Friday, April 12, 2013

Today in motorcycle history, April 12, 1952



  Dave Barr is born in Los Angeles, California, and left abandoned in the back seat of a car.  After nine months in foster care, he was adopted by WWII Navy veteran Guy Barr and his wife, Lucille. 


  Dave Barr joined the US Marine Corps when he was 17 and served in Vietnam on a helicopter gunship.  He earned 57 air medals, including a single-mission decoration for valor.  After his discharge from the Marine Corp in 1972 he bought his first motorcycle, a ‘61 Harley-Davidson Panhead.   He rode the Panhead coast-to-coast and then bought a new HD FX 1200cc shovelhead.

   Still having the itch for something more, he served two years with the Israeli Parachute Regiment and one year in the Rhodesian Light Infantry.  In 1981 while with the South African Defence Force riding in a military vehicle in southern Angola, his vehicle drove over an anti-tank mine and the resulting explosion cost him both of his legs, above the knee on the right and below the knee on the left.  He spent nine months in a Pretoria military hospital, undergoing 20 operations, including four to remove his legs in stages, skin grafts, and agonizing physical therapy to learn to walk again.  When he was released from the hospital, Barr volunteered to go back (?!) to the combat zone where he’d nearly been killed to finish his enlistment on prosthetic legs.


   Barr mustered out in December 1982 and returned to his family home in West Covina, California.  He took the Super Glide out of storage and refit it to accommodate his new life.  He added an electric start and an overload spring to the brake pedal so he could ride with his artificial right foot resting on it.  On his first ride, a casual thought occurred to him, and it put his life on a new course that would take him around the world and to some of its most extreme and challenging environments.

   It was on the shovel that Barr would become the first double amputee to circumnavigate the globe.  Seven years later he piloted the Super Glide out of Johannesburg, South Africa, on a 9,000-mile transcontinental ride to raise funds for the Leonard Cheshire Foundation, an international charity that assists disabled people.  In September 1990, nine months after completing the African ride, Barr again left Johannesburg on the 18-year-old shovelhead, he turned north and kept going.  Riding six of the world’s continents—he couldn’t find a way to get the bike to Antarctica—Barr logged 83,000 miles (including a 13,000 mile Atlantic to Pacific segment across Northern Europe and Siberia) through the world’s most dangerous and unforgiving regions during what turns out to be a 3½-year trip.


  And then as a million others are whining about their sore knee, he decides, "fuck this", and sets a second world record for riding the so-called Southern Cross.  In just 45 days during 1996, he completed the first motorcycle journey ever between the four extreme geographical corners of the Australian continent.

  Dave Barr was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2000 not only for his world record setting exploits, but also for the charity work he has done for the disabled along the way.