This editorial is one of my favorites and runs every year at this time. It contains wonderful facts about the history of motorcycling in New York and since I learned so much about motorcycles and their heritage by researching this material, I think it is worth running once a year as we are always welcoming new readers to FTM. I hope you enjoy it.
New York is a city of hyperbole per excellence, particularly because of its skyscrapers. New York is a hodgepodge of languages and races, theaters and Broadway musicals, the fast-paced world of Wall Street finance, villages and communities with their ethnic rituals and customs all reveal the nuances of tone that “make” New York. Encumbered inside this city that never sleeps are many individual personalities, who call this famous and sometimes flamboyant city home. There are also those who reside in the outer core, where life is a little slower paced, but none-the-less exciting. For now, I’m only going to talk about one particular group of people – the biker community. Although there are many different groups, clubs and associations, they are all driven by the same forces – their love for riding, their rights as bikers and to support their brothers and sisters in their quests to help others. Most believe we do this to bring attention to ourselves, but those who believe that couldn’t be more mistaken.
Motorcycle enthusiasm has been around for many years. In a society thirsting for technology, this individual mode of transportation came knocking at the door of the twentieth century, and with it came the dawn of the combustion engine, which was invented in Europe and made its way across the Atlantic to a country whose enthusiasm for all things technical presented few obstacles. It was from this enthusiasm that a new toy was invented: the motorcycle. These bizarre vehicles were often just bicycles strengthened with an engine, fuel tank, tool box, ignition, battery and other necessities of self-propelled locomotion simply attached somewhere and somehow to the frame. Those who sported this new motored bicycle (the speed junkies), paid little or no attention to spooked horses and human crowds that foolishly attempted to block their way (I guess this is when the stigmatism, which attached itself to the word biker started!) This new vehicle was taking many by storm, mostly because of the sense of freedom one felt while riding.
In 1901, the Coliseum in Chicago hosted the first “Automobile and Motorcycle show”, an event that proved to be a real sensation. Motorized bicycle shows were being held more and more and builders such as Dyke, Curtiss & Erie, Freyer & Miller, and Holley were displaying their wares. Also in 1901, Carl Oscar Hesdtrom (one of the most talented manufacturers in the field), unveiled the first road – going motorcycle, which belonged to George M Hendee, who christened it the Indian motorcycle. On September 7, 1903, ninety two members of the New York Bicycle Club and the Alpha Motorcycle Club in New York founded the Federation of American Motorcyclists -FAM for short, a national organization that was the antecedent of the AMA. Around this time FAM held one its first major race competitions right here in New York. The race began in the Catskills, traveled through Brooklyn and finished on Long Island. Before that, in 1898, the first pacer motorcycles with De Dion engines were used in bicycle races in New York’s Madison Square Garden. By now many cycle companies were producing motorized cycles, and bicycle dealers recognized a golden opportunity to boost their turnover by establishing a lucrative sideline selling motorcycles. Motorcycle factories, if they could realistically be called that, shot up like weeds throughout the United States, mostly in the Northeast and Mid-West regions -between 1902 & 1905.
Numerous trade publications covered this latest trend and new publications such as “Cycling Gazette or the Horseless Age” and “Motorcycle & Bicycle Illustrated” were being published, targeting the interests of the biker enthusiast. More and more cycling clubs transformed into motorcycling clubs, which now were even holding their own sporting events. Before the first decade of the new century was reached there were 65 motorcycle manufacturers. However, the really big business was slow in coming, until the world wide legend known as Harley-Davidson took motorcycles to a new level, and most of you pretty much know what happened after that.
The reason for taking you back to where and how it all began is to show us all that what we do today as biker enthusiasts is really no different from when it all started. There were motorcycle magazines, shows, clubs and even charity runs back in the beginning. Just like we have family roots, many of us also have roots when it comes motorcycling. For more than 100 years, we as bikers have carried those traditions and passions with us and will pass them on to the next generation of riders as they were passed on to us. Of course, the motorcycle itself has gone through a massive metamorphous and today motorcycle building is looked upon as a form of art from fabricating to chroming, painting and designing. The motorcycle industry grosses billions of dollars every year and while money is what drives most companies to expand and evolve; the love, the passion, and the sense of freedom will always evoke why we choose to ride. Yes, the motorcycle, society and we as individuals have progressed, but our reason for riding will forever remain the same as long as we never forget the roots of motorcycling and those who pioneered the way for us.
Save the dates: In 7 weeks our April issue prints, which kicks of the 2017 riding season! In the meantime, mark your calendars and chase away those winter blues by attending Hell Angels LI MC Cabin Fever Party – Feb 12th and of course, FTM’s legendary IceBreaker Bash -March 5th. Learn more about these events inside this issue.
Always remember to ride safe, ride free and ride proud!
Happy Sweetheart Day!
Live & Let Live
Lee Sheridan, Spike & Chloe’