When Generations Collide
I am on the younger side of the new generation of Harley riders. This weekend, I got to tag along on a ride with some old school bikers. It was really awesome to experience riding with guys who grew up when chopper culture was in its prime.
I met the guys at East Bay American Cycles in Ennis, Texas. It’s a small shop in a country town about an hour south of Dallas. I just moved to Dallas a month ago, and I’ve been really missing the mountain roads of Utah and Northern California. Urban riding in Dallas just isn’t the same. The city is congested with 4-5 lane highways all over-crowded with road-raging cagers. I was in desperate need of some country roads.
I jumped on I-45 and got to Ennis in just under an hour. I was supposed to be meeting up with some friends I had made, who told me about the group ride. We were supposed to meet in Ennis and ride up to Lucky 7 Cycles in Dallas, where there was a pre-party for the Southern Throwdown 4 Vintage Bike Show. I was a little disappointed when I found out that none of my friends had showed up to the ride. In hindsight, I’m glad it worked out the way it did, so I could get to know these veteran chopper builders.
When I first arrived, the owner, Dave, greeted me with a handshake and a quick tour of his shop. I recognized one of his iconic chopper builds from Chopcult’s Instagram feed. Like a true millennial, I asked if the shop had an Instagram account. Dave laughed and said he doesn’t mess around with any of that stuff and doesn’t even bother with an email address. The shop had some really cool vintage bikes and a good size supply of old parts.
A couple of other guys started showing up for the ride. The most animated character of the group rolled in on a bike that demanded attention. It was clearly a custom job with a couple naked ladies painted on the tank and fender. I introduced myself and asked him what year and make his bike was. He laughed and asked, “Which part?” He told me his name was Buffalo, which suited him perfectly. He called me “Youngster” the rest of the day, which didn’t bother me at all. He looked at my bike and teased me for not having mirrors or a front fender. He made a comment about youngsters these days being dangerous riders and told me to make sure I stay behind him on the ride. I thought his concern for safety was a little ironic, considering I was the only one in the group wearing a helmet. Buffalo later complimented me for being a good rider, which felt good coming from a seasoned biker.
We took off in a standard staggered formation. I started off toward the back, but I was eager to pull up ahead to get in a good position to sneak in a few photos of our ride. The first thing I noticed was that these guys were not in a hurry. When you go on a group ride with the younger generation, you can sense the competitive spirit of guys in the group wanting to push on faster and race to the destination. But, these guys weren’t here to impress anyone. They took their time and enjoyed the ride.
Dave led us through a beautiful scenic route; a side of Texas I hadn’t seen yet. We rode through country back roads with plenty of twisties. There were endless green pastures as far as the eye could see, like it was drawn up from a fairytale.
I saw herds of Texas longhorns, and learned that they didn’t just exist in the movies. The ride was perfect. The sun was shining. It was warm with just enough of a cool breeze to make it perfectly comfortable.
It would be easy for someone like Dave to snub his nose at me. He has decades of experience and knowledge restoring classic motorcycles. He has seen it all. But he welcomed me into his pack like one of their own. There was no thought of age difference or opposing cultural and political views. It was just the love of two wheels that united us together to experience America the way it was intended.
The guys eventually pulled into a bar and café called, “Rockett.” The joint was clearly a biker favorite. I enjoyed some country fried steak and onion rings while listening to the guys share old biker stories around the table. They talked about the evolution of engines through the years. They told me about the Cannonball Run, a historic endurance ride across the US, where in order to participate you must ride an antique motorcycle that is no less than 100 years old. They all had some stories of their own to share from rides and events back in the day.
It wasn’t until after the meal that I learned the group had no intention of going all the way up to Lucky 7 Cycles in Dallas. So, we decided to saddle up and part ways. I couldn’t contain my smile on the ride back to Dallas realizing that the country ride and glimpse into history was exactly what I needed. No matter what your age or background, if you are a motorcycle enthusiast, you are family. I can’t help but think times were a little more simple back in the 60’s, and I think I would have fit right in with those guys.