2014 Atascadero Day 1. Bud Ekins & Steve Wright Memorial Tour
Steve and his beautiful JDH
We met again last weekend like we always do in Atascadero in early May to ride antique machines and tell lies. But this time was different. Our leader for the last decade passed away unexpectedly just before the tour. Readers of OcchioLungo will of course be familiar with Steve Wright. He’s featured in the Atascadero Tour reports, or in the bibliography pages, and seen in the shots of various old bike shows and rides. His story has been better told in other places, but I knew him as the Brit expatriate who lived and breathed early American motorcycles. Years ago he moved to the central CA coast and immersed himself in biking history, befriending everybody along the way. He gathered the stories of the old time board track and dirt track racers when they were still around. He studied the old adverts, the old books and the bikes themselves. He poured all that research into several great books that stand out from the others in any rider’s library. My favorite is shown below and is still available here:
But Steve did more than write books. A lot more. He listened more than he spoke. And when he spoke, it was either a very truthful anecdote about early bikes, a movie or book, or it was a good joke! I never had reason to doubt any factoid of his, and his quick smile and laugh was known to all of us. When Steve wasn’t writing (with his beloved Cindy editing) he was working on the earliest and prettiest machines you can imagine. He would restore them for himself and for others, and I always loved to see the pics of the wonderful machines and great work that he did. He didn’t ride on the Atascadero Tour very often, as he spent his time manning the trouble truck following the old crocks and delivering fuel and sometimes a tow rope as needed. He took the responsibility very seriously, and was like a mother hen to all us. I’ll let that sink for a minute while the reader contemplates our rag tag group and imagines how many directions we could possibly be going in, all at the same time!
Jim’s 1913 Sears, Roebuck & Co.
Cindy passed away a few years ago and it understandably crushed Steve. He was from the old Brit culture though, and kept his chin up. He also kept his own illness to himself almost right until the end. That was the hardest part about the tour this year, that almost none of us had the chance to say goodbye and to thank him for all that he had done for us and for the old bike hobby around the world. Steve was the healthiest of all of us, bicycling 100 miles like it was nothing and eating and drinking within reason (which can be a rare thing on an old bike tour!). He was 73, but looked a decade younger.
Steve had renamed the Atascadero Spring Tour into the Bud Ekins Memorial Tour after Bud passed a few years ago. Dave Bettencort volunteered to organize the ride this year and next, but we don’t know if we’ll start to call the Bud & Steve Memorial Tour or something like that. Those two guys certainly were giants in our culture and deserve to be remembered for years to come.
Steve is survived by his daughter and grandchildren and a motley crew of old bike guys.
Here’s Urban unloading his early Yale single wearing his proper safety shoes. With AIV, belt drive and a coaster brake, these simple machines will still get you up and down the hills better than you may expect.
Dave brought out this wonderful 192 Excelsior belt drive twin. It was a great turn out of X’s this year, with 5-6 examples all made pre 1916.
Mike T. inherited this 1914 Excelsior a few years ago and is returning to the road. There were some holes in the Schebler float that caused a bit of trouble, but a spare was donated by one of the guys in the parking lot.
Fass Mikey’s 1913 Excelsior. The only X fitted with Nitrous Oxide injection! This one rode across the USA on the first Motorcycle Cannonball, complete with his home made 20” diameter rear disc brake.
Steve’s 1915 X also did that first Cannonball.
A top view of Steve’s bike with the speedo shifter, footboard, etc.
Patrick brought his neat 1920 Ace. Here’s a video of it idling:
Urban brought this 1911 HD twin, fresh from Las Vegas.
Buster gets a little help timing the exhaust cam on his Yale from Wes and Scott. Having an automatic inlet valve, there is no inlet cam to time.
Buster’s bike sleeping in the parking lot.
Mike brought this Indian for the Friday ride. I think he said it was from 1917 with that Powerplus motor and the wheel discs. They are distinctive!
The little round panel must be unscrewed to provide access to the Schrader valve and pump up the tube.
Dave B, Plumber Dave, Mike M. and Richard M. Lunch was at the Coffee House, a converted old gas station in San Miguel, CA.
Two bikes that I love. My 1913 Veloce parked next to Steve’s 1915 Excelsior during a safety meeting.
One more pic of Steve’s bike.
One of the 1915 Harley Davidsons on the tour.
Plumber Dave, Mike Madden, Norm Gerlach, Richard Morris and Jim Madden.
That’s it for day 1. I have 20-25 more pics from day 2 that I’ll post ASAP.