18 Year Old Ryan Mackey Wins A WLA Harley For Writing An Essay. A Must Read.

ryanmackeyLast weekend during the Super Swap Meet in Davenport, Iowa the AMCA (Antique Motorcycle Club of America) Ryan Mackey was picked by 30 judges as the winner of the “Free Harley Give Away Contest”. He was one of the ninety 18 to 25 year olds that wrote an essay for the contest which ran for October 1st 2008 through August 15th 2009.  The prize for the contest is a 1942 Harley Davidson WLA bobber in pieces, and 2 months shop time at Carl’s Cycle Supply in Aberdeen,  SD.  As soon as Ryan finishes building the bike and rides it, he will get the title for the bike and get to keep it.  Congrats to him for writing a beautiful essay that I reproduce below. 

“My name is Ryan Mackey and I am 18 years old. Motorcycles have been a huge part of my life for a very long time. I first fell in love with vintage motorcycles watching my neighbor work on his shovelhead. Every time my brother and I heard the bike start up, we would run outside to watch him wrench on it and ride it away. I spent many nights dreaming about riding a bike like that some day.

My parents were very against motorcycles of any kind but after saving my hard earned money for years, realizing how much enthusiasm I had for motorcycles, my parents let me buy my first dirt bike when I was 11 not realizing what this would mean to me in the future. I could not of been happier with this bike and my life until a week before my fifteenth birthday when my world got flipped upside down. This is when I found out that my parents were getting divorced and my mom was moving out. This came as a huge surprise to both my brother and I. My family had always meant the world to me and to suddenly find out that we would never all be together again really shook me up. To make things worse, my brother who is three years older than me, and my best friend, was moving away to college in only a few months. I was totally lost as to what to do. None of my friends could relate to my situation and were stuck in the typical high school mindset of not caring about anything. I felt like there was nothing I could do to get away from things. Being only 15, I could not just go out for a drive or go dirt biking by myself. I was in very bad shape and came very close to going down a very bad path.

Thankfully my uncle realized this and knowing that I was into motorcycles and loved to work on my dirt bike, gave me a 1975 Harley-Davidson SX250 basket case that was in his barn to work on. I spent every moment I had working on this bike. Not only did it keep my mind off of everything that was going on, it saved me from getting into a lot of trouble like many kids my age did. After working on this bike for many months, I was still having a lot of trouble dealing with my parents being divorced and my brother being hundreds of miles away at school. Also around this time, my dog, which was my only steady companion through all of this, suddenly died.

Realizing how much working on this bike helped me deal with everything initially, I decided to buy a 1974 Honda CB750 that was not running just as a winter project to work on. Even though this was not a bike I ever pictured riding, it was all I could afford. Everyone I knew thought I was crazy spending money on something that I was not even allowed to ride. My parents refused to let me ride on the street, knowing how dangerous it can be. I told them that I did not care if I ever rode it, I just wanted to work on it and build a café racer. This bike became my life over the winter. I spent more time with it in the garage than I did hanging out with friends. I spent many Friday nights in the garage putting a new part on I just got in the mail. Everyone doubted my ability to build what I had planned. I was showing pictures of café racers to everyone to show what it would look like when I was done and they would just roll their eyes behind my back.

Much to everyone’s surprise, I rolled a very impressive looking café racer out of the garage in the spring. I had hundreds of hours into this bike and was so proud of it. I never once had any help in the building of the bike and loved every minute of it. My parents, realizing the amount of time I had in it, suprisingly let me get my motorcycle endorsement. To this day I still have both of these bikes and work on or ride them daily.

Looking back now, three and half years after my world came crashing down, it is amazing what I was able to accomplish thanks to motorcycles. I was able to stay clean and out of trouble. I also have been able to become an Eagle Scout and a Firefighter for a local volunteer department. I sometimes wonder what would have happened to me if I did not have motorcycles as therapy.

Winning this contest would mean much more to me than just getting to own my dream bike. I would be thrilled to be able to work alongside professionals and would try to learn as much as possible while building it. My dream one day is to open a motorcycle shop and this would definitely help me move in that direction. If I were to win the Harley, I would definitely keep it to one day pass it down to my son or daughter. Hopefully they would love motorcycles just as much as I do.

My goal after winning this contest would be to do everything I could to keep a similar contest going every year in hopes of getting more people my age into vintage motorcycles. I think this is a great, possibly life changing thing that you are doing for whoever is lucky enough to win” Ryan Mackey.

22 Responses to “18 Year Old Ryan Mackey Wins A WLA Harley For Writing An Essay. A Must Read.”

  1. 1 Chaplain Jim Sep 11th, 2009 at 6:52 pm

    Way to go Ryan.Thank you for the essay as it was a pleasure to read.

  2. 2 nicker Sep 11th, 2009 at 9:40 pm

    Great story Ryan!
    Thanks for sharing it with us.
    You keep working toward your dream and you’ll be just fine.

    Anyone parent would be proud to have such a fine son.


  3. 3 gustian Sep 12th, 2009 at 4:43 am

    Hi Ryan,

    keep on the good work. You’re an example for many other yougsters.
    What you did, proves that some things in life do not always have to put you on the wrong road.



  4. 4 gustian Sep 12th, 2009 at 6:09 am

    euch “youngsters”

  5. 5 jim Sep 12th, 2009 at 7:01 am

    Congratulations Ryan!

    You can live your dream. I grew up with parents that wouldn’t let me be around motorcycles at all. When I turned 18 I bought one. A career later I now own my own shop.

    Earn your own money and pay your own bills and it will all come together for you. It won’t happen over night, but you can make it happen.

    Contact me if you’d like to talk.


  6. 6 Mike Kiwi Tomas, Kiwi Indian Motorcycles Sep 12th, 2009 at 7:37 am

    Congratulations Ryan. Motorcycles changed my life after leaving school and I have no regrets what so ever. It has kept many a kid on the straight and narrow including my own son. It is also nice to see some members within our Antique m/c club board think a little out of the box or not for their own interests to reach out to our youth however more still needs to be done. Kudos to Matt and Carl Olsen for taking a leadership roll and devoting their time and energy into such a worth while project. We need more folks like you on the the AMCA board. Ryan, welcome to the AMCA and if I can be of any assistance please feel free to sing out. You are in good hands with the Olsens (even though they are Harley guys).

  7. 7 Gary Bang Sep 12th, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    Ryan: I can remember a long time ago a neighbor of mine named Robert Green got his first Motorcycle. I was in bed dreaming that it was me riding up and down the street and not Robert. I was about 11-years old and I am now 71 and still living the dream. Any thing that is worth a thing starts with a Dream never give up and never stop Dreaming. Gary Bang

  8. 8 Jeff Nicklus Sep 12th, 2009 at 3:38 pm



    Your story is so inspiring. It is such a breath of fresh air to learn of a young man such as you who has turned adversity into motivation. So many others would have used their parents breakup as a crutch and/or an excuse why they “couldn’t” or why someone should feel sorry for them or pity them. Keep up the good work, keep a straight and clean history and a continued dedication to both this sport and your life …. it will pay off big time in the end.

    I am sure your parents are immensely proud of you, as they should be.

    Over & Out,


  9. 9 Mike Kiwi Tomas, Kiwi Indian Motorcycles Sep 13th, 2009 at 6:57 am

    Gary Bang, You were and still are a huge inspiration to me in business and a very outstanding gentleman of our industry. I will never forget you and your pioneering efforts in the HD business.

  10. 10 Grayhawk Sep 13th, 2009 at 8:24 am

    This is the part of the industry the I like and appreciate, Gary from the earlier days, Jeff, Mike, Nicker, Gustian, Chaplain Jim, and Jim all with the eyes from the past and present and sightful of the future all seeing the merit in your path and hope for your future road. Think it thru ask and look before you step, seek the knowledge of the past and stretch the ideas of the known to mold the new. Do it the right way and enjoy the ride. Congrats Ryan and look back and remember the day and support the next gen when its your turn in time and be a sponge when your at the Olsens, also thanks to the AMCA as it is a good thing.

  11. 11 Roadside Marty Sep 13th, 2009 at 11:27 am

    Congratulations Ryan!! A truly inspiring essay that definitely deserved your win! I’m really looking forward to seeing the bike when it’s done, with Carl and Matt helping you with advice I’m sure it’s gonna be a great one! I look forward to one day meeting you face to face as you seem to be a truly genuine person..great job again! Roadside P.S. I would like to thank Mr. Gary Bang for being one of the pioneers in the aftermarket industry who I don’t think has been given the recognition he deserves. For years I grew up watching my Dad rip open packages and open up parts with the Gary Bang logo and put them on a usually impatient chopper riders bike! My favorites were the yellow sunset type with bike riding towards the sun and the bar and sheild with his name..don’t know if the trademark watchdogs ever got after him about those? I hope whatever your doing these days your enjoying yourself and I just want to say THANKS for everything youv’e done for the motorcycle industry!

  12. 12 Wiz Sep 14th, 2009 at 8:32 am

    Through adversity comes triumph! I commend you for rising above the crap that was dealt to you and making something good. “ZEN and the Art of Motorcycle Mechanics.” [didn’t really like where the book went, but the title is cool] Wrenching is therapy, giving life to inanamate pieces of aluminum and steel that through your efforts carry you down the road, ART in Motion! You and your machine, that is your path. To heck with what others are doing around you, that is their path. Kinda reminds me of a 14 year old kid back in the late 60’s with an alcoholic father, a nutsso mother, fighting everyone around him in a little town in the middle of South Dakota, and taking solace in building a 1948 panhead he found in a chicken coop for $250. My salvation was that motorcycle, and they still are. Thank you for your story, it brought a tear to this ol’ boys eye and heart, in a good way. Wiz

  13. 13 Susan Ayers Sep 14th, 2009 at 8:33 am

    This is what motorcycling is about. Very well thought out and very well written, Ryan you have earned your wheels.

  14. 14 raycwheeler Sep 14th, 2009 at 10:31 am

    Ryan ,

    Very wise words from such a young man .

    Congratulations .

    ” the longer you ride , the longer you’ll live ” .

    ray c wheeler

  15. 15 Vanessa Lynn Sep 14th, 2009 at 11:17 am

    Love to see the young generation keeping the vintage tradition alive. Thank you Ryan, for being a well spoken, classic young man. Ride it with pride. You’ve earned it.

  16. 16 Dale Walksler Sep 14th, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    Ryan-I hope you have read all of the above-wise words-Some time ago Matt told me about his idea and gladly said yes. great project, ive got about 60 45s- not bragging- just love them. If you should need any assistance- i will be happy to help. Dale Walksler

  17. 17 Curt! Sep 14th, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    Congratulations Ryan! Great Essay. Unfortunately, you’ve started down a path fo spending every spare dime you earn on motorcycle parts. Once you build one from a basket, you just can’t seem to have enough parts.
    Sure wish I had a NOS Linkert for my 45. Dale, wasn’t that from your stash?

  18. 18 Sugar Bear Sep 14th, 2009 at 11:34 pm

    Ryan, with the support you have at this point, you can’t go wrong. Your essay brought a sniffle to this chop rider. Hopefully I’ll get to meet you sometime. Take your time and build it the way you want it to be. (I still have new(?) old(?) parts on the Gary Bang heat wrapped boards – I’ll send you pics Marty if you want — Hey Gary)

  19. 19 Roadside Marty Sep 15th, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    As usual Sugar Bear you are generous to a fault with your time,wisdom and treasures!!! I would love to see any pics you might have..hope you and Fuji are well! Roadside

  20. 20 Dennis J. Sep 16th, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    Congrats to you. I’d be proud to have you as my son. I’m sure your story hits home with a lot of people reading it, including myself. I wish you nothing but the best in this life.

  21. 21 Ross Tomas Sep 18th, 2009 at 11:55 am

    its great to hear that there are many more kids into them old bikes.
    we just need to see more of them.
    if you dont know who i am im the youngest indian rider on th salt flats at the age of 15 and hold a land speed record @ 98mph.
    we hope to see you riding with the Olsons out to sturgis for the rally
    the Olsons are good people and i rode with them out to sturgis 3 days after i got my licence due to the DMV is only open half the week here in mitchell

    best of luck to you
    Ross Tomas

  22. 22 Eryk Sep 20th, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    Great job, Bro! VERY inspiring. Ride hard.

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Cyril Huze