Me & My Bike: 1988 Harley-Davidson Sportster Custom Hugger

Name: Tia Bruno
Age: 37
Home: Tujunga, CA
Occupation: Special Education Teacher

"I'm originally from Milwaukee, so Harleys are in my blood. I always rode on the back, but then I decided I wanted to take control, so I bought myself a 1988 Sportster Hugger for my 30th birthday. Shortly after I was diagnosed with breast cancer, so the bike sat for about a year as I underwent treatment. I ended up undergoing a lot of chemotherapy and a single mastectomy, but I've had reconstructive surgery and now they both look great and I'm healthy, so I'm happy!

"Having the Sportster waiting for me pushed me to get well. When I was sick and stressed out, all I wanted to do was take off on my bike and get away from it all. When I was finally strong enough to ride again, my Harley provided me with the escape I needed to clear my mind. Riding made me feel strong, powerful and well again.

"I got cancer at a young age, well before most women think they are at risk, so I felt compelled to do something to help promote cancer awareness. As soon as I was well enough, I started attending local benefit rides and fund-raising rallies on the Sportster. It was great to combine my two passions. One of the first rides I did was a relay run from L.A. to San Diego. It wasn't that long of a ride but I was only a month out of chemo so it was a big step for me.

"I've done quite a bit of photo modeling for Harley-Davidson, which has been fun. On one of the Heels & Wheels cancer-survivor rides, I ran into someone who suggested I do some modeling to help promote Harley's Pink Label collection, which supports the Breast Cancer Network for Strength. It was another way to spread the word and raise some money for the cause, so I went for it!

"I've changed the bike quite a bit since I bought it, mainly to make it fit me better. It had mini-apes, but I installed a drag bar and longer risers. I also changed the seat, put on saddlebags and added forward controls. And of course I put on some louder pipes. I've had the Sportster for almost eight years now and it's been great, but I'm ready for something bigger. I've got my eye on a friend's Dyna Low Rider. She has two bikes, and I want to take the Dyna off her hands!"