It’s not often that, for a biker, a Harley Davidson would be a step down in the speed department, but that’s just what it was for Chris Rose in 1998.
The born-and-raised Prince Rupert resident was a little more used to the smaller, speedy Japanese-manufactured bikes than the larger, slick, imposing luxury of a Harley when he made the switch.
“When I first started riding bikes, I used to ride all night long or all day long, whenever I had a chance to ride … so I rode a lot of Japanese bikes before [buying my first Harley] like Kawasakis, Yamahas, Suzukis, Hondas – all of them street bikes, all very fast bikes,” Chris said last week.
“I [eventually] sold them and then finally when I had kids, me and my wife at the time thought getting a Harley would slow me down – just a cruiser. So I did that.”
Chris has been on two wheels almost as long as he’s been walking on two legs. From mini bikes to driving around town less than legally as a 15-year-old to now owning one of the most beautiful, unique and prestigious custom Harley Davidson motorcycles in North America, Chris has always been attracted to the two-wheeled road beasts and is now president of the Prince Rupert-based Harley Riders.
“Working at the Pulp Mill, I worked there for 16 years and I’ve always been mechanically inclined. I’ve always liked working on bikes and motors and stuff,” he said.
In his early days in town, Chris graduated from Prince Rupert Secondary School before heading to Prince George for a number of weeks every year for four years to become a certified millwright at the College of New Caledonia.
With stints in Kamloops, working at a bike shop called Interior Motorcycles, and in Vancouver, Chris always found his way back to the North Coast city.
“I always came back and found a good job,” said the Rupertite.
“It’s safer here than in the big city. I just like the good, clean air. It doesn’t take too long to get to work or home … I’ve just got a lot of friends here.”
In ‘98, Chris graduated from the Hondas and Kawasakis to buy his first Harley at the shop in Smithers.
“I bought it in Smithers and I rode it back. It took me about three times to get the price I was happy with for the bike I wanted,” he said.
The bike was a Harley Davidson Dyna Wide Glide.
“So it’s kind of a Chopper-style with a longer front wheel, extended forks with 21-inch wheels and a skinnier front wheel … The Softail model was a big one back then – you can’t see the shocks in the back, it’s mounted underneath in the frame,” said Chris.
The Rupertite has had a number of bikes, all of which he’s bought himself in the past and he currently has two Harleys – a touring bike that he’s fixed up and a custom 2.5-year-old build.
The custom bike has gained him notoriety in not only northern B.C., but in the United States at the 75th annual South Dakota Sturgis Motorcycle Rally – one of the biggest bike rallies in North America, which drew 600,000 people last year.
Chris won second-place at the Rat’s Hole Custom Bike Show in Sturgis in 2014 with the bike, which was designed almost wholly by its rider.
“The headlights – the signal light has been made for this bike, I designed it … Same with the paint job – the paint was applied in Victoria and a guy out of Vancouver did the seat – [mine] was his first or second leather seat that he’s ever hand-tooled. It’s all engraved,” he said.
“A lot of the other parts are from California that I’ve ordered in, plus I had them make the signal light and the headlight … the brass in front is all made for the bike. I started that fad, they actually manufacture those. It’s quite popular in the custom world now” he said.
Chris rides that bike daily and it has been featured in Canadian Biker Magazine and won numerous awards in the Northwest.
He’s even given a few riders their first go-around on a motorcycle.
“Some of them are scared and most of them just love it, they think it’s the greatest thing. They’ve never had that feeling before where you’re turning. They get scared at first, but once you get used to the leaning and turning, they think it’s magnificent and it’s a great time,” said Chris, who’s also driven his kids Stephanie and Stephen, now grown, on his bikes. Stephen had his own dirt bike and used to ride up Mt. Hays and around the Terrace track with it.
Mostly, Chris likes the open air that he’s able to feel while riding.
“You’re out in the elements, you’re in control of two wheels, you’re leaning over into the corners and the wind and bugs’ are in your teeth, it’s all fun. The scenery’s beautiful. You’re out in the middle of it, cruising around down by the river,” he said.
Chris joined the Prince Rupert Harley Riders Club 16 years ago and has since become its president.
“I slowly got into helping them out, doing whatever needed to be done for the Toy Run stuff,” he said.
The Toy Run, of course, is the Harley Riders’ signature annual event that’s been going on for 34 years. It supports the Salvation Army Christmas Hamper program through providing toys, money, gifts and food to the Salvation Army and last year raised over $10,000 for the program.
“I think there might be a little more [attendees] than last year. We’ve got six riders from Ketchikan coming down and quite a few from Terrace and Smithers and Kitimat,” said Chris.