The annual Bud Ekins Memorial Ride (formerly Steve Wright’s Pre-16 Ride) rolled into Atascadero, Calif. last weekend. Sadly, Steve had died a few weeks earlier, but his pals thought it fitting to carry on in his memory.
“We need to keep it going,” said old friend Dave Bettencourt. “And we’d like to see more young folks get involved, with bikes from the ’30s and ’40s. That’s what Steve was thinking, and that guy did so much for our sport.”
Pete Young echoed the sentiment. “I’d like to get more young people excited about old bikes,” he said. “They’re so much fun, and really easy to service compared to modern bikes.”
Wes Allen preps his Thor twin for the ride. Builder of the early Indian engines, the Aurora Automatic Machinery Company of Illinois was in business from 1902 to 1917.
Of course men like Ekins, Wright and now Dee Cameron can’t be replaced. But their memories and contributions will be honored so long as we can ride. Despite his British roots, Steve Wright was the quintessential all-American guy, who dug the bikes, the racing scene, the music, old movies and the California beach.
But it was his character, as well as his skills, that set him apart. Part mechanical engineer, historian, athlete and mechanic, Steve was also one of those chronically helpful people, always ready to pitch in and get ‘er done – not to mention his wicked sense of humor and a great horse laugh. For quite a few of us, it’s been hard to see him go.
Indian-mounted John Parker worked in Bud Ekins’ shop as a kid, where he met Steve Wright. He has some stories to tell.
(Steve’s friend and machinist Phil Schack is putting together a memorial edition of Wright’s last book, “The American Motorcycle, 1869 – 1914.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org).
Buster Naylor’s 1912 Yale 4P (473cc, 4hp) displays the perfect pattern of properly preserved patina.
Kim Young gets down the road on a 1930 Velocette KSS. Smartly.
Jim Madden gasses up his 1913 Sears (yes, of Roebuck) 1200cc V-Twin. The bikes were built by Chicago’s Excelsior Cycle Company, not affiliated with the Schwinn-owned Excelsior.
When Kim lets husband Pete ride the KSS, he sports a stylish Sherlock Holmes helmet. DOT-approved of course.)
Brother Mike Madden’s 1940 Crocker at the ice cream stop in Santa Margarita.
Pete Young readies his 1930 Velocette MSS for the annual ride to the Pozo Saloon.
Fred Lange specializes in the manufacture of new/old machines. His 1928 Harley is based on the 2-cam 750cc factory hillclimb engine, but now displaces 1340cc and runs Evo pistons.
Added horsepower invoked a need for better brakes. The front stopper is a hybrid of Superglide and Triumph components.
Another nod to the wages of time (and riding cross-country in the Cannonball Rally) is the addition of an electric starter on the Panhead transmission.
Kim gets Young’s son Atticus, age 9, set to ride pillion behind dad. He’s already been riding for eight years in a sidecar.
Scott Allen, Wes’s son, was aboard a 1914 Excelsior. The foremost challenger to Indian and Harley, the Chicago company was acquired by Ignaz Schwinn in 1911 and lasted until 1931.
Dave Bettencourt’s 61-inch 1913 Excelsior belt drive. The value of unrestored bikes has risen considerably in recent years. “They’re only original once.”
One concession to the realities of age and riding comfort – the Airhawk seat pad.
Al Crocker worked for Thor early on, and later for Indian. Urban Hirsch’s 1938 1000cc V-Twin was a strong challenger to the Harley Knucklehead.
Crocker began with speedway bikes in the 1920s and knew the advantage of saving weight. Aluminum was employed wherever possible.
One of the last Crockers. The 1000cc Twins made 40-some horsepower and had a reputed top speed of 110 mph. Mike’s speedo indicates it’s last mark at 82.