Interview: Jeff Decker

Jeff Decker
Jeff Decker is a historian and artist famed for his bronze sculptures of vintage motorcycles. He grew up surrounded by the car culture of southern California in the 60s; today he’s based in the Hippodrome Studio in Utah, and he’s passionate about “anything mechanical that started out well-made and has endured decades without ever being molested”.

What was the first motorcycle you bought with your own money? From before I could walk there were mini bikes, just around, for the using. The first bike I felt real ownership for was a nice shiny new Honda 50 we stole from a local rich kid. It was only a few hours, but I owned it nonetheless. I crashed it, and to this day have a lovely crescent moon scar from the exhaust pipe lying on my right leg as I laughed and cried, while pinned under the bike, as the rich kid was punching me! First proper purchase would have been a Silver Pigeon or Honda Dream, some junk that a high school boy could afford.

What do you think is the most beautiful production motorcycle ever built? Production bikes tend to be dogs. The prototypes and factory racers were always the beauties. Iver Johnson (below) made a few stunners in the teens that used tons of proprietary parts that were lovely, including their own carbs and parts that most other factories sourced out. It was in an elegant grey livery and overall nice stance and proportion. K models weren’t too ugly stock…

Iver-Johnson motorcycle
What motorcycle do you despise? Show winners at modern custom bike shows. These crazy over-thought, over-built, gross contraptions that hardly function as a motorcycle.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? A quiet place with a good book… in a room full of Cyclones, Crocker, Koslows, Honda factory multis, factory MVs, all in as-raced condition. And a Britton, a Moto Guzzi V8 (below), and of course world peace.

Moto Guzzi V8
Electric motorcycles: Yes or No? Yes. But I won’t buy one.

What is your favorite journey? Heavy. Life, I suppose. Traveling with my family and friends through life. The Cannonball. Trips to Italy and Japan. Starting a sculpture and finishing it. That is a pretty open question.

Which ‘everyday’ modern bikes do you think will become future classics? The equivalent of the Honda CB750 or Moto Guzzi V7 Sport, if you like? I should pay more attention—I really don’t know or care. Perhaps a Ducati 998S (below).

Ducati 998s
Who are your real-life motorcycling heroes? Maldwyn Jones (below), Jim Davis, Leslie Parkhurst, Otto Walker, Shrimp Burns, Ralph Hepburn, Ray Weishaar, Joe Petrali, Dick Mann, Cal Rayborn, Mike Hailwood, Kenny Roberts, Barry Sheen, Sonny Barger, Cole Foster, John Sawahski, Willie G. Davidson. Lots of folks, racers mainly.

Maldwyn Jones
Are you optimistic for the future of motorcycling? I focus more on the past: the future of motorcycling has always seemed boring and bleak. The most interesting blips in our motorcycling future will be revivals.

What is your current state of mind? I’d need therapy or heavy meds to be able focus on a current state… sorry.

Jeff Decker
Visit Jeff Decker’s website and click ‘Artwork’ to see his exquisite fine art bronzes.