DMZ Motorcycles : After roaming the world, this veteran finally settles into a life’s work dedicated to military members, past and present.
The bikes I build are works of passion and pride intended to convey the great respect I have for the brave fighting machines and heroic pilots who flew them in past world events.
I’d been looking for an outlet to raise much needed funds for the Wounded Warriors Project ( woundedwarriorproject.org ) and The Veterans Transition Network ( www.vtncanada.org) as I know first hand the difficulties of being a returning veteran and, more so, the challenges of being a disabled Veteran. In my case, my wounds did not interfere with my mobility and I have been able to go on to great and exciting adventures.
In 2019, I rode a motorcycle from Ho Chi Min City (Saigon) across China, Tibet, up to Kazakstan and across to Europe and England thus completing a world ride as I had previously crossed the US from Maine to British Columbia. With the help of great organizations like Wounded Warriors and VTN, veterans such as myself can accomplish anything.
Since my early riding years, I have always loved the look of the classic WWI and WWII army motorcycles. I read amazing stories of dispatch riders dodging bullets and mortar shells delivering their vital messages to other brave soldiers waiting for orders. Talk about adventure riders! How much more adventurous does it get than riding a motorcycle through muddy trenches with shells exploding and bullets whizzing by you?
I tried to find a restored or partially restored military motorcycle for sale but to no avail. There were some that had been chopped or modified, others that were in parts and needed almost impossible to find parts to get them running. Others were priced ridiculously high as collector items and then there were the scammers who said they could get me one in the original crate from army surplus.
I finally decided to build my own and this is the origin of my company DMZ Motorcycles, (dmzmotorcycyles.com) which I established to create commemorative motorcycles to celebrate individuals, squads, platoons or any size division. Each bike we build tells a story of heroism, courage, or great military achievement, and a portion of each each sale goes toward the Fallen & Wounded Soldiers Fund.
I searched available motorcycles to find which manufacturer had a bike most similar as a base for my build. I was looking for anything 750cc and above but it needed a foundation that would allow me to duplicate the bikes I loved.
After an extensive search and research on each model I found the Triumph Bobber Black to be the perfect base to begin with. I’m starting to sound too much like Dr Frankenstein in this story, aren’t I?
I purchased a new 2018 Triumph Bobber Black thinking my search was over and the rest would be simple. How wrong I was, and in fact, my research had only begun.
It took over a year to find the perfect seat, bags, and all the other changes (46 – 52 modifications) to roll out the first of the DMZ Motorcycles. I wanted a motorcycle that was period correct and paid tribute to its history.
I searched the internet for pictures of original aircraft nose art and emblems to ensure my motorcycle depicted the true aircraft and were historically correct.
I can confirm that each motorcycle in our collection is an original and researched for correctness. For example, the American Star/Victory Girl emblem is hand painted and signed. The serial numbers on the fenders and side covers all represent either an aircraft or the squadron it pays tribute to. Each bike is protected with the full Triumph two-year warranty and carries a guarantee from DMZ Motorcycles to be an authentic, hand-painted one-of-a-kind motorcycle that anyone can be proud to own.
The idea and the company started with my own dream of owning a military motorcycle yet soon many people were asking where they could get one. I decided to share my dream and at the same time donate funds to these two very important Veterans Projects.
The last thing I expected was to start a motorcycle company and yet, every time I start a new build I get new and exciting ideas for another. I intend to release both the Memphis Belle and Red Tails Tribute bikes seen on these pages in spring 2021.
I’ve started to realize that the possibilities are endless and there is so much history I can capture in these bikes while offering them to riders and military enthusiasts alike.
This summer I loaded up three of my DMZ Motorcycles in a trailer and photographed them with my friend’s 1941 Boeing Stearman US Navy Trainer. The results are these amazing pictures that truly capture the spirit of what I’m building and the history of what these motorcycles represent.
By James Leigh Canadian Biker #351
Photos: Wedded Bliss Photography
ABOUT THAT BIPLANE
This issue, tribute bikes built by James Leigh and his DMZ Motorcycles grace our pages. Adding colour and verve to the photoshoot by Wedded Bliss Photography is the 1941 Boeing Stearman biplane operated by Leigh’s friend Joe Melatini of Grand Forks, BC whose charitable organization, Faith, Hope, & Charity Barnstorming, offers 30-minute rides by donation in the vintage aircraft with 100 per cent of the funds going in support of the BC Children’s Hospital.
“He doesn’t use a penny of money raised and pays for fuel himself,” says Leigh, of his friend Joe who along with Shelley Melatini raised $8,990 this past year and $70,741.33 overall since they began flying eight years ago.The scenic flights are on a set route around the Grand Forks area and come with a tax receipt. Operations run from May to October, weather permitting.