Everything comes out of the simple joy of riding an obsolete contraption in a world that is otherwise computerized, homogenized and unappealingly dull in its everyday, mind-numbing blandness. Old stuff needs constant fiddling and nervous attention just to survive. Quite literally ... there's no "cruise control", "traction control", or even any brakes, quite frankly! Every inch of forward progress is 'earned' in a way ... so there is a lot of satisfaction to be had when you actually arrive at your intended destination.
Split'n Lanes Dodgin’ Gutters is setting up for year five next month with an eclectic lineup of 50-plus motorcycles organizers Girard Fox and Tim Warner hope will both inspire and fascinate local enthusiasts. Basket Case Productions’ proverbial bow to antique and extraordinary works of two-wheeled history hits Williamsburg’s Brooklyn Bowl Aug. 18, featuring a unique 1919 Indian Board Track Racer, an injection of chopper muscle, and a least one tribute to a fallen TROG and SLDG veteran. So, for this 5th incarnation we thought we’d change things up a bit for the feature and get a bit personal. In a ‘world without cruise control’ …
1) To start, both of you ride classic bikes, pieces of art in their own rights … but these motos are ridden on a regular basis, long distances, and often hard … Girard, your 1922 Henderson, ’49 Panhead and ’46 Indian, and Tim, your classic Triumph. For the show, and in your own personal lives, how important is it for you to see these historical two-wheeled machines not only being shown, but also operated for all to see?
Girard Fox: Everything comes out of the simple joy of riding an obsolete contraption in a world that is otherwise computerized, homogenized and unappealingly dull in its everyday, mind-numbing blandness. Old stuff needs constant fiddling and nervous attention just to survive. Quite literally ... there's no "cruise control", "traction control", or even any brakes, quite frankly! Every inch of forward progress is "earned" in a way ... so there is a lot of satisfaction to be had when you actually arrive at your intended destination. Not to even mention the somewhat insane notion of attempting to operate an old motorcycle in an urban landscape such as NYC. We face all of the same dangers that modern bike riders encounter ... with the added excitement of failing metallurgy, rusted and brittle hardware, minimal if any suspension ... and the previously mentioned lack of stopping power. So, somehow, and I can't tell you exactly how, all of these challenges translate to some form of "joy". I won't try to tackle the whole "art" vs. "function" debate here. But the fact that these old things are also pretty good-lookers too? Yeah, that's a pretty cool part of it all.
My 1949 Harley Panhead is my daily rider. I sold my '46 Indian Chief last fall. The cost of gas is cheaper and it’s way more entertaining than a ride on the 'G' train, trust me. I do ride it hard, but I don't own a ‘cage’ at the moment, and I don't worry about using these machines as they were originally intended. If something breaks -- and it will -- it can mostly be rebuilt endlessly. That's the other reason the old stuff is better to me. It is made from materials that are YES, heavy, but always repairable. I don't want to remove six layers of plastic and reprogram a computer just to change a spark plug! I enjoy the long conversations at every gas stop, and I do think that people's eyes get opened a little when they witness old motorcycles being used on the road. I've never been brand loyal. I simply like what I like, and I've had many different types of motorcycles in my life. It can lead to interesting static from brand-loyal friends, and frankly I enjoy confusing people with my sudden and outwardly irrational motorcycle obsessions.
Guaranteed Brooklyn Bowl VIP parking for Fox and Warner's rides — Rahoul Ghose
Tim Warner: Well they are certainly pieces of something, aren't they?? But, seriously, I think Girard nailed it in saying that these old bikes can and are capable of being endlessly maintained and brought back to life. And that’s what adds to their appeal and spirit of the whole obsession with old bikes. There is absolutely an element of thumbing our noses to convention and the "practicality" of needing a modern bike to be able to function as a daily rider, or as in my case, my only mode of transportation. New bikes serve a purpose for sure, but they just don't speak to me or feel the same to me as the old bikes do. And that will never change. There is tight knit community of equally deranged and obsessed folks that share the same love of old bikes and are ALWAYS willing to lend a hand, advice, wrench, antidote and from time to time a deserved jab about the state of a given machine. I personally have been fortunate to have the likes of Girard and his brother Greg as well as Hugh & Fumi (of 6th St Cycle) to help me cultivate my knowledge, appreciation and patience (as well as hunger) of (and for) these "time" machines. I am grateful to know talented and experienced folks whose goal and passion is to help keep these bikes out on the road.
I share Girard’s sentiment that I am not a solely "Triumph Guy" or a "Honda Guy" or only a (god forbid!) "Harley guy". As long as I am riding something that has a story or I feel a connection to, I am happy. I have always said: taking a blast on an old bike is better than any therapy session you could pay for.
2) With this overall show philosophy, what are some of the bikes you are most excited to see this year and what are some of the stories behind these rides and their owners.
GF: It's always hard to say which individual bikes I'm most excited about seeing. I will say that we have freed-up the original concept of the show starting in 2014, at which point we were fairly determined to focus on stock vintage machines. Brooklyn Bowl is situated in the very epicenter of chopper activity in Brooklyn. With 'Indian Larry's Annual Grease Monkey Block Party', as well as 'The Brooklyn Invitational' only a couple of blocks away, and both incredible events, we didn't want to be the Johnny-come-lately, bad neighbors, stepping on anyone else's cool ideas. As a result, we decided that there was space in the hood for a straight-up vintage bike show. With the unfortunate news that 'The Brooklyn Invitational' had ended its outstanding run of annual shows, coupled with my own post-mid-life crisis, which found me purchasing my own very first chopper -- an outlandish 1940 Knucklehead beast -- we found some fresh inspiration for our 5th anniversary celebration.
For the first time, we have included some mind-bending choppers. They are, after all, a key component of the history of motorcycle riding in America. I will also admit that I'm absolutely thrilled to have Rick Petko onboard with his 1919 Indian Board Track Racer, and an extremely generous showing from the Yonkers M.C. (established in 1903). They will be sharing a 1913 Pope Single with us. Much thanks to my friend Mad Stork Ken for making that happen. Of course, we love all the machines that are coming … that's why we invited them!
TW: I too am looking forward to having Rick's board track racer in our show ... And yeah, the choppers will be a fun addition for sure. Man, we have been so lucky over the years to have so many priceless/rare machines grace the room. But the thing that has come about from our show over the years are the rare and unique bikes that folks ride in on. So, I always look forward to seeing what shows up outside on the street. We've even pulled a couple bikes into the show!
3) If there was one bike either one of you could get into this year’s show, what would it be, and why does it make your must-have list?
GF: That's easy ... I've been trying for years to find a double-engined drag racing bike of any type. With no luck so far. Although, to be completely honest, my friend Brian Keating offered to let me show his double BSA-engined dragster if I picked it up and returned it. I sadly just can't make it happen this year. Cheers Brian.
TW: Are you asking for a wish list? I could go off, but for sake of time and space, the three that come to mind (and I most recently have been drooling over on IG) are:
- 1965 Triumph TR6sc 650 V Twin. The quintessential "Desert Sled" Racer. What dreams are made of ...
- 1930 Brough Superior SS100. Or any year ... or any Brough for that matter.
- 1932 HD RL Racer ... nuff said!
2018 Split'n Lanes Dodgin' Gutters show — Rahoul Ghose
It is absolutely a labor of love! We owe a lot to Peter Shapiro and Charlie Ryan ... co-owners of the Bowl. We brought the idea of a motorcycle show to them as a half-baked crazy whim, and they both said "Do it!" without batting an eyelash.
4) Do you think shows like this also help keep the maker culture alive … enthusiasts who work on their own bikes … people who will even go as far to build a part from scratch if parts for their bike no longer exist?
GF: Not really sure? I think that our inclusion of choppers this year will hopefully be a source of inspiration for that. Those dudes have always been working in relative isolation, with little to utilize as a guide other than animal-determination and the kind of obsessive drive that really impresses me.
TW: I think that was always our intention in putting this show on. Whether it has motivated or inspired anyone to start tinkering or riding old bikes … that I don't know. But I love that we put this show on during the day, keep it free and accessible and have this spectacle of old rare and unique bikes inside and out for people of all ages who may not know anything about motorbikes. To be able to get up close and personal with the bikes and their owners … that’s what makes our show cool for me.
5) Split’n Lanes Dodgin’ Gutters is somewhat a labor of love for both of you. What does it take to organize and event like this and who are some of the people who help you behind the scenes?
TW: Honestly, if this could somehow be our full-time job, this show would be so much more fantastical and ridiculous. Seriously. The fact that we both hold down full time jobs and are able to (somewhat) pull this show off annually is a testament to the support and encouragement and help we have around us.
GF: It is absolutely a labor of love! We owe a lot to Peter Shapiro and Charlie Ryan ... co-owners of the Bowl. We brought the idea of a motorcycle show to them as a half-baked crazy whim, and they both said "Do it!" without batting an eyelash. Then we asked them a second time, thinking maybe they were just saying it to shut us up, and they said, "Pick a date and do it!" Can't thank them enough for the opportunity to do our thing in their house. We do too much ourselves ... but hopefully keep laughing throughout. We have trouble focusing on the work necessary to pull it off, ‘cause all we wanna do is take a ride! We are mostly happy to see all of our friends hanging out together every year, and proud to keep the show free.
6) One exciting announcement this year already released is that you’ll have noted photographer David Carlo – of TROG fame – on hand to document all of the action. How important is photography in capturing the mood and atmosphere of the scene and the characters that permeate it?
GF: David Carlo is simply a Master. We are very lucky to have him involved this year. David will be helping us to create our first ever "catalogue" of the show ... taking portrait shots of bikes and their owners as well as capturing the general atmosphere of the spectacle. It can be challenging to really get it all. So much happens indoors and outdoors at the same time. The spontaneous and unexpected arrival of machines out on the street, is one of my very favorite aspects of our show. We really never know whom or what will show up. At some point we will have catalogues available for purchase, and David will be posting downloadable images afterwards too. I like having a real piece of printed material in my hands ... a catalogue has been something I've wanted to do for a while, and we are happy to make this a part of our 5th anniversary celebration.
TW: We have ALWAYS wanted to have a photography element to the show, whether it was documenting the event or featuring the super talented photogs that specialize in capturing all things motorcycles. To say we are stoked that David has come on board is a massive understatement.
Organizers will pay tribute to a long-time supporter -- Joe Oz -- who passed away unexpectedly earlier this year — Rahoul Ghose
Words can't express the sense of loss that Joe has left. But one thing that has been and continues to be apparent is that his spirit will ALWAYS live on at these events and with each and every one of us that were so fortunate to be touched by Joe's kindness, energy and friendship. We will pay tribute in our own way for sure at SLDG 5.
7) On a very sad note, we lost a huge riding personality this past year in March … Joe Oz … a larger than life character who took events like TROG and SLGD to another level. Do you have anything special planned this year as a remembrance?
TW: Words can't express the sense of loss that Joe has left. But one thing that has been and continues to be apparent is that his spirit will ALWAYS live on at these events and with each and every one of us that were so fortunate to be touched by Joe's kindness, energy and friendship. We will pay tribute in our own way for sure at SLDG 5.
GF: I'm still in a state of denial about my friend Joe Oz. He will be missed by so many people, and I will never forget his unconditional friendship. I am still working on plans for a tribute to him at this year's show.
8) I’ve also heard there will be even more bike parking outside the Brooklyn Bowl Venue this year on Wythe … tell us a bit about the show outside the show … some of the incredible bikes that roll up to be seen.
GF: We pretty much turn the entire block in front of Brooklyn Bowl into motorcycle parking only. As I've already said, it is one of my very favorite aspects of the show. It's the unknown, unplanned surprises on the street, that help to keep our event from becoming too static or museum-like. Every year we've grabbed machines from the street to add to the indoor show. We even created a 'Best from the Street' trophy which was won last year by racer Dave Roper, having ridden in on his humble but tasty little 1968 Suzuki TC200. He strapped the trophy to the bike with (also vintage) bungee cords and drove home looking like a bemused and bearded version of Marlon Brando in 'The Wild One'!
The street scene is our "punk rock" counterpart to the punk rock being played inside by our fabulous D.J. Bob Walles.
9) Do you have any more surprises you want to share with us about 2019? Where do you see SLDG going in the future?
GF: No! You have to come to the show for the rest of the surprises! The only "future" is Sunday, August 18 from Noon to 6:00 pm ... everything after that is an unfathomable mystery.
Dick Dale checking out the bikes at the 2018 Split'n Lanes Dodgin' Gutters show — Rahoul Ghose
We were fortunate enough to have Joe Oz meet one of his childhood heroes in Dick Dale (RIP) who had just played the Bowl the previous night. Dick actually came into the show as we were still setting up and spent almost two hours combing over the bikes and talking to the bike owners and taking pictures with them. Very special moment for everyone ...
10) If you could reduce your SLDG experiences over the past years to one special memory what would it be for both of you.
TW: Wow. So many come to mind but if I had to narrow it down, two come to mind. We lost our dear friend Ray Abeyta in the Fall of 2014. He painted the artwork for our 1st SLDG show that summer and was gracious enough to let us raffle off the original artwork.
The following year, we contacted Ray's dear friend Robert Garey -- an amazingly talented painter in his own right -- who generously offered to create the artwork for our show. He created a beautiful painting in the vain of Ray's the prior year and with Ray's likeness in the (work) as a beautiful tribute to his good friend. In kind, Robert’s painting was also raffled off at the show.
The second memory was from just last year. We were fortunate enough to have Joe Oz meet one of his childhood heroes in Dick Dale (RIP) who had just played the Bowl the previous night.
Dick actually came into the show as we were still setting up and spent almost two hours combing over the bikes and talking to the bike owners and taking pictures with them.
Very special moment for everyone ...
GF: That's a tall order! Pretty impossible. But if I ‘had’ to answer that, it would be the moment in perhaps our third year? ... when I said to Tim (after two years of being stressed-out and overwhelmed by everything while trying to set up and open the doors on time) ..."OK ... this year we're going to find five minutes to hang out and walk through the entire show together ... and we're going to force ourselves to have five minutes of FUN!" And I'll be damned if we haven't been having a hell of a lot of FUN ever since! It worked. Sometimes you've got to plan stuff like that, it doesn't always happen automatically!
11) Any last words for those coming out this year?
GF: The whole idea behind our 5th anniversary celebration of 'Split'n Lanes Dodgin' Gutters' is that we want to thank YOU, all of our friends and families for all of the support you've given to us … whether by loaning a machine, helping to push a bike up the ramp, or by simply showing up. It's all about OUR FRIENDS, and we want to thank everyone by making this the most fun event yet! Cheers! Now get your butts down here.
TW: Gonna be a great weekend of all things bitchin' motorbikes! Starting on Saturday with Vander's Let the Good Times Roll party, and Split'n Lanes Dodgin' Gutters on Sunday. Ride ‘em, if you got ‘em! Whoo HOOO!
Our Split'n Lanes Dodgin' Gutters hosts Girard Fox and Tim Warner — Rahoul Ghose
I do ride it hard, but I don't own a ‘cage’ at the moment, and I don't worry about using these machines as they were originally intended. If something breaks -- and it will -- it can mostly be rebuilt endlessly. That's the other reason the old stuff is better to me. It is made from materials that are YES, heavy, but always repairable.
The 2019 SLDG hits Brooklyn Bowl Aug. 18 and runs from Noon to 6 PM. The show is family friendly, free and open to the public. You can also check out the NYC Motorcyclist gallery from the 2018 event: click here.