From mini-bikes to the Hamsters

Publish Date: 
Mar 30, 2012
By Rick Fairless

Motorcycles have been the one constant focus in my life. When I was 9 years old, my dad brought home a Suzuki mini-bike for my brother and me to share. That’s the bike that started me down a path that would take me to distant, exotic places and give me a mind-blowing life beyond my wildest dreams.

My brother and best bud, Randy, and I are only 11 months apart. We grew up in a middle class neighborhood in Irving, Texas, with lots of kids our age. After my dad, a welder, brought home that mini-bike, the other kids in the neighborhood started getting their dads to follow suit.

We couldn’t wait for school to be out so we could ride that mini-bike. There were lots of acreage to fool around on, and I got very good at fixing all the neighborhood bikes. I couldn’t leave ours alone. I was always messing with them, trying to make them better and more cool.

When we turned 15, Randy and I got jobs to save up the money to buy “real” motorcycles. Off we went to get our dream bikes. My dad told us to save up half the money and he’d take us to get whatever bikes we wanted. I bought a 1973 Honda CL 100 and Randy bought a 1973 Yamaha 100. Before long, I learned to wheelie that Honda from Dallas to Houston. Finally, I had a street bike, a bike I could ride to school. A real bike I could use to get a date with a good-looking chick. Man, I was living large on that Honda brother!

A few years later I’d gone through many import motorcycles and loved every dang one of them. And then one day while at Brown’s Cycle chopper shop in downtown Dallas, I saw a used 1974 XLCH Sportster and it spoke to me. The next thing I knew I was on a test ride booking through downtown Dallas and feeling more alive than I had ever felt before in my life. I had never ridden a bike that made me feel so free like I did on that first Harley-Davidson, and by God I had to have that bike — money or none. (I had good credit and a pen in my back pocket.)

Fast forward, and I was on the corporate track at Glidden, raising a mess of kids and living for the weekends so I could hang, wrench and ride. All of my buddies and their wives hung out on our three acres, working on our bikes every night after work and riding every weekend, all weekend long. That’s when I got bit by the customizing bug, added a couple more Harleys to my stable and started showing at local bike shows. Success here led to showing on the national level.

I loved custom motorcycles and all that came with them. We’d sit around, drinking stupid quantities of beer, dreaming out loud about owning our own motorcycle shop. My perfect shop was a really cool, laid back, custom chopper shop with a beer joint on the same property. But it always seemed like just a dream. I always wondered why someone didn’t open up a cool custom shop in Dallas where you could buy parts from guys like Arlen Ness, Pat Kennedy, Donnie Smith and Dave Perewitz. A big shop, like a Harley dealership, only with cool custom bikes and parts that we could see only in magazines and catalogs.

Then, one day while dreaming about my dream shop, it hit me like a hammer upside my ugly head. I thought, “Hey Fairless, why can’t that guy be you?” So I started the process of checking into what it would take to open a motorcycle shop and beer joint and finally made it happen. I made my dream a reality.

And now we’re in the present day. Business is good and we are surviving this shitty economy. I look back to all the places that motorcycles have taken me — figuratively and literally — and realize two wheels have given me a life that I never even imagined. This industry opened many doors and allowed me to ride and meet a ton of famous people. Motorcycles even introduced me into the fold of the Hamsters USA. These guys are the industry icons that I grew up idolizing. I’m very proud to be a member of the Hamsters.

Through this industry, I have been lucky enough to be featured on several different TV shows. I have been to Sturgis every year for the past 25 years in a row. I have had my own radio show. I have signed thousands of autographs and taken thousands of pictures and loved every dang second of it! The motorcycle business has provided me and my family an unbelievable life for many years, and hopefully will continue to provide that lifestyle for my children after I have checked out and gone golfin’.

This industry has been more than a vocation to me. It’s my identity. It’s who I am. It’s my life. I haven’t missed one single day of work since I opened my motorcycle shop 17 years ago and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Motorcycles have always been there for me. My wife understands that while I fell in love with her at 19, I fell in love with motorcycles at 9 years old. Where would I be today without motorcycles? I don’t know, but I wouldn’t want my life any other way.