The Way We Were

Photography from the archives

They're tangled up in that box of fading Polaroids you really should have scanned someday, wound around the relic everybody else thinks you should sell. They save old Buco helmets, Jofa mouth guards and Bates leathers from garage sales and garbage cans. They're our roots. Tenuous filaments of memory and memorabilia winding their way back along improbable roads between the way we were and who we are. Some go back to better times. Others to days we'd just as soon forget. But they all add up to one simple fact: None of us would be here without them. So have a look at ours, and remember to take care of yours. Sort through those shoeboxes of family photos. Buff up the old Captain America helmet and rub some balm into some cracking leather. Then lay down something fresh between where you are and where you're going. Go for a ride.

Lyle Lovett
Singer/songwriter
1971 Penton Six Days 125
"I had a Honda Z-50, a CT-70 and a Yamaha AT-1, but that '71 Penton Six Days was just beautiful. I read about John Penton, Tom Penton, Dane Leimbach, Dick Burleson and the ISDT. I kept a Penton brochure on my nightstand. We bought that steel-tank 125 in September of '71 and I rode the Family Enduro on it the next day in the Sam Houston National Forest. I never felt that cool before--or since! After that, I went to watch the motocross races with the sort of pride that comes with riding the same bike as the fast guys: 125cc Experts like Steve Hackney and Freddie Hanna. Hackney and Kevin Brown were going around the track on a Penton I'd never seen before: the first fiberglass-tank '72 in the Houston area. Just that quick, everything was different. You know, it was a great lesson in how you never really arrive."

Miguel Angel Galluzzi
Current Aprilia design chief and creator of the Ducati Monster
1959 Kreidler Florett 50
"As a present for my eighth birthday I got something which I was not expecting at all, and which would change my life forever. Around 1968, my head was 100 percent into music. The Beatles were the biggest thing around, but I was more into The Rolling Stones, so I was really hoping for a drum set just like Charlie Watts'. (Ringo Starr was too clean for my taste--not enough rock & roll!) So the present my brother and I (our birthdays are separated by 364 days) got from my uncle was this strange-but-fast '59 Kreidler Florett 50. At first we were disappointed, but from that moment on our lives changed forever. This little 50cc three-speed was the fastest streetbike around my neighborhood in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where I lived as a boy. Even without a rear brake--the cable broke and there were no spare parts--we rode all over the neighborhood. Up until this day we are both involved in motorcycling, my brother still racing motocross in the Senior class and myself creating them. An unexpected present changed my life! Today I am a frustrated drummer at heart, but my passion for music has not diminished a bit, just like my passion for motorcycles."

Roland Sands
Former AMA 250cc GP Champion and proprietor of Roland Sands Designs
1979 Suzuki RM50
"My first bike was a Suzuki RM50. I got if for my fifth birthday. I remember being so excited on my way to Saddleback Park, I think I puked! My dad led me around all day and I followed him, keeping my eyes pointed forward. Near the end of the day, he led me to a tree in the middle of a picnic area protected by a fence made of laid-down telephone polls propped up with blocks of wood. As he led me around I began to get a little dizzy, and the RM decided to go its own direction with me still on it. Last thing I remember is heading toward a telephone poll, whiskey-throttle at what felt like 100 mph. I hit the pole, knocked it off the blocks and sent it rolling down the hill. I narrowly avoided being steamrolled as the pole tore down the hill toward a swing set, where a few kids were playing. What was supposed to protect them became a rolling death machine! Luckily all the children escaped harm. I was not so lucky--I was a mess. My dad loaded me up and delivered me to my first motorcycle-related emergency-room visit. I ended the day with a broken arm. Two months later I broke the same arm on a bicycle. The pain and excitement of riding have been with me since that day and I still love it!"

Adam Craig
Team Giant mountain bike racer and U.S. Olympian
1987 Honda CR80
"My first motorized two-wheeler was a 1987 Honda CR80. I was loving it, riding tons and getting ready to race motocross at age 11 when an untimely crash and subsequent tibial-plateau fracture left me on crutches all summer. Mom sold the CR, got me a new Giant mountain bike and here I am. I was crushed at the time, but I suppose the plan worked out as I've gotten back into motorbikes between pedaling."

Adam West
Actor best known as the original Batman
1965 Triumph Bonneville
"First for me was a Triumph Bonneville, about a '65 model. I got real cuddly with that machine, and used to ride it to the studios, even in a suit and tie in the rain. When I started filming Batman, I used to ride it to work. I could sleep 10 minutes longer. I've had dirtbikes and ridden some others since, but it's hard to forget a first love."

Jeannine Kaspar
Actress
Honda Rebel
"I remember hearing rumblings of my father being a badass Harley rider prior to having nine children, but the idea of moto'ing myself didn't occur until I was shooting Nip/Tuck and one of the actors, John Hensley, spoke glowingly of riding and I got to see his garage full of sick Suzukis. It jogged my mind, as I'd always associated motorcycling with being cool, but could I join that pack and find that love for it?

"I decided to try out a course designed to get people licensed called MSF. After two days in the classroom learning basic motorcycle info, we moved on to a huge blacktop parking lot they have for teaching hands-on basic riding skills. I seriously wondered if it'd be worth it, as not only was I incredibly nervous, it was an insanely hot summer day and I was profusely sweating from every pore of my body. As the instructors rolled out the Honda Nighthawks to mount, my heart raced: Could I even do this? As I hopped on, got the cue to start 'er up, and she rumbled gently to life ... all of a sudden nothing else mattered. My heart floated--what an intense sound! What a joyous feeling to coast forward! I'm riding! I'm SMITTEN! All this, and I was only going 5 miles per hour. Ha-ha, I kid, I kid, but I was HOOKED!

"My first purchase was a Honda Rebel, quickly followed by a Kawasaki Ninja 250. The Rebel took me on my first ride to the infamous Rock Store off Mulholland Highway. I fell in love with the feeling of this beautiful machine revving and the wind at my back. As I cruised on through the winding road, I felt like a bird soaring over and through the canyons! A car never gave me that feeling--don't know if it could.

"Another weekend, after a track day with Reg Pridmore's CLASS School (where I got rid of some quirky riding habits), I rode up on the Ninja to the Rock Store--and it all changed for me. Using my newfound riding skills, I started to really feel the bike as I slid around the tank to make the turns. It gave me so much confidence as I could finally keep up with the more experienced riders. The Ninja really fits my body well as the light weight of the bike allows me to zip around surface streets, canyon roads and the track. Maybe not as fast as some of the boys, but one day! Making friends with hot guys who ride makes it all the more fun!"

Alonzo Bodden
Comedian and TV personality
1977 Honda CB400 Four
"My first bike was a yellow '77 Honda 400 Four. I loved it! I moved from New York to Los Angeles on my 18th birthday, and bought the bike before I even owned a car. I scraped the pegs on Mulholland Drive and thought I was the man! I put on Kerker pipes and clubman bars and rode it everywhere. I learned how to ride on that bike. I also learned a costly lesson about passing on the right: The first bike I bought became the first bike I totaled! I'll always miss that bike. To this day, every time I see a 400 Four, I'm tempted to buy it and try to be 18 again."

James Parker
columnist and proprietor of RADD Engineering
1963 Yamaha Ascot Scrambler
"My first bike? Trouble from the word 'go.' It was a 1963 Yamaha Ascot Scrambler--a 250cc two-stroke racing bike, complete with open expansion chambers. Maybe not trouble on a TT course, but mine soon became my streetbike. Street tires went on the bike, and a twin-leading-shoe front brake. I was soon turning out clip-on handlebars, rearsets and frame modifications. Next came an original fiberglass tank and matching aluminum seat. Presto, a cool little caf-racer.

"The problem? Noise. The police didn't like my project. To tell the truth, I didn't enjoy the noise either, and I made baffles for the pipes that cut a lot of power. Away from town, I'd remove the baffles. For the time, 1966, this thing was really quick. Triumph Bonnevilles couldn't stay with it on a winding road. I've never had a bike that wasn't a project, and this was the first."

Kevin Schwantz
1993 500cc World Champion and proprietor of the Kevin Schwantz School
Bonanza mini-bike
"It was a Bonanza mini-bike and it had a 3.5-horsepower Briggs & Stratton engine in it. I couldn't wheelie it, but I figured out how to jump it! The actual first thing I had that most would consider a motorcycle was a Honda Mini Trail. A sales manager at my parents' dealership took it in on trade, brought it into the back to show me and said, 'Here, you want to ride it?' I jumped onto it and rode straight into the wood fence in the back, busting my head open and needing eight stitches. No helmet. wear a helmet!"

Doug Polen
Former AMA and FIM World Superbike Champion and proprietor of the Doug Polen One-on-One Performance Riding School
1963 Yamaha 80
"My dad bought a new Yamaha 80 in '63, when I was 3 years old. He had that thing throughout my entire childhood, and I would just look at it and think, 'Man, I gotta ride it!' He made me wait until I was 12; that's how old I was when I could finally sit on it with my feet on the ground.

"I first rode the 80 about a month before we moved to Texas from Rochester, New York. We moved to this place about 30 miles north of Dallas, and the house was one of the early homes built on a massive development. There were only a few houses in the neighborhood, but the infrastructure had been built for thousands, so all the roads were there, but they hadn't been paved yet. So there were literally miles of compacted, graded dirt roads for me to ride on. I learned a lot of skills ripping around those roads!

"My brothers and I rode our dad's bike a lot, so he bought us a '74 Honda XR75 to share. Man, we rode that thing into the ground! I'd ride it for a tankful and then hand it off to my brother and he'd run a couple gallons through it; then he'd pass it on down the line. That first summer we rode the XR eight hours a day, sunup to sundown.

"I first learned how to wrench on that bike, because it was up to us kids to do the maintenance. It was sort of toaster-oven mechanics: I just busted into the motor and figured it out so we could keep it running. When I got a little older I got a job at the local Suzuki shop, and then Freddie Spencer's brother Danny bought the shop. We ended up building one of Freddie's first Superbikes that he raced at Daytona in '79.

"Without a doubt those early years in the dirt were crucial in helping me figure out how to ride a bike and how they work, and then working at the shop got me exposed to racing, which paved the way for my career. It all just happened real easy."

Tim Ferry
Team Kawasaki factory motocross racer
1982 Yamaha YZ60
"When I was a kid, the mini-bike class was just getting big. The gate would be packed, and when I saw that I knew I wanted a bike. Dad made me promise to do well in school, and then he bought me one. I was about 7 years old, and the bike was an '82 Yamaha YZ60. That was bike back then; every kid had one or wanted one.

"Dad bought the bike sometime in the summer and we took it to the sandlot near our house to try it out. It was a stormy afternoon and thunderheads were rolling in with flashes of lightning. That had me scared, but dad coaxed me onto the bike and I rode it that first day. The sand in Florida is like beach sand, and there are some cool pictures of me riding there with roost coming off the little YZ's tire.

"It was only two or three months before I started racing. I was slow, but I was out there. I raced the YZ that first year, and then I got a KX60. The Kawasaki was faster, but the YZ was bulletproof and I still raced it when the KX broke. The first three or four years I was just having fun, racing locally in South Florida at Moroso and Fort Lauderdale. I started taking it seriously when I was maybe 13 or 14, and then dad and I started hitting up the tracks further north. I turned Pro at 16, and haven't looked back since. I still have that YZ60. It's in my shop at home with my old number still on it."

David Roper
Noted 62-year-old vintage racer and the only American ever to win at the Isle of Man TT
1967 Ducati Diana
"I got my first bike when I was going to the University of California at Santa Barbara in '67. I debated between a Suzuki X-6, a Bultaco Metralla and a Ducati Diana. At that point, the entire extent of my experience with motorcycles was 2 hours of seat time on rental bikes. I'd spent one hour on a Suzuki 80, then went back to the dealer to upgrade to a Suzuki 118 for my remaining hour. No instruction, just, 'Here, go play in traffic.'

"After that, I was ready to buy. However, the Suzuki dealer rubbed me the wrong way, and it would be a month or two before the Bultaco was available, so I bought the Ducati from Mullany's Cycles, a BSA and Ducati shop in Santa Barbara, for $719. The bike came with clip-ons, a velocity stack and open megaphone in addition to the 'Western' bars, an air filter and Silentium muffler. It also had rearsets, which meant I only got about 45 degrees of travel out of the kick-starter. It didn't matter: I bump-started it most of the time anyway.

"I didn't know what I was doing, and it's a wonder I lived through those early rides up and down Stagecoach Road. One time I was going around a blind corner in the middle of the road when here appears a VW Beetle coming at me--in the middle of the road! For some reason we both decided to go to the 'wrong' side of the road and just avoided each other Anyway, I did live through it, though ultimately the Ducati didn't, but that first bike really set the hook."

Elena Myers
Noted 15-year-young female roadracer
2002 Yamaha PW50
"My dad raced with the AFM in California before I was born, so motorcycles have been in our family for a long time. When I was 8 my dad got me a Yamaha PW50, and I rode it at the kart track at Stockton. I still ride there every Monday night on my Kawasaki KX250 supermoto bike. I went from the PW50 to a KX60 and began to do a little flat-track and supermoto racing, finishing third against two previous supermoto champions. I really love the pavement and it's where I do the best, so for '04 I began to concentrate more on roadracing.

"We got involved with SCMiniGP, and I had my first race on a 125 with them up in Portland. I got my Expert license that first weekend, when I was just 11. From there it was just practice, practice, practice. I ran a couple races up north and really had a good time, and then we ran a USGPRU race. The next year I ran a lot of USGPRU races with WERA and the 125 class with AFM. Now I'm riding for Kawasaki on a ZX-6R, which I love, and I'm racing with WERA, WSMC and the AFM. I turn 16 in November, so then I can get my professional license and can race with the AMA. I can't wait!"

Paul Ritter
Two-time AMA Superbike winner
1960s Honda CB160
"In '68, I had finally saved enough to afford a motorcycle. I was 20 and clueless about motorcycles; there were no MSF courses or other beginning rider education sources in those days. I did get one valuable piece of advice from somewhere: Start with a small motorcycle, learn to ride it, and then replace it in a year's time with a 'real' motorcycle if I still wanted to be a rider. It was good advice.

"I saw a used Honda CB160 that had low mileage and was in my price range. The owner didn't have a garage and was keeping it in his living room. It was red! Aside from needing a new battery it was perfect, so I bought it. "As mentioned, I was fairly clueless. Nobody told me that a 160 wasn't suitable for touring, so I went touring. I rode it from Berkeley, California, to Bakersfield. It was about 270 miles by the most direct route, but I thought the trip through the flat Central Valley would be boring. Instead, I looked at a map and decided to take the 101 Freeway south to Santa Margarita, then turn east on Highway 58 to Bakersfield, making it more like 350 miles. I was pretty sore after that trip! I learned that the 160 was great for getting to school, going shopping or running into San Francisco, but it was no touring bike. I caught the bug from it, however, and replaced it with a Honda CB350 after a year."

Don Emde
1972 Daytona 200 winner, AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame member and publisher of Parts magazine
"When I was a kid, my older brother Bob raced every Friday night at Ascot Park, and I got to go along to watch. That's when the bike bug bit me. I knew my dad had raced, but didn't really know the magnitude of his accomplishments at that age. My first racebike was a used 80cc K15 Suzuki with a 97cc 'big-bore' kit. I used to race it in the 100cc class in the scrambles races down in San Diego. My dad bought that bike from Dallas Baker, a Pro racer and builder working at Irv Seaver Suzuki in Santa Ana, California. Dallas had built the bike for this young kid named Dave Aldana, but Dave was pretty quick and had already advanced to the 250cc class, so the K15 was parked. Dad bought the bike, painted it red, and I was ready to roll. A few years later, that Aldana guy and I were teammates on the factory BSA roadrace team.

"My first race was on Easter Sunday in '66 at Dehesa Speedway, east of El Cajon. I remember that when I rode, I envisioned myself as one of the big guys racing at Ascot. The following year I moved up from the K15 to a Bultaco Lobito, which I raced in the 100cc Expert class in District 38. I ranked third that year! In '68 I got a twin-pipe Suzuki TM250 that I raced in the 250cc Expert class, and then in '69 I got my AMA Pro license for the Novice class. That was a great time in my life. From there I got into roadracing, and then it was just a few years until I won the Daytona 200 aboard the Yamaha 350--24 years after my father had won it in '48."

Rick "Super Hunky" Sieman
Original editor of Dirt Bike magazine and author of Monkey Butt
1956 Triumph 650
"The mechanic grabbed a clipboard and shuffled through a few sheets. 'Let's see...this here is a '56 TR-6, and if we go through the bike and detail it out for you, it'll sell for $500. Take it like it is and you can have it for $300.' I counted out my money on the greasy glass countertop, stuffed the title into my pocket and sat on my Triumph. Sitting there, ready to ride, I realized I didn't know how.

"For the next half-hour, I terrorized at least a dozen shoppers, scraped the paint on four cars, hit two empty shopping carts and nearly got hit by a Wonder Bread delivery truck driven by a Cuban smoking a joint the size of a Marsh-Wheeling cigar with a glazed look in his eyes. But by the end of that 30-minute period, I actually learned the basics of starting, stopping, turning and, of course, stalling and re-starting the bike."

Art Friedman
Former editor of magazine
1961 Honda C110
"What I really wanted was a Trail 55. The now-famous ads for the basic Honda 50cc C100 step-through made the 'Nifty Fifty' seem kind of fruity, even ones that showed a comely female passenger wrapped around a geeky guy. I was a geeky guy; I didn't need a vehicle that reinforced that.

"The ad for the C105 Trail 55, on the other hand, was much more appealing to my eye. It depicted a rider apparently climbing a dirt trail, dirt flying everywhere with a murdered deer strapped to the rack of the little trailbike. (Later experience would lead me to believe that the motorcycle wasn't actually going anywhere, just spinning its rear wheel and spitting a lot of dirt.) My passion in those days was fishing, and this seemed like a perfect way to find hard-to-reach streams and lakes.

"I was about to turn 16. I had already gotten a driver's license in New Mexico during the previous summer vacation, but it wasn't valid when I came home to California. My parents were eager for me to start driving so they could quit supplying a chauffer service. The problem was the cars of that era: The brand-new '64 Chevy Impala convertible that had just joined the family fleet was enormous. It was like driving an aircraft carrier. One teensie little misstep in that thing, it seemed to me, and you could wipe out a whole city block, perhaps an entire civilization. I wasn't ready for that sort of responsibility yet.

"No one in my family or social circle had ever ridden a motorcycle as far as I knew, but then a Honda 50 wasn't really a motorcycle, was it? If you screwed up, you'd likely just kill yourself.

"The thing was, if I couldn't haul my younger sister around, my parents didn't have any incentive to sponsor my vehicle. That left me with a limited budget. Even after I sold my Con surfboard, I wouldn't be able to afford any new Honda...or Yamaha...or Suzuki...or Allstate (Sear's re-brand for Puch and other small machines). Kawasaki hadn't shown up here yet. So I started haunting the used-bike lots at the four Honda dealers within a few miles of my home. I was treated to a few test rides on C100s and a C102 (a C100 with electric start), but they were near or past the limit of my limited finances. Then I found a slightly tattered 1961 C110 for $125, which included an accessory luggage rack thrown in and the new knobby tires already installed. The helmet was extra.

"The C110, sometimes identified as the Sport Cub, had the same basic 5-horsepower 50cc engine as the step-through, but it used a manual clutch, and it was styled like a real motorcycle--no step-through. It even had a high-pipe. The then-current models had four speeds and chrome tank panels, but this three-year-old model had three speeds and cream-colored tank and side covers over a blue frame.

"There was no such thing as rider training in '64. Just 'This is the clutch; let it out slowly. Brakes are on the right. This is the throttle.' I had to learn about stuff like reserve myself. The 8-mile ride home was an exercise in abject terror. Those knobbies offered no meaningful traction, which they demonstrated repeatedly under my ham-footed braking. Every stop was a panic stop. I stalled it several time in rush-hour traffic, but somehow stayed upright. The ride was scary enough that I rode my bicycle to high school the next morning.

"However, I spent some time on quiet streets and parking lots the next day and could make acceptable starts without stalling and somewhat more graceful stops, as long as I wasn't trying to do so in a hurry. When I showed up at school, my male friends, at least, thought it was pretty cool--much better than one of the fruity models. I spent almost a year with that machine, riding it every day. I learned some basic mechanics and began to develop some sense of what I needed to do to survive. I never even crashed it.

"The Beach Boys put some shine on the bike when they released 'Little Honda' that year. Of course, there were parts of the lyrics that were outright lies. No way it 'climbs hills like a Matchless.' There were many uphill roads in my area that it wouldn't climb with a passenger, and one or two that it wouldn't climb at all. Nonetheless, Honda had sunk the hook--I was addicted to motorcycles. All I needed was just a more power. For the hills. And the freeways. By the end of the year, I was looking at Honda's new 160 with considerable lust. I traded the C110 in without a backward glance."I am afraid that decades of riding motorcycles critically has eradicated any sense of nostalgia about owning the bikes of my youth. Each time I have revisited some fondly remembered mount from my past, I am always struck by how thoroughly awful it is. So if you have a C110 that you'd love to pass on to a good home, don't call or email me. I'm not your man."

Mitch Boehm
Former editor of Motorcyclist magazine and current editor/publisher of Moto Retro Illustrated
1972 Honda SL70
"I remember walking out into our cold, Ohio-winter garage on Christmas morning '72 like it was yesterday. I'd tore through my wrapped presents like 10-year-olds do--taking no time and barely thanking my parents--and was suddenly lost when there was nothing left to open. Dang! But then my dad, in a scene redone so well in A Christmas Story, sorta shrugged and gave me that look ... and I knew there was something else waiting for me.

"That red Honda SL70 changed my life. Instead of watching the freedom and escape potential of the older kids in the neighborhood who rode the miles of trails behind our home, I was now --part of the corps, part of the club. At the time there was no feeling like it in the world, and that jolt of excitement carried me for many, many years. Now, when I head out for a ride on my CBX or GS1000S or CB750 or Daytona Special, or roost off the line at a vintage motocross race, the feeling still bubbles up on occasion. And that's a great thing."

Jimmy Lewis
Editor-in-Chief, magazine
1981 Honda XR80
"It is hard to imagine that one little Honda XR80 could have led me down the path I've taken. That dependable, slow, twin-shocked four-stroke brought me into dirtbikes in an era of junk that needed to be modified to last and to go faster. It taught me about four-stroke power and made me crave two-strokes. I learned how to fiberglass plastic fenders, drill and re-tap threads, reinforce with rebar and braze and gas-weld aluminum (yes, you read that right.). I learned to adjust valves, time cams and do a lot of mechanical stuff that scares people off today. It taught me the value of a dollar, the rewards of hard work and how to get good grades in school. And somehow, in mimicking the photos I saw in the magazine on that very bike, it led me to where I am today. Good bike, that XR80. I still own about 10 of them!"

Kent Kunitsugu
Editor-in-Chief, Sport Rider magazine
1974 Kawasaki 750 H2
"Perfect: Marty Estes' restored '74 Kawasaki H2 is an exact replica of my first bike."

Jim Gianatsis
Publisher of Fast Dates Calendars and producer of the L.A. Calendar Show
1963 Honda C115 Super Cub Scrambler
"I was into roadracing bicycles as a kid, when in '62 my family moved to Clark Air Force base in the Philippines, a stop-over and staging point for flights to Vietnam. I quickly noticed that all the teenage boys on base age 14 or older had these cool little motorcycles called Hondas. Most of the bikes were 50cc C100 step-throughs and C110 Sport Cubs, but when I turned 14 I had to have one better. My pilot dad flew a military transport plane over to Tokyo and bought for my birthday a big-displacement 55cc Sport Cub for $175, which I promptly modified with a downswept C114 exhaust (in place of the stock upswept Scrambler pipe) and an NGK racing spark plug."My school mates and I spent our time cruising the roads around the huge military base in 'Wolf Packs' of 10 to 20 bikes like in the movie Hells Angels, racing our bikes down the high-school hallways after class, hanging out at the Officer's Club swimming pool on weekends and the Teen Club at night. In '64 my dad was transferred back to America, the Honda 55 was left behind, and my next vehicle at age 16 was a 1952 MG TD. Clark AFB was later destroyed in the mid-'80s by a volcanic eruption and abandoned."

Jack Lewis
Motorcyclist columnist and Iraq War vet
1967 Harley-Davidson 250 Sprint
"Our first bike existed primarily to hurt my dad. We watched in awe as dad kicked over our 'new' '67 Harley-Davidson 250 Sprint. And kicked. And kicked. Ethyl dripped from the carb.

"'Ya' know,' said my 260-lb. genitor, "sometimes you just have to get mad at it.' "He leapt into the air, crushing down the cruel stub of a kick-starter. The horizontal cylinder blared to life and dad triumphantly hobbled off on his sprained ankle.'Harley Sprints were popular for dirt-tracking, but ours was pregnant with street gear and offended by its spotty maintenance regime. To ensure Multistrada capability, we ran a ribbed streetie up front and a knobby out back.

"One day, dad hared up our half-mile gravel driveway right after work. The Sprint's engine snarled like a crop duster--then silence. Moments later, the doorbell rang. The creature on our porch resembled dad on its right side, but its left side was a gory blend of blood, skin and Hart, Schaffner and Marx suiting. It said, 'I sprained my ankle again.'"Dad bought a Yamaha and quit riding the Sprint, but I rode it everywhere and learned many lessons, none of which were 'trust the tires.' One afternoon I was in the garage, industriously flooding the carb, when dad came in to offer encouragement: 'Get mad at it, Jack!'

"I pinned the throttle, bore down with all of my 120 lbs. and POW! The end cap blew off the muffler, shot across the floor...and broke Dad's ankle!"

Joe Gresh
columnist and Key West barfly
Homebuilt mini-bike
"When my older brother rode his sleek, four-speed, '67 Yamaha 60 home from the dealership, I got his homebuilt mini-bike in a three-way trade that sent two minor leaguers to Boston. The mini was a 20-inch bicycle, belt-driven by a Briggs & Stratton 3-horsepower engine. My dad rigged the mini with a foot-clutch. You pushed a pedal down against a spring to tighten the idler pulley and engage the engine. Lifting your foot was neutral, the opposite of a suicide clutch.

"It looked pretty easy when my brother showed me the controls, but when my turn came I pinned the throttle, stepped on the clutch pedal and froze in terror. In retrospect, I should have removed my foot from the clutch. Mini and me drove WFO into the family Studebaker.

"The mini-bike was stolen a few months later, but by then I could wheelie the thing. I've never stopped looking for it. It had a pretty red gas tank, black frame and a goofy belt-drive, single-speed transmission. If you see it, let me know."

Ed Milich
Motorcyclist magazine contributor and author of
1981 Honda CB650 Custom
"My motorcycle roots sprouted when I was 18. At that time, the next logical step in torturing my poor parents with profound worry for my safety and continued deliverance from the dark forces of nature was to spend $1000 from my high-school graduation gifts on an '81 Honda CB650 Custom. My plan worked: Mom and Pop were instantly terrified. I quickly compounded their anxiety by T-boning a truck at a nearby intersection within my first month of ownership. Luckily, I rode away from my first crash-test-dummy experience with a fresh appreciation for defensive driving and an insurance settlement that funded some early two-wheeled travels. While my CB650 was as pleasant and trustworthy as the girl next door, it was as mild as a county-fair roller-coaster. Ultimately, it left my restless heart craving more visceral thrills."

Rick Carmody
President, Cretins M.C.
"My first motorcycle was a 1977 Yamaha YZ80. My dad bought me a dirtbike for my 10th birthday after I was caught riding my uncle's KX60 without his supervision--or a helmet! I cleaned and polished every part of that bike the first night. The next day, dad took me down to the Arkansas River in Oklahoma and told me to ride near the water where the sand was hard. I was wearing an oversized, gold-metallic, open-face helmet stuffed with a T-shirt and some old, cheap goggles. I got bored really quick and saw dad and his buddy racing across the dunes. I raced up behind them until dad noticed me, and immediately sent me back to riding next to the water. Dad bought me a full-face helmet, finally, after I dragged my face across the ground and broke my nose a few months later. That bike was a wheelie machine!"

Don Miller
Proprietor, Metro Racing
1960s Kawasaki
"I only have one pic of me with my first bike. I wish I had some riding pix. My neighbors may have an image of it in their rifle scopes, or can still hear its ping-ping-ping ringing in their ears late at night. It was a late-'60s Kawasaki--one too many hits to the head keep me from remembering the exact model and displacement. This picture was taken moments before it became my bike.

"My older brother raced it in District 6 scrambles around Eastern Pennsylvania. He is hunched over the bike, yet again working on it. He may have been a little big for the small bike, as he blew it up on a regular basis. This was the last time. I remember him saying to one of his friends, 'I'm giving it to my kid brother. I'm going to Deal's Bultaco and getting that 200cc Sherpa S.' I was overjoyed to hear that the shiny-red Kawi was mine! It didn't matter that it didn't run--I had a motorcycle! I was already planning that victory wheelie over the finish line.

"We lived in a small town where they were putting in I-95 just feet behind our backyard. That left plenty of flat riding space for kids from miles around. I pushed the bike around the backyard for what seemed like forever before my dad fixed it for me. Either he finally found some spare time, or he couldn't take me asking him a million times a day. I think I even wrote him a note on the bathroom mirror in soap!

"Once it was running, they decided I needed a helmet to ride. Instead of going out and buying one, dad suggested I wear one of my brother's. It was a little big, but it would work. Luckily, mom was there to save the day: 'It's too big; he can't see out of it. Don't worry, boy, I can fix that.' She came back out of the house with my Philadelphia Flyers winter beanie, complete with the big tassel on top. That was the ticket. The helmet was kind of snug and I could see.

"I made it two summers, riding all over the woods at the end of the street and on the paths of the new highway, before we moved to a neighborhood that didn't have anywhere to ride because of my dad's job. That put a damper on my riding until I started to race a speedway bike when I was 16.

"I think the coolest thing we did back then was ride through a big, cement drainage tube under the new highway to get to the dirt mines. The mines were a big area that they used to get fill from for the new road. It was awesome! Lots of people would show up there on weekends. It was one of those things that I thought would never end. It's filled in now, and new 'McMansions' cover our sacred ground. I wonder if they ever hear the screaming two-strokes of the '70s echoing through the night air?"

Andrew Leisner
Managing Partner, Hardcard and former 250cc Grand Prix competitor
1970s Chibi 60
"In elementary school, my two neighborhood-terrorizing riding buddies (who would later go on to become professional car racers, Tommy Kendall and the late Jeff Krosnoff) had Honda Z50s, but I was unique and rode a Chibi 60. I had 10cc more, a clutch and two-stroke power. The bike was a gift from my father for my sixth birthday, and I rode it until I was 10. It served as a backyard playbike for several years beyond that. "I still have the Chibi, and my father-in-law (former Motorcyclist editor Tony Murphy) and I are planning to restore it someday. I owe a great deal to that bike, as my life has been centered around motorcycles ever since."

Bill Werner
Winningest tuner in AMA Grand National dirt-track racing
1960s Honda 50
"My first exposure to motorcycles was at age 12, when my neighbor took me for a ride on his big dresser. I was just a kid, and that really made my day and got me interested. Not in any major way, but enough that after that, I noticed bikes more.

"When I was 16, my friend got a Honda Hawk. Seeing that bike up close and personal on a regular basis really got me fired up, and I had to get a motorcycle myself. At the time I was working at a hot-rod shop, and I was big into speed, mechanics and performance. I would have loved to have had a hot rod, but those cars cost thousands of dollars, whereas you could get a fast bike for $500.

"Wandering into the local Honda shop, I saw a CB92 Benly. From my experience at the speed shop I knew what made things go fast, and that Honda had it all: four-leading-shoe front brake, overhead cam, an 11,000-rpm redline and a whopping 15 horsepower. I never could afford that Benly, but I still have the original brochures.

"I ended up settling for a little Honda 50cc step-through. That bike was my first and it served as my sole source of transportation through two years of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, summers and winters.

"I got interested in racing after watching an AMA flat-track event. A friend of mine invited me to Cedarburg Fairgrounds to watch Champion Carroll Resweber. I didn't know who he was at the time, but I knew he was doing something different than everyone else out there--and that something was not shutting off! The sound of the racing and the speed as they came by the wall really got me hooked. After that I was into racing, and I used to get the records of the Isle of Man TT and sit and listen to the sounds of the Honda six-cylinders and the two-strokes.

"I had a little Ducati Bronco that I started running in scrambles and at the local flat-track. My Honda dealer sold me a 150cc engine that he got out of a wrecked bike, and I shoved it into the Bronco frame. I must have been about 18. I did all the welding and fabrication myself, and then raced the bike against 250s. It didn't cut it, but it was all I had.

"That bike and that project set me on a course of tuning and modifying, and that's the course I'm still on today. Even though I'm retired, I still wrench at about 20 races a year, and I still build bikes for racers. I still work as much and as hard as I ever did, but to me it's not work. I love working on bikes, modifying them and creating them. It's like I'm an artist and motorcycles are my medium. And even though I'm not racing myself, I compete with them, so vicariously I am the guy in the saddle."

David Lloyd
Team Manager, Lloyd Brothers Motorsports
1977 Honda CT70
"My first bike was a Honda CT70 that my friend and I found in a dump behind an old TV repair shop, back when it was cost-effective to fix your TV instead of replace it. It was one of the old rusty-colored ones with the separate right and left handlebars. I think it caught fire before we found it--I remember the seat being half burned off.

"We spent a week working on it to make it run. Eventually it ran; however, the throttle cable was broken so the only way you could ride it was to hold onto the handlebar with your left hand and pull the cable with your right. I just wrapped the cable end around my finger and off I went! It definitely started my love for motorcycles."

Charles Falco
Chair of Condensed Matter Physics, University of Arizona and curator for the Art of the Motorcycle exhibit
1960s Honda 50
"I bought a used Honda 50 in the mid-'60s, when California thought it reasonable to let 15-year-old boys without helmets or training have motorcycle licenses. The guy who sold the Honda explained how to shift, watched me ride up the block and back, and then sent me on my way in Southern California rush-hour traffic to my house, 15 miles away. Within a few months, before crashing it into the side of a car that turned in front of me while I was lane-splitting, oblivious to any possible danger, I had covered several thousand miles, with only one other near-death experience. I was pretending it was a motocross machine when both hands were jarred off the bars upon landing, and I only managed to regain control within a few feet of flying off a 40-foot cliff. Some people learn from their mistakes. Others, like me, bought another motorcycle."

Doug Toland
Former FIM World Endurance Champion and current Honda R&D; tester
1960s Tecumseh-powered mini-bike
"I was lucky to even get a motorcycle because one of my father's last experiences on a motorcycle was getting 'ran over' by a jeep in a blackout during World War II! The day I first soloed on a bicycle, I took off around the corner with an incredible feeling that I still feel today. When I rounded the second corner, I ran smack into the back of a parked truck! I was about 3 or 4 years old."

"When I was 4, my parents got my older brother a 5-horsepower Cat mini-bike, and he would sit on back while I tried to ride it. I remember heading straight toward a block wall and he bailed me out. Deja vu of the parked truck! A kid down the street did the same thing on his Taco mini-bike and actually took out the wooden fence--all without safety gear, I'm sure."

"Santa brought me a yellow 3.5-hp Tecumseh mini-bike when I was 5. It had a rigid fork, a high-rise, Schwinn Sting Ray-style handlebar, about 5mm worth of rear suspension, a paddle-style rear brake and NO front brake! In an effort to get more speed, I would manually hold the governor control wide-open during our local drag-races up and down the street. My father eventually fabricated a foot pedal for this, so I could keep both hands on the handlebar."

"Back in the '60s, you could ride on the streets in Orange County without the cops bothering you, and there were plenty of fields to ride in. (Bruce Ogilvie told me a similar story about growing up in Riverside, and said things changed when the police got a helicopter!) We also had a vacation home in the local mountains, where I rode dirtbikes every weekend for years. I only came home for gas, food, water or when it got dark. I would ride out of our front yard for hours at a time and loved every second of it."When I was about 14, my older brother got a '74 Honda CB400F Super Sport. When he wasn't home, I figured out how to hot-wire it, and used to go riding around town, terrorizing the neighborhood and had the same feeling as riding the bicycle for the first time. The big difference was that I didn't hit any parked cars or block walls!"

Terry Vance
Multi-time NHRA Top Fuel Champion and founder of Vance & Hines
1970s Honda CB750
"My first bike was a 750cc Honda. It was a gift from my father that I later modified for drag racing. It was the summer of '71, and this picture is at Lions drag strip in Long Beach, California. I had found out about drag racing from a friend, and after a couple of bracket races, I was totally hooked!

"I was just out of high school and could make a couple hundred bucks by winning the motorcycle bracket, so I was set! It was total heaven: I was 18 years old and making money racing a motorcycle--what could be better? We eventually got this bike to run high-9s, and thought we were bad ass! As luck would have it, without this motorcycle I would never have met Byron Hines at Lions, where he was also racing a 750cc Honda. There was never a more important motorcycle in my career than that bike."

Jamie Hacking
Former AMA Supersport and Superstock Champion and current member of Team Monster Energy Kawasaki
1978 Italjet 50
"My first motorcycle was a '78 Italjet 50cc dirtbike that I got when I was 6. There was no racing history in my family at all, but we used to have a guy across the street who raced motocross for the Husqvarna factory. I spent most of my time over there in his garage, handing bolts to him, wiping things off and stuff like that, so my interest for motocross pretty much came from him."

"My parents didn't have enough money to buy me a dirtbike, so my grandparents ended up buying it for me for Christmas. This picture was taken on Christmas morning, downstairs in the house. I was really excited to ride it--and my family pretty much made me go ride it because I'd begged for this thing for so long! I remember them loading it up in this little trailer, and we went and rode it at the local soccer field. It was snowing pretty good, and the field was pretty frozen underneath. I couldn't really get it started without stalling it, and I remember my granddad looking at me and saying, 'If you can't take off on this thing, it's going back.'"

"I remember revving that thing up and dumping the clutch on it and taking off and doing a few circles around the field. I was getting a little bit more comfortable with it and then ended up crashing into the goal post. They were metal goal posts and I hit pretty hard, and I got up crying and screaming because I'd messed up the bike! It had metal fenders and a metal gas tank, and I'd bent the front fender and smashed the gas tank in! I raced that bike a couple times before I outgrew it.

"About two years ago, my dad found one on eBay in Europe and picked it up. It's in rough shape, and it's still in the crate, and I haven't gotten around to restoring it yet. But hopefully I can get around to putting it all back to original."

Cook Neilson
Former editor of Cycle magazine and current fine-arts photographer
1964 Harley-Davidson Sportster
"My first bike was a '64 Sportster XLCH, bought new for $1435 in the fall of '63. It caused me to be suspended from college for one year, leading to a seven-year National Guard commitment. Three good highway wrecks, not all of which were our fault. Two Bonneville speed records in '66, another one in '69. Temporary holder of AMDRA Top Fuel ET record. Helped me get hired by Gordon Jennings to Cycle magazine staff in '69, where I met the young lady who has been my wife for 30 years now."

"My Sportster gave me a life-long affection for large-displacement, V-Twins. It frequently endured weird mixtures of nitro methane and propylene oxide; there were occasions when it did not, leading me to a deeper understanding of crankshaft assembly procedures. A boon companion. We did everything together, from bouncing around the Grafton scrambles track to commuting to my summer job at a cement plant in Tampa, Florida, to selling encyclopedias door-to-door in Louisville, Kentucky, to racing at Indianapolis and Bonneville and Lions and Irwindale.

"Without my Sportster....Leapin' mother o' Jesus! Every other road I could have gone down would have been a total disaster. Hard not to love a bike that does that much for you."

A 13-year-old Lyle Lovett giving the steel-tank Penton Six Days a pre-race checkup and wondering why the front fender isn't back from the polishing shop yet.
Mitch Boehm models the latest in early-'70s jeanswear while brother Matt gets ready to knock mom in the head with a fastball.
Jimmy the Greek, age 14, and his first motorcycle: a 1963 Honda C115 Super Cub Scrambler.