If you attend motorcycle rallies, you will meet interesting people with fascinating stories to tell. For me, this year’s A.B.A.T.E. event at Lake Perry, Kansas, was no exception. After a late arrival on Friday night, I had not gotten a lot of sleep. First thing Saturday morning, I needed coffee and knew that the fine folks at the Christian Motorcyclist Association booth would have it ready. While still some distance away, I could tell that there was a very unusual motorcycle parked at the C.M.A. location. It was long! At first, I expected it to be a trike, but as I got closer I realized I was looking at a two-wheeler with the front and rear end of a motorcycle but with a section added in the middle to mount the air-ride seat from a semi tractor. I knew right away that this unique bike’s owner would be a fascinating person. Visiting with Fred, I soon found out that he is a miracle man.
CC: Fred, when did you put this wild creation together?
Fred: About a year ago.
CC: I understand that this project was the result of an accident. Please tell our readers the story.
Fred: On July 22, 2004, I was on my old farm tractor and reached to put my Brush Hog mower into gear. The seat broke and I fell underneath the Brush Hog and was dragged about 150 feet. It crushed me from the waist up. Due to a series of miracles I was able to live through it.
CC: The blades didn’t engage?
Fred: If they had, I wouldn’t be here. As it was, my left shoulder was torn out of socket 4-1/2 inches. They wanted to cut it off, but I wouldn’t let them. I broke all my ribs, and my face was crushed. One of the blades cut through my skull exposing my brain. My heart was crushed to where it was leaking badly. My liver, spleen, and pancreas shut down. There were just a lot of miracles to keep me alive. Six months later I went back to work as a truck driver, more than a year ahead of schedule. I was able to drive because the air-ride seat takes the jolts out. I had a ’98 Gold Wing at the time, and it was too rough to ride. It just hurt me too bad, so I started thinking about how to put an air-ride seat on a motorcycle. The only way I could think of was to put it in front, so we scrounged a bunch of parts, and I put the thing together for about $1,000. We’ve put about 5,000 miles on it. I’ve been to a lot of shows. I set it up and let people sit on it. It’s unusual enough to draw a lot of attention. I chose not to make it pretty, so when little kids get on it and scratch it up, it’s no big deal. It’s been wonderful, and it’s given me the chance to talk to people about the miracles that God gave me to keep me alive. It’s opened some doors for me.
CC: Was there much engineering that went into it, or did you just lay out the parts and start putting them together?
Fred: We found the air-ride seat from a Peterbilt truck sitting in the snow outside a truck shop and gave $200 for it. The tubing that I used came from a scrap metal shop that had some 2-inch square tubing with ¼-inch walls. It is used to make hitch receivers for cars and trucks and has high tensile strength. I gave $6 per running foot for the tubing. It’s incredibly strong and heavy. The 1,000 c.c. motor that’s in that bike had been sitting unused for seven years. I gave $600 for a bike that had hit a deer, and the front end was crushed. We cut the front end off and set the rest on a jig table and set the tubing underneath it. I set the chair in front of it and kept scooting it back and forth until it looked like it would draw enough air to cool the engine. Then I got up on the chair and sat down with my feet in front of me and decided where the floorboard would need to stop for me to be comfortable. Then I attached the front end off of a 1975 Z-1 that I had. I gave it a couple of degrees more rake. I just did it all by just setting it up, looking at it, and deciding that this ought to work. If I build another one, I think I’ll make it about 2-1/2 feet shorter. This is my prototype, and it was all assembled just by guess and by golly.
CC: How do you title something like this?
Fred: I took my computer to the D.M.V. and showed them the documentation of my building the bike. Patrolmen spent about two hours going around the bike and finally sent a photo CD to the state and finally to the feds trying to decide what to do with my bike. They decided it was too much Kawasaki to call it a builder’s bike and too highly modified to call it a Kawasaki. They finally came to a decision, and it’s titled as a 2005 assembled vehicle.
CC: Did it turn out to be pretty well balanced?
Fred: Yeah. It’s great! The only thing that’s bad about operating it is that when you go to back up, and you turn the handlebars to one side, you are so far from the rear wheel that it wants to tip instead of just roll backward. But as soon as you start moving forward, it rides just like a regular motorcycle. When I first rode it, I didn’t know how it would handle, so I put on all of the armor gear that I had and a full-face helmet and went to the lake to try it out. I was just hammering it through the corners, and I found out that you can break the back tire loose and power-slide it through the corners. Because of the length, you can do it just like a stock car on a dirt track. It’s really a hoot! It handles incredibly well. The weight on each wheel is about 400 pounds, give or take about 20 pounds. It wasn’t an engineering feat. That’s just the way it turned out. The bike weighed about 600 pounds to start with. With the addition of the fairing and the tour back, we have about $1,200 invested in it now. We ride it everywhere. My grandkids love it. I was going to just put cargo storage on the back, but my wife said that if I left the seat on there and gave them something to hold on to, my grandkids could ride with me. We have two of them that stay with us all of the time, so the three of us can go ride together whenever Connie’s at work, and they love it. One of the questions I get a lot when they are back there is, “Who’s driving?” The second thing people want to know is how many people it takes to ride it.
CC: I can understand that question, since you sit so far from where the brake and gearshift would normally be.
Fred: The throttle cable and clutch cable are each 11-1/2 feet long. I extended 36 wires 10 feet so I could have all my switches up front, so that’s 360 feet of extra wiring. But it still feels just like a normal bike except more comfortable. That seat completely insulates me from the road. It has 8 inches of up and down travel in addition to the suspension on the bike. You can just float all day and not get tired.
CC: I’m sure it’s a hit at all of the rallies you attend.
Fred: We go every chance we get with C.M.A. When people stop and visit with us about the bike we get to share our faith with them. You know God went to an awful lot of trouble to keep me here. He did it to a point that it’s obvious he wanted me to stay.
CC: Fred, please tell us more about the series of miracles kept you with us.
Fred: The Brush Hog spit me out about 70 feet from the road and the tractor kept going. I was hurt so badly that I couldn’t get up to even crawl. My next door neighbor that I’ve ridden motorcycles with since we were teenagers was the one who found me. He came by right after it happened, saw me lying in the yard, and knew something wasn’t right. He had worked at the same car dealership for 10 years and had never been late a single time until that day. That morning he was 15 minutes late leaving for work. When he saw me, he called 9-1-1, and it turned out that a volunteer fireman on his way to work was less than a mile away. When he arrived, he immediately called for an air ambulance. A Life Flight helicopter was already in the air having just departed from Overland Park Regional Hospital and arrived almost immediately at our home in Bonner Springs. When we arrived at the hospital, the emergency room staff was just changing shifts, so there were an extraordinary number of doctors available to work on me. Several of my injuries could have easily been fatal. The head injury could have resulted in infection of my brain. My heart was seeping badly, but they couldn’t get to it immediately because of all of the broken and splintered ribs. God just went to an extreme amount of trouble to pull me through. As I began my recovery, the doctors didn’t expect me to return to work for at least two years, but I had so many people praying for me and really felt good, and I was back to work in less than six months. Since then I have visited different doctors to try to resolve some pain issues, and all of them have been amazed when they studied my medical records, x-rays, and such. Their first comment is always that they can’t believe I survived with all of those injuries. I’m pretty healthy, and I’m happy. I do appreciate life more every day.
CC: Your recovery is truly miraculous!
Fred: I think God was just showing off. When I bring the bike to the rally and get to share Him with people, they understand that it’s something special. Just like the bike is special, what God did for me is special!
After visiting with Fred, I asked Connie if she rides with him often. She told me that she prefers to ride her own bike. Fred’s bike has passenger handlebars, and Connie finds it a bit uncomfortable to be holding handlebars that don’t control the motorcycle. One thing is sure. Both Fred and Connie have the Lord riding with them everywhere they go!
Story and photos by Stripe