Motorcycles are the common thread among us, but it’s the personal and emotional stories about motorbikes and how we relate to them that truly touch our souls. Last month, we brought you the story of Boozefighter Jack Lilly reuniting with the Crocker he owned in the 1930s and ’40s, an experience the bike’s owner said was worth more than the six-figure Crocker itself.
It’s been quite a while since we last ran a Reader Rides, but the heartwarming story of this 1959 Duo-Glide deserves to be shared. If your bike has an interesting story behind it, please send it (and high-quality photos) to firstname.lastname@example.org.
From Father to Son
Ricky Groves purchased his Duo-Glide from a work associate for $700 in 1971. The 12-year-old bike was painted gold and had red metal-flake flames on the fenders and fuel tank. Ricky enjoyed riding the bike, but it was put away in his barn while he was busy riding other motorcycles and raising a family.
The Duo-Glide was neglected until 1982, when Ricky dug it out of the barn and began to restore it, hoping to see its odometer turn past its original 2,029 miles. He stripped the tins and painted them to their original colors, as best he could.
Meanwhile that same year, Michael Groves, Ricky’s second son, entered the family picture. Another distraction from the bike restoration, and again the Duo-Glide sat untouched in the barn with the freshly painted tins hanging on the wall.
Although Michael distracted Ricky from resurrecting his old bike, he eventually became the Duo-Glide’s savior. For 36 years it sat until Michael expressed a desire to see it run again.
“I had told him old stories of how the bike rode,” Ricky related to us, “and I guess he felt some kindred spirit to the machine, as the original restoration started the year he was born. After convincing me he was serious about bringing new life to this old relic, I agreed to have him start the process.”
Shortly after agreeing to the restoration, Ricky moved to Florida for a work assignment, and he didn’t give the project much thought. But Michael got down to business on the Duo-Glide.
The first task was to find out if it would run again after sitting dormant for nearly 40 years. The carburetor was rebuilt and installed, and an attempt was made to start the engine. After just three kicks, the old Panhead surprised everyone by lighting up and spitting trash out of the pipes all over the shop!
“I am glad there was a video of this first attempt,” Ricky boasted. “It was as if the old Harley was trying to say, ‘I’m still alive and I want to run again.’”
Spurred on by the functional engine, the restoration gathered speed. Any part that had a serial number or marking was refurbished or rebuilt back to factory specifications. Most of the accessories or parts that didn’t have serial numbers were replaced with new or reconditioned parts from the same year and model. Each original part was saved and preserved.
“I am so extremely proud to be the owner of this bike,” raved Michael. “Not only because it’s a timepiece of history, but also because of the sentimental connection that I share with my father and that it was able to be brought back to the road after all these years.
“When I look at it,” Michael continued, “I recall stories of a young Ricky pulling it out of a fence covered with honeysuckles when trying to purchase the bike. Also of my uncle riding it down the backroads of Fauquier County, Virginia, and finally my grandfather dropping it in the barnyard still in gear and having to chase the thing running circles in the grass! The bike was used by the whole family, and each one of them had a story about it.
“Finally, after 40 years of sitting in the milk house on the family farm, I was able to make my additions to the story and traditions.”
Michael said he’s grateful for the help from friends to get the Duo-Glide restored, as well as the new connections he’s made in motorcycle circles. He also appreciates the subtleties of kickstarting an engine.
“Learning the sequence of starting this machine was not always smooth,” Michael relates. “One false move out of order can make you sweat –and this never happens when no one is watching! Now it starts easily, normally by the third kick. I am so proud to continue kickstarting this bike. It’s a time capsule, and it shows off a classic Harley look that everybody knows.”
Michael put in a lot of work to bring his dad’s bike back to life, but he says it was worth every minute.
“When I sit on the bike, I cannot contain the smile it puts on my face. And when riding it, I feel like I’m the luckiest man on the road. My smile is from ear to ear, and I’m eager to wave back at the people who notice it. It’s got the perfect sound, the best look, and it wants to run.”
In 2020, Michael entered the bike in the AMCA motorcycle show at Daytona Bike Week, and it garnered Junior Second honors. Some of the bike’s chrome pieces were left unrefurbished to preserve some of its history and patina, which kept it out of Senior First.
“I think it turned out great!” gushed Ricky. “I’m so proud of his work and dedication to the quality of his restoration, and of his efforts to please me and finish this project.”
“I love that this bike has a history,” Michael added, “and I’m excited to share that with whoever will lend me their ear.”