SHIFTING GEARS, by Buzz Kanter, Publisher
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.
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