2017 The Motorcycle Year in Review

Happy New Year!

“Should old acquaintance be forgot”

Corks will soon be poppin’, bubbly will be flowin’, and people will be making up their own slurry slush of mumbo jumbo to Robert Burns’ Auld Lange Syne as the ball drops on a new year. It’s time to do one last nasty burnout on 2017 as we leave it far behind and welcome the promises 2018 rings in. It’s been a crazy year in the motorcycle industry, a reflection of the tumultuous year it’s been as a whole in America. Polaris pulled the plug on Victory, Harley scuttled the Dyna, and EBR closed its doors again. The forces of nature dealt many a cruel hand, from Hurricane Irma flooding out Bill Dodge’s Blings Cycles to the Thomas Fire smoking out David Mann Chopperfest. The hand of fate swept away some of the most beloved industry personalities as we said goodbye to J&P founder John Parham, visionary filmmaker Bruce Bowen and MotoGP World Champion Nicky Hayden. Yes, 2017 has been a roller coaster of emotions on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.

Through the highs and lows, American Iron forges on. But before plunging headlong into the new year, we look back at some of the highlights of 2017.

2018 Harley-Davidson Softail Motorcycles Revamped & Combined with Dyna Line

Far and away the story that created the biggest buzz on our site was “2018 Harley-Davidson Softail Motorcycles Revamped & Combined with Dyna Line.” American Iron’s Editor Steve Lita was flown out to Milwaukee where he was blindfolded and shuttled out to a secret track where he got to be among the first to spin laps on the new Softails. OK, maybe he wasn’t blindfolded, but he was sworn to secrecy until the embargo lifted and Harley released the information to the world. We were among the first to have the information both in print (American Iron Magazine #354) and online. In addition to breaking down the new Softail frame and suspension, Lita also provided some quick impressions of each of the new eight 2018 Softail models (2018 Harley-Davidson Softails First Ride Report).

Brittney Olsen Wins First-Ever Sons of Speed Boardtrack Race

Another big storyline from 2017 was the inaugural Sons of Speed boardtrack races. Somehow Billy Lane of Choppers Inc. got the crazy idea to resurrect old world boardtrack-style racing where riders would compete on 100-year-old motorcycles with no brakes, suspension, transmissions or clutches. Sounds like fun, right? The inaugural competition, held at New Smyrna Speedway, was far and away the big hit of Daytona Beach Bike Week 2017. Our own Editor-in-Chief Buzz Kanter dashed to victory in the first-ever race after a spirited battle with Lane while 20th Century Racing’s Brittney Olsen captured the overall championship on her 1923 Harley “J” Model. Two more Sons of Speed races followed, one in Sturgis and another during Biketoberfest, and the bikes keep getting faster and popularity continues to grow. Now they’re planning on expanding classes for the next round during Bike Week 2018 as the Sons of Speed has the potential to be the next big thing.

Indian Wrecking Crew Jared Mees Interview/Daytona TT Preview

What is the big thing currently is flat track racing. American Flat Track racing has seen a resurgence the last couple years, and there was no shortage of intriguing storyline’s surrounding the 2017 season. Among those was Indian Motorcycle Co.’s return to return to racing. Indian created a track-specific weapon, the FTR750, looted the three best riders to man its resurrected Indian Wrecking Crew, and made its intentions clear that it was pushing all-in from the get-go. Harley-Davidson made waves too by retiring the formidable XR750, the winningest flat track bike in history, and replacing it with the liquid-cooled, production-based XG750R. Harley fielded its own trio of talented factory riders as a counterpunch to Indian’s three-headed monster of Jared Mees, Bryan Smith and Brad Baker. American Flat Track organizers have done a masterful job of broadening the appeal and exposure of flat track racing by landing a TV contract, adding more races at new tracks, and increasing the entertainment value of the sport overall. The Sturgis Buffalo Chip TT was a prime example as the races took place in the middle of the amphitheater of the venerable Sturgis campground and entertainment venue while a concert by Ozzy Osbourne topped off the night. American Iron was on the forefront of the American Flat Track action in 2017. We interviewed Indian Wrecking Crew rider Jared Mees before he went out and won the first race of the season on a brand new bike. This was only the tip of the iceberg as Mees had one of the most dominating seasons ever on his way to his fifth national title. Our interview with Terry Vance, team manager of Harley’s factory flat track team, was well-received. We also chatted about the season with Indian Motorcycle Racing’s Gary Gray and American Flat Track CEO Michael Lock as well as walking the track with flat track legend Chris Carr in advance of the Sturgis Buffalo Chip TT.

Moab Greets Veterans Charity Ride to Sturgis with Hero’s Welcome

A personal highlight of the year was the opportunity to ride to Sturgis with the Veterans Charity Ride. The Veterans Charity Ride strives to give back to those who have given so much for us by taking wounded warriors on the adventure of a lifetime, a nine-day motorcycle journey over the back roads of America to Sturgis, South Dakota, for the most famous motorcycle rally in the world. There were celebrations along the way as towns across America rolled out the red carpet for our veterans. There were retreats at Red Cliffs Lodge outside Moab that allowed vets to connect in a way that they can’t connect with others who haven’t lived through the same experiences. The ride is “Moto Therapy” at its finest, a heavy dose of hope and healing on the back of a motorcycle or in a sidecar, and I was beyond honored to be a part of it and see its therapeutic effects firsthand.

We were also honored to once again ride with readers at the 6th annual Kickstart Classic. Meeting-up at Maggie Valley at the Wheels Through Time Museum, riding through the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains, swapping stories and making new friends, what’s not to like? American Iron was also jazzed to once again build the 2017 Official Daytona Bike Week Motorcycle with the help of Street Stuff Cycle. The project turned a stock 2010 Harley Ultra into a high-end custom touring machine that was raffled off by the Daytona Beach Community Foundation to ensure the posterity of Bike Week, so we’re glad we could do our part to support the rally for future generations.

And while 2017 had its shares of highs and lows, we found an unexpected source of inspiration from a guy named Bob in an alligator suit during Bike Week’s burnout contest at the Broken Spoke. Bob banged through five gears like a boss until he had the back tire billowing smoke, roasting that sucker until it eventually blew, much to the delight of the crowd. Bob won everybody over with his antics and was overwhelmingly declared the winner of the Spoke’s burnout contest. Turns out, Bob, the guy in the alligator suit, was blind. Now, if a guy who’s blind can win a burnout contest, anything is possible. So set your sights high in 2018, go after your goals, and embrace what the New Year has to offer. Happy 2018!!