Although everyone is born with the seed, only few are lucky enough to twist the throttle; to water that seed, and let it grow into the passion that exists for motorcyclists the world over. It’s the common bond of two wheels meeting the road, the wind, the exhaust note, the smells of the countryside, and the bombardment of senses that just doesn’t occur while driving a car.
Riding a motorcycle forces you to focus and shuts off the stress and pressures of everyday life. When we take a motorcycle out for a ride, we are not thinking of work deadlines or how we are going to pay for that new refrigerator. The motorcycle rider is 100 percent focused on the road and during that time becomes part of a brotherhood of all bikers. Every rider waves at other riders, and when another rider is stopped on the side of the road with obvious mechanical troubles the unwritten “code” instinctively forces every other motorcyclist to stop and offer assistance. It truly is a brotherhood.
One of the best examples of this brotherhood is the motorcycle club. While radical groups brush with the law and the sensationalism of movies like “The Wild One,” “Easy Riders” and the television series “Sons of Anarchy” has given some motorcycle clubs a notorious reputation, it is for the most part unfounded.
Hawaii Island is host to about 30 different motorcycle clubs, from the Midnight Riders, Island Boyz and The Brothers to the largest club in the state of Hawaii: Koa Puna with about 150 members on this island and chapters all over the state and mainland. Members of these clubs can be described as hard working individuals, business owners and State Representatives. Viking Security of Hawaii Owner Brian Tavares describes himself as a child of God, a grandfather, a business owner and president of Apostles Motorcycle Club.
Any conversation about motorcycling on Hawaii Island will undoubtedly bring up the name Ellsworth Fontes, the proprietor of Ellsworth Custom Cycles in Hilo. A lifelong drag racer and former general manager of Hilo Harley Davidson, Ellsworth is also the founder and president of Rock & Roll motorcycle club that has organized an incredibly successful Toys for Tots drive for the past two decades every Dec., giving away over 3,000 toys to underprivileged children all over the island.
Ellsworth is quick to point out that despite having long hair and riding a motorcycle, both himself and his club members shouldn’t be judged by their looks alone, but by their actions.
He describes his club as “a group that is charitably aware, socially conscious and community supported, whose purpose is to support disadvantaged children of the State of Hawaii; to inspire pride and a sense of worth to those who may have only witnessed despair; to support charitable, educational and recreational organizations; and to cultivate good fellowship and a sense of family among members and supporters, as well as promoting safe motorcycle riding and enhancing the image of motorcyclists within the community.”
Ellsworth explains, “Every Hawaiian Island has a major bike run. For example, Maui would be Halloween, sprouted from the legendary Lahaina Halloween celebrations. Kauai is Fourth of July. Oahu has a huge Toys for Tots run and for Hawaii Island it has always been Labor Day.”
Bikers that travel frequently ship their motorcycles to neighboring islands to participate in these large scale bike runs often lasting a week or longer.
In North Hawaii, the biggest event of the year is over Labor Day weekend when more than 1,000 bikes gather and are otherwise shipped in to go riding for about a week all over the island. The runs focus on charitable benefits through group rides with daily organized social gatherings. North Hawaii being situated midway between Kona and Hilo makes Waimea a frequent stopping point for the Labor Day weekend runs. Large numbers of bikers can be seen refueling, resting and socializing at many locations in town throughout the weekend.
Vacationers and people who don’t have their own motorcycle can rent one in North Hawaii at Big Island Motorcycle Co. in the Kings Shops in Waikoloa. Models range from the Honda Shadow 750 AREO to the Kawasaki Vulcan 1500, Suzuki Boulevard C50 800 or H-D Road King Anniversary.
Rentals start at $100 for a four-hour “quick trip,” $140 for a day trip from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. or $165 for 24 hours. Bike delivery is an option for an added cost. Rentals include insurance, gear and unlimited miles. The store also provides a variety of routes to take around the island, with themes such as “Waterfall Wonders,” “Mauna Kea VIS,” “Double Valley Ride,” “Volcano Run/Around the Island,” and “Holualoa Ride/Kona Coffee.”
If starting the ride closer to the airport, Big Island Harley Davidson in Kona rents late model Harley-Davidson motorcycles with unlimited miles, helmet, rain gear, a full tank of gas, 24-hour roadside assistance and short term luggage storage. They also suggest some of the best locations to cruise around and lodging options, ideal for visitors and locals who want to explore other parts of the island. Rentals start at $99 for a four-hour ride on a Sportster, Fatboy Low or Heritage Softail, or $119 for touring models Streetglide, Roadglide, Roadking or Electraglide Ultra Classic, plus fees and taxes. Eight-hour rentals start are $139 to $159, and $179 to $199 for 24 hours.
New this year to Hawaii Island is the Inaugural Kolohe Fest – a tribute to motorcyclist Vernal John Veincent that pays homage to his legacy with an event where Hawaii’s motorcycle community celebrates its passion for riding. Held at the Drag Strip in Hilo on Aug. 29 and 30, it includes motorcycle drag racing, a car and bike show and many other fun events. His son, Shane Veincent, and the Apostles motorcycle club is hosting the event with hopes it becomes a long-standing yearly tradition among bikers in Hawaii and beyond. More information on participation, vendor booths and sponsorship can be found at www.kolohefest.com.
No matter where your ride takes you on Hawaii Island, from Kona to Hilo, from Pololu Valley to South Point, the journey will follow beautiful scenery. Ellsworth explains it best, “Don’t get me wrong, we like to ride bikes, but it’s the interruptions that are the journey, not where you’re going.”