Hodaka Days 2014: Keep On Hodakin

In a modern day’s twist on the “Old Testament” plagues of ancient Egypt, the tiny Oregon town of Athena is swarmed, infested if you will, once a year for three days. Wombats, Rats, Squirts, Thunder Dogs and Road Toads besiege the town’s very core and squirm about in a pall of aromatic blue smoke. There are also more Aces than a Las Vegas poker convention, but that name is plain amongst the others. In 2014 the visitation was nearly divine, as it marked the 50th anniversary of the quirky marque of motorcycles generated from this very hamlet: Hodaka.

More than 130 Hodakas finish up the largest Hodaka Days parade lap on record through the streets of Athena.
More than 130 Hodakas finish up the largest Hodaka Days parade lap on record through the streets of Athena.

This half-century celebration of the Hodaka brand coincided with the 15th annual Hodaka Days Rally, and it took on special meaning in many ways. Some of the original PABATCO (Pacific Basin Trading Company) employees that started the enterprise are still around: Marv Foster, Chuck Swanson and others. One of the founding members, Harry Taylor, passed away recently and will be missed by all.

Racing legend, Motorcycle Hall of Fame member, plastic part guru and all around “rascal” Preston Petty grabs my friend’s Wombat 125 for a photo opportunity.
Racing legend, Motorcycle Hall of Fame member, plastic part guru and all around “rascal” Preston Petty grabs my friend’s Wombat 125 for a photo opportunity.

As previous reports on this event so accurately captured, this “Hodaka-ness” creates a family of sorts, from all points of the U.S. and as far away as Australia and Mexico, who know they can call Athena home for the long weekend. Noted Aussie moto author and editor of VMX magazine, Ken Smith, had just released his noteworthy and definitive book Hodaka, and was on hand to sign copies, tell stories and bask in the atmosphere. To hear the heavily accented banter between Smith and filmmaker Peter Starr, whether talking bikes or male health issues, was a treat to anyone who dared to poke their way into the conversation.

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At the judged concours d’elegance, gleaming red paint, polished aluminum and glistening chrome abounds among the lovingly restored or maintained examples of every Hodaka model represented.
At the judged concours d’elegance, gleaming red paint, polished aluminum and glistening chrome abounds among the lovingly restored or maintained examples of every Hodaka model represented.

Hodaka zealots Paul and Patti Stannard are the main ringleaders behind this epic event, and are Vermont-based “Strictly Hodaka” folks (the remaining signed copies of Smith’s collectible book are available through their website,
strictlyhodaka.com). When Patti suddenly took lame while working their booth, it was amusing to see the crowd respond with everything from home remedies (“Just hold your nose and swallow”), to the offering of, “I’m not a doctor but I played one in a high school play once and will be glad to take a look.” Turns out it was just a stressed tendon, but the Hodaka Family responded.

Classic engine details on this mostly one-off café/road racer creation based on a 1970 Ace 100 set it apart from the crowd. A true daily runner and one the owner claims is very reliable and fun to ride.
Classic engine details on this mostly one-off café/road racer creation based on a 1970 Ace 100 set it apart from the crowd. A true daily runner and one the owner claims is very reliable and fun to ride.

So much of the back story of this hardy machine’s history is well laid out in Smith’s book, from the the meteoric rise and popularity of the affordable, well-targeted product, all the way to the demise of the little company as it found it was spread too thin across the Pacific to keep up with the changes and market demands. Sitting for a spell with co-founder Marv Foster, he told me of when “Big” Frank Wheeler, a California Hodaka dealer, invited him to Baja to test ride the bikes.

As a platform and catalyst for unmatched creativity and craftsmanship, vintage Hodakas present a perfect canvas for the one-of-a-kind ride, as this blue-framed beauty testifies.
As a platform and catalyst for unmatched creativity and craftsmanship, vintage Hodakas present a perfect canvas for the one-of-a-kind ride, as this blue-framed beauty testifies.

It was not the Baja 1000, but they did ride more than 3,800 miles on stock Ace 90s without a single mechanical failure. The trip was considered a great success for the brand. It was apparent the years had not diminished the pluck in this personality that once shaped the company.

Engineering creativity is applauded in the world of Hodaka appreciation, such as this unique 1970 Ace 100 trike ridden by Stephen Burrows from Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Engineering creativity is applauded in the world of Hodaka appreciation, such as this unique 1970 Ace 100 trike ridden by Stephen Burrows from Council Bluffs, Iowa.

The 2014 parade hosted 135 machines, the most ever, and it was a treat to be surrounded by the passionate two-stroke symphony of this eclectic swarming host! Noteworthy at these events are the bikes on display, whether in the judged show or just as proud owner turnout. One very trick Hodaka Ace trike was seen transporting owner Stephen Burrows around the gathering; the pride in execution, fit and finish plain to see on his Santa red cheeks. Rare, later Hodaka versions adorned the city park, such as the partnering with Rickman Metisse and Steen, or beautifully customized examples such as the Ace 100 café machine of Dave Michaels, a firefighter from Halsey, Oregon, who regularly rides and shows his creation.

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A remarkable 50th anniversary special-edition Hodaka went home with a lucky raffle ticket holder for quite a collectible memory indeed. Paul Stannard of Strictly Hodaka gazes out over the crowds at Hodaka “Ground Zero.”
A remarkable 50th anniversary special-edition Hodaka went home with a lucky raffle ticket holder for quite a collectible memory indeed. Paul Stannard of Strictly Hodaka gazes out over the crowds at Hodaka “Ground Zero.”

If you have been around motorcycles for a few decades, the names of many guest “celebrities” will surely ring an old “Bell.” Having worked behind motorcycle shop counters in the early ’80s, I had hawked dozens of magazine issues with their names and faces on the covers, so even in the muggy evening air it was refreshing to walk up to join in a snickering joke-fest with Preston Petty and “Hippie” Brad Lackey. Having escaped the awards banquet and stifling indoor climate to grab a glass of wine or three, these two wove a tapestry of tales waist deep in history…and the here and now.

One simply cannot leave Hodaka Days without a memorable classic T-shirt to show their Hodaka pride.
One simply cannot leave Hodaka Days without a memorable classic T-shirt to show their Hodaka pride.

The “Garden Party” atmosphere at this event accentuates the power of admiration and connection that something seemingly as insignificant as a motorcycle can create and maintain in a person. This brand did so much with so little at a time when the riding public wanted it. Hodaka means “mountain” in Japanese, and this little mole of a motorcycle has indeed created a mountain of fans new and old and continues to add credits to its history, even now into its second half-century.

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