Who Stole my Handlebars ?

Look carefully at Walter “Pat” Patterson’s brand new 1925 Harley-Davidson motorcycle parked amid a small crowd at 7th and Pacific. Lately upper Pacific Avenue has been getting a lot of attention due to the Portland based McMenamin’s projects but 90 years ago, in April 1925, there was an attraction of a different kind still involving the big city to the south.  It was a slightly harebrained stunt to ride a new Harley without handlebars from Tacoma to Portland. Just to make it interesting Patterson would ride with his hands cuffed to the saddle and the bike locked in high gear. Needless to say he was not wearing a helmet. The adventure was sponsored by the Hirsch Cycle Company up on Tacoma Avenue and in fact, it went amazing well. With American Motorcycle Association referees and officials observing the whole way, Patterson made the trip with no serious mishaps and soon found himself in newspapers and Harley-Davidson advertisements all over the country. Tacoma has been the launch pad for a number of colorful schemes over the years; George Francis Train’s 1885 race around the world in 67 days, James Ashton’s near death adventure to the “Ice-Bound” Siberian Arctic in 1922, Fay Fuller’s first ascent of Mt. Tacoma by a woman in 1887 and before it all the First American Exploring Expedition’s 1841 mapping of the entire Puget Sound region beginning at a harbor they appropriately named Commencement Bay. With that harbor just behind him you get the feeling from the expression on Pat Patterson’s face that he knows he’s starting at the right place.
Tacoma Public Library Boland-B12231 (unique 37280). From RecapturedCity by Andy Cox
Just around the corner two years earlier…


Two women ride in side-cars as passengers of two daring motorcyclists on February 25, 1923. They are parked close to the City Hall Annex with the Northern Pacific headquarters in the rear. The men are operating Harley-Davidson bikes. It is possible that they were participating in the Tacoma Motorcycle Club’s first reliability race of the season. 30 riders would make the 125-mile run from Tacoma to Olympia and back. They were required to maintain a 20 mph speed throughout the race.

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