Original information from Jesse James' History of Choppers DVD, American Thunder TV Series & Sugar Bear's website. Words by Blog Holder. Pictures from Google images.
There are many people that study history but not enough of it... Hide history because of their ignorant evil nature... And those that carelessly make up history, claiming it as truth, just because they don't know anything about it. However, when it comes to history this living legend I will present to you LIVED it, WITNESSED it first hand, and COLLECTED pictures along with relics from its golden age to PROVE the existence of the African-American biker culture. In every case his pictures from the 1940's and 50's eradicated words of doubt, attesting to the proof of black people on bikes far before the chopper frenzy took place. But most of all, his biggest contribution was MAKING history in biker society. The legend I am proud to scribe about is the great, world renowned SUGAR BEAR, who's life has been a living testament to the ENTIRE biker nation as we know it. With his classic springers (long forks on the motorcycle) and awsome revolutionary rockers (the part connecting the forks to the wheel) these marvels of craftsmanship have made him so highly acclaimed by motorcycle afficionados it is hard to keep up with business and business is booming. The one thing that was shocking to those that met him for the first time was finding out that he is an African-American the other, was finding a friend. With the lack of seeing images of African-American bikers as well as being over saturated with depictions of caucasians on bikes, people simply believed black people were not interested in bikes or had such a long history with motorcycles. With apperances on Jesse James' documentary History of The Chopper and Speed Channel's American Thunder, Sugar Bear has enlightened and educated the world abroad about the pressence of Black Americans on motorcycles in past times.
As always with great storys, the beginning is where this innovator's past begins. Sugar Bear was born on September of 1939 in Missouri. Twenty years later he would have that pivotal moment that is known all over that began his paramount ride through history. In 1969 while cruising in his car on the freeway Sugar Bear noticed a biker passing by on a chopper, but he was even more captivated by the woman that sparked it all. She was a lady leaning back on the sissy bars of that chopper reading a paperback book and noticed Sugar Bear. As they smiled at each other she gave him the "peace" sign as she rode off and faded away on that chopper... Right then Sugar Bear the chopper rider was born and that following week Sugar Bear went out and bought a Honda 750, but didn't know how to ride it. That drawback would not stop the future inventor from riding. His friend Barbershop Scotty came to help him get on his iron horse and ride it like a pro. A year later he started chopping and redesigning his bike to become a chopper. But where does one go to get the knowledge to do such a complicated task? This genius went to seek that advice of another legend EVERYONE, black or white, would go to about motorcycles. This was at Hardy's Motorcycle Service at 1168 South Florence Avenue near South Central Avenue. This meeting was not only the start of a great friendship but the beginning of a mentorship that was detrimental to history as we know it. That fellow genius was none other than Benjamin Franklin Hardy known to everyone as Benny Hardy. Brother Ben, as he was known to many, was a passionate man when it came to working on motorcycles and crafting them from scratch. As many have come to know, Benny is the creator with Cliff Vaughs in making the Easy Rider motorcycles that no one knew was made by an African American. As Sugar Bear perfected his great enginuity from gaining knowledge all over he opened his own custom bike shop in walking distance from his house located in South Central Los Angeles in 1971. As his builds became a hit with friends that he customized choppers for, he then moved to making his famous springers that were inches... then feet over the original length of the fork. What makes Sugar Bear a genius is that he has desiphered the complex geometry of motorcycles which had revealed to many he was actually a mathmatical genius and engineering marvel. With such greatness at making these springers he also made the coolest rockers the world has ever seen. Sugar Bear's creations are so unique in making the motorcycle so perfectly balanced that the bike never flops over, giving the rider great control when turning. In fact you can actually turn the bike with one hand. In encompassing art with engineering, Sugar Bear turned the world of motorcycling upside down. However, he was still not accepted by some in the community of fellow bikers that shared the same passion all because they did not look alike. Even though he was not accepted by those who opposed him as a person they could not help what he had contributed in making choppers so mesmerizing. This caused many to rethink their views and helped break cycles of racial ignorance. Also, being a towering man helped people reconsider what they said before saying the wrong thing. Not to mention his great demenor mixed with great story telling conveyed a brilliant articulate man that many were not aware of since they've never been exposed to African Americans in person. Sugar Bear's career has been one of innovation, but his purpose has been one of triumph over decades of oppression. His valiant effort with motorcycle media has never gone in vain, by refusing to feature his work in or on magazine covers unless he was featured with it as well. This courageous display of bravery won him covers and articles in magazines even when racisim was prominent in publications all over... And he did this without selling himself out, all the while introducing a generation to the legacy of African American bikers that many are proud to represent with pride and dignity to this day. Sugar Bear, now in his early 70's, is still a young man at his shop located in Gardena, Califonia and shows now sign whatsoever in slowing down or being counted out when it comes to teaching the past of African Americans in the biker culture and making a great chopper as well. For me he is the reason that this blog exists to teach a newer generation what is missing from the media and conversations about a favorite American past time this is rich with black influences. It is because of his knowledge that he has passed onto me about blacks motorcyclists, I have a new found appreciation for the biker culture. I thank this man, legend and genius for making us better people all over the world regardless of color under his trademark heart with wings... And just remember... "IF IT AIN'T LONG. ITS WRONG." ~Sugar Bear