Ride This Way
Steven Tyler’s production customs
Manchester, N.H., June 15–16—Oh, baby. The eye-blistering kicks, the skin-tight, embroidered jeans, the impossibly lithe body and miniscule waist, the tie-dye, the long, wild locks, the sheer glory of it all… But enough about me back in the day.
A group of trained, elite motojournalists were recently gathered together in the wilds of New England to cool out with Steven Tyler. Yes, that Steven Tyler, legendary frontman of Aerosmith, and lord of everything eye blistering, skin-tight, embroidered (or sequined), wild and glorious. And, of course, full-on balls-to-the-wall rock and roll.
The occasion actually wasn’t so much to do with Steven Tyler as it was with Dirico Motorcycles, an American V-twin brand that Tyler fired up with his friends Mark Dirico and Steven Talarico in September 2007.
Originally launched under the name Red Wing Motorcycles (a nod to Aerosmith’s iconic red-winged logo), the company caught heat from Honda who laid claim to the title as a trademark involving, among other things, one of the Japanese giants’ long-forgotten models. You remember the Red Wing, don’t you? Never mind.
The first night found us all at what Mark Dirico calls his “garage,” a large, seriously-styling, toy-laden outpost that would knock ’em dead on an episode of Cribs. Dirico is an accomplished engineer and machine designer who holds over 20 patents, and heads up a company that can crank out 4 million boxes a day, if you dig that sort of thing. For the record, Talarico made his name and forged his game in marketing, corporate real estate and auto dealerships. He now runs two large Harley dealerships, and one of them, located in Manchester, New Hampshire, has a special wing staffed with three mechanics whose sole jobs are spinning together Dirico bikes.
In the service of the manufacturing outfit that bears his name, Dirico is the man with the knowledge that gets the job done—the brains and talent behind the nuts-and-bolts. But don’t expect him to blow his own horn. He’s far too modest for that. “I’m just a simple builder,” he says when pressed.
Chiming in from the peanut gallery (of which American Iron magazine’s Joe Knezevic served that night as chief provocateur), Bert Baker cracked, “Mark’s engineering makes me look like Beavis and Butthead.” A singularly modest man, Baker, of course, is the genius behind Baker Drivetrain and the undisputed king of his highly technical field. He’s also responsible for the six-speed tranny found on Dirico’s Pro Street. “I think of myself as nothing more than a widget guy,” Baker says.
Oh, the humility of it all.
Anyway, as we sat in the garage, Talarico (flanked by Tyler and Dirico, both of whom spoke very little) explained the concept behind their budding motorcycle company. “We got into this simply because of our shared passion and commitment for bikes. We have no personal financial motives, and we’re well aware of the painful and unnerving demise of the V-twin market. We may have missed the boat but we don’t care. This is America where entrepreneurism never sleeps. Better products are always welcome and that’s what we’re doing—building superior bikes, engineered to ride and built to last.”
With due respect, Tyler was eventually asked what exactly his contribution is to the Dirico bike-building business. After offering up a short, cryptic response, the rock god was saved (sort of) first by Dirico (“Steven is about the details.”), then by Talarico. “Steven Tyler can see a 98-mph fast ball coming at him and read the stitches,” he explained. “He’s that kind of a rock star.” OK, got it. Is everybody clear on that?
Just before we all ducked out for dinner, Tyler admitted that one of the reasons he’s always loved motorcycles is that they offer him a much-needed escape from the constant barrage of autograph-seeking fans. He can just sling one of those slinky legs over a machine and hit the road in relative anonymity, an obvious relief for a star of his magnitude.
And now to the bikes. There are three models in Dirico’s 2009 lineup, all featuring proprietary, hand-built frames designed by Dirico.
The Flyer ($31,900) and the Speedster ($39,900) are both classically styled springers, with mills being the Flyer features a stock H-D Twin Cam 88B plant while the slightly beefier Speedster packs a 110-inch Screamin’ Eagle motor. I can’t tell you how the Speedster feels as it was dominated all day by the president of the peanut gallery.
Though I didn’t get much time on the Flyer, I can report that it’s a solid, comfortable ride that’s much smoother and more likable than most similar-looking retro springers. The front end has been tweaked to near perfection. The mild 28-degree rake works admirably and complements the bike’s 61-inch wheelbase. The 88-inch Twin Cam moves you down the road at a healthy if not pulse-pounding pace. Pulse pounding isn’t the point of this bike, anyway. Perched comfortably atop the Flyer, I felt more like a gentleman farmer out for a country spin than I did any sort of badass. And somehow that seemed appropriate as we cruised New Hampshire’s lovely twisties.
Most of the day, however, I was in badass mode lighting up Dirico’s Pro Street and generally raising hell. Well, perhaps lighting up might be a bit of an overstatement, but I was having fun. Last year I was handed a Dirico Pro Street for a couple of weeks, giving me a chance to punish it for about 2,000 miles. There was almost nothing I could throw at that bike that it didn’t handle with power and grace. Simply put, it ran like a champ. And so, plunking down into the still not-exactly-cush Corbin saddle of the ’09 Pro Street was like greeting a friend. Not much has changed with my pal and, for the most part, that’s OK.
Take a close look at this stylin’ sled, and you’ll notice a large number of good old H-D Bar & Shield emblems. In other words, like the Flyer and Speedster, almost every component on this bike is manufactured by our friends at The Motor Company. The Pro Street motor is a stock Screamin’ Eagle 103-inch with 9:1 compression that makes a respectable 74.53 hp and 83.36 ft-lbs. of torque. The bike is fed by H-D electronic sequential port fuel injection sucking through a cone-shaped Screamin’ Eagle air intake, and exhaling via Sampson Big Radius pipes. Power is delivered through the aforementioned glorious, buttery smooth (no surprise there) Baker six-speed tranny.
This all amounts to a solid, reliable drivetrain that’s meant to go the distance, and it can be conveniently serviced not only by private shops, but also any H-D dealership (ditto the Flyer and Speedster). While it would be nice to see more power from the 103-inch engine, you certainly won’t find yourself lagging behind. And for the more throttle-thirsty customers, Dirico will build the motor any way you want. If 124 inches is your poison, no problem.
Without a doubt the Pro Street is a low, lean, mighty attractive package that turns its fair share of heads. From its single down-tube skeleton that incorporates a cool 36-degree rake in the steering head to the custom fenders sleekly hugging the rims of those Performance Machine wheels, it’s got game. It’s also remarkably easy to ride, especially given the bike’s 8′ 7″ length and the fact that it sports a 240mm Metzeler in the stern. Granted, as fat-skinned sleds go, that’s not a huge tire, but it certainly ain’t small, either.
There’s no denying that all three Dirico bikes aren’t the cheapest beasts on the block. But they are sturdy and potent and feature the assurance and roadworthiness of so many Harley components, as well as two-year, unlimited-mile warranties. Simply put, Dirico bikes are cool rides that aren’t entirely radical but are still reliable and safe. You’re not living on the edge, but you also won’t be living on the edge of the road.
If you want in, Steven Tyler will even autograph the thing for you. However, that doesn’t give you a license to rock skin-tight jeans, embroidered or otherwise. And don’t even think about sequins.
Speaking of sequins, as I so often do, there was one final element to our Dirico visit. After a long day on the road, we thundered into Massachusetts’ Great Woods amphitheatre, dropped off the bikes, enjoyed a meal backstage and then settled into some killer seats for (what else?) a slamming Aerosmith show.
When it comes to mad performers, look no further than Steven Tyler. When it comes to mad bikes, look no further than Dirico and crew. When it comes to mad times, mix them all up. And rock on. Tight pants not included. (www.diricomotorcycles.com)