How many of us TCB fans imagined ourselves swinging a leg over the saddle of a Bronson Bike, pushing the electric start button as we kicked it over, then kind of hanging our head after it starts, pulling in the clutch and with our right foot, clicking it into first gear, not looking up until we are ready to let out the clutch...

     Jim Bronson may have been a fictional character in the TV episodes, but the bike was real. To anyone who remembers the show from 1969 or to me anyway, that motorcycle became the "Standard" by which all other bikes were measured. In relation to the Bronson Bike, all other motorcycles were bigger or smaller, heavier or lighter, fancier or plainer, cleaner or dirtier, faster or slower, louder or quieter, smoother or rougher.

     I was 14 when the program aired on TV, Wednesday nights at 9:00 pm as I recall. I had been riding a 3 hp mini-bike. After the show ended in 1970 I had saved enough for a brand new 1970, 125cc Harley-Davidson Rapido when I turned 16. My mom took me to Osborn Harley Davidson in St. Louis and I picked out a red one which was a close as they had to the color of the Bronson Bike. I instinctively knew how to ride it by watching Michael Parks riding as Jim Bronson.

     It was great riding it seven miles to school and exploring all the back roads riding further and further from home each time. Of course I had to do some hill climbing like Bronson did in the series. Soon all my friends thought I was crazy since I did all kinds of things on my motorcycles and eventually I realized the real challenge was not to see how far I could jump, ride a wheelie or stand on the seat with no hands, but how safely I could ride on the road and gain the confidence and respect of potential female passengers!

     To gain experience on a larger bike while working my way up to a Harley, I bought a used, 1973 450 Honda. I do not recall why I did not get a 350 Harley Sprint except I had never seen one for sale and I had found the Honda where I could trade my 100cc Harley Baja. Any way, the 450 Honda had TWO cylinders and was a four-stroke engine and SOUNDED more like a real motorcycle than the little two cycle bikes I had been riding. I lugged it around, trying to make it sound like a Harley for a couple of years and during that time, I took my first trip. I packed it up like Bronson and from Illinois (near St. Louis) I headed south to see the Space Center in Huntsville AL, the white sand dunes along the Gulf of Mexico, and across Florida to see Cape Kennedy and the Atlantic Ocean. From there I road through the Smoky Mountains and on home, traveling 3,000 miles in eight days at a total cost of $125. I had 50 cents in my pocket when I arrived back home and was on reserve fuel. I camped out every night, usually at a KOA campground, cooked my meals and could never wait to see what was around the next corner or over the next hill.

     Like many of us Bronsonites, I vowed to one day own a Sportster when I was "big" enough and could afford one. After owning a couple more motorcycles, I was finally ready to buy a new, big bike in 1976 when I was 21. Working as a machinist, building automatic packaging equipment after high school and running a part time business, I saved $3,000 for a new motorcycle in 1976.

     I debated with myself whether to buy a BMW or a Sportster and realized that if I got the BMW, I would just lug it around at low RPM like I did on my 450 Honda, trying to make it sound like Bronson’s bike and STILL wishing I had a Harley, so I decided on the Sportster. With $3,000 dollars in my pocket I went to the Harley shop in Alton, Illinois. The sales people would not pay any attention to “21 year old kid” and I got mad and left. They never knew how easily they could have made a sale that day.

     So I went to the old motorcycle guy in Highland, Illinois known as Thumbs (Glen) Plocher, who had three new 1975 Sportsters in the crates with water damage that he bought from somewhere in Tennessee. I picked an electric start Burgundy (again, as close to red that was available) color model and later, added the kick starter like the Bronson Bike had.

     For over 30 years I thought about converting it into a Bronson Bike. But since I had kept it all original for so long, I just did not have the heart or motivation to strip it down, or the time to find all the right replacement parts. Then eBay came along and I saw all the Bronson stuff for sale! The first Bronson Replica that came up for auction that I could afford was a 1974 replica in Boulder, Colorado and I just HAD to have it! I won it (as the only bidder) and a week after the 911 event in 2001; I kind of hitchhiked to Colorado to pick it up. As a pilot, I have a lot of friends with airplanes and I got a ride to Cape Girardeau, IL where I got a ride to Boulder with friends who were home for a wedding. I rode it 1,100 miles home back to Illinois “Bronson Style” by camping, having multiple adventures and meeting new friends along the way.

     I rode the 1974 Bronson Bike for seven years while my 1975 Sportster sat in storage. I continued riding the 74 Bronson Bike on many Bronson style trips including a trip to Columbus Ohio to meet other Bronson Bike Replica owners that I met on-line. All the while I owned and rode the 74 Bronson Bike, I felt like I was riding someone else’s bike while “my” bike sat in storage.

     Inspired by my new found TCB friends and the approaching 40th anniversary of TCB, I sold the 74 Bronson Bike in order to honor “my” 75 Sportster by converting it into a Bronson Bike that I had owned now for 33 years. I remember making a vow that I want to be 85 years old someday and still have this bike in the garage. Well, I am half way there so I figured I should rebuild it to insure it lasts another 33 years!

     I removed everything from my bike except the engine and wheels and with the help of the other Bronson Bike owners, started buying all the necessary parts for the conversion. I had the engine removed by Jim (see the pic) at M & M Cycle to rebuild the cylinders and brought the rolling chassis home for a good cleaning and repainting. (It still had some of the original dirt on it since it was new)

     The engine was finished just two days before the big anniversary event at the Harley Davidson Museum in Milwaukee. M & M installed the engine on the frame and I bought the bike home for a 24 hour marathon conversion. Working around the clock I installed all the Bronson parts and hour by hour, a new Bronson Bike appeared before my eyes. Luckily, Tom Hanson stopped by on his way to the Museum with his Bronson Bike and I was able to see how the muffler bracket was designed since I had never seen one and had to manufacture one during the assemble. At four AM on the day I was to arrive at the Harley Davidson museum, I proudly loaded it into my trailer, caught forty-five minutes of sleep, showered, packed and hit the road for the two day show at the 1st anniversary of the new Harley Davidson museum in Milwaukee and reunion of Bronson fans with replica bikes.

     A week after that I joined Don, the new owner of my previous 1974 Bronson Bike, on a trip to Morgantown, West Virginia for the 40th anniversary of the TCB movie. There I met with other Bronson Bike owners for the large, four day MountainFest Rally where we displayed our bikes in six awesome diorama scenes from the movie. The best part of the whole anniversary gathering was meeting Birney Jarvis, who was the real Jim Bronson. A segment of his life was the basis for the movie. Had it not been for his story getting on film, we all might have ended up using our bikes to ride to the tavern like most instead of being inspired to take long trips to see what was around the next turn and over the next hill.

     Then it was back home for two days before loading the bike for the 1,000 mile trip to Sturgis, South Dakota. Invited by famous photographer Michael Lichter, my old Harley was to represent the show “Then Came Bronson” along with 23 other famous motorcycle Icons at his art exhibit. Each bike in the exhibit was chosen for its role in history or a movie that inspired us to ride motorcycles.

     Since then it has won “Best in Show” at a large motorcycle swap meet near St. Louis and second place in the “Period Modified” class at the AMCA Swap Meet in Davenport, Iowa.

     A big thanks goes to all my new Bronsonite friends for inspiring me to rebuild my old Harley. I could not have even dreamed that my old, dirty motorcycle covered up in my shed would wind up on a pedestal at an art exhibit in the company of some the most recognized and famous motorcycles in the world and photographed by a famous photographer.

     At all the shows I asked the same question of someone looking wistfully at my bike. “Do you remember the show Then Came Bronson?” Everyone responded the same with a big grin on their face and said, “Oh yeah, that was my favorite show, I watched it every week, that is why I started riding motorcycles”.

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