News

Beautiful day for Biketoberfest

By Dave Johnson, Tribune Staff

Motorcycles of all kinds in large packs or singles hit the road Saturday morning, taking advantage of a beautiful September day to head to Welland County Motorcycle Club to be part of Biketoberfest.

“People come out to say goodbye to their friends for the summer season, it’s like a farewell party,” said Bruce Bissell of the event he’s been running for the past 15 years.

Biketoberfest originally began as a fundraiser for the Fenwick Lions Club, but grew to such a large event it had to be moved to a new location. Welland County Motorcycle Club was a perfect fit, as Bissell is an honorary life member of the club which has been in existence for 70 years.

“We have such a beautiful day, I expect this place to be packed, with 10,000 to 12,000 people. The more people here, the better. People are coming from Quebec, Windsor, London, Toronto, Hamilton and, of course, the Niagara area. There could be some from the States, too.”

Bissell said all bikes and riders were welcome to attend the event, which started Friday.

“I don’t care if you own a scooter or Harley-Davidson, everyone is welcome … anyone that owns a bike.”

There were Harley-Davidsons, Ducattis, Hondas, Yahamas, Kawasakis and custom-built bikes on the club grounds. Antique bikes could be found outside and inside the clubhouse as well, forming part of a makeshift motorcycle museum.

“The bikes inside tell the history of the club … they’ve been racing here for 50 years.”

Asked what brings bikers together, Bissell struggled a bit with the question.

“I don’t know really … sometimes I ask myself that,” he said, adding he’s been riding since he was 16 years old. He’s now 68.

“Bikers stick together, help and support each other … it’s like a big family.”

One of those ‘family members’ who came out for Biketoberfest was Keswick’s Jim McAskill. He rode his 2010 Harley-Davidson Street Glide, a rolling tribute to Elvis Presley.

“It’s called ‘If I Can Dream.’ It’s my passion toward him. I grew up listening to him, my grandmother played his music when I was three years old and I have been a fan ever since,” McAskill said as he polished the bike.

After purchasing the bike, it underwent custom work which included stretching the gas tank and fenders. Extensive metalwork was carried out as well, with foot stands that are replicas of the front gates of Elvis’s Graceland, microphones on the handlebars, a .45 gold-plated record on the right side and a horn cover that looks like Graceland.

“There’s $25,000 in metal work alone … the bike is worth about $100,000,” he said, adding it was down at Graceland, in Memphis, Tenn., during Elvis Week last month.

The black bike features a paint job that shows Elvis throughout the years. McAskill had it entered in Biketoberfest’s show and shine competition.

Also in the show and shine competition was Welland’s Craig Elcich. He rode his 1978 Honda 750Four to the Netherby Road club.

The Honda is not Elcich’s first bike; that was a 1977 Yamaha XS360 Cafe Racer.

“I have three bikes, they’re all 1970-’80s. I like something I’m able to work on,” he said, adding working on the motorcycles keeps him “away from the TV set.”

Elcich can be found riding with other like-minded bikes in the Niagara Vintage Riders Club. They try and get out at least once a week to ride and meet once a month to do larger group rides.

Niagara Falls’ Jack Smith was parked beside Elcich and came on his 1973 Honda 350.

“I’ve had it for about a year-and-a-half now. I bought it with 1,100 miles on it and restored the hell out of it. I worked on in solid for a month, a couple of hours a day every day,” said Smith, who has been riding for the past six years.

He said he likes older motorcycles and Hondas in particular.

“I have a pile of them … I love the look of them.”

Asked why he likes riding, Smith said the feel of the wind on his face and just the feeling of being on a bike.

dajohnson@postmedia.com

 



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