Motorcycle Family

I have owned lots of great bikes, and some not so great

We each discover motorcycles in our own way. Our tastes in specific machines, from specific eras, in specific styles, vary and are likely to change over the years. The café racer imports I was drawn to in college still appeal to me, but not enough to own one. If it wasn’t for my on-track racing accident in 1979, I might never have discovered my passion for antique motorcycles.
Recognizing I would never be a great road racer, and while recovering from a serious crash at the old Bridgehampton, New York, racetrack, I didn't want to give up riding. So, I bought my first antique motorcycle, a British Army BSA M20. Totally foreign—literally and figuratively—to me, I had a steep learning curve with that machine. Next I got my hands on a 1950’s BMW R51/3 and sidecar, and then finally my first antique Harley, an original paint 1924 JDCA, which I still own.

I have owned lots of great bikes, and some not-so-great bikes, in the last 40-plus years. I remember my first handshift motorcycle, an ex-police Shovelhead, on which I almost killed myself learning to ride. The shifting was fine, but that foot clutch was tough to master back in the early 1990s. From there, I mostly rode Harleys and Indians from the 1940s and ’50s. They were old enough to be cool, different, and fun, but new enough to almost be reliable in modern traffic. Almost.

I enjoy motorcycling: the feeling of freedom on the road, the social aspect of riding with friends, the accomplishment of getting and keeping my motorcycle running, and the romance of the older machines.

While I appreciate the convenience and efficiency of a shiny new Harley, Indian, or Victory, my passions run deepest for motorcycles older than me. Okay, I do own one modern Harley, a hot rod XR1200X Sportster, which I love riding.

For many years my interests focused on Knucks, Pans, and Chiefs. I was fortunate enough to have owned and enjoyed a number of them over the years. Then my interests went further back in time when I discovered Indian 101 Scouts and Harley JDs from the 1920s. Primitive, total-loss lubrication, dangerous clincher tires, and virtually no brakes; these machines take time and many miles to understand and keep on the road. But they sure are fun!

In 2009, my pal Dale Walksler called me. He told me about an up-coming ride called the Motor­cycle Cannonball. He said it was open to 1915 and older bikes to ride across the US as an endurance run. I’d never owned or ridden anything that old. Sourcing parts, building, and riding my 1915 Harley twin on that event opened a whole new world of amazing machines and people to me.

Thanks to many friends, including Dave Fusiak, Dale Walksler, Fred Lange, and others for sharing your knowledge with me on that ride of a lifetime.

It doesn’t matter what you ride—old or new, stock or custom—you are a member of the motorcycle family.

We’d love to hear about how you got into motorcycles and what your two-wheeled passions are these days. More than just another bike rag, we want American Iron Magazine to be your magazine, and we can’t do that without your participation.

I’ve shared my story here, and I want to hear yours. Please send your story and photos to [email protected] or post them on our Facebook page.

Ride safe, ride smart, have fun.

Death of the Internal Combustion Engine?

SHIFTING GEARS, by Buzz Kanter, Publisher I see no reason to run out and sell your beloved Harley or Indian just yet I chuckled the first time I saw a T-shirt proclaiming “Harley-Davidson, turning gas into noise since 1903!” Life sure has changed over the years. While excessive motorcycle exhaust noise can still be an […]

Massive Motorcycle Magazines Changes

We ask that you support any and all motorcycle magazines. In an era of fake news, these professional magazines serve an important role to keep enthusiasts informed and educated, and to help kep the industry moving forward.

Harley, Indian & Motorcycle Magazine Changes

We at American Iron Magazine and American Iron Garage are well positioned for the future, but others have not been so fortunate.

New Year’s Moto Resolutions

SHIFTING GEARS, by Buzz Kanter, Publisher I had the good fortune to buy Butch Baer’s 1937 Indian Sport Scout racer Yes, I know about all the goofy New Year’s resolutions, and it’s that time of year when we get to read or hear about lots of them. But I’m going to make a few here […]

Year End Review & Look Forward

SHIFTING GEARS, by Buzz Kanter, Publisher I have no fear about motorcycling going away This is our last issue of the year, so it’s a good time to look back and reflect on the motorcycle activity of the past year and to consider what we might experience in the new year. As the editor in […]

The Future of Motorcycling

SHIFTING GEARS, by Buzz Kanter, Publisher Over the years, the designers and managers in Harley’s PDC have had thick skin What does the future look like for motorcycling? The decision makers and corporate strategists at Harley-Davidson and Indian want—make that need—to know. I can only assume that both companies’ counterparts at Honda, KTM, and Triumph […]

One That Got Away

SHIFTING GEARS, by Buzz Kanter, Publisher It all started with a phone call from “Cousin Gerard,” who is not my cousin I’ve seldom met a classic motorcycle I didn’t like. And that goes double for antique American race bikes. No matter how many old Harleys or Indians I might have—my garage seems to be a […]

Buzz Gotta Brand-New Bag(ger)

SHIFTING GEARS, by Buzz Kanter, Publisher The last modern bagger in my garage was a Harley Ultra, which I sold years ago As deep as my passion runs for classic Harley and Indian motorcycles, and I can assure you it is deep, I must admit that I am really enjoying the modern motorcycle currently in […]

A Good Man’s Mark

SHIFTING GEARS, by Buzz Kanter, Publisher Ever been to the National Motorcycle Museum or buy parts from J&P Cycles? What is your measure of a good man? There is a real difference between someone who is good and being a good man. No matter how you look at it, my close friend John Parham was […]

Billy Lane Pulled It Off

SHIFTING GEARS, by Buzz Kanter, Publisher In spite of long odds Las Vegas bookies would never take, in spite of the worst Mother Nature could throw at him, in spite of countless people saying it can’t be done, in spite of struggling to get century-old racing motorcycles to even run, Billy Lane pulled it off. […]