Each of us has a unique memory of what it was
that made us decide to mount up on two wheels, and put our knees in the breeze
looking for adventure. Most of us; although we weren't aware of it at the time;
were pre-programmed to ride motorcycles.
This fascination with things
with two wheels was triggered by some event when we were too young to even
realize its significance. From some of us the magic happened with our first
solo ride on that little red or blue tricycle; it was the beginning our life's
involvement with wheels and personal mobility.
A few years later we
graduated from the tricycle to our first "big two-wheeler" (bicycle); a big
step in every kid's life. Soon after the skills of pedaling and balance where
achieved and the training wheels removed; our imaginations exploded. Our whole
view of the world changed with that first taste of personal mobility. As we
grew up and were allowed to ride further from home our freedom and world slowly
No kid could wait for the day he or she turned 16. Age16 not
only marked an awakening in opposite sex and the break from childhood and
becoming a teenager; it was also a time for the next step in our ever widening
quest of personal mobility. At 16 if you pass the driving test and receive that
precious license to operate an automobile your personal mobility suddenly took
a great leap forward.
During our life somewhere between the tricycle
and achieving the driver's license, some of us begin to think differently about
our mobility. For others that different thinking may stay dormant until later
in life, or you might ignore it. But sooner or later that desire to risk one's
safety to experience the freedom and thrill of two wheels will bloom.
Why this doesn't happen to everyone is one of the many mysteries of the
universe. For those individuals that shift direction and leave the fold of
automobile worshipers; they're seduced by the allure of the two wheeled,
internal combustion engine powered personal mobility of the motorcycle. It's an
addiction that lasts a lifetime.
The allure of the motorcycle is a
combination of the intense feelings of motion, freedom, and speed; along with
something that's not easily identified or explained. This intangible thing
calls to emotions and feelings buried deep inside our human psyche. Maybe it
has something to do with tempting that cataclysmic disaster that can happen at
any time while we are balanced on two wheels speeding along the earth's
surface. But for some reason we are drawn into this obsession with the two
wheeled, internal combustion engine powered personal mobility vehicle; the
There's no explanation in science for why only a small percentage of us diverge
off the path and others never do. In my case: I was predisposed to head in the
direction of the motorcycle. After all my whole family strayed off the path,
and I just followed them. Even before I could taste the mobility afforded by
the bicycle; I experience the motorcycle itself. At the very early age of 4 I
was placed up on the gas tank of my dad's motorcycle. My little hands holding
on to the center of the handlebars and my little body safety tucked into space
between my father's arms. It wasn't a long ride down the driveway and around
the neighborhood; but it was enough.
Johnny: [opening narration] It begins here for me on this
road. How the whole mess happened I don't know, but I know it couldn't happen
again in a million years. Maybe I could of stopped it early, but once the
trouble was on its way, I was just goin' with it. Mostly I remember the girl. I
can't explain it - a sad chick like that, but somethin' changed in me. She got
to me, but that's later anyway. This is where it begins for me right on this
I grew up in a rural area where I was able to use my bicycle to exercise my
personal mobility and travel greater distances from home via bicycle. Perhaps
this and growing up with motorcycles and riders had sealed my fate. Nothing
infects a youngster with motorcycling more than that first ride on a real
Like a lot of other kids I remember watching Hollywood's
versions of what motorcycling was about.
When Marlon Brando starred in
the movie "The Wild One" in 1953 it was Hollywood's first anti hero, motorcycle
movie. It was about two rival motorcycle gangs that terrorize a small town. The
plot for the movie was taken from a short story, "Cyclists' Raid", by Frank
Rooney, which was inspired by the sensationalized stories and staged pictures
that appeared in Life Magazine covering the July 4th, 1947 weekend riot, at
Stagged picture of drunken
biker at the Holister riot as it appered in Life Magaizine. Man in the picture
wasn't a biker, it wasn't his motorcycle and he was paid to sit there for the
That movie made a hell of impression on a ten year old. The allure of the
motorcycle came through the 12 inch black and white television screen and
burned indelible memories into my young and impressionable mind.
grew up I also felt the influence of television shows like "Then Came Bronson",
"ChiPs" and a succession of really bad B movies, all about the outlaw side of
motorcycling. It wasn't the bad guys or the outlaws that fired my imagination,
it was the machines; the motorcycles, which held my attention
was possessed by the allure of two wheels. In the tenth year of my life; my ten
year old self became tired of clothespinning baseball cards to flap on the
spokes of my bicycle's wheels to imitate the sound of a motor. It was then that
I conceived the idea to build my own motorcycle. I could modify a bicycle so I
could experience two wheeled, internal combustion engine powered personal
A disillusioned reporter,
James "Jim" Bronson, quits his job and starts wandering the road on his Harley
Davidson motorcycle as a form of soul-searching. He meats various characters.
Some he helps, others he educates.
At no time in the development of the male human does he see and understand the
complex engineering concepts that make up a motorcycle so simply and clearly as
he does at age ten. No amount of education will ever give him the clarity which
he views the world of machines at ten. The ability to simplify all mechanics by
a "ten year old human" is a marvel to behold.
A scrap piece of angle
iron bolted across the bicycle's two down tubes formed the engine mount. The
lawn mower gave up its 3 horsepower gas engine to become my motorcycle's power
supply. The engine was bolted to the angle iron aligning it's crankshaft across
the bicycle's frame.
For the drive; a twenty inch bicycle rim was
attached to the bicycle's twenty six inch rear wheel. The heads of the sheet
metal screws pinched the bicycle's rear wheel spokes to the de-spoked twenty
inch rim and held it in place. A large drive belt was procured with the help of
the friendly auto parts store. The rubber v belt connected a pulley on the
engine's driveshaft to the rim attached to the rear wheel. It was simple and it
worked. Unknown to my ten year old self at the time; this drive system worked
just fine for Harley Davidson, Indian and so many other early motorcycles.
To this day I have to marvel at lack of technology or engineering and
adult supervision given to the project. In short everything was done without
scientific knowledge or proof of concept that any of it would work. With a
blind faith and imaginary mastery of mechanical things and the strong belief
that comes from being a 10 year old boy there was no doubt in my mind it would
I pushed the assembled motorbike down the street; the rear wheel
would turn and then skid as the belt would spin the engine's crankshaft around
to a compression stroke. Roll, skid, roll, and skid, the eventually the
persistence of youth won out and the engine started. As it was puttering to
life it jerked me and bicycle down the street. Until this moment I had not
given any thought to how I was going to get on. Running alongside the motorbike
I jumped up and swung a leg over the bicycles frame and landed on the bicycle's
Now I was sitting astride this beast of a machine I had created,
one hand on the handle bars the other pulling a string attached to the
carburetor's butterfly. Pulling the string increased the engine's fuel and its
rpms increased abruptly and my speed began to increase. The bicycle bounced
shook and vibrated as much from bumps in the road as from the single cylinder
engine's hammering. At this point, thrill and delight had overcome fear.
Because my bicycle frame was sourced from the trash and
consisted of mostly broken parts; the frame had no pedals, the rear wheel no
brakes. It became clear to this ten year old rider/engineer that he hadn't
completely figured out everything he needed to make his project a real success.
Getting started and then stopping had somehow become forgotten during
the planning and design stages. Our ten year old designer was more concerned
about the riding part of the project. The ten year old rider/engineer now
astride his shaking, vibrating, speeding mechanical contraption was forced to
rely on sneakered feet and the ground strap for the spark plug to stop this
thing. Sitting bolt upright, rocketing down the street, hair blowing back in
the wind, feet dangling and an ever growing smile, I achieved a personal record
speed of about 35mph.
When I returned from that maiden ride around the
neighborhood and pulled into my driveway; it was at that moment I understood
the reason why people travel to Bonneville's Great Salt Lake to break speed
This was the first time I had experienced true mobility
without having to put energy into pedals. I had created and brought to life a
machine of my own design and established a record for my own; 35 mph maximum
speed on two wheels.
It wasn't long before I was looking to go faster.
One afternoon after making several fast runs up and down the street, trying to
improve on my speed record, I was about a half mile down the street when I was
noticed by a police car. In all the years I lived in that neighborhood (from
the age of six, right up my enlistment in the U.S. Navy) I can't ever remember
seeing a police car patrolling our neighborhood.
Most likely a
neighbor called the police and complained. "Hurry there's a motorcycle gang
terrorizing the neighborhood
we don't want none of them crazies drinking
beer and trashing our neighborhood like they did in the Marlon Brando
Just like Johnny the leader of the "Black Rebels MC" in the
"Wild One" my two wheeled, internal combustion engine powered personal mobility
vehicle had already offended society and gotten me into trouble.
stood for California Highway Patrol, followed the daily beats of two state
motorcycle patrolmen as they patrolled the freeway system in and around Los
Angeles. Officer Jon Baker was the straight, serious officer while Frank
"Ponch" Poncherello was the more free- wheeling member of the duo; both
reported to Sgt. Joe Getraer, who gave out assignments and advice in handling
the cases. Each episode saw a compilation of incidents, ranging from the
humorous (e.g., a stranded motorist) to criminal investigations (such as
hijackings) and tragic incidents (such as a fiery multi-car pile-up with
multiple deaths. Other aspects of Ponch and Jon's daily work were highlighted
as well; the social lives of both officers (they were both single) often
provided the lighter moments. On occassion, Ponch and Jon were assisted by a
female "Chippie" at first, the very beautiful Sindy Cahill; and later, the more
wholesome Bonnie Clark."
The police officer was not impressed with my engineering or my attempts to
break world land speed records; he made me shut down the engine and walk my
land speed record breaking mechanical contraption home. I was amazed that my
pit crew and crowd of spectators had vanished, it was one of the few times my
neighborhood was devoid of kids and noise.
The officer very carefully
explained the law to me and my mother; who in turn relayed the officer's
conversation to my father when he got home. My dad had a conversation with me.
The "Motorbike" was disassembled; the lawn mower got its engine back. I thought
the whole thing was unfair after all how was I supposed to know that you have
to have a license, insurance and the motorbike had to be tagged and registered;
hey I was only ten.
This was just the beginning of my two wheeled
internal combustion engine powered by personal mobility adventures. Even though
I wasn't able to sit still after my conversation with my dad, the desire to
feel the wind on my face and the thrill of speed on two wheels was now only
My next step was to go off-road with our quest for two
wheeled personal mobility. .