Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas to You from IHG!

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas!

All I want for Christmas is SPRING!(oh and a motorcycle but i've already asked for that like a zillion times!)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

From the Eyes of a Passenger...

Being a passenger on a motorcycle has brought incredible joy and satisfaction to my life. If you ask anyone that knows me they will tell you I'm motorcycle obsessed. Guess what?? I'm proud of it!

The motorcycle experience began for me in high school. My girlfriends and I would ask guys for motorcycle rides. I remember my first ride was on a sport bike and I could have cared less that it was raining. Then there was senior prom. My date owned a Kawasaki and we took it cruising in our prom wear. We must have looked like two crazy kids.

I took a hiatus from the motorcycle life during my twenties and early thirties but that freedom and joy that I felt from riding stuck with me all those years. One day out of the blue I talked my husband into renting a Harley. We had it for the weekend and the feelings of complete freedom came rushing back. The next step was purchasing our own bike. I'll never forget the thrill of ringing that freedom bell and knowing wonderful adventures were ahead of us.

Riding for me is a passion. It is always an adventure. Being on two wheels with nothing around you to protect you. Rubbing shoulders with the elements is the greatest rush I've ever felt. I've experienced things I will never experience in a car. I am sheltered in a car even if I roll down all of the windows. I will never experience what is going on outside in the same way as I do on a motorcycle. I am in the thick of it, feeling everything going on around me. Smelling every smell, seeing all the sights, and hearing every noise out there. It is a spiritual experience.

I've had two of the most amazing experiences of my life as a passenger. Both in South Dakota during trips to Sturgis Bike Week. The first was in 2004. Kristen, Big Don, Marsha and me were on our way to Winner, South Dakota for the night. It was dusk and a storm was brewing ahead of us. It began to rain and the wind picked up. South Dakota can be windy. I was watching the sky and I couldn't believe what mother nature was sharing with me. On one side was a beautiful rainbow, straight ahead were wicked bolts of lightening, and on the other side was the most beautiful pink sky I've ever seen. I was right out there in the middle of it. To this day that memory still gives me chill bumps.

Another memorable experience happened on our way to Sturgis this year. We left Mitchell, South Dakota in a misty rain. We were motoring along and could see this dangerous looking cloud ahead of us. The closer we road toward it the larger it became and before we knew what was happening we were riding through this wall cloud. Living in Iowa, I honestly have to say, I have never seen anything like it. I held onto Dan tighter then I ever have before because I felt at times like we might blow over or I might blow off the back. It was such a rush. I kept thinking to myself how incredibly fortunate I was to experience that. That is the point of two wheels, it's all about having the amazing adventures.

I've logged many miles as a passenger and with every ride is a new memory made. Some of the best have been early morning rides out in the country. No traffic, just my husband Dan and me on our beautiful iron horse moving across the countryside. No words being said between us, just quiet time. Time to let all the stresses leave our heads and all the freedom of the open road. Miles of farmland surrounding us. Another beautiful time to ride are those last winter days when we can't take it anymore and the roads seem OK. We bundle up and ride out with snow still on the ground and the non riders of the world starring at us like we are nuts. I know they are correct, I am nuts about the feeling that is forever in my soul.

Being part of the motorcycle lifestyle has made my life richer with the experiences I've been fortunate enough to have and because of the many people I've met along the way.

There is a saying, "If I have to explain you just won't understand." Mere words can't explain the feeling. It is like describing the color blue to a sightless person, until it has been experienced it is virtually impossible to describe.

In March of 2006 I got my motorcycle license. I have yet to own my own scoot but I know someday it will happen. Until then I look forward to many more adventures with Dan on our beautiful Street Glide.

Happy riding! And to those of us that have to wait until the spring, Happy Riding Memories!


Tuesday, December 02, 2008

An Interview with John Dodson, Owner of Gangster Choppers

While I totally love Harley Davidson I'm a big fan of custom choppers. One day I was surfing MySpace and found John Dodson owner of Gangster Choppers. I totally loved his bikes and contacted him about an interview. John was nice enough to say yes.

So John...Give me a bio about yourself...
I was born in '74, born and raised in Richmond, Virginia. Both my Mom and Dad were into cars and influenced me and greatly cultivated my passion for old bikes and cars. I have pictures of me propped up by my toy box with drag racing stickers all over it before I could walk. My Mom would pay for my magazine subscriptions while I was in middle school, some of those early mags are still in a closet somewhere.

When were you first aware of your interest in motorcycles?
For some reason (?) Dad bought me a mini bike from JC Pennys when I was 5 yrs old. I wore the old skool helmet with the goggles! There were little ads in the back of Hot Rod Magazine back then for stickers! Yes stickers. They had every design that you could think of, Iron Crosses, Skulls, Girls, Flames and all of the traditional STP, PENNZOIL, SkyJacker shocks etc... So, one evening my Dad ordered a few and we stuck them on the mini bike! A custom was born? By the way just like a bunch of broke bikers...we kept the mini bike in the "mud room".

What was the first bike that you owned?
1ST -JC Pennys mini bike
2ND - '82 HONDA XR80
then they all ran together, one dirt bike after another till the first Harley Davidson when I was a young 17.

How did you decide on the name Gangster Choppers?
Truthful, I have family that was part of a famous NYC crew. I remember stories as a kid and back then it was only the Godfather for a mob movie. Now they're hundreds of gangster flicks. But, back then it was my Uncle Sal, his stories and the movie Godfather.

Where do you get your inspiration?
I know that tons of guys and gals say "oh, I just love bikes!!" Well that's true for me too but, I need something more. I want an outlet to display my metal fabrication skills. If I am to fulfill the desire to machine functional art, a motorcycle offers the perfect platform. Cars are great too, but you can cover a bunch of junk up with a car, you can close the hood, choose not to open the trunk, put upholstery over sloppy floor pans or hide sloppy wiring behind a dashboard. Not a bike. Everything is seen. Since I choose not to have any "frills" pieces to just sit there and look pretty, all my art needs to be functional. So ordinary items like foot controls, fuel valves, exhaust pipes, key switches, motor mounts take on an art form.

Who are your idols?
I don't have idols, that may be something best left for 10 year olds. I am old enough to know that everybody past and present (except for Jesus Christ) all where humans and we all make mistakes. So RESPECT is the word for me. Finding someone to respect is tough, you all should evaluate this theory. I respect my Grandparents, keeping a marriage together for 59 years. My Dad for working and supporting the family blue collar style for 36 yrs and counting.

Do you have a favorite build?
My favorite build is always the recent one I am building and machining parts for, beating the fenders out stuff like that. You must realize that in order to keep these award winning bikes churning out - I have to be 110% into each one.

Do you manufacture your own motorcycle parts?
Yes, Gangster Choppers manufactures and distributes parts to customers daily.

How many bike shows have you been in and what awards have you won?
There are only a select few Motorcycle Shows I will enter my creations into. Most shows are too small to really provide an honest level of competition, so as a professional builder I want the amature and spectators to enjoy themselves. I provide my bikes at those shows for display only.

What motorcycle magazines have you been featured in?
All the good ones! haha. No really, most all the American mags, bunch of regional publications, and about a half a dozen international magazines.

What has been your most rewarding and memorable moment since you began in the motorcycle industry?
I like working in the shop, seeing the bike come together. I love riding the bikes, bikes most people would feel uncomfortable sitting on. I like it when little boys and girls stare at the bikes. If the kids think its cool then it is for real. I would have to question my style if ordinary 55 year old men were all into my bikes.

What is your favorite rally?
like Sturgis the best and kicking off the year in Daytona is cool too.

How many people work for you and who are they?
Bunch of idiots that try and provoke me into anger fits daily. No, no, I am easy going but I am really detail oriented. My Dad, Ken Dodson does machine work with me. Larry Mann performs all the wiring tasks. Robert service tech. Brian direct helper to John Dodson. Patrick fabricator. Chris welder with 20 yr experience. Ralph machinist with 14 yr experience. Norman an old style craftsman who knows everything about forging steel, heat treating, brazing, silver solder, and tons of other boring stuff it takes 40 yrs to acquire knowledge of.

Where are you located?
Richmond, Virginia is home to The Gangster Choppers Global Headquarters

What is the average price of one of your choppers?
Show winner built from scratch ready to "wooh" the crowds are $55,000. Very nice bikes can be had for much less though.

Do you have Support Gear that people can buy?
Gangster Choppers is a world recognized logo and is trademark protected. Tee shirts, Shop shirts, Caps, pens, posters, Ladies tops, panties, just about anything can be had with the Gangster Choppers logo.

Where is the best place in the United States to ride?
I personally enjoy riding along the Appalachian Mountains. I love the scenery. I also enjoy riding to OBX North Carolina. Entering into any ocean town and having the salt water smell hit you is 'bout as good as it gets.

What advice would you give to someone looking to get into the chopper/motorcycle industry?
Rule #1 If you cannot build a bike better than the top 10 builders in the world stay away from it, there are enough idiots in the industry that doesn't belong and its ruining it daily for the good ones. You will not succeed.

If you actually have spare time what do you do to fill it?
In my spare time I like to ride and also go to car shows / cruise ins.

If you could do any other profession what would it be or is the motorcycle/chopper lifestyle the best gig ever?
love what I do, but if it wasn't the bike industry I would have to be involved in something that run off of gasoline and burns oil, so I would do something with old cars.

What is your latest project?
Your readers will really love this one. A 1987 Harley Davidson FXR. It caught my attention and I involved myself knee deep and it turned out way cool.

Favorite swear word?
When a bike upsets me its a Whore. When a person upsets me they're a Cocksucker.

What music are you listening to?
Shooter Jennings, Metallic, Old & In The Way

Check out Gangster Choppers @