A couple of years ago, I became the proud owner of a black 2006 Harley-Davidson Road King motorcycle. And why not? I am sober and of relatively good faculties and judgment. A lot of my good friends ride motorcycles, and I would sometimes feel left out. No, the time was definitely perfect for me to start my life as a motorcycle enthusiast.
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The man who has produced everything Loaded has ever done is Martin Feveyear. Jupiter, his studio here in Seattle, lies in the heart of Wallingford, and in summer the area becomes a veritable crossroads for bikers going to and from anywhere else in Seattle. In 2001, I made the first Loaded record with Martin, and he would lay out photos of a bike, still in pieces, that he was putting together. The story goes that this same bike had been in Martin's family from the day he was born in the south of England. It was a 1951 Sunbeam SX, and his family's lone mode of transportation!Some of Martin's first memories are of him and his sister riding in a sidecar attached to the old Sunbeam with his mom and dad on the bike. For family vacations, they would hook a trailer to the back, sometimes stopping to push the whole contraption up long hills in the English countryside. That bike just didn't have the horsepower for a family of four, a sidecar, AND a trailer.
By 2001, Martin's dad had shipped the whole bike in pieces to Martin, who was going to do his best to fix the broken bits and put it all back in working order. I only say that Martin was going to do his best, because while he is exceedingly proficient in the studio, a mechanic he is not. By trial and many errors, though, Martin did eventually succeed in getting the 'Beam back in tip-top shape, and to this day that bike gets him around town probably 60 percent of the time. He even took his 6-year-old daughter back to England this year and put her in the sidecar of a vintage Sunbeam, and together they toured the country. Pretty cool.
My point to the Martin story is that I watched all this go down, and started to query myself why I wasn't riding. That is when I got my bike. Sure, I had ridden motorcycles before, but was in no way an expert. During my late teens and 20s, I would say that it was a GREAT and GENIUS thing that I did NOT have a motorcycle. That would have been an accident waiting to happen. Besides, you can't drink a cocktail or all those other bad things while shifting gears on a bike. The one time I did get on a bike during this era was when I got on a cop's bike during a GN'R video shoot ("Don't Cry," I think). The poor cop was just working the shoot, and he let me take his bike for a spin. I crashed it...
It wasn't just Martin who inspired me. A lot of my friends in Seattle would get their bikes out of the garage and fire them up and gallivant around town, while I was seemingly missing out on all the fun (FYI, spring in Seattle is anytime it gets over 40 degrees and it's not raining).
A year and a half ago, my band Velvet Revolver did a summer co-headlining tour with Alice in Chains, whose drummer, Sean Kinney, is one of those Seattle bike friends I'm talking about. Over the past several years we have become good friends, and this tour gave us a chance to hang out a lot together. He and I and his drum tech, Tavis LeMay, all decided to bring our motorcycles on that tour, and I got to ride around a ton of beautiful parts of the U.S.
It's funny how places where usually you would just sit around backstage all day could suddenly transform because of access via two wheels with friends. Riding in a state park in Alabama instead of listening to drums getting tuned all day over a PA system is a good thing indeed. On days off, we would ride around in whatever city we were in and go to dinner or whatever else. It staved off the loneliness of being apart from my family while opening up a great new view of places I had been before but never really seen.
I found a great deal on a sleeker and faster bike down here in Los Angeles last year. L.A. is no doubt a much more dangerous place to ride, because people in cars down here are reckless drivers in a big way. I got a call yesterday that my friend Gilby Clarke (a former GN'R guitarist) got in a bad motorcycle accident when a truck pulled out and took a left in front of him. When I went to see him in the hospital on Monday night, Gilby further told me that the guy in the truck just took off, leaving the scene of the accident. My friend "Biker" Tim (whom I have written about in previous columns), also got in a bike accident recently. Maybe I will sell this bike down here after all.
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