I know this is preaching to the converted, but this is such a good read and so spot on that it’s worth your time. If you don’t have a “fuck yeah!” moment after you read this, you should question why you come to this site.
Mike Rowe’s Testimony Before the U.S. Senate Committee
on Commerce, Science and Transportation
May 11, 2011
Chairman Rockefeller, Ranking Member Hutchison and members of this committee, my name is Mike Rowe, and I want to thank you all very much for the opportunity to testify before you today.
I’m here today because of my grandfather.

His name was Carl Knobel, and he made his living in Baltimore as a master electrician. He was also a plumber, a mechanic, a mason, and a carpenter. Everyone knew him as a jack-of-all-trades. I knew him as a magician.

For most of his life, my grandfather woke up clean and came home dirty. In between, he accomplished things that were nothing short of miraculous. Some days he might re-shingle a roof. Or rebuild a motor. Or maybe run electricity out to our barn. He helped build the church I went to as a kid, and the farmhouse my brothers and I grew up in. He could fix or build anything, but to my knowledge he never once read the directions. He just knew how stuff worked.

I remember one Saturday morning when I was 12. I flushed the toilet in the same way I always had. The toilet however, responded in a way that was completely out of character. There was a rumbling sound, followed by a distant gurgle. Then, everything that had gone down reappeared in a rather violent and spectacular fashion.

Naturally, my grandfather was called in to investigate, and within the hour I was invited to join he and my dad in the front yard with picks and shovels.

By lunch, the lawn was littered with fragments of old pipe and mounds of dirt. There was welding and pipe-fitting, blisters and laughter, and maybe some questionable language. By sunset we were completely filthy. But a new pipe was installed, the dirt was back in the hole, and our toilet was back on its best behavior. It was one of my favorite days ever.

Thirty years later in San Francisco when my toilet blew up again. This time, I didn’t participate in the repair process. I just called my landlord, left a check on the kitchen counter, and went to work. When I got home, the mess was cleaned up and the problem was solved. As for the actual plumber who did the work, I never even met him.

It occurred to me that I had become disconnected from a lot of things that used to fascinate me. I no longer thought about where my food came from, or how my electricity worked, or who fixed my pipes, or who made my clothes. There was no reason to. I had become less interested in how things got made, and more interested in how things got bought.

t this point my grandfather was well into his 80s, and after a long visit with him one weekend, I decided to do a TV show in his honor. Today, Dirty Jobs is still on the air, and I am here before this committee, hoping to say something useful. So, here it is.

I believe we need a national PR Campaign for Skilled Labor. A big one. Something that addresses the widening skills gap head on, and reconnects the country with the most important part of our workforce.

Right now, American manufacturing is struggling to fill 200,000 vacant positions. There are 450,000 openings in trades, transportation and utilities. The skills gap is real, and it’s getting wider. In Alabama, a third of all skilled tradesmen are over 55. They’re retiring fast, and no one is there to replace them.

Alabama’s not alone. A few months ago in Atlanta I ran into Tom Vilsack, our Secretary of Agriculture. Tom told me about a governor who was unable to move forward on the construction of a power plant. The reason was telling. It wasn’t a lack of funds. It wasn’t a lack of support. It was a lack of qualified welders.

In general, we’re surprised that high unemployment can exist at the same time as a skilled labor shortage. We shouldn’t be. We’ve pretty much guaranteed it.

In high schools, the vocational arts have all but vanished. We’ve elevated the importance of “higher education” to such a lofty perch that all other forms of knowledge are now labeled “alternative.” Millions of parents and kids see apprenticeships and on-the-job-training opportunities as “vocational consolation prizes,” best suited for those not cut out for a four-year degree. And still, we talk about millions of “shovel ready” jobs for a society that doesn’t encourage people to pick up a shovel.

In a hundred different ways, we have slowly marginalized an entire category of critical professions, reshaping our expectations of a “good job” into something that no longer looks like work. A few years from now, an hour with a good plumber – if you can find one – is going to cost more than an hour with a good psychiatrist. At which point we’ll all be in need of both.

I came here today because guys like my grandfather are no less important to civilized life than they were 50 years ago. Maybe they’re in short supply because we don’t acknowledge them they way we used to. We leave our check on the kitchen counter, and hope the work gets done. That needs to change.

My written testimony includes the details of several initiatives designed to close the skills gap, all of which I’ve had the privilege to participate in. Go Build Alabama, I Make America, and my own modest efforts through Dirty Jobs and mikeroweWORKS. I’m especially proud to announce “Discover Your Skills,” a broad-based initiative from Discovery Communications that I believe can change perceptions in a meaningful way.

I encourage you to support these efforts, because closing the skills gap doesn’t just benefit future tradesmen and the companies desperate to hire them. It benefits people like me, and anyone else who shares my addiction to paved roads, reliable bridges, heating, air conditioning, and indoor plumbing. The skills gap is a reflection of what we value. To close the gap, we need to change the way the country feels about work.

May 12th, 2011 by grail21 in Editorials | Comments (10)

This is my church

201102241841.jpgThere are people are people on this earth who are incredibly passionate about their religion. They eat, breath and sleep it. They collect artifacts that are related to it. They travel the world to visit and engage with the churches and temples that support it. While I’m not a religious man and can’t specifically relate to that passion, I can respect it and embrace each individuals right to do their own thing (as long as they’re not trying to sell it to me). What I can relate to is that engrossing desire to be surrounded by your passion. Instead of crosses and ancient texts, I’d rather collect rusty bike parts. Instead of reading through holy books, I’d rather flip through a service manual. Instead of admiring the architecture of a 300 year old church, I’d rather oggle someones garage or workshop.

When I look at someone’s workspace I see inspiration and the process of creation, whether it’s a closet sized shed or a gigantic warehouse. I see art, science, ingenuity, passion, knowledge and the quest to build. Coffee table book spotless or close to the edge of landing on the show “Hoarders”, it’s all beautiful to me. I imagine many of you feel the same way, which is why you should be checking out the Garage Journal website if you haven’t already. It’s absolute porn for gearheads.

There are tons of threads on the site showcasing the epic workspaces and garages across the world, some of them bigger than the houses they sit next too. They serve as inspiration to our own dreams of constructing a gigantic palace of wrenchology. I love seeing that kind of stuff, even if the reality of building my own might be far off in the future. What I love checking out just as much is what folks are doing with the more typical setup - the ubiquitous 2 car garage. There are some great pics and ideas in this thread. I ripped all these pics from there, you should go check it out to see more and get inspired. The entire site is a gigantic repository of useful knowledge for the obsessed grease monkey. Go check it out and get stoked - you won’t be let down.

201102241840.jpg201102241802.jpgRichard Pollock of Mule Motorcycles


February 25th, 2011 by grail21 in Editorials, Moto Art & Pics | Comments (5)

Zero Engineering Calender


I can’t say I ever thought I’d be writing about a calender on this site, but when the Ben Schkade sent over a sample of the one he just shot for Zero Engineering, I figured it was worth a mention. I’ve never been shy about how much I dig the Zero style, so as far as calenders go, this one tops the charts. Killer bikes, hot chicks, great photography and a cool layout. I think the real value in all this is having some gorgeous wall art to post up around the garage - even after the month has passed. Definitely not your typical lace bikini clad broads and bikes calender. Don’t get me wrong, the women are beautiful (and some scantily clad), but it’s definitely been shot with a moreartful and classy eye. Kudos to Ben for the killer job and great pics.

November 3rd, 2009 by grail21 in Editorials | No Comments

Steve McQueen & Motorcycles

Ripped from the pages of PopSci. Click for bigger to read the whole article.

Binder2_Page_01.jpg Binder2_Page_02.jpgBinder2_Page_03.jpg

August 6th, 2009 by grail21 in Editorials, Vintage | Comments (2)

XS650 Street Tracker

Yamaha, XS650, Street Tracker, Cafe Racer, welding, machining, welder, lathe, mill
3Ebd 32748 38832 390A6 35934 37346 3-1F525 37132 30F60 38B37 35D2A 32861 3De78 3C0A8 3C55B 3

Less talk. More rawk. Ripping XS650 Street Tracker.

November 24th, 2008 by grail21 in Editorials, Bitchin' Bikes | No Comments

Shop Class As Soul Craft

SHOP CLASS AS SOULCRAFT by Matthew B. Crawford
Why do we devalue manual work when it’s so satisfying?
The Dallas Morning News, Sunday, September 24, 2006

Anyone in the market for a good, used machine tool should talk to Noel Dempsey, a dealer in Richmond, Va. Noel’s bustling warehouse is full of metal lathes, milling machines and table saws, and it turns out that most of it is from schools. EBay is awash in such equipment, also from schools. It appears shop class is becoming a thing of the past, as educators prepare students to become “knowledge workers.”

A decline in tool use would seem to betoken a shift in our mode of inhabiting the world: more passive and more dependent. And indeed, there are fewer occasions for the kind of spiritedness that is called forth when we take things in hand for ourselves, whether to fix them or to make them. What ordinary people once made, they buy; and what they once fixed for themselves, they replace entirely or hire an expert to repair, whose expert fix often involves installing a pre-made replacement part.

So perhaps the time is ripe for reconsideration of an ideal that has fallen out of favor: manual competence and the stance it entails toward the built, material world.

Neither as workers nor as consumers are we much called upon to exercise such competence – most of us, anyway – and merely to recommend its cultivation is to risk the scorn of those who take themselves to be the most hard-headed. The hard-headed economist will point out the opportunity costs of making what can be bought, and the hard-headed educator will say that it is irresponsible to educate the young for the trades, which are somehow identified as the jobs of the past. But we might pause to consider just how hard-headed these presumptions are and whether they don’t, on the contrary, issue from a peculiar sort of idealism, one that insistently steers young people toward the most ghostly kinds of work.

Read more…

May 20th, 2008 by grail21 in Editorials | Comment (1)

One Question Interview: May Edition

In this months segment of the one question interview we asked all our favorite greasebags the following question:

When it comes to building or customizing bikes, what’s the most important lesson you’ve learned:

Lot’s of great answers, tips and tricks to grab from all the answers, a great extended answer at the end by Ian Barry of Falcon, so make sure to get to that.

As always, I love to hear you guys (yes YOU) answer the question as well, so use the comments section to drop some knowledge/sarcasm/humor/wit/etc…With that said, onto the show. (Make sure to click read more to check out all the answers). Now, onto the show:

Wes • Four Aces Cycle Supply • www.fouracescycle.com
The most important esoteric lesson I have learned building bikes is that the bike will tell you what it needs and what it wants you to do if you listen to it. The perfect bike builds itself. If you offer up parts to the bike it will either accept or reject those parts based on your eye’s interpretation of the package. Forced bikes look forced.

The most important concrete lesson I have learned is that building a bike, for yourself or for someone else, costs money. At some point you are gonna have to spend some dough. If you grind your builder he is going to have to fudge the quality and that is going to bite both customer and builder down the road. Pick the right builder and pay him well. On your own build, don’t be afraid to buy quality materials and quality parts.

Read more…

May 16th, 2008 by grail21 in Spotlight, Editorials, Interviews | Comments (8)

Latest BRM Editorial


My latest editorial segment for Biker Radio Magazine went live last Friday, this month I tackle the subject of files (with a nod and a thank you to the guys on the JJ). It’s at the end of the latest show, check out the whole thing here: http://www.bikerradiomagazine.com/shows.html

May 13th, 2008 by grail21 in KB News, Editorials | Comment (1)

One Question Interview P2


Here’s the second installment of our one question interview feature, if you missed the first, check it out here: One Question Interview P1. Everyone stepped up their game this week; your gonna dig what you read.

As always, I love to hear you guys (yes YOU) answer the question as well, so use the comments section to drop some knowledge/sarcasm/humor/wit/etc…With that said, onto the show. (Make sure to click read more to check out all the answers)

Question: What is the earliest memory you have surrounding motorcycles and how did it influence you?

Trent | Atomic Customs | atomiccustom.com
The earliest memory I have of motorcycles…
Well, I was 4 years old and my Dad took me out the Elks Lodge parking lot in Billings, Montana to teach me to ride my own. Now the Elks parking lot was nice and smooth EXCEPT for the back way into the property, which consisted of a gnarly, rutted out hillclimb! Of course this is where my Dad took me to learn. He took me to the top of the hill and told me to stay there while he walked down that rocky, rutted out, two track road. A few minutes later he yells up, “come on down!” I was scared and yelled back “I cant do it!” He yelled back “come on, you can do it”. Well, after several minutes of this back and forth I finally went for it. I actually made it about half way down this hill, gaining quite a bit of speed in the process before crashing the rest of the way. Years later, Dad and I were talking about those old days and I was giving him shit for traumatizing the fuck out of me (that memory is burned in my brain to this day) He replied “you learned to respect motorcycles didn’t you??”

Yes, I did.

Read more…

April 11th, 2008 by grail21 in Spotlight, Editorials, Interviews | Comments (8)

Biker Cartoons

Streetchopper Dec 1979 Page 69Biker cartoons rule. Nuff said. As a side note, if anyone has a copy of Hal Robinsons book “Trash” they want to sell, drop me a line. More ‘toons coming your way soon.

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March 19th, 2008 by grail21 in Editorials, Vintage | Comments (2)

What you’d hear if you walked into my shop. . .

Last week I introduced you to the new one question interview feature I’ll be runnin’ on the site (check it out here if you missed it), and I also mentioned that my favorite response to the question came from Jason McElroy. Jason has some serious skills when it comes to putting pen to paper, and he weaved together a brilliant and detailed portrait, not only of his workshop, but the wrench-head community he is a part of. Seriously, there were parts where the words intertwined together so well it raised the hair on my arms

Don’t believe me? check out this excerpt from the full article….

If it were a warm day, although those lately seem long past, you might walk in by the ramp constructed of scrap wood and expanded metal and fiberglass cast offs. It’d buckle and sway underfoot, feeling a bit sketchy if this were your first visit. . . your eyes irretrievably drawn and locked on the motorcycles hanging from the ceiling. From I-beams. By chains. By safety straps. In every corner. On shelves. In lofts, on cars, in trucks, in racks, on blocks, under trash, over parts, near buckets, under foot. over head. With a six foot disco ball in the middle. Sun rays coming in through roof skylights and under the lintel throwing heavenly beams through the metal and paint dusty room like you’d died and gone to central booking for the heaven you believe in. Rust. Grease. Cracked vinyl. Crumbled seat foam. Cloudy lens glass. Dented paint. Sour gas. Musty oil. Hard metal.

Fuck. Now that’s what I’m talking about. Brilliant, and so is the rest of the article, so click on the read more link below to dig into it.

Read more…

March 17th, 2008 by grail21 in Editorials, Interviews | Comments (4)

One Question Interviews


Here’s a new bit to sink your chompers into like one of those gigantic turkey legs at the state fair - the one question interview. “What the hell is that?” Well here’s the skinny broham. Once or twice a month I email a single question to a bunch of dudes and ask them all to answer it. Who ever gets their answer back to me before the deadline will have it published on the site. Simple. Some of these dudes you may know because of the work they do, some of them you’re going to have no idea who the fuck they are, they’re just your everyday wrench head.

A lot of great responses in the mix, some long, some short - all good. On Monday, I’m going to post my favorite one - the answer I got back from Jason McElroy (www.jasonmcelroy.com). Jason didn’t just send me back an answer to the question, he wrote a killer article that had me gripped from the start. It really deserved it’s own separate post, so make sure to check back on Monday for that one.

One last thing, I’d love to hear you guys (yes YOU) answer the question as well, so use the comments section to drop some knowledge/sarcasm/humor/wit/etc…With that said, onto the show. (Make sure to click read more to check out all the answers)

Question: If I was to walk into your garage / shop while you’re working on a
bike, what would be the most likely sound I would hear… and why?

Truth | Choppahead | www.choppahead.com
You’d hear the sound of glory. That is, of course, if glory to you sounds like midget strippers dressed like clowns throwing 40’s of Olde English at our shop apprentice to a soundtrack of early 80’s hardcore punk. Oh yeah, and hammers to metal, grinders to metal, and welding arc’s to metal for ambience.

Read more…

March 14th, 2008 by grail21 in Editorials, Interviews | Comments (10)

So you want a bobber

So you want a bobber

By Josh “2_Wheel_Nation” Calvi
Originally posted on the
Jockey Journal,reprinted with permission.

chapter 1:
so, it’s official, you want a bobber. let me guess… you were sitting at the tattoo parlor waiting for your turn to get something deeply meaningful drilled into your flesh when this guy rides up on the sickest bike you’ve ever seen. you go out to ogle it and you say to the owner “bro that’s the sickest bike i’ve ever seen!”. he looks at you, hesitating to smile as he removes his goggles and says “thanks bro, that’s my bobber.” you thought it was a yamaha, mainly because that’s what the engine says on it but you didn’t want to sound like a fool. all you know is that bike made you hornier than the latest sailor jerry flash catalog. ever since then you’ve been thinking about that killer scoot; the red rims, the white walls, the flat black paint job, the PBR tap handle shifter. the thing just oozed class. finally you decide to punch the words “bobber” and “motorcycle” into a search engine. then lo and behold, you find yourself here, the jockey journal. you’ve found it, the holy grail. shangri la. xanadu. you start reading threads, the bike pics are driving you wild but all these words like “pan”, “trump” and “magneto” are makin your head spin like a fist full of crosstops. you don’t care. you’re determined. you want a bobber, but where to start? you’ve never ridden a bike before. you don’t know which way to turn a wrench. all you know is that sportsters are girls bikes and bobbers are the shit. you’re about to start a new thread asking everyone how to make a bobber when you find this post: “TECH: so you want a bobber”. no freaking way! your ship has just come in my friend. crack open a fresh high life and crank up the cash, let’s get to building you a bike mr 666chopperbobberratrod666 or whoever you are.

Read more…

February 26th, 2008 by grail21 in How To, Editorials | Comments (19)

Hunter S. Thompson & Motorcycles


A bit of remembrance for the man, the myth, the legend - Hunter S. Thompson. Easily one of my favorite writers of all time. Went out on his own dime 3 years ago today - can’t say I agree with his methods, but it was part of the madness that made him who he was. Here is a reprint of one of the greatest motorcycle reviews ever penned.

Song of the Sausage Creature
by Hunter S. Thompson

There are some things nobody needs in this world, and a bright-red, hunch-back, warp-speed 900cc cafe racer is one of them - but I want one anyway, and on some days I actually believe I need one. That is why they are dangerous.

Everybody has fast motorcycles these days. Some people go 150 miles an hour on two-lane blacktop roads, but not often. There are too many oncoming trucks and too many radar cops and too many stupid animals in the way. You have to be a little crazy to ride these super-torque high-speed crotch rockets anywhere except a racetrack - and even there, they will scare the whimpering shit out of you… There is, after all, not a pig’s eye worth of difference between going head-on into a Peterbilt or sideways into the bleachers. On some days you get what you want, and on others, you get what you need.

When Cycle World called me to ask if I would road-test the new Harley Road King, I got uppity and said I’d rather have a Ducati superbike. It seemed like a chic decision at the time, and my friends on the superbike circuit got very excited. “Hot damn,” they said. “We will take it to the track and blow the bastards away.”

“Balls,” I said. “Never mind the track. The track is for punks. We are Road People. We are Cafe Racers.”

The Cafe Racer is a different breed, and we have our own situations. Pure speed in sixth gear on a 5000-foot straightaway is one thing, but pure speed in third gear on a gravel-strewn downhill ess-turn is quite another.

But we like it. A thoroughbred Cafe Racer will ride all night through a fog storm in freeway traffic to put himself into what somebody told him was the ugliest and tightest decreasing-radius turn since Genghis Khan invented the corkscrew.
Read more…

February 20th, 2008 by grail21 in Spotlight, Editorials | Comments (7)

Ape Hangers: For the love of the misguided

The image “http://www.jockeyjournal.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=19772&d=1187664860” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Dude. Seriously. Cut it out.

Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.
(credit: mad750 on the JJ)

August 21st, 2007 by grail21 in Editorials | Comments (3)

My Gal Is An Enabler

Like Bruin, I’ve been lucky enough to find the right gal. This is a great write up, especially for all of us who suffer from the sickness (you know what I’m talking about.)

My Gal Is An Enabler
By Bruin

My name is Bruin and I’m a Cycleholic. The first step is to admit I have a problem, yes I am a user and abuser of motorcycles. I crave them beyond what is financially healthy. But I’m not alone in my two wheel addiction, my gal is an enabler. In this story I’ll call her “Tucker”.

Years ago, when I was first struggling to find a healthy balance between bike and bucks, I offered to sell my ’81 FLHS to help the household finances. She said “No, you will regret it and it’ll cost more to replace it later.” The cold sweat passed and the bike is still in the garage.

Over the years my desire for something more radical grew until one day I announced I intended to chop the FLHS. Tucker talked me down with “Don’t mess with a good running bike, buy a project bike instead.” Then she promptly bought me a ’70 Triumph long bike at the Labor Day Rally. Mmmm, it was the good stuff.

That satisfied me for a short while but the taste of the 500cc Brit import only whetted my appetite for more power. Again I threatened to tweak the FLHS but Tucker stopped me. “If you want a power fix, leave the Harley alone and buy another project bike.” This time I came home with two old, out of production, ‘60s era BSAs. It was at this time I started realizing that I might be out of control.

The Beezers were sweet and satisfying, for a time. The stable was up to four now, more than any man can ride at once, and yet I still desired more. This time the look on my face was enough and Tucker signed off on my purchase of a ’82 CB 900 Honda. Its four cylinders were good, very good.

By now Tucker knew my weakness and how to control me. Just as I started enjoying the buzz of the Honda Tucker went out and scored me a ’84 Yamaha XS 650. Now my stash had grown to more than I could handle. It’s a struggle to juggle six old bikes, keeping them running, charged and lubricated dominates my time.

I was drowning in repairs and oil drips. Misery loves company and the inevitable happened. I went from user to supplier, I went out and bought Tucker her own old Honda. She was hooked the first time she used it. I smiled and told her “The first taste is free.”

With apologies to those who struggle with true addictions.

December 3rd, 2006 by grail21 in Editorials | Comment (1)

Biker Build Off

So the new season of Biker Build Off kicked off last night. This usually wouldn’t be of any interest to me (especially in the summer when my TV never gets turned on) however the season kicked off with the Russell Mitchell vs. Billy Lane episode which they were shooting at Laconia, so I had to check it out. To say they dropped the ball on the production and editing of this would be an understatement. The production crew missed taping two key events (Russell breaking his foot and Billy’s bike catching fire - all we saw was aftermath, not the events going down), and then the editing and producing team butchered the ending / awards ceremony to twist reality around. Anyone who was there knows that the way they presented it on TV was not a good representation of reality. Having done plenty of video editing in my time, I realize that things end up on the cutting room floor, and obviously when working with a limited amount of time to get a story across on TV a lot of things don’t make the cut, but really the reality and soul of the Laconia awards presentation was completely stripped away. I have the video to back it up and you can make up your own minds as whether or not it was accurate.

There was no mention of the voting. No mention of how the crowd chose Billy’s bike disregarding the fact that it was burnt to a crisp by the time they saw it and the he couldn’t ride it in. That alone shows that Billy’s celebrity surpasses his bikes. People weren’t voting for the bike on the merit of its design or presentation, they were voting for Billy - a celebrity popularity contest if you will. However, they presented it like the TV crew waltzed in and said “Hey Billy’s bike burned so he loses.” Didn’t happen like that at all - folks waited all night and all day for those guys to show, they voted, the votes were counted and Billy won the popular vote despite his burnt marshmallow bike. Russell hung out all day in front of the stage - talking with people, signing autographs, drinking and hanging out. Billy did not - I know he was getting tanked somewhere -he might have been at some other bar hanging out with his fans, but he wasn’t at the Broken Spoke. I’m not trying to diss Billy either - I like quite of few of his bikes and dig his grimy raw aesthetic, but there is no way in hell he would have won the popular vote on the basis of his bike alone - he won because of his celebrity status.

That aside, the biggest disappointment to me was the fact that they cut out the whole part (and short speech) where Russell refused the trophy. In my eyes this was the best part of the whole thing - Russell’s defiance, words and attitude made the crowd electric and people were feeding off of his rebellion. They also made it seem like Russell took the trophy home, like he finally won a BBO and was happy about it - he didn’t - some girl from the crowd who had a big set of twins on her chest took it home.

I could go on, but I won’t - watch the video for yourself and you can be the judge. Like I said, I realize things have to end up on the cutting room floor, I just felt they completely cut out the reality of how things went down.

Go to the video section to check it out.

August 8th, 2006 by grail21 in Editorials | Comment (1)