Monday, August 20, 2012

The Call of the Road, and a Few Great Men's Answer

The rush of the wind, the roar of a powerful motor and the freedom of the open road. It's little surprise that throughout the history of the motorcycle, it has attracted many famous and well known men. The allure of the motorcycle's freedom and the image of racing down the highway on the edge of life and death, are a powerful drug to many, and that image has endured today. It is what still attracts many to riding. The open road, and the freedom it brings, as well as the relationship every rider has with the fine line between freedom, living and death. Follow LRS as we investigate some of these "legends" who answered the call of the road, on this segment of LRS Myths, Legends and Tales from the Road...

T.E. Lawrence, aka “Lawrence of Arabia” - was a passionate motorcyclist and a believer of the Brough Superior. Brough Superiors were often considered the “Rolls Royce of Motorcycles” during Lawrence's day. Lawrence even had his custom-made due to his short stature of 5’5. To accomodate this, he ordered his bikes with a smaller back wheel to accommodate his height. It's known that Lawrence owned seven Brough Superiors during his life. He lovingly called them as his "Boanerges" (Sons of Thunder), and named each bike "George" (the first was George I, the last George VII). In 1935, while riding George VII and awaiting delivery of George VIII, Lawrence was involved in an incident and swerved to avoid hitting two boys on bicycles. He was thrown over the handlebars, and died a week later from his injuries. He was only 46 years old. Lawrence believed in pushing every ounce of performance out of his Brough's ; It's unknown how fast he was going when this incident occured, but it was likely around 100 mph, the bike’s top speed.

“A skittish motorbike with a touch of blood in it is better than all the riding animals on earth, because of its logical extension of our faculties, and the hint, the provocation, to excess conferred by its honeyed untiring smoothness.” -TE Lawrence
Marlon Brando- Before becoming famous, Brando was known to get on his Triumph Thunderbird and ride just for the pleasure of riding. It's said he often rode all the way into the southwest, to find peace and solitude. 

“It still pleases me to be awake during the dark, early hours before morning when everyone else is still asleep. I’ve been that way since I first moved to New York. I do my best thinking and writing then. During those early years in New York, I often got on my motorcycle in the middle of the night and went for a ride–anyplace. There wasn’t much crime in the city then, and if you owned a motorcycle, you left it outside your apartment and in the morning it was still there. It was wonderful on summer nights to cruise around the city at one, two, or three A.M. wearing jeans and a t-shirt with a girl on the seat behind me. If I didn’t start out with one, I’d find one.” -Marlon Brando

Charles Lindbergh- As a young man, Charles Lindbergh had a love for the mechanical workings of machines in general and especially for internal combustion engines. In high school, he ordered a twin-cylinder 1920 model Excelsior “X” motorcycle through the local hardware store. While it is said that Lindbergh was a shy and quiet young man, he rode his bike fast and hard, and as many of his friends remembered it, rather recklessly. “I loved its power and speed,” he admitted. On the way in to the town he lived in, Lindbergh would tear down a path that ran past a power plant, through thickets of thick bushes, and along the steep banks of the Mississippi River. One person who saw him on this path said this about the experience fo watching him, “it seemed like he wanted to see how close to the edge he could get without plunging in.” The owner of the plant became so concerned with Lindbergh's unsanctioned backwoods racing that he closed off the trail. But it seems Lindbergh had speed in his blood, and the future pilot was as cool on that bike as he was behind the controls of a plane; he never had an accident.

Lindbergh on his Excelsior

James Dean- Many know the name of James Dean. Many will remember him for the tragic car accident that took his life, while driving in what some speculate, was a cursed Porsche. What many don't know though, is that from the age of 15, Dean loved anything with 2 wheels. His first motorcycle was a 1947 CZ 125cc. He would later move on to a 500 cc British  Royal Enfield. His love of speed on two wheels earned him the nickname "One Speed Dean". Dean would go on to sell his Royal Enfield for an Indian Warrior TT. The last bike he would ride, before his "cursed" Porsche speedster claimed his life. 

These are only a few of the great men who've followed the ways of the open road. It seems more often than not, however, that behind a man who has done great things and has a vision, there is a story of someone who loves the freedom of the open road on a motorcycle. The freedom that can only come from riding in the wind with the roar of a powerful motor at your back. The road is always calling, and there will always be great men and women to answer that call. Stay tuned next time, for another portion of LRS Myths, Legends, and Tales from the Road...

by Jeremy West

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