Motorcycle celebrations take many shapes and forms. Own a Harley-Davidson in 2003 and you could have rallied in Milwaukee to celebrate 100 years of the company. Own a Harley-Davidson single-cylinder four-stroke model and you could have avoided the traffic snarls, Elton John and $200-per-night hotel rooms, and celebrated “Fizz-Knocking” in the wilds of Wyoming Indian Country.
The Four-Stroke Singles National Owners Club (FSSNOC, pronounced “fizzknock”) partied for three days at their Grand National Rally in a small town literally in the middle of nowhere: Lander, Wyoming. The tallest structures for hundreds of miles were oil rigs and telephone relay towers, giving members unobstructed views of snowcapped Rocky Mountains as they rode into their rally center.
The FSSNOC group is an odd bunch. Their club proclamation is, “We are a group of unusual motorcyclists who own and enjoy an increasingly unique breed of motorcycle.” The annual rally was a display of what “unique” means. Mixed among the Kawasaki KLRs and BMW F650s were a 1966 Velocette Venom Thruxton and a 1955 Norton 19S, both ridden to the rally. And ride to the rally the Fizz-Knockers did, an average of 1,992 miles each, one way. The member having ridden the most miles to the rally was Linda Osterhouse on a Honda NX250, bagging 3,658 miles in and a total of 5,400 miles round-trip. That was not too shabby for Linda, nor a single with 61,000 miles on the clock.
The thought of big single-cylinder four-stroke motorcycles conjures up images of ironmen trying to kick life into English beasts with faulty electrical systems, but not so with the FSSNOC gang. All the thumpers started and returned from their daily rides, much to the dismay of Lucas Electric-haters.
To say the gathered tribe of Fizz-Knockers in Wyoming were riders and not trailer queens would be an understatement. They were a hardened bunch, some braving a snowstorm over the Big Horn Mountains to check in on time the first day. To add to the fun, the Wyoming Department of Transportation had made the last six miles into town a muddy dirt track that Mother Nature watered liberally. More than one heavily laden rider got a chance to find their handlebar stops as they flopped from side to side in the mud and rocks over six miles of “Welcome To Lander’s Public Enduro Course.”
Throughout the year Fizz-Knockers regionally gather for weekend riding and camaraderie, like the September 2003 Du-Nuttin’ Rally in Morro Bay, California.
Their annual Grand National Rally pulls in singles from all corners of the United States with a sprinkling of Canadians. Since most ride to the event, they get their saddle miles and sightseeing done on the way in and out. The two days of rallying is more eating and tire-kicking, with no weenie-catching or riding over planks in a field. A lunch ride out of Lander, called the Iron Gutt Ride, was a 15-mile hop.
On the way many stopped to visit America’s oldest Kawasaki dealer, Lander Marine & Kawasaki. The shop was first a boating shop. In 1958 the owners bought the unknown Kawasaki motorcycle line on a lark. Today’s owners Eric and Paul Westman proudly welcomed Enfield, Honda, BMW, Suzuki and Kawasaki Fizz-Knockers to their store with free coffee and prizes. Since Kawasaki KLRs ranked number one in attendance at the rally, their riders filled the shop at times.
An afternoon Bike Show packed City Park with thumpers and lookers. This was possibly the only bike show in America that advertised “Grime is no crime.” Class winners beamed with pride that there was oil and dirt on their motorcycles. Tim Bernard from Boise, Idaho, on a winning mud-splattered KLR650, had not bothered to wipe down his Happy Trails aluminum panniers for the show. He said, “What for? They’ll just get muddy again on the 800-mile ride home.” The FSSNOC published philosophy—“Get a thumper, join the club, go somewhere and have some fun”—was the underlying theme at their banquet.
An all-you-can-eat dinner was followed by a multimedia show titled “Sun Chasing—Four Times Around The World By Motorcycle” which featured a global ride on a Kawasaki KLR. The crowd laughed and cheered as they saw the KLR hit the only rock in a desert and crash in Mexico, then defeat the steppes and vodka of Russia.
On the final morning the thumper pilots gathered for a group photo, laughing and jollying each other about their rides home and whether all the bikes would start after an evening of rain. Several glanced at the British singles, wondering if their owners had the leg strength to overpower the Prince of Darkness when the time came to start their engines and thump out of the parking lot. A Fizz-Knocker wearing a T-shirt that read “Suck-Squeeze-Bang-Blow, That’s What Makes A Thumper Go” said, “We’re a cheap bunch. Anyone left in the parking lot has to buy beers, so odds are everything will start.”
As club president and chief Fizz-Knocker Jack Robinson gathered his clan for the final time in the heart of Wyoming Indian country, even an outsider could feel the oneness of the group. The photo was taken, riders blessed and hands clasped. Promises were made to see each other at next year’s Grand National. The Fizz-Knock riders then headed four directions out of Lander, much like Native hunters in search of wild game 150 years ago. An hour later the sounds of thumpers had stopped and the dust had settled. The parking lot was empty, the only movement being a Wyoming tumbleweed rolling across the tarmac.
The Four-Stroke Singles National Owners Group can be found on the Internet at www.perardua.net/FSS NOC/FSSNOC.HTML, by snail mail at P.O. Box 1809, Hutchinson, Kansas 67504-1809, or by calling the clubhouse at (620) 663-1869.
(This article Fizz-Knocking In Wyoming: The Four-Stroke Singles National Owners Club Rally was published in the June 2004 issue of Rider magazine.)