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From the Vault: Baker in Gear: Organ Donor

Cookie cutter never quite cuts it, does it? There’s nothing better, or more beautiful, than something made from scratch. Just like the stale, soulless, high-fructose corn syrup production line imitation apple pie in the discount aisle of the nearest lowest-common denominator megastore that everybody’s choking down can’t hold a candle to grandma’s home-cooked goodness. Too many boring production bikes just don’t got the same soul as something that has faced stubborn will and extra wrench hours to be unique. Harvesting the will and resources to make a scratch-built bike though? That’s the sweet spot that we find interesting. At BAKER Drivetrain, the hard way is the right way, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

In this latest edition of From the Vault, Bert Effin’ Baker decides it’s time to get back to his roots and build a powerful, giggawumping bike that’s whole lotta fun, even if ain’t too pretty. This balls-to-the-wall, street legal ¼ mile machine is all about speed, power, and primal thrills. Here is the part one of the Organ Donor story:

Bert Baker Organ Donor Motorcycle

It was a picture perfect summer day and I was riding through town in my car with the radio playing; life was good. The tranquility of the moment was interrupted by the police car in my rear view mirror with the lights on. I wasn’t speeding or under the influence so this was no big deal. The officer walked up and asked me the standard rhetorical question, “Do you know why I pulled you over?” to which I replied, “No sir,” which was difficult to say with a straight face because the office was younger than my two older kids. He came back and sheepishly handed me the ticket and half apologized; I think this was his way of telling me that he thought a seatbelt ticket was a little silly and his boss wanted him to get revenue from the public. He said, “I see you have a cycle endorsement, do you ride?” to which I replied, “Yes I do and I’m an organ donor.”

I love motorcycles. The machine, the culture, and rowdy people are tons of fun but I accept the fact that motorcycles are dangerous. I’m not talking zip-your-wiener-up-in-your-britches-dangerous; I’m talking life-and-death-dangerous. So I thought it was kind of silly when I got that seatbelt ticket in a 5000-pound truck because the danger I was in, while driving that truck without a seatbelt, was a fraction of the danger I succumb to every time I throw a leg over a motorbike and go for a ride. I accept the fact that I’m a heartbeat away from my organs being harvested; therefore I label myself as an organ donor.

The label I have bequeathed upon myself may sound morbid but I assure you that I do not worship the devil and I have no strange genital piercings; I’m just being realistic. It’s a basic risk and reward thing. Every single time I ride a scoot I live out an Indiana Jones movie (in my mind) and that is a fair trade for the inherent risk. Sometimes I’m rewarded when the machine and I conquer a road under challenging circumstances or exceed the speed limit (Note: doing a buck-fifty in a car is different than doing a buck-fifty on a bike.) Other times the reward comes from riding with buddies and getting in trouble. I love to tell interesting stories and my juiciest stories come from road trips. And sometimes the reward comes from working on bikes with friends and tinkering with these American machines that we all love. Sure, collecting stamps, bird watching, gardening, organizing my sock drawer, petting the dog, and watching reruns of the Gong Show are less dangerous but the payoff just is not there for me.

So the last time I scratch built a bike was 17 years ago before I got side tracked with this BAKER Drivetrain thing. The time has come to build a fun bike that ain’t too pretty and I’ve decided to name it “the organ donor.” I have this hot rod 139” Kendall Johnson motor kicking around the shop and got my Rolling Thunder frame coming so this winter’s project is going to be a street legal ¼ mile machine that can also run the land speed record stuff on. I have no intention of participating in sanctioned racing and I’m not looking to break any records, I just want to get some thrills and eat a little rice on the street. Just like riding on the street, my reward will be measured in my mind and how many giggawumps per cubic inch of adrenalin my adrenal glands put out.

One of the shortcomings of turning my motorcycle hobby into a business 17 years ago was that I forgot about Bert and his family. The business always took priority over everything else. I know it ain’t right but that’s the way this episode of Jerry Springer played out. No, no, no, I’m not looking for pity here or tiny violins; pity is for people who ride Hondas. I wouldn’t trade all the money in the world for the rich experiences I’ve had working in this dysfunctional V-twin culture and I look forward to doing this for a long time to come. But I’m going to focus on being a better husband, better dad, and most importantly letting Bert have a little fun starting with this bike.

I’m gonna take a little break from writing this column. I appreciate all the kind feedback from readers of this column and it troubles me to take some time off but I will put the 10 hours or so it take some to write and re-write, and re-write this column to good use. I also have this huge R&D project that me and the engineers are working on and hopefully Marilyn will let me report our progress next year as the damn thing comes to fruition. Look me up at the rallies next; I will have my fun machine and have a few stories to tell.


Baker Drivetrain Team Illustration