LOVE RIDE STILL ON A GOOD ROLL FOR 20TH TIME.
If truth be told, the first Love Ride fund-raiser organized by Harley-Davidson of Glendale owner Oliver Shokouh seemed like a good way to help muscular dystrophy research - and his own business - at the same time.
``It was our effort to help the Harley-Davidson Motor Co., which had become a corporate sponsor of the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and to improve the image of motorcyclists. We're not all 1 percenters,'' said Shokouh, 57, of Glendale.
``It was also to help publicize my business, to be honest,'' he added.
Mission accomplished, on all fronts.
Shokouh's dealership will be the most popular motorcycle destination in the state - and maybe the country - Sunday, when an estimated 20,000 motorcyclists from all over the world descend upon the Glendale shop.
From there, they will caravan 50 miles to Castaic Lake for an afternoon of music, food and companionship - an annual tradition for the past 20 years.
The event, which has raised more than $15 million for charity, drew about 400 riders in 1984, its first year. Shokouh's dealership had sponsored some rides prior, but hadn't done anything in 1983.
A fortunate confluence of events in those early years helped the ride grow into the largest motorcycle fund-raising event in the world.
A group of senior executives from Harley-Davidson bought the company back from the multinational corporation AMF. ``The Eagle Flies Alone'' became their rallying cry. The HOGs - Harley Owners Groups, associations of Harley owners - were formed. Today, they claim more than a half-million members.
In 1983, the company successfully lobbied for higher tariffs on Japanese motorcycle imports, giving the new owners some breathing room to improve what were, at the time, fine Harleys but dreadful motorcycles.
And positive publicity from events like the Love Ride - which drew celebrities from Jay Leno to Peter Fonda of ``Easy Rider'' fame - helped the rumbling V-Twin cruisers skyrocket in popularity.
``I never thought this event would go on for 20 years,'' Shokouh said. ``It's because of the enthusiasm of the core group that helped put the first one on, and all the fun we've had.''
Today, the Love Ride is a must-attend event for bikers.
Custom-bike builder Ron Simms, who builds gorgeous, ground-up, $60,000-plus cruisers for actors, professional athletes and other celebrities, is loading his company's skull-decorated, tractor-trailer rig and hauling more than a dozen bikes to the event from his company's headquarters in the Bay Area city of Hayward.
``That was Paul Tracy (this year's Long Beach Grand Prix winner) on the phone just now,'' Simms said in a telephone interview Thursday. ``You should see the bike we built for him. It's 180 horsepower, no problem.
``We're always excited about going to events, and we always kind of lean toward the Love Ride, because it was one of the events we started going to first,'' Simms said. ``I've been to every one of them, and watching it grow is kinda neat.''
Always, there is an emphasis on charity. Bob Mackle, director of public information for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, said the Love Ride raised about $50,000 last year for its association alone. The ride now raises money for a variety of associations. And Harley-Davidson has raised more than $47 million for the MDA in 24 years of Love Rides and other events.
``The HOG groups are fantastic. They'll do whatever we ask them to do,'' Mackle said. ``At the camps for our kids, one of the highlights of the summer is when the Harley riders show up and give the kids rides in the sidecars.''
But at the end of the day, the ride remains the real star of the show.
``To me, the biggest aspect, the most important part, is the ride,'' Shokouh said.
Michael Gougis, (818) 713-3762
IF YOU GO:
The 20th Annual Love Ride will begin at 9 a.m. Sunday at Harley-Davidson of Glendale, 3717 San Fernando Road, and head to Castaic Lake. Check-in will begin at 6 a.m. For information, call the 24-hour hotline at (818) 246-5618, Ext. 7, or visit www.loveride.org.
2 photos, box
(1 -- 2; 2 -- color only) Harley-Davidson of Glendale owner Oliver Shokouh, top photo in 1984, left, and below right with comedian Jay Leno in 2002, sponsored the first Love Ride in 1984. Since then, the annual event has raised more than $15 million for charity.
IF YOU GO (see text)
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Article Type:||Statistical Data Included|
|Date:||Nov 8, 2003|
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