Categories: Features
30 | Updated 07

Duke’s Den – On TV

Watching motorcycle-related television programming can be as frustrating as spending an evening at a strip club. Sure, the subject matter is nearly irresistible, but the end result is frequently unsatisfying. And that’s how I felt after watching Biketacular, a show that first aired on August 29 and is being regularly rebroadcasted on the Discovery Channel.


The concept was to highlight “the top 20 bikes ever made, chosen by the country’s top motorcycle experts,” according to the show’s narrator. And being just one of five experts selected to talk about the most significant bikes ever built, it was a role I took quite seriously, boning up on the list of possible selections and then weighing in on the bikes I believe needed to be on such a list. I then spent about four hours sitting in front of a camera speaking as eruditely as I could about a couple dozen motorcycles.

However, TV has always been a medium in which entertainment trumps educational value or illumination, and it was a bit disappointing to see the final edit of the show crammed full of Discovery’s “Motor Mondays” casts (Fast N’ Loud; Diesel Brothers; Street Outlaws; Misfit Garage) speaking about important motorcycles in flippant and off-handed ways that were intended to be humorous but sometimes missed the mark, at least to a motorcycle aficionado like myself.

Of course, this is a sentiment coming from someone who got just five clips that made it to air, so I might not be be the voice of impartiality.

“I do wish you had gotten more (air time),” said Eric Smith, one of the show’s supervising producers and a cool guy whose affinity for motorcycles grew during the production. “You were a tremendous help, and wonderfully knowledgeable, and if I get a chance to work on a ‘true’ motorcycle show at some point, I’d love to work with you again. ”

Honestly, I’m not actually bitter about my dearth of screen time. After working in the media business for a couple of decades, I fully understand how a great concept can eventually morph into something different depending on the direction enforced by those who are paying for the production.

“As you saw,” Smith continued, “the network really started pushing the show in favor of Discovery cast members as we went through the editing process. It became more of a vehicle for promoting their other franchises than talking about bikes. But that’s how it goes sometimes.”

I was in agreement with most of the motorcycles selected for the 20 that made the list, although not all of them. Here is the rundown as presented on the show:

  1. Husqvarna 400 Cross
  2. Ack Attack Streamliner
  3. Honda Gold Wing
  4. NeuTron Bike from Parker Brothers Concepts, based on the Lightcycle from Tron
  5. BMW R80GS
  6. Orange County Choppers Black Widow
  7. Marine Turbine Technologies Y2K
  8. Harley-Davidson Sportster
  9. Kawasaki H2
  10. Indian Chief
  11. Norton Manx
  12. Curtiss V-8
  13. Ducati 916
  14. BMW R32
  15. Honda CB750
  16. Vincent Black Shadow
  17. Britten V1000
  18. Honda Super Cub
  19. Triumph Bonneville
  20. Harley-Davidson EL Knucklehead

In my estimation, it’s only the Black Widow and NeuTron bike that strained credulity for inclusion on this list. The EL’s listing at the top end might’ve been influenced by Biketacular being the lead-in programming for the new mini-series, Harley And The Davidsons, which, by the looks of the previews, might just be superb. I recommend tuning in for that show which premiered on September 5.

If you blink often, you may have missed seeing me on Biketacular. I commented on the handling prowess of the Gold Wing despite its considerable weight and the iconic status of the Sportster’s peanut tank. I also supposed that the Curtiss V-8’s top-speed record of 136 mph in 1907 was probably faster than most airplanes of the era. And I was proud to be included in the Britten V1000 segment twice, first for the improbability of John Britten’s achievement and, second, for a comment about the bike’s bleeding-edge carbon-fiber construction of the era.

I also made appearances in motion a few times. The Gold Wing segment included video of me and my wife at the beginning and end of the segment from MO’s review of the 2012 GL1800. (Sadly, at the end of the segment, audio of a V-Twin rumbling is heard while showing a Wing riding past.) More MO footage is seen in the Kawi H2 section, including our shots from the bike’s EICMA debut and the H2’s media introduction at Auto Club Speedway, plus a couple of clips from me chasing 200 mph on the H2R in Oregon last year.

“We’re not qualified to talk about the Gold Wing because we’re not 80,” said Big Chief from Street Outlaws. Maybe it’s time for Mr. Chief to actually take a spin on one.

If I’m resentful for one thing, it was seeing in the show’s intro the sound of motor revving up while displaying a rider’s boot stepping on a brake pedal. I had warned Smith about using the dreaded clutch being pulled in while audio of an engine revving up was rolled, as I had seen seemingly dozens of times in prior motorcycle TV coverage, and I didn’t want a show I was part of to have this glaring faux pas. C’est la vie

Anyhow, it was interesting, challenging and a bit of fun being part of another TV show. I only wish true motorcycle enthusiasts would’ve been the key demographic rather than a general non-enthusiast audience.

On the other hand, by neglecting motorcycle enthusiasts, that leaves us here at MO with a direct and unimpeded line to the audience we really care about. Keep your browser dial tuned to!