Monday, August 26, 2013

The Freedom Of No Speedo.

It started early in my life. I'm sure that I wasn't the first to figure it out. Many before me and just as many after me have learned what I did that day.. "I can go farther faster if I'm not on foot".. I know. Mind blowing shit ain't it.. It's a universal thing. We all utilize technology to increase our productivity and improve our lives. But, in the beginning, we rode for a different reason. We rode for the thrill and the fun of it. We pushed ourselves to excel at this new skill. We'd jump higher. We'd go faster. We'd go farther. We often even used our skills to impress both boys and girls and sometimes even the adults. As we grew up we would categorize people by what they were riding at the time. 
I don't know about you but I literally rode the tires off of my big wheel. That front tire was worn clear threw and was showing air when I was done with it.. I think that many of our era started out on a Big Wheel but there were many who came before us and they started their journey on other contraptions.
This was not the toy of a child. It was purchased and used by a breed of men who were willing to try something new. It wasn't long till those men were sharing this new form of transport and enjoyment with their children and neighbors. I wonder how long it was after the second one of these showed up in town that the challenge was made. "I bet you that I can beat you in a race". That is a part of what this story is about.. Measuring how fast was not as important as winning the race..
Back in the day my folks didn't have the means to buy all that I wanted and in hindsight I am thankful for it.. Lack of money is a good motivator and through hand- me- downs and junk yards a young boy with a want that was big enough could piece together a set of wheels and become the master of his own destiny. I was around eight yrs old when I pieced together my first of many death traps. As most boys who tinker know, it's part of the challenge to figure out what your machine will do. These tests would usually end with either injury or the machine being pushed to the breaking point. Live and learn had a special meaning back in those days..

I swear, I learned about gas and girls on the same weekend. One of my buddies had gotten a used trail 70 for his birthday and we took turns riding that thing around. While he was riding I was chatting up his older sister... It's been gas and girls ever sense..

There is no telling how many miles I had under my belt before I got a drivers license. I know for a fact that I had over one million miles on my Big Wheel and with the pedal bikes I probably had close to 10. The World completely changed the day that I learned to twist a throttle.. Faster. Higher. Farther.. It was a drug and it pushed us harder than anything else could. As the power increased so did the danger and we pushed our bodies as hard as we pushed our machines.. From hill climb competitions to camping trips that took us 40 miles down the railroad tracks. We had a sense of adventure that was equal to any raft trip that Huck Finn had ever planned in his dreams. We were free. Gas was $1.20 a gallon and the cops had not become a major problem yet in our lives, yet.
There was one thing that all of our wheels had in common. It was seldom, if ever that we had a speedometer. "How fast" was not all that important to us back then.. We would ride as hard as we could. We learned to make decisions based upon the variables that we had to deal with. weather. road conditions. equipment capabilities. The speed limit sign had no bearing on our decisions other than to make us go faster as we kept a watchful eye out for the law. We learned to ride without the standards that were set by lawmakers.. That double yellow line was not a concrete wall that would prevent us from cutting a corner. The recommended speed for a curve in the road meant next to nothing to us and the posted speed limit was just a suggestion.

It's happened several times in my life that the speedo got busted.. Those times it was just an aggravation that I would work towards fixing. A gear or a cable or a busted needle. It was never so much of a thing to shut down the ride. All it takes is compression, fuel and spark to make them go. Everything else was just an add on. I was too busy in life to see that a broken speedometer could be a connection to a simpler time in life.

 I reconnected with that time in my life with the help of this motorSickle I built.. 1971 Honda CB750 with a big bore kit and not a single instrument. I built this chopper to be in honor of the men of that era. I used the tools, technology and equipment that was available in that time.. And it damn sure didn't have a speedo on it.. That bike reminded me of a time when you rode on the edge of your comfort. It took me back to the time in my youth when things were closer to pure. I don't need a double line to let me know I can't safely pass. When I have a straight line of sight to the horizon I don't need to slow my speed just for the law mans sake. I don't need a tax payer funded paint line to tell me that its the edge of the road. I can see the edge of the road. It was completely refreshing to let the moment control me. Yes, there were times when I entered a curve too hot and locked up the slider wheel. There were many more times that I entered a curve slower than needed and I would turn around and hit it again. It's been a year sense I ran that chopper down the road but you can believe that she took me to amazing places down the road and in my mind..

There have been a few times in the last year that I have revisited that mentality.. I carry electrical tape on my bike and I have covered my speedo on more than a few occasions. It has never failed to take me back in time and improve my journey. Last week I had the pleasure to ride the Ozark mtns of Arkansas with a dear friend of mine. I went back to my childhood as we carved along the mountain roads. See, Nathan has a photographic memory and has ridden his bikes around these twists and turns for yrs. He is the kind of rider who pushes the edge of comfort all the time. As we rode through the mountains I didn't watch my speedo. I watched Nathan. In a short time I found a rhythm with him as the leader. It was a full moon evening and the two bikes behind us kept falling farther and farther behind. When we stopped for a smoke break it was brought to our attention that we were pushing too hard in the curves. Nathan and I did not agree. We were having a ball. I would have not ridden like that with another. It was his memory that gave me comfort. It was more than a speedometer could have ever given me.\

Tomorrow with the help of a little electrical tape I will continue my journey. My wheels will head north to Milwaukee for the 110th Anniversary party for Harley Davidson but my mind will journey back to The Freedom of No Speedo..When my slider wheel locks up and slides me 180degress, Its because thats how I did it on my Big Wheel. When I jump the curb and cross the grass to get to the fuel pump it will be because I've done it a hundred times on a dirt bike. Wheelies are a dying art form and power slides in gravel parking lots will always be cool....
 Could it be that the speedometer and  lawmakers are are the only things that hinder me.?

Until next time..


  1. Very cool! Great to flashback as well. .. only I was quite the drifter on my Big Wheel so it was my rear tires with the holes in 'em. :) With all the new fancy gadgets and crap being added to every new model, this is a great reminder to just RIDE!!

    Respect & Smiles

  2. Good read. Thanks for taking me back Don !

  3. Good read. Thanks for taking me back Don !