“Hell’s Angels love to fistfight. There’s never a shortage of drunks or foolhardy motherfuckers willing to take us on, and a lot of times we’ll take on each other. Armond Bletcher stood 6″8″ and weighed 350 lbs. He was so strong he could pick up a couple motorcycles and put them on the back of a pickup truck. In the early ’70s Armond could bench 705 lbs., but he had to arch his back to do it. He was never in competition, but he took steroids and was unbelievably big.”
–Ralph “Sonny” Barger
Jesus-H-Christ this was a big ass dude. Depending on who’s telling it, Armond Bletcher was somewhere between 6′ 3″ – 6′ 8″, and tipped the scales around 300 – 350 lbs. A friend of the Fresno Hells Angel, and a feature favorite with the staff at Easyriders magazine, Armond was literally a giant among men and a controversial figure to this day. There are many colorful tales– It’s reported that as a doorman he got away with shooting a man to death, that he was a known hitman, also Frank Sinatra’s bodyguard, and that he took horse steroids to achieve and maintain his enoromous size.
So, you may have already seen this incredible short film on motorcycle builder Tom Fugle originally shot for Born Free, but there’s a newly added epilogue that’s not to be missed. Tom’s story, succinctly captured by Scott Pommier, has resonated with so many out there that it has become a powerful tribute to a man truly considered to be a living legend.
Actor & comedian Robin Williams outside the Comedy Store, 1978 – photograph by Wynn Miller for Time & Life Pictures
The news of Robin Williams’ passing yesterday hit me unexpectedly hard. A lot of cultural icons have come and gone during my lifetime, but none in recent memory have felt as close and raw as this. All at once I was overcome with shock, disbelief, confusion, loss, and grief. I’ve always loved Robin Williams, but I now know that I didn’t truly appreciate all that he meant to me until suddenly he was gone.
A few weeks back, Dan Daughenbaugh’s 1951 BSA Star Twin custom bike generated a ton of buzz and picked up the 1st Place People’s Choice Award at the Triumph National Rally in Oley, PA. To hear the story of how the charred engine was literally plucked from the ashes of a garage fire in Philly to be reborn as the Greasy Gringo is pretty cool. In Dan’s words, “They had a Fire Sale, and there it was blackened and charred. All the pot metal parts had melted off but the cases were still good!” He took it home and dedicated himself to machining it into a land speed record bike in his barn, and mostly on a mill dating back to the 1940s.
Then fate struck– driving with his family in the Pennsylvania countryside, Dan stopped when he noticed a motorcycle that had wrecked. He thought nothing of taking the guys and their bike back to his barn where he kindly fixed them up. He also showed them his BSA barn build bike and shared his humble story which amazed them– and led to a joining of forces to make it to Bonneville together and document the Greasy Gringo’s attempt at setting a new land speed record. Obviously this takes money, and so they’ve started a campaign on INDIEGOGO to raise funds to get them to Bonneville and make a film on Dan’s inspiring story.
Denim Style — Participant at the 1st Annual Pendine Sands Hot Rod Races wearing Lee jeans. Photography © Horst Friedrichs
Horst A. Friedrichs’ thoughtful photographic curation of British style continues with his latest release Denim Style. The foreword written by Kelly Dawson, co-founder of Dawson Denim, traces the origin of denim (one of the world’s most honest, durable, and coveted fabrics) back over a thousand years ago to the dye houses of Japan, where the art of Aizome (dyeing with the fermented leaves of the indigo plant) began. The Japanese later learned to grow cotton and began weaving by hand. From there she traces the lineage of denim across France, Italy, and Britain. We so often think of denim as the quintessential American fabric, which for us it is, but many countries and cultures shared in the evolution and passion that gave us the fabric that has touched all of our lives. I mean really, who doesn’t have a favorite pair of jeans?
Leave a comment here about your favorite pair of jeans and I’ll select one submission that will receive a copy of Denim Style signed by Horst A. Friedrichs himself.
“Before Michael Jordan, Jackie Robinson, or Jesse Owens, there was Marshall “Major” Taylor. The greatest athlete the world ever forgot.”
In 1896, 18-year-old “Major” Taylor dominated the competitive cycling scene as “the most formidable racer in America,” earning up to $15,000 per race. In 1898, at age 20, he set seven world records. In 1899, at age 21, he was the first black World Champion in Montreal, and the American Sprint Champion that year and the next year, 1900.
Major Taylor was undoubtedly one of the greatest athletes of his time, but cycling soon declined thanks to the new found fascination with the automobile. The Great Depression, personal trials, and health woes took their toll on Taylor and he soon slipped away into the fog of forgotten memories. Sadly, in 1932 he died a lonely pauper in a Chicago YMCA. In 1948, Taylor was re-buried in Glenview Cemetery, Chicago thanks to the rallying support of Frank Schwinn of the Schwinn Bicycle Company. via Check out that amazing Fearnhead bevel-wheel gear shaft-drive bicycle he’s on!
RHINEBECK GRAND NATIONAL SUPER MEET, RHINEBECK, NY by Chris Logsdon
I first heard of The Rhinebeck Grand National Super Meet on a cold February day from a silver-haired New Yorker in a west side deli, “…Great bike show, small town just north of Hyde Park. You gotta go,” he said. Four months later I would experience it for myself on the back of my Triumph Legend. After three hours of riding picturesque Route 9 in Upstate New York, I turned into the open fields of the Dutchess County Fairgrounds where the weekend-long meet has taken place each year since 2007.
Among the hundreds of antique motorcycle parts vendors, motorcycles and collectibles for sale, previous years highlights included the Antique Motorcycle Timeline which displayed extremely rare motorcycles from the turn of the century all the way to up 1972, The Wall of Death Motorcycle Show, The Evel Knievel Traveling Exhibit, as well as The Antique Machinery, Tractor and Truck show.
This is the one event that I seriously regret missing this year!
Dirtquake USA, brought to you by See See Motorcycles & Sideburn Magazine is the self-described “…go fast, turn left celebration made for anyone and everyone with motorcycle unfit for the half-mile Castle Rock Dirt Circle. A spectacle that cannot be unseen, an event that will leave you trembling in anticipation as world class racers compete in four uncommon categories: Inappropriate Road Bike; Street Tracker; Kitchen Sink; and everyone’s favorite Chopper Flat Track.”
Check out the amazing recap film by Ray Gordon’s Throttled Films which somehow captures the spirit of the event that to me feels like the epic The Bad News Bears bike scene on Rocket Fuel. “It sure was a hoot, and I can’t believe we pulled it off! I don’t think a group of people could’ve had more fun. It’s just impossible.” ~ Ray Gordon
(Do not miss the 4:00 mark…)
“After losing his wife (and mother of their 3 boys) in 1958, John Penton went on an absolute tear on the enduro circuit trying to outrun his grief. Family members cared for his boys while Penton dismissed the winter cold and rode off for Daytona on his 175cc NSU motorcycle. Stopping in Atlanta, Penton won the Stone Mountain Enduro, then rode the NSU to Florida winning the Alligator Enduro, and racked up a few more wins across the Midwest– including his first victory at the Jack Pine.
Penton closed out 1958 with a road trip to Mexico. Upon hitting California on the way up the Pacific Coast, he decided it was time to return home to Ohio and did so non-stop– inspiring his brother Ted to challenge him to break the New York to Los Angeles transcontinental record.”
“On June 8th, 1959 John Penton recorded his time and location with Western Union in New York City and set off for California on a BMW R69S outfitted with an oversized gas tank. On June 10th, just Fifty-two hours and eleven minutes later, Penton rolled into Los Angeles. His record was heavily advertised by BMW, and newspapers all over the world covered the record run. Penton was now a legend in motorcycling.” via
But the story of John Penton’s awe-inspiring career does not end there. Find a screening of “Penton: The John Penton Story” near you by going to http://pentonmovie.com/see-the-film/ and reserving your tickets. I’m also proud to announce that the film will be entered in the 2nd Annual Motorcycle Film Festival in Brooklyn, NY held Sept. 24th – 27th.
TSY photography of Harley-Davidson’s LiveWire NYC Launch by Chris Logsdon & Ashley Smalley
After four-plus years of R&D, and a lot of toil, Harley-Davidson kicked-off #ProjectLiveWire with a tour of 30 dealerships across the country that launched 6/23 in NYC. Lucky motorcycle enthusiasts will have the opportunity to test ride the new electric bike and give Harley-Davidson their feedback that will help gauge consumer appetite, and the viability of their LiveWire platform. It’s been a long road for Harley-Davidson, who produced 33 pre-production prototypes at a cost of over 200K per bike, optimistically assuming back then that advances in battery efficiency would be much more robust than they are now. No such luck, it remains the technology’s achilles heel. Harley-Davidson is well aware that 53 miles per charge will not light the world on fire, but strides will surely be made. It’s definitely a well-made and ambitious bike for a new generation not beholden to Harley-Davidson’s V-Twin heritage. The big questions are– to what degree and how soon can ride range improve, and what will the production LiveWire sticker price look like?
TSY contributor, Chris Logsdon, on his firsthand experience riding Harley-Davidson’s LiveWire electric motorcycle–