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Bob Ellis - Three Wheeling and not Slowing Down

Written by  May 31, 2004

Our paths crossed twenty years ago when Bob worked out at the gym I owned in Gladstone, Missouri. Then one evening at Knucklehead’s Saloon, we were reacquainted and the more we talked, the more it clicked on where we knew each other! We reminisced about old friends then the conversation quickly turned to motorcycles. After hearing about his physical limitations on riding a two-wheeler and how he modified his Harley, we wanted to share his experience with you.

Bob is not only a motorcycle rider and enthusiast, but he is also exceptional in the fact that he was born with a birth defect called Spina Bifida. It is a neural tube defect that causes permanent nerve damage resulting in varying degrees of paralysis of the lower limbs. There is no cure, treatment is limited and most people affected by Spina Bifida will need assistive devises such as braces, crutches or wheelchairs. Recent studies have shown that the addition of folic acid to the diet of women of child bearing age may significantly reduce the incidence of neural tube defects. A tip from the medical field; it is recommended that all women of child bearing age consume 0.4 mg of folic acid daily.

Even though Bob has used crutches for the past eight years due to the weakness in his legs, that does not stop him from riding his Harley-Davidson trike with his friends, on charity rides or the long haul trips to Sturgis and Daytona.

CC: What is your occupation?

Bob: I’m a real estate developer.

CC: What residential subdivisions have you developed?

Bob: Woodbrook Villas, Northpointe, Northycke and The Oaks, which are all Northland properties.

CC: Why do you ride?

Bob: 'Cause I’m crazy and I love getting out in the wind and rain.

CC: How long have you been riding?

Bob: Since I was 15.

CC: Who encouraged you to start riding?

Bob: It was something I did on my own.

CC: What was your first bike?

Bob: It was a BSA 500 twin motor scooter.

CC: How many bikes have you owned?

Bob: A total of six.

CC: How many bikes do you currently own?

Bob: Just one.

CC: What is the year, make, and model of your current bike?

Bob: It’s a modified 2003 Harley-Davidson, Heritage Softail.

CC: Where did you purchase your bike?

Bob: St. Joseph Harley-Davidson.

CC: Why did you modify your bike?

Bob: Because my legs are bad and I need crutches. And I kept falling over!

CC: Tell us about the chopper/trike process and who did the work on it.

Bob: My friend Lloyd and I installed a Voyager 3-wheel conversion. F.O.G. Cycles installed a 9” over narrow springer and modification frame. That makes for a lighter front end and it handles perfect, otherwise I would have to muscle it around a corner. Leaf springs don’t absorb as much shock. We changed the handlebars to 4” higher. St. Joe Harley-Davidson installed a reverse gear in the transmission.

CC: What was the hardest or most challenging part to get used to?

Bob: It rides rougher and I actually have to turn the corners versus leaning into it.

CC: What does it cost to modify a bike like this?

Bob: I bought the bike for $18,500 and spent $13,500 to modify it.

CC: Where do you store your crutches?

Bob: We used muffler pipes, welded them together and bolted them to the rear.

CC: What is your most memorable riding experience?

Bob: The night the female bartender helped me get on my bike at Lloyd’s, Firehouse North tavern. I was sitting outside on the curb after closing time when she came out and said, “Can I call someone for you?” I said, “No, but if you could just help me get my leg over the bike I’ll be okay”. She did and off I went!

CC: Which motorcycle rallies & events have you attended, and which is your favorite?

Bob: Biketoberfest in Daytona is my favorite; there are beautiful bikes everywhere. We also do several charity rides throughout the year.

CC: Which is your favorite bike night location?

Bob: F.O.G. Cycles. I like Frank, good entertainment and a great bunch of people.

CC: Do you prefer riding in a group or by yourself?

Bob: I prefer small groups, but either is fun, it’s all about the ride.

CC: Has your circle of friends changed since you started riding?

Bob: No. I have met a lot of new ones, or reacquainted, in our case and still friends with those that don’t ride.

CC: How many miles a day is a comfortable for you?

Bob: Around 150.

CC: Do you have any riding limitations?

Bob: No.

CC: You have such a positive and fun attitude, what advice can you give to physically challenged people who want to ride?

Bob: You only live once, do what you can do. There is a way around any infirmities.

Trikes have many advantages over regular motorcycles because you:

don’t have to put your feet down.
can haul a passenger without the fear of tipping over.
can ride over metal-grated bridges with no fear.
can take dirt or gravel roads with ease.
won’t get fatigued in stop and go traffic.

Trikes are attention getters and motorists are curious. They see them at gas pumps and on the interstate highways. They see it shining way up ahead on the road and can’t quite figure out what it is. If you are at a stop, people will come over and barrage you with questions. They are unique and offer a great ride if it meets your needs.

The day I met Bob for our interview, he was out riding with his buddy Lloyd Moore, and the wind was a gusty 50-60 mph, so undoubtedly this man loves to ride every chance he gets! If you see Bob at F.O.G. this summer, check out his awesome modified trike and be sure and tell him you met him on Cycle Connections! Gals…..he’s single!

Story by: Goldie Arnold

Photos by: Mike Schweder