GASOLINE & LEATHER

I dig loud, gas-guzzling vehicles.

If I had a larger driveway, which I will one day, I’d have even more vehicles. Currently, I own one car and one motorcycle, but there was a time that I had 3 bikes and 2 cars. I’ve been told I was a fighter pilot in a past life. I love to drive fast, and aggressively, and moving from coast to coast hasn’t put out that fire.

 

 

In New York, my first bike was a 1974 Honda CB350 4. At the time I was considering purchasing a late 70’s Trans Am from a friend that owned ‘one too many’ but I was warned against it. The salted winter streets, giant potholes, garage rent and hit ‘n run rate in Brooklyn was too brutal for the upkeep of a badass classic car.

 

 

I decided to go for a fun city bike that had great shocks and a lightweight, cool vintage frame to whip around town. The Honda was my first bike and it got beat up and put to use. I bought it before I got my license so once I could legally ride I’d have to practice right away. I remember being terrified walking to the garage to pick it up and ride the city streets for the first time.

 

 

2 memorable, embarrassing tales:  I was out riding with a guy I was into, and his bike broke down. A friend’s garage was less than 10 minutes away so he hopped on the back of my bike. I was a new rider and never had someone on the back before, but my ego told me it was A-ok. About 5 minutes into the ride we were stopped at a busy intersection and my foot slipped on gravel and we both fell over, with the bike. He was not impressed. Lesson learned!

 

 

A couple of years later I had my bike parked in a dark alley behind the Heavy Leather studio. It was a tight space filled with construction materials and overgrown weeds. I maneuvered it close to a brick wall that had a clear view of another loft warehouse a few feet away. I left my studio late and it was pitch black out except for the glow of a few brightly lit studios, where artists and designers burned the midnight oil. I positioned myself between the wall and the bike to push it out and fell into a hole in the ground. Turns out a single piece of wood was covering a small ditch, which I fell into with the bike landing on top of me. Fortunately, I wasn’t injured. I had a hell of a time trying to position myself in a way that I could push the bike upright- while not harming the bike. I made it out after a maddening struggle and luckily, not one person across the way noticed.

 

 

My second motorcycle was a 1976 Yamaha XS650. The model was recommended to me by a friend who raved about how easy they are to fix and transform. I found the original bike in PA and towed it back. On the way to my loft, the bike tipped over on the truck bed; a sign for things to come.

 

The day I got the bike back from the re-build/ The day I let her go.

My friend and I immediately went to work on the bike, switching parts out and half-ass assembling it back together. At one point, the bike was stripped down to the roller for a complete rebuild. After a few failed attempts (I’ve discovered that I’m a terrible mechanic) I handed it over to a couple of friends who did a great job. Still, the bike never performed 100%. But I loved it- even when parts rattled off on the highway going 85.

 

The panther head tail light. Replaced 3 times due to extreme bike vibration.

I brought the Yamaha cross-country with me when I moved (left the Honda in Brooklyn) and rode it through Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone, Utah, Las Vegas, and the Redwoods into Big Sur. I sold it this year. I still have 3 tanks and a sissy bar from it, which I save and display for nostalgia. Check out my story on building the seat pan/re-upholstering the seat HERE.

 

Riding through the Baha in Mexico with a bunch of choppers. Ran out of gas 2x in the middle of the desert.

When I moved to Los Angeles I decided it was time for a modern bike. I love the look and attitude of vintage choppers but I wanted something reliable. I found a perfect compromise with the Harley-Davidson 72 Sportster. I saw one for sale in Vegas, a killer deal for the 2013 model. It was a Craigslist find and I immediately gave the guy $200 to take the listing down. I bought a one-way plane ticket there (from L.A.) and flew out the next night. I rode the bike back home at 3 a.m., alone, breaking 100 through miles of sprawling, majestic desert roads.

 

 

The 72 model has modern, fuel-injection technology with the vintage aesthetic, and a 1200 engine. It’s my daily errand running vehicle and long-distance toy. It’s skinny and weaves in and out of traffic effortlessly. I added a tall sissy bar to fit everything I need for a long adventure. I’ve ridden the bike through Joshua Tree, Yosemite, Lake Tahoe, and the Sierras, to San Francisco and down through Big Sur. I took it once, 12 hours each way, down the Baha in Mexico and back. It’s the first bike I’ve owned where I feel truly one with the machine and the earth.

Not long after I bought the Harley I had the itch again to own a muscle car. It was always on the back of my mind, and an unexpectedly large tax return encouraged bad decisions. I made my most pleasurably unwise purchase to date and bought a 1977 Chevy Camaro- as my daily driver.

 

 

This mean machine has practically emptied my bank account- I’ve replaced everything under the hood, including the engine, which I upgraded from a V8 305 to a 350.

 

 

It eats gas, wreaks of exhaust and wakes up the neighborhood. Everyone has learned to love it.

 

 

I had high hopes of upholstering the inside myself and re-painting it, but for now, I’ve settled on a speed-demon ratty black muscle car.

 

 

Tearing up the town with a few friends…

 

 

 

That’s it, for now…

 

Above photos taken by Simon- Car Crush Magazine

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