Exiting the subterranean tube of the Holland Tunnel, the street bends slightly right as the cityscape shoots up in front of me. Buildings blotter the sky, wisps of white clouds reflecting in thousands of tinted windows. The pulse of the city beats in the beeping of taxi horns, in the rumbling engines of bustling buses, in the flurry of pedestrians on every corner. Coming around a bend, I get my first true unencumbered glance at the Freedom Tower in all its 1776-feet of glory, its spire pointing toward the heavens. Last time I was in New York City, it was still in its infancy stage, the groundwork being laid on its foundation. Seeing the tower now in its full splendor, a symbol of the strength and resiliency of our great country and its people, put a lump in my throat. At that moment, I couldn’t be prouder to be an American riding an American-made machine, the 2014 Victory Cross Country Tour.
Riding a motorcycle in New York City was something I had never done but had always wanted to do. I was on the East Coast on my way to Laconia to cover the 90th anniversary rally, but first I wanted to pay a visit to my friend Bobby Seeger at his shop in Brooklyn, Indian Larry Motorcycles. With the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone, I charted a course for Brooklyn to go see my buddy.
It didn’t take long to get lessons in New York road etiquette. First off, New York City roads are brutal. It goes beyond potholes. Chunks of asphalt are missing in some areas, and the wheel-swallowing ruts on the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge were an ominous sight from the seat of bike. Luckily the guys at Rollin’ Fast where I picked up the Victory had the suspension on the Cross Country Tour dialed in for me because the big tourer was a champ on the rough streets of the city.
(Above) To be able to inspect the craftsmanship of Indian Larry up-close-and-personal was a real treat. (Below) John the Painter dons his mask and lays a bead inside Indian Larry Motorcycles’ shop.
I quickly learned, if you give a New Yorker an inch, they’ll take a mile. Leave a crack between you and the vehicle in front of you and drivers here will merge on you in a heartbeat. Turn signals are obligatory but seldom used. The toll roads around every corner were slaying me. Twelve bucks to ride a motorcycle through the Holland Tunnel! Every time I got rolling, I had to stop and balance an 800-pound motorcycle between my legs while standing up to fish a few more dollars out of my pocket. Before I was done, it cost me $20 to escape New York.
Brooklyn was a bustle of activity, a steady stream of humanity shuffling through the streets. Sidewalk cafes were filled mid-afternoon and music competed with a street prophet armed with a microphone for auditory rights. Before long the red brick building with the larger-than-life question mark on its façade came into view and I knew I was in the right place.
When I got to the shop, Bobby was kind enough to give me a tour. Sebastian busily grinded on a tank, John the Painter held a steady hand as he welded clean beads while Dave serviced a Harley on a lift. Seeger showed me a roller with the classic twisted downtube paired with an S&S Knuckle and a Baker gearbox they had in the works for Buckcherry’s guitarist. Better yet, he said next time I’m in town he would let me help twist up a trademark downtube for a frame.
A visit to Indian Larry Motorcycles’ showroom was like stepping into sacred ground. I confess. I had never seen his work in person. What a privilege it was to see motorcycles made by his hands and being able to inspect the creativity behind works like “Chain of Mystery” was like being blessed by the Pope. The “mechanicalness” of the bikes was on full display, with almost every inch of metal either engraved, twisted or polished. The attention to detail was astounding. I could have stared at the bikes all day as they slowly revealed their intricacy.
Bobby and I ran around town, visiting his wife Elissa’s shop, Genuine Motorworks, which specializes in quality American-made clothing and shop gear. Bobby was a great tour guide and it’s always a pleasure catching up with friends. While I played with the idea of ripping around the city on one of Indian Larry’s latest builds, the White Devil, I had a 300-mile ride ahead of me after doing the red-eye flight the night before. As much as I wanted to stay and hang out, I hit the road around sundown to get a little closer to my final destination.
But getting to ride one of my favorite touring motorcycles, the Victory Cross Country Tour, in an enchanting city, and seeing the Freedom Tower in its completed glory is something I’ll never forget. Getting the opportunity to catch up with a good friend, visit his shop, and see and touch bikes created by one of the most talented motorcycle craftsman around solidifies why my visit to the Big Apple rates as my most memorable ride of 2013.