SHIFTING GEARS by Buzz Kanter, Publisher I’ve long been fascinated by the mechanical workings of old machinery. As a kid, I remember taking apart a broken watch to try to fix it. It never did run again, but I was drawn to all the fine gears, springs, and tiny moving parts. That attraction has never […]
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.
If you are planning on attending the Laconia Rally in June you might consider swinging by the New Hampshire Motor Speedway to check out the classic motorcycle racing Saturday June 14 and Sunday June 15, 2014.
SHIFTING GEARS, by Buzz Kanter, Publisher We choose where we live, and, as motorcyclists, we adapt to our circumstances. I’m a lifelong New Englander, which can be a blessing or a challenge depending on the season. And now that we’ve made it through to another spring, I can admit that this past winter was one […]
SHIFTING GEARS by Buzz Kanter, Publisher I have just returned from Daytona Bike Week as I write this column. I was so thankful to be in the warm sunshine and on two wheels — a wonderful break from the terrible ice and frigid weather we’ve endured over this past winter. On my first day in Daytona […]
SHIFTING GEARS, by Buzz Kanter, Publisher I’ve just returned from the annual motorcycle auctions in Las Vegas, and my head is spinning from all the amazing motorcycles and record-breaking prices. I was quite impressed with the levels of knowledge of participants. Some were world-class experts, and others didn’t seem to have a clue. I saw […]
SHIFTING GEARS by Buzz Kanter, Publisher We at American Iron Magazine join a growing list in the motorcycle industry committed to, no, make that obsessed with, made in America. I recently posted a question on the American Iron Magazine Facebook page asking “If you ran Harley, what would be the first thing you’d change?” The […]
SHIFTING GEARS, by Buzz Kanter, Publisher Junk or treasure? I guess it all depends on how you view it. For each of us, our view is defined by our personal perspectives and experiences. I unsuccessfully try to fight my deeply engrained tendency to accumulate stuff I find interesting. Some call it obsessive hoarding, I prefer to […]
SHIFTING GEARS, by Buzz Kanter, publisher Time flies when you’re having fun, and I can’t think of many things that are more fun than riding, writing, or wrenching motorcycles. Hard to believe it was 25 years ago that a brave new concept for a family-friendly Harley magazine came into focus. The first issue of American […]
SHIFTING GEARS by Buzz Kanter, publisher This is our last issue of 2013, so I figure it’s a good time to look back and announce a couple of items for the motorcycle industry going forward. Looking back, I feel 2013 was a pretty exciting year. Harley-Davidson celebrated its 110th year in grand fashion with […]
Buzz Kanter is prepping his 1948 Panhead to lead the vintage section of American Iron Magazine’s Honor Ride sponsored by GEICO. Buzz spent weeks working on the old Pan and decided to videotape it’s first start in well over 4 years. The results are pretty smokey but darn impressive. Join the AIM crew on this […]