I have known Teddy Bitner, a.k.a. Colonel, for several years. He has great enthusiasm for the sport of motorcycling and an even greater passion for Christian outreach in the motorcycling community. He is president of the Cycle Disciples M/C Kansas City Chapter. I appreciated the opportunity to visit with Teddy and was especially interested in hearing about his antique Harley.
CC: Teddy, What is your occupation?
Teddy: I’m a retired Army officer, a college professor and consultant for the Army.
CC: How long have you been riding?
Teddy: I’ve been riding for 31 years.
CC: What was your first bike?
Teddy: It was a 1971 Yamaha 200.
CC: How many bikes have you owned?
CC: How many bikes do you currently own?
Teddy: I still have three of the seven.
CC: What is your current 'primary' motorcycle?
Teddy: It’s a 1998 H-D FXD.
CC: What do you like most about your FXD?
Teddy: It’s relatively easy and inexpensive to make changes, since it was a pretty basic bike to start with. It’s comfortable on long trips and reliable. An owner can really make this bike into about anything he or she wants – a full blown custom, or keep it a basic and reliable daily rider – or as I have done, somewhere in between.
CC: What is your dream bike?
Teddy: That would be my “other” bike – a chopped 1960 FL. I’ve always considered a chopped Pan to be the “Holy Grail” of motorcycles.
CC: Did you have trouble finding a Panhead to buy?
Teddy: I had looked for a Pan for quite a while and had kind of given up and started looking for a beat up or wrecked Sportster to chop. Then a friend of mine who had owned this particular bike since 1975 let me know he was in need of some money and was willing to sell it. I was happy to help him out and get a bike in the process.
CC: How do feel about owning a Panhead?
Teddy: I consider myself a custodian of history as opposed to just being the owner of a motorcycle.
CC: How much do you ride the Pan compared to your other bikes?
Teddy: Not a lot, yet. I got it into riding condition last fall. The motor and transmission were in good shape, but there were some issues to deal with, such as no brakes, a broken kickstand, and a leaky gas tank. It was ready to pass inspection last fall. There are a few things left to sort out, but it was mechanically sound when I got it, so I can ride it and fix things as I go along. I’ve had the bike just over a year.
CC: Is it in the original frame?
Teddy: Yes, it is. The springer font end is probably from a late 30s-early 40s Harley, possibly a Flathead, but I’m not sure. It’s extended using Ford radius arms.
CC: I believe you told me some time ago that it originally had a hand shift.
Teddy: It did, but it wasn’t a jockey shift. My friend had welded a rod onto a transmission top made for an original hand-shifter and was using the rod as the shifter with a foot clutch. Since it has only a rear brake, I didn’t feel comfortable riding it that way, so I converted it to a foot shift, hand clutch setup, which works very well.
CC: What are your future plans for the bike?
Teddy: I’m going to ride it for a couple of years pretty much as it is. Then I plan to tear it down and have someone freshen up the engine and transmission. I’m going to powder coat the frame and repaint the rest of the bike. I plan to replace the old springer with a modern one and install a disc brake on the front.
CC: What is your most memorable riding experience?
Teddy: I’ve had the privilege to ride in “Rolling Thunder” in Washington, D.C. four times. It is one of the most incredible experiences possible – 200,000 to 300,000 bikes in an unending stream moving from the Pentagon north parking lot to around the reflecting pool – through incredible crowds of flag-waving people is an awesome experience!
CC: What is your least memorable riding experience?
Teddy: Getting caught in a June hailstorm on Highway 24 just west of Colorado Springs in about 1997. The air temp dropped below freezing in a matter of minutes and the road iced over. It was pretty miserable and dangerous, with cars doing neat ice-skating style circles on the highway and into the median.
CC: In our February 2005 issue we did a Bike Club Review on the Cycle Disciples and your involvement with this wonderful organization. Do you belong to any other motorcycle clubs or organizations?
Teddy: Yes, I also belong to FORR, AMA, Jackpine Gypsies, CMA and the Greater Kansas City H.O.G. Chapter.
CC: Which motorcycle rallies & events have you attended and which is your favorite?
Teddy: A lot of small, local events over the years – with the big ones being Sturgis and Rolling Thunder. For local events, my favorite has to be Bikers with a Mission (BWAM). Of course, I’m kind of prejudiced because of Cycle Disciples’ involvement, but it’s fun to do and it supports a great cause. Sturgis is my favorite big event (getting to and from DC for Rolling Thunder is usually a drill if you take I-70). The Black Hills are great riding, and Sturgis isn’t bad if you know how to get around town and avoid the crowds. I’ve made great friends at Sturgis over the years, and really look forward to going back.
CC: Do you prefer riding in a group or by yourself?
Teddy: I like a small group of about four bikes. A small group offers companionship, help in trouble, but flexibility in destinations and routes.
CC: Who are some of your closest riding buddies?
Teddy: Cycle Disciples members.
CC: Thanks for taking the time to visit. I look forward to seeing you on lots of rides this season.
Interview and photos by Stripe