Posing as an art form in South Beach
A pair of Texas-built attention-grabbing American IronHorse choppers fit right in to the sexy backdrop of Miami's sultry South Beach.
Posing, posturing and cat walking through the warm evening air, the endless flow of elegant people glide through pools of brightly colored neon light. Moved by the sultry beat of Reggae, Latin and Caribbean music spilling from the nightclubs they pass, we rumble by as participants in this non-stop show. Impossibly tight clothing clings to chiseled bodies, as each exaggerated step is consciously made and faces turn to check out our rides. A myriad of colors from the decorative lights explode on the smooth chrome surfaces, and the throb of the massive, 111 cubic-inch V-Twins mix with the deep bass rhythm floating out to meet us. In a town that exists for people to see or be seen, we are turning heads as we enjoy the whole exotic, sensuous field of human experience being played out in the steamy Florida night.
We are in South Beach Miami, cruising Ocean Boulevard on a couple of clean, tight, minimalist choppers from the American IronHorse Company
. It takes something special to attract attention on this high-profile boulevard, and these Texas-built stallions are adding some hardcore American muscle to the startling array of visual stimuli on display.
South Beach is home to celebrities and a plentiful offering of Art Deco architecture, which house some of the world's finest hotels, restaurants and nightclubs.
As we slowly cruise past the multi-colored buildings, whose influence drew inspiration from the modern art of the time, especially the concept of multiple points of view from cubism, it is interesting to think also of the influence machines and motion played on the architects of the day. How would these pioneers of style react to the wild, fat-tire creations my buddy Jim and I are riding? Long, low, lean and built with a sense of purpose, both the softtail Legend and LSC hardtail with its mind-bending 280-section rear tire demand attention on the action packed Miami streets.
Built in an era when custom choppers are the height of chic and cool, a photo break elicits lively conversations from the quickly forming crowd, and some fun when one interested party won't believe these are production bikes. And yes, if he wanted, he could order one up, choose his own colors, his own specifications and ride away with the custom bike of his choice: A machine that comes with a two-year unlimited mileage warranty.
South Beach occupies less than two square miles of prized Miami real estate, but this tiny portion of the City enjoys worldwide celebrity status thanks to hit shows such as Miami Vice and CSI Miami. Add in famous designers like Versace making it his home, and the attention brought to the area by Gloria Estefan, Madonna and others, celebrity watching is high of the list of things to do. Boasting the largest collection of Art Deco architecture in the world as well, and some of the finest nightclubs, restaurants and hotels, South Beach is often referred to as the American Riviera, an ultra-chic, 24/7 street party.
Miami has a history of welcoming new waves of immigrants who decided to make the beautiful coastal town their permanent home. As a result, Miami boasts an ethnically diverse population
First populated more than 10,000 years ago by Tequesta Indians, then occupied by the Spanish in the sixteenth century, the American flag wasn't raised over Miami until 1821. In 1836 Seminole Indians and runaway slaves fought for the right to stay until as late as 1857, before eventually settling in the neighboring everglades. Next came Bahamians to found Coconut Grove. In 1891 the "Mother of Miami," Cleveland widow Julia Tuttle, convinced Henry Flagler to extend his railroad, lay out a town and build luxury hotels to benefit her 640 acres on the north bank of the Miami River. By 1896 the City of Miami was incorporated and had a railroad and an Irish-Catholic Mayor. With an interesting mix of Jewish merchants, African Americans and Black Bahamians, to name a few of the early settlers, Miami has always boasted a fantastic ethnic diversity.
Carl Fisher, famous for the Indy 500 and the Lincoln Highway, made Miami's beach the envy of the world when he co-developed Miami Beach in 1913. Today South Beach is still rated as one of the top 10 beaches in the world by the Travel Channel - an honor not bestowed on any other beach in the continental United States. The Great Depression inspired the building of a large number of small art deco hotels around the Collins Avenue and Ocean Boulevard district. Its 800 fully restored buildings are now famous as the Art Deco District.
World War II brought 100,000 people to the area, and then in 1959 something happened that would change the face of Miami forever: Fidel Castro invaded Cuba. No one dreamed what a lasting affect this would have. Over the years more than half a million Cuban exiles have poured into the area that is often touted as the "Capital of the Americas." South Beach really is the jewel in this crown, packed in from 1st Street to Lincoln Drive, including Collins Avenue and Ocean Boulevard; with a plethora of world-class amenities existing in easy walking distance from any part of the area.
American IronHorse has been churning out custom bikes for 10 years and, considering its exaggerated size, the company's hardtail LSC turns pretty well and sports decent brakes.
Riding the choppers along Washington Avenue the following day, it is time to open the throttle a little as we head out to Fifth Street for a blast across the MacArthur Causeway. Once out of the traffic we can let the engines breathe, shifting quickly through the slick six-speed gearbox as Lummus Island passes by across the sparkling water.
Hand-built in Fort Worth, Texas, at a massive 224,000-sq-ft plant, American IronHorse has been a leader in the production of top quality, high-performance customs and choppers for 10 years now. In the saddle, the long front end extending out in front of me glistening in the Florida sun, I am pleasantly surprised at the ease of operation. The bike turns well for its long wheelbase, the brakes are good, and even though I am on the hardtail it is not too uncomfortable. The view forward is of a small, neat digital speedometer and tachometer housing and a single chrome headlight. Affording, artistic images of bending palm trees against clear aqua blue skies as I ride, it is all that obstructs the view forward.
Navigating tight roads or dense traffic is never a joy on a motorcycle of this nature, and the unnecessary stiffness of the cable clutch doesn't help. I think a hydraulic unit here would be the way to go. Out on the road with about 60 mph on the clock, and the stunning Miami cityscape separated from the clear blue sky, this is quickly forgiven as we spend the day enjoying the sights and sounds of this vibrant city. Back at our hotel on Washington around sundown, it is time to sit a while and enjoy the bikes in the magical last light of day: tonight we're dressing up and walking down to Ocean Boulevard to sample the night life.
The Art Deco buildings of South Beach take on new personalities at night awash in neon.
Step into Mangos nightclub as the exotic bartender with a name you can't pronounce recommends you cool off by drinking a frozen Banana Cabana. Watch transfixed as she gyrates in time to the throbbing reggae beat, while Bacardi, Banana Liqueur, Kahlua, Pina Colada and ice get tossed into the blender. Drink a little, then head to the dance floor and vainly try to move with the crowd. Take some advice from a Columbian dancer; swing your hips, listen to the beat and watch the other dancers to get your timing right. Sit down breathless, and watch the choreographed professionals work their stuff on the bar to the amazement and excitement of the pulsating crowd.
Step back into the night under the wash of colored light and breathe some fresh air blowing in from the Atlantic Ocean. Look up at the canary yellow, pastel pink and bright aqua colored Art Deco buildings cloaked in multi-colored neon against the black night sky. Stand under a palm tree and marvel at the coconuts hanging under the slowly waving fronds.
Take a curbside table at "A Fish called Avalon" and watch the maitre-d perform: salesman, entertainer, host and confidant. Get lost in his theatricals as he attempts to woo diners from the street, or make the takers comfortable at their table of choice. Experience a sad moment as the haunted strains of a jilted Latin lover drift across the hum of dinner conversation, the elongated pauses between his emotional lines bring back memories of a heart broken years ago in a far off land. Settle back in your seat as the sidewalk between your table and the restaurant demands your attention. Enjoy the unashamed beauty of the next cover model as she sashays along this natural runway, accompanied by strutting peacocks, and confident older couples, immaculately manicured and acting out their part in the endless kaleidoscope of life passing gracefully by your table.
Eat until you can't eat any more then force yourself to take one of the fantastic deserts on offer. Sip at a strong cup of Cuban coffee as Jennifer's Flamenco dancing captivates the small crowd of diners. Let the steely sounds of Daniel Almeria's solo guitar resonate through your body as he closes his eyes and gets lost in his music. Realize two hours have passed and it is time to walk some more. Step between the parading cars on Ocean Boulevard; listen to the muted howl of a twelve-cylinder Ferrari on idle, smell the
What a gig - cruising along the azul waters of the Atlantic on big choppers surrounded by the beauty of South Beach.
unburned fuel as it mingles with the moist salty air drifting across Lummus Park. Take a last lingering look at the bright-multicolored neon glow that is South Beach and head back to your hotel.
Find your iron horse waiting patiently in the street and saddle up, unable to resist one last ride across McArthur Causeway. Ignite the fire-spitting engine, select first gear and pull strongly onto Washington Boulevard. Turn right on 5th and accelerate through the gears as the warm evening air flows across your face. See the bright lights from the Port of Miami reflecting in the dazzling chrome of the chopper beneath you, as the rhythmic pulse of the powerful V-Twin takes you back to the beat left behind on South Beach. Remind yourself to come back.
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