21Country: Ride or Rot? Bringing vintage motorcycles back to life

Fort Wayne man hoping to bring fellow enthusiasts together through annual show
Updated: Aug. 18, 2022 at 5:30 PM EDT
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA21) - Step inside Kyle Stevenson’s garage, and his hobby will quickly become obviously. Neatly lined up, are three restored, vintage Honda motorcycles. There’s also a dirt bike, a Honda with plenty more work to do, and the frame of a motorcycle which will no doubt be ready to ride in the near future. His interest began as a boy, when his father brought home a small, 90cc motorcycle. “As kids, we just had such a blast on those bikes,” he described.

But it wasn’t until adulthood, that Stevenson and his brother bought a motorcycle together: a 1965 Honda Super Hawk. But it was in a bad state of disrepair. The project ultimately needed more work than they were able to do at the time, and they bought their own, working motorcycles. “It kind of started a passion in me,” he said.

Today, that Honda bears a sleek, shiny coat of Orange paint. Stevenson eventually fixed it up, and it remains a prized possession. “The work is never done on a vintage motorcycle,” he shared. “Things are always cropping up, problems, issues, things need replaced, wires that snap, connections that are getting dirty. Things that just break because they’re just old and weren’t designed to be as robust as you wish they were.”

Stevenson defines a vintage motorcycle, as 30 years or older. His other completed projects include a 1975 Honda Super Sport and stock bike he’s since restyled. Though there’s a lot of labor involved, the hobby could become quite lucrative… if they didn’t fund his other projects. Stevenson says at one point, he owned up to fifteen motorcycles. It’s significantly less now, with his wife and kids. They can cost between $150-600 when he buys them, and be sold from $3,000-6,000.

“It is something about heritage,” Stevenson told us. “I get enjoyment out of taking something that was languishing or rotting, and bringing it back to life.” A theme important to him when it comes to his passion: ride, or rot. “The message there is with these old machines. You either ride them and keep them in mechanical order, or they’re simply going to rot.”

His hobby, often brought him to different vintage motorcycle shows in the region. But several years ago, Stevenson and his wife Jennifer decided to bring one to Fort Wayne. After being canceled two years due to the pandemic, Ride or Rot Fort Wayne: Vintage Motorcycle Show is returning for its sixth year — allowing him to once again, connect with other people as passionate as he. “That’s something that encapsulates the spirit that I have with resurrecting a machine, working with my hands, putting my blood and sweat into bringing this thing back to life, and putting it proudly back on the street.”

The event is happening August 21, between Noon and 3 p.m. at the Porch Off Calhoun (between Wayne & Berry). Ride or Rot’s “really rad ride”, where all the vintage motorcycles drive through town, meets at the Fort Wayne Speed Shop at 9:30 a.m. There will also be prizes for best vintage motorcycles by category. Due to a forecast of rain, an alternative date is set for August 28th. Visit their facebook page here for updated information.

“It’s fun riding on the street with people that enjoy the same passion, and knowing you’re riding a little piece of history,” Stevenson said. “It’s my favorite part of the show,” His wife Jennifer added, “I love being set up and when all those bikes come in at the same time. It sounds great. It looks great. It really kind of gets things kicked off and gets everyone excited to be there.”

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