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Saying Things Out Loud : Talking About Custom Bikes

When television interviewers come calling for a specialty cable show, it’s an opportunity for Rich Burgess to think twice about his bikes.

I recently had a chance to do a couple of segments for the Shaw Cable TV show called Pure Muscle, thanks to a recommendation from my old buddy Al Swanky whose car was recently featured. (Normally they focus on muscle and super cars.) 

Very interesting experience. The host Paul Helmer was cool but he asked me some questions that caught me off guard. With no script I had to say something so it was all spur of the moment answers. Stuff I don’t normally think about, like what I feel when I look at my bikes?  Hmmm, what would you say?

I was nervous and totally unprepared when asked to discuss some of my custom work. I told Paul “I am going to think about what I should have said after you leave” and that’s what sort of happened to some extent. 

I was positioned on a stool that put me in a less than comfortable position and the interview started: “Spell your name.” Felt kind of strange but Paul and Ron (the senior videographer) are both real pros and soon had me talking. It’s strange how talking about motorcycles calms me down. 

Am I an artist? They asked. Not sure what that really means, but I think the bike in question is nice to look at. I think it went okay, this bike kind of speaks for itself anyway.

Then for the second interview I got to go for a ride. We went up behind Turner Valley here in southern Alberta for a change of scene and some “action shots.”  Amazing how much more relaxed I became after a short ride. Now I was really getting into it.

Looking at my highly modified 1995 Dyna Superglide Paul asked what I call it. “Traveler” popped out, though I had never said it out loud before even though I had once thought about giving it that name. It never seemed to need a name before. 

“What do you think about when you look at it?” They asked. Nostalgia seems right; the trips taken over the last 20 years mostly with my wife Corrine riding along on her Sporty, the rallies, the bike rodeos, friends met, lessons learned building the engine and doing other modifications, good times and bad (mostly good). Then there was the big accident where I smashed my hand up real bad and broke 17 bones. That was the day I learned road barricades are made from one-inch plywood. I punched through one with my left hand, backed up by the handlebar. The bike went end over end and I broke two fingers on the Mars tail light Demon. My niece Ronda bought it for me the Christmas before, and I wondered if it sacrificed its fingers so mine would be saved, a lucky charm of sorts. Broken fingers or not it stays on the bike. (How cool is that, a niece that buys you a good luck demon for Christmas!) Then I thought of the paintjob that was done by my friend Guy St. Pierre. Having a paint job from his shop Cyclemania in Okotoks, Alberta may add monetary value, but to me the greater premium is the fact that it was done by a friend—priceless. The airbrushed fall maple leafs befit my age. I have had Traveler so long my friends know the bike. If they see it parked somewhere it’s a good bet that I am not far away. 

Then I was asked, “What it would take to buy it.” Unlike my other bikes I could not think of a number. “They will probably bury me with that bike.” I said something about just having too much history. 

“How does it compare to the new Harleys?” I had to say it fares pretty well with all the modifications that have been done. Yes, the new bikes with their 110 engines are faster but Traveler’s warmed-over 83-inch Evo is fast enough to be entertaining and cruises effortlessly. Besides I have faster bikes if the urge hits me to ride one. “Would I like a new Harley?” Yes of course, but not bad enough to give up my old friend. It feels kind of like that. New friends are great but not if it means giving up old ones. We talked about the usual stuff: modifications, power and so on as well as the Harley culture. Not being much of a purist that part was brief. I had to admit friends were made that might not have been, had I been riding another brand.  I also have some cool T-shirts that would not feel right to wear without owning a Hog.

Paul mentioned how he enjoyed talking to long-term owners; they always have lots of good stories. True that, new bikes don’t come with adventures. They must be added by the new owners, and this takes time.

Days later I have even more attachment to the old bike. Saying things out loud it seems is somewhat different than just thinking them. It’s also different from writing: no spell check, no retreat if you get it wrong.  The questions were not meaning of life deep, but still it was a profound experience. There was no makeup or “Green Room” or teleprompters and I didn’t get paid but that’s all okay. It was fun and I learned something about myself and remembered thoughts long absent. I hope the viewers find the bikes pleasant to look at and enjoy the segments. If you don’t get Shaw, the shows will be eventually posted to YouTube.

By Rich Burgess Canadian Biker Issue #323


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