During the time I worked at Iron Pony Motorsports (July 2020 to Feb. 2021) I saw several people that I’d met through motorcycling and hadn’t spent time with since before the pandemic.
That set of experiences made me realize how much motorcycling has enriched my life through the many friends and acquaintances I’ve made through it.
Most of my family and non-motorcycling friends hear me talk (endlessly) about riding and wrenching on bikes, but something I don’t think I’ve been able to adequately communicate is the social aspect of the motorcycling lifestyle.
It’s time that I close that void and canonize the friends I’ve made through riding and the great times I’ve had with them.
Though I’d planned to write this piece as a single article, it simply got too long to publish as a single narrative.
I didn’t meet John through motorcycling, but it’s one of the bonds that has made him one of my best friends. I’d been riding for a couple years when we met during the first semester of my first graduate program. John was just starting to develop his interest in motorcycles, which resulted in him purchasing a non-running 1986 Yamaha Virago 700.
John helped me do winter maintenance on my bike while we were in grad school, and I helped him get his Virago running – including dropping the engine and taking it to a dealer in my 1998 Honda CR-V’s trunk.
John is now the proud owner of a 2014 Yamaha Bolt, and most years I take a long weekend to visit and ride with him in New York’s Capital Region.
Larry Ward and Roy Dyckman
I met Larry and Roy in 2009, and the duo helped launch my motojournalism career and taught me a lot of what I know about motorcycle touring. We met in 2009 at a hotel in Greenfield, Ind. I was doing a test run for the trip I planned to take in 2010 to the World Superbike round in Salt Lake City. When I planned the test trip, I overlooked that MotoGP was racing at Indianapolis that weekend. When I pulled into the hotel parking lot, there were a bunch of other sport and sport-touring riders there – Larry and Roy among them.
We saw each other every year on the Indy MotoGP weekend for six years and stayed in touch otherwise. Since the end of MotoGP’s run at Indy, we’ve attended a bunch of rallies and races together.
Larry and Roy anchored iHeart Media’s 2 Wheel Power Hour Motorcycle Show for about two decade, and Larry welcomed me to the show’s “cast of characters” in 2016 as the show’s road racing reporter. Roy also has served as a kind of mentor to me with regard to long-distance riding and was the person who first told me about the Iron Butt Association.
It was great sharing the airwaves with Larry and Roy, and hopefully we’ll get to restart the show as a podcast soon.
I met “Speedy” Dan while I was in the process of moving to Allentown, Pa. I stopped into the local Cycle Gear during an apartment-hunting trip to Allentown, and Dan was working the sales floor that day. After the move was done, I stopped back into Cycle Gear, only to learn Dan had taken a new job at a local motorcycle dealership. I stopped in to say hi to him there, and we’ve been friends ever since.
Speedy Dan is one of the few people I can talk to about motorcycle racing all day, and I helped Dan dip his toes into long-distance riding. Dan borrowed a friend’s Honda ST1300 and followed me on my ‘03 FJR1300 to the 2016 MotoGP round at Circuit of the Americas. Though he’ll tell you he didn’t enjoy riding 3,500 miles in four travel days after having never ridden more than two hours consecutively, the experience has helped Dan in his profession as a motorcycle parts and sales pro at Fay Myers Motorsports in Denver.
I last visited Dan in 2019 and am planning to ride back out to Denver in 2023.
I met Josh in 2019 while I was covering Daytona Bike Week. I was eating lunch and working on a story on the patio at the Chipotle across from Daytona International Speedway when I saw Josh roll up on his saddlebag-clad Honda CBR300R. With a small, single-cylinder sportbike, I figured he probably didn’t come from too far away. I walked over to where he was sitting and asked where he was from. When he said, “Philly,” I had to know more. The rest of Josh’ ride to Daytona is its own story, but he and I have kept in touch and I do my best to see him once per year on my Philly/Allentown ride. I have a blast talking about music with him, as he’s a professional musician and is often familiar with many of the lesser-known the bands I like.
I met David one year when I was on my way to a MotoAmerica event at New Jersey Motorsports Park. I stopped at the Wegmans in Allentown, Pa., for lunch, and David parked next to me. When he asked me a question about my FJR1300 and I realized he was wearing a Mercedes F1 shirt, it was apparent we had similar taste in motor sports.
We struck up a conversation and have kept in touch since then. David is another person I make time to see on my annual ride to Allentown, and we’ve had great times talking bikes and F1. David takes full advantage of demo days at Allentown’s dealership, and I enjoy reading his detailed reviews of the bikes he test rides. He’s also a proud Grom owner who’s given me the best quote I’ve ever heard about Groms:
“It’s underpowered, I’m too big for it and I don’t care! This thing is a blast!”
Travis grew up about 10 minutes from my parent’s house in Penfield, N.Y., but we didn’t meet until the mid-2010s at an AMA Superbike round at Mid-Ohio. Years later, our acquaintance grew into a business relationship, as Travis was the first client served by my company, Marino Communications.
I’ve worked with Travis in a publicist/manager role since 2018 when he started racing a BMW S 1000 RR in MotoAmerica competition. He’s been a runner-up for a MotoAmerica class title several of times and is currently living his dream of being a Harley-Davidson factory racer. One of these years I’ll get out to visit him in Las Vegas … and maybe take a class at his employer, The Ron Fellows Performance Driving School.
The Iron Pony Crew
The best part of working at my favorite store on Earth wasn’t the sweet employee discount (though that was awesome). It was getting to work alongside a fun, passionate and very knowledgeable group of motorcycling enthusiasts. I wasn’t excited about working retail again, but my co-workers made the experience more fun than I could have imagined.
It was great sharing my knowledge of riding and motorcycles with Lexi, Olivia and Rachel, and I learned a lot about dirt gear and riding from Collin, Andrew and Alec. I had some great conversations about the finer points of helmets and street gear with Bill, Mat, Adam and Blake. And Joe and Michelle were some of the best managers I’ve worked for. It’s a blast every time I go back to the Pony and get to see everyone who still works there.
Larry and Jeff Markusic
I met Jeff and Larry when they politely kicked me out of their seats for the AMA Superbike races at Mid-Ohio in 2008. It was my first motorcycle racing event, and I quickly realized they were experienced racing fans when they showed up with the seat pads and scanner radios.
After that first year, I tracked down their VW Rabbit racing team’s website and have stayed in touch with them over the years. We got seats together for the Indy MotoGP races for almost every year. I get lunch or dinner with Larry when our schedules align, though it’s been more difficult since I moved to Cleveland last year.
The Soles of Akron
Another set of Mid-Ohio friends I made is the Soles family. Like Larry and Jeff, we met in the grandstands at Mid-Ohio and have stayed in touch over the years. They helped me move into my apartment in Youngstown, and I haven’t been as good about stopping to see them with the pandemic craziness going on. They introduced me to a great Serbian chicken restaurant in Akron that I need to get back to.
My boss at my only full-time motojournalism gig, Jim taught me the journalism trade and we had great conversations in the office about the motorcycling lifestyle. Thanks to Jim assigning me to cover just about every form of motorcycle competition, I gained experience that wouldn’t have been possible anywhere else. He also did a great job preparing me for my first time covering Daytona Bike Week. I’m glad Kawasaki resurrected his beloved KLR650 model, and I still need to find out what he thinks of the Indian Chief Vintage he got to replace his 1997 Honda Valkyrie.