Today, we’re proud to introduce our newest columnist, Winnipeg Willy. At least, we think we’re proud. Willy’s going to tell us about life on the prairies and on the other side of the tracks. It takes all kinds to make a motorcycling world, and Willy represents so many of us out on the Canadian road. Take a read of what he has to say, and enjoy. Ed.
My name is Willy — and I’m a BIKER. I’m going to be writing here in Canada Moto Guide, telling stories and maybe spouting off, so let me introduce myself.
It started with a Honda Z-50 in 1975, when I was an eight-year-old kid living on the outskirts of Winnipeg in a small suburb called St. Norbert. I was from the wrong side of the tracks and that little Honda helped me escape the hood. I graduated to a bigger dirt bike by about 11 and never looked back.
In the past 40 years, I’ve owned about 200 cars and trucks and about 50 motorcycles. I once owned a Honda Nighthawk for 20 minutes before selling it to a friend. I’ve also owned the same 1975 Suzuki TC 185 for about 20 years. My current collection contains about seven motorcycles – “about” because I always have one for sale and there’s always one I have my eye on.
I still live outside Winnipeg and my shop, Willy’s Garage, is packed with bikes and parts and old helmets and tarnished trophies. My hands are perpetually dirty. I’ve bought, sold and traded virtually every class of motorcycle out there, ranging from a pair of puny Yamaha scooters to a decked-out Honda Goldwing with more lights than a Christmas tree.
I’m not a rich man, but I do okay; thanks to a great wife, I also have decent credit. I could buy an R1 for my main ride, or a 1200 GS, or a loaded Valkyrie, but I didn’t. Instead I opted for a Harley-Davidson Road King. It’s my fourth Harley.
Most of the responsible motorcyclists of CMG would compare its handling to a tractor. It weighs about 800 pounds, so with all 289 pounds of me on the saddle we barrel down the highway with more than half a ton of metal and flesh. There were a couple of different colours available when I bought the bike new from Harley-Davidson Winnipeg back in 2011. I chose black. Black is good. I wear black boots, black jeans, a black shirt, a black vest and a black helmet.
In the average year I ride about 10,000 kilometres, sometimes farther if I go on a trip out of town. I live about 40 kms northeast of Winnipeg and commute every day on the bike. I’ve ridden through rain, hail, thunder, lightning and even snow. I’ve crashed at least six times, ranging from the time I was doing donuts around a fire to a head-on collision with an angry deer.
I’m a member of a motorcycle club. Maybe if we get to know one another better, I’ll tell you more about that, but for now I’ll share that it’s nothing criminal and we have a good thing going. In the summer we meet up at least once a week, usually more often. There are typically about 25 of us and we ride together in a tight pack. We have young members and old members. The young members have big muscles and big tattoos. The old members have old muscles and old tattoos. The younger guys mostly ride older bikes, while the older guys mostly ride newer bikes.
Many of my friends have nicknames. Trust me — my real name isn’t Willy Williamson. I run with guys who go by names such as Indian, Yoda, Evel Dave, Pollywood and Chopper.
Indian is a beauty. He’s nearly 70 years old and rides a Harley Softail with a Springer front end and fishtail exhaust. Back in the day Indian looked out for me, so now I look out for him. Sometimes he’s so excited to ride he forgets to bring his jacket, or a clear pair of glasses. His bike has no windshield. Neither does mine. I always pack extra gear for Indian, and since he quit smoking I always make sure I have a few extra cigarettes for him, too.
The other night we were racing down the highway in the pack on our high-performance Harleys, screaming along really good, probably going at least 110 km/h. I looked over at Indian and he was laid out flat with his chest on the fuel tank and his feet on the rear pegs. His handlebar mustache was turned upside down. He looked over at me, laughed and flipped me the universal biker salute. For the rest of the trip I grinned in the wind.
I’ve known Indian since I was a kid. He’s like the Elvis of local bikers. I have his phone number somewhere, but I don’t need it. We don’t text, we don’t call — we just instinctively know where the fun is and meet there. When I was a kid Indian owned a Harley dealership. One day when I was hanging around he asked me if I liked Harleys. I told him I preferred Sportsters. He’s been schooling me ever since.
Another one of our brothers is simply known as Rider. His Harley has more than 400,000 kms on the clock. Rider once rode to Sturgis, bought his buddy a T-shirt, went to a party, then turned around and rode home. He delivered the T-shirt, went to another party, and then returned to Sturgis. Yep, he went to Sturgis twice — in one weekend. Legend has it he spent eight hours partying and 64 hours riding. He earned his nickname.
I could wax poetic for hours about all the class I’ve seen my righteous brothers show. They know motorcycles. They’ve built bikes, bought bikes, borrowed bikes, raced bikes and dumped bikes. They talk about bikes day and night. Simply put, they live to ride, and so do I. Sure, the motorcycle is paramount to the journey, but for me — and my friends — being a biker is about so much more than what we ride. Hopefully, in time and in my roundabout way I can enlighten your view on bikers. Or reinforce it.