was too distracting for other drivers and the paint job needed to be toned down.
So after a handful of very short drives up and down stages at trade shows, the Intel bike has come to its final resting place — not engulfed in flames thankfully, but encased in glass collecting dust. Today, the Intel bike is on display in an unremarkable entrance to an Intel building at one of the company’s buildings in Chandler, Ariz. where it is visible only to Intel employees and occasional visitors.
The lead characters in “Easy Rider” sought freedom on the road and died a quick and brutal death. The Intel chopper was built as a monument to “mobile” embedded innovation but today rests in a glass display case, aging slowly and anonymously – an easy rider no more.