Eiteljorg Musuem Blog

Eiteljorg Roundup: What is your favorite bike in Steel Ponies?

by Jaq Nigg | Jul 06, 2012

Brent Barnes, safety and security director
The original Captain America bike is an iconic legend for anyone growing up in the 60s and riding a bike. I wanted to be that free spirit riding through the west on a great epic journey.

James Nottage, VP and chief curatorial officer/Gund curator of Western art
My favorite motorcycle in Steel Ponies? You have to be kidding! Just one? I can’t! At first I thought it was the 1948 Indian Chief, but I can’t discount the 1936 Harley-Davidson knucklehead, or what about the Pierce? Don’t make me pick just one. Please. I just keep going back to the exhibit and they are all favorites. If you make me name them all, this will be too long.

Johanna Blume, assistant curator of western art
Hands down, the 1929 Indian Scout, aka The Wall of Death Bike. Cookie Crum rode the Wall of Death in the 1950s and 1960s on the same model. I was fortunate enough to get to know Cookie during the planning for Steel Ponies, and let me tell you, she is a firecracker and an inspiration. Here’s a woman who said to hell with expectations, I love riding, so that’s what I’m going to do. And she still does!

Larry Zimmerman, public scholar of Native American representation
Although it’s hardly flashy, I like Evel Knievel's bike just for what it represents – fearlessness, craziness, and resilience. But hey! I like all the bikes in Steel Ponies. Seeing the range of motorcycles in the exhibit takes me back to my South Dakota days and the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Headed toward the Black Hills on Interstate 90 in early August, you'd see just about every bike imaginable from choppers and streetfighters to stripped-down motocross bikes like Kneivel’s. What a hoot!

Martha Hill, vice president for public programs/visitor experience
The Pierce, definitely the Pierce. There are so many dazzling bikes up there that I love this one for its simplicity—the lines, the red and black colors and those white wall tires! Nice combination.

Kay Hinds, development donor services coordinator
Never underestimate the allure of a brilliant, candy-apple red paint job and gleaming, polished chrome. The 1948 Indian Chief Roadmaster at the entrance of Steel Ponies beckons passersby with its black leather saddlebags festooned with fringe, silver studs and concho medallions trimmed in red. This road warrior leads the pack with an iconic Native American profile on its front fender. Paired with Jim Yellowhawk’s wonderful ledger art featuring a Native American astride a Roadmaster, this bike embodies the West of the imagination.

Diane Badgley, education media coordinator
Even though I can get jazzed up about the custom chopper bikes, my favorite in Steel Ponies is the Effie 1915 Harley Davidson motorcycle. There is something about a woman and her mother riding solo cross-country at such an early date that turns history on its head for me. We go along with these stereotypes of who, what, where and when.  Then you learn about something like this and it really opens things up. What else don’t I know?

Sheila Jackson, membership manager
The artistry of the Great Spirit motorcycle by Troy Vargas is phenomenal. His creativity in capturing all of the Native elements and customizing them to fit the shape and framework of the bike is amazing. The fact that it only took him two weeks also is pretty unbelievable.

Kitty Jansen, librarian
Right now my favorite motorcycle is the one that people can sit on (and in!) to have their pictures taken. On the day that I showed off my then eleven weeks old grandson Thyce to my colleagues at the museum, I got to take such neat pictures on this motorcycle. Thyce and his parents came to visit us from Amsterdam, where they are living at the moment.

Lisa Watt, festivals and markets coordinator
My favorite is the 1998 Harley Davidson Road King owned by former Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado because there is nothing special about it. There are no modifications or decorations on the bike; it is a classic just the way it is. This bike is loved by Senator Campbell and for him to allow it to represent him shows how much of a classic the Road King is in the bike world.

Linda Montag-Olsen, public programs manager
My favorite bike is the photo-shoot bike with the sidecar. My grandparents, John & Esther Montag, eloped on June 29, 1921 on a motorcycle and sidecar. John was a repairman in a motorcycle shop in Oshkosh, Wisconsin at the time and the couple drove to Menominee, Michigan to get married. Esther’s family was Protestant and John’s Catholic.

Sue Thompson, admissions assistant
After much thought, because all of them are awesome, I think my favorite is the Easy Rider cycle. I guess it’s because it reminds me of my youth. Of course I was too young to actually see such a “daring” movie, but there was plenty of other hype that I picked up on. Good memories!

Jaq Nigg, festivals and markets manager
Here’s my secret: motorcycles kind of aren’t my thing, but when I saw the Harley from The Wild One, I swooned. I mean, “What are you rebeling against, Johnny?” “Whaddaya got?” was pretty much the birth of youth rebellion in popular culture. Two years before Rebel Without a Cause made James Dean the forever icon of disaffected youth, Marlon Brando’s anti-hero was stunning, brooding and magnetic. A counterculture was born and it had an enduring look: leathers, boots and rolled up blue jeans.

Photo credits:
Cookie Crum Rides the Wall of Death. Photo courtesy of Cookie Crum
Detail: 1912 Pierce 4-Cylinder, Pierce Cycle Company, Courtesy of Alan Travis
Photo courtesy of Kitty Jansen
Marlon Brando from The Wild One


1 Comment

  1. 1 Ahm 25 Jul
    Unfortunately, the 250cc class is not popular in the U.K. This is due to a cghane in the law, way back in June 1982, which limited learners to bikes of less than 125cc. This law pretty much killed off the 250cc class here.As a result, there are only a handful of 250cc bikes currently offered in the U.K.Honda CBR-250RKawasaki 250 NinjaYamaha YBR-250RHowever, all of them are capable of out-performing something like a Suzuki GS-500 or a Yamaha Diversion 600 anyway (the 250 Ninja can hit 130mph ), which would rather defeat your safety angle, regarding buying a larger bike.You could look at something older, maybe? The Suzuki GN-250, Kawasaki EL-250, Honda CM-250, Honda CBF-250 would all fit your criteria and budget.Of course, whatever you buy, it will have to be under 33bhp for the first 2 years anyway, so most new riders simply restrict a bigger bike down to 33bhp, until the restriction has run its course.


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