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 Letters@AmericanIronMag.com or post them on our Facebook page.

Ride safe, ride smart, have fun.

Stage 14 Motorcycle Cannonball Adventure Power’s Team American Iron

Stage 14 was all in Idaho and what a beautiful state it is. The weather sure was mixed today as we rode the 284 miles from Meridian, ID to Lewiston ID. We left in the pre-dawn darkness (many of the riders without headlights) in a mild 57 degree morning. Almost all the riders wore light […]

Stage 13 Motorcycle Cannonball Adventure Power’s Team American Iron Update

As hot, tough and totally terrible as the ride was yesterday, the ride today – our 13th day of riding from Daytona Beach, Fl to Tacoma, WA was welcomed by most riders. Pat Simmons and his wife Cris Sommer-Simmons celebrated they wedding anniversary by riding their old Harleys together in the cool air – at […]

Motorcycle Cannonball Stage 11 Team American Iron Successes & Problems

Stage 11 was wonderful and not. The night before team rider Paul Ousey and wrenches Steve Coe and Wheeze spent mopst of the night swapping engines in Paul’s 1925 Harley after he trashed the skirt of the front cylinder piston. At best they got 2 hours of sleep before Paul had to fire up and […]

Motorcycle Cannonball, Stage 9 Adventure Power’s Team American Iron

Today was one of the most challenging to date on the 2014 Motorcycle Cannonball riding from Burlington, Co to Golden Colorado with altitudes as high as 8,200 feet. All 4 Team American Iron riders started on time with Paul and Me (Buzz) pulling out ahead of many other riders in the coolish 50 degree temps […]

Day 8 Of Motorcycle Cannonball for Adventure Power’s Team American Iron

After a day off to rest and recover (and sort out of bikes) we headed off in 37 degree weather and dense mist for the longest day of the Motorcycle Cannonball ride – 313 miles PLUS a mandatory lunch stop from Junction City, KS to Burlington, CO. All the riders were layered up against the […]

Motorcycle Cannonball Day 7 Adventure Power’s Team American Iron

Day 7 is done and what a cold wet one it was. The date was 9 11 and I expect most or all of the riders had thoughts of those lost and their families and loved ones. All 4 Team American Iron riders pulled out of Sedalia, MO and heading for Junction City, KS – some […]

Motorcycle Cannonball Day 6 Adventure Power’s Team American Iron

Day 6 is over – and what a long one it was. 299 miles – many of them in pouring rain. Paul and I took off together while Cris and Pat rode with Scott and Sharon Jacobs- at least for the first few miles when Pat’s bike suffered more mechanical issues and pulled out for […]

Motorcycle Cannonball Day 4 Team American Iron

The stay started poorly. I woke up feeling dizzy and blurred vision. I felt out of balance and was concerned something was wrong. Turns out I was dehydrated from the day before, I drank a lot of water, some Gatorade and Paul made me a protein fruit drink. Within an hour I was feeling good […]

Motorcycle Cannonball Day 3 Team American Iron

Started out warm and dry. Paul (1925 Harley JE), Buzz (1936 Harley VLH), Pat (1929 Harley JD) and Jim Petty (1927 Indian Chief) rolled out together heading for almost 250 planned miles to Chattanooga, TN. Bright sun, mild breeze and great roads. But not all day. Lots of issues with getting Pat’s bike to start, […]

Day 2 Motorcycle Cannonball Report Team American Iron

The day started off for most of us riders with alarms on our smartphones. The National Weather service issues sever flooding and thunder in the area. Our parking lot (a field next to the hotel) had more than 8 inches of standing water. We all geared up and braced for a tough ride, but then […]