FARGO — A longtime rider affectionately refers to it as “the disease,” but one that people don’t mind catching.
John van Dam, 69, of Fargo, said once a person has been bitten by the motorcycle bug, it’s pretty much over.
“Basically, there’s no cure,” he said, with a laugh.
Motorcycle fans in the Fargo-Moorhead area have countless ways to practice their pastime, and it's clear patriotism, philanthropy and socializing are at the core of many events.
On any given summer weekend in the region, riders can find vintage bike shows, pub gatherings, group rides and fundraisers to benefit a variety of causes, including suicide prevention, homeless people, sick children and veterans.
Harley-Davidson of Fargo holds its Stars and Handlebars Weekend on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 13 and 14, at its West Fargo store.
Jim Bolluyt, 44, of West Fargo, organized the summer's final FM Classic Bike Night on Tuesday, Sept. 10 at Drekker Brewing Company. He said he doesn’t need another excuse to ride, but will use one whenever possible.
“It’s nice that somebody benefits from it, outside of just you having fun,” Bolluyt said.
Years back, riding may have had a bad rap, partly due to the prevalence of motorcycle gangs like the Hells Angels and Outlaws.
Jim Moe, 61, of Fargo, who rode one of his bikes to the Drekker event, said he’s familiar with those gangs, having worked as a bail bondsman for 20 years.
People who ride today represent a broader cross section of the population, including professional types, blue-collar workers, retired folks and women.
Alexis Engelking, 28, of Fargo, is the marketing coordinator at Harley-Davidson and just bought her first motorcycle a few months ago. The Harley Sportster Iron 1200 has a custom pink paint job.
“It has a lot of sparkle,” she said.
Who rides, what they ride
Engelking wants more female friends to get involved because she said they'll find riding is easier and more fun than they’d think.
When she took a motorcycle safety course, there were more women than men learning to ride. “All of us passed,” she said.
There’s even a female riders club in the Fargo-Moorhead area — the Red River Valley chapter of Women in the Wind.
Some motorcycle clubs tend to organize exclusively around certain brands, but Moe doesn’t discriminate, as an owner of Honda, Norton, Triumph and Harley bikes. “The circles I run in, we run the gamut,” he said.
When asked about the number of bikes he owns, Moe said, "If you know how many you have, you don’t have enough,” but later divulged that he has more than 20 bikes.
He’s quick to say which bike is his favorite.
“The one I’m on today,” Moe said, a smile poking out of his long gray beard.
For van Dam, as a teenager in the mid-1960s, the sight of a friend’s Ducati 175 motorcycle was all it took to get hooked. “That thing got me,” he said.
Others were introduced to bikes by their fathers.
John Rogers, 69, of Fargo, said he remembers riding with his dad on the tank of a Harley. “He’d always let me run the throttle, which may have been a bad idea,” Rogers said, laughing.
Jim Syvertson, of Fargo, said his dad rode an old Indian motorcycle. “He kind of got me started, and I’ve just ridden forever,” Syvertson said.
Moe said his draw to motorcycles came through a natural childhood evolution — from the tricycle on. “We get a motorcycle, we can travel the world. And I wanted a motorcycle,” Moe said.
Why they ride
The exploration aspect is a big reason van Dam rides motorcycles. “You see a road and say, 'I wonder where that goes?' And just take it,” he said.
Senses are heightened and certain smells “come at you right away,” van Dam said, unfiltered by any car ventilation system, and the temperature can drop 15 degrees when going from sunlight into shade.
Engelking said riding is a great stress reliever. “The only time I get peace of mind is when I’m on a motorcycle,” she said.
Perhaps the biggest appeals of riding mentioned are the sense of freedom it brings and the similarity to flying. “If you can throw in a couple of nice hills along with some nice curves, it’s hard to beat,” Syvertson said.
Dan Jacobson, 65, of Moorhead has raced motorcycles professionally much of his life and has a son who does the same. The elder Jacobson also organized the American Veterans Motorcycle Show, held Sept. 7 in downtown Fargo, which included a ride to the new Fargo National Cemetery.
“It’s very interesting where it takes you,” Jacobson said of his lifelong passion.