FAST EDDIE DIXONVILLE CYCLE
Motorcycle mechanic Ed Halkyard may look the part of an old master, but his knowledge and skills are state-of-the-art.
Story by Brandon Johns, Photos by Tom Boyd
An antique Harley engine bolted to a post and a weathered chopper front end converted into a mailbox guide you into the driveway.
A glimpse at the hand-painted sign in the yard lets you know that you have arrived at Fast Eddie’s Dixonville Cycle, home to Douglas County’s Harley-Davidson custom and restoration specialist.
The jingle of the bell on the door announces your arrival as you enter one of the last mom-and-pop motorcycle shops around, a rare place where you can take a step back in time before old-school Harley repair shops became mostly extinct. An antique cash register, still ringing up sales, sits on the front counter. Parts ranging from new in the box to the rare and antique line the walls and fill the shelves. If a needed item is not in stock, it can be found the old fashioned way — by thumbing through a parts catalog.
EARLY ON, MOTORCYCLES EMERGED AS THE FRAMEWORK AROUND WHICH
MUCH OF THE REST OF HALKYARD’S LIFE WOULD BE WRAPPED.
A peek into the mechanic’s area reveals a variety of motorcycles with their gleaming chrome and polished aluminum, glossy paint with gold leaf, dull sand-cast aluminum and shiny brass. The scent of gasoline and leather, tires and oil drift about. The sound of classic rock tunes sets the mood.
A metal lathe from the 1920s is still spinning and machining a custom part. The vintage valve-honing machine, built before there were even model numbers, dutifully performs its job. Snap-On wrenches from the 1940s are still turning bolts.
Here, in the midst of this functional homage to an earlier day, you will find another throwback hard at work.
Master mechanic Ed Halkyard could be plying his trade rebuilding an 80-year-old Harley motor, fitting some chrome pipes on a modern bike or performing a routine maintenance. More than 40-plus years of experience has armed Halkyard with the skills and know-how to solve almost any problem with any motorcycle, be it a newer Harley or an old Indian.
At any given time, Halkyard’s vintage shop houses several bikes, perched on lifts and being worked on, and others tucked away awaiting parts. The phone rings often, and when it does Ed will drop what he is doing to grab a catalog and look up a part or dispense some needed advice.
Halkyard considers his customers his friends, and that philosophy gives his shop a welcoming feel. When Halkyard introduces people, shortly after providing their name, he recites the type of bike they ride. He keeps a large mental rolodex of everyone’s motorcycle and remembers pertinent facts about them.
“Bikes sort of have a personality, like people. There is something unique about all of them,” says Halkyard.
It’s easily noticed that everything has its place at Fast Eddie’s. It’s not a huge facility, so no space is wasted. Old and specialty tools hang on the walls. Rows of manuals sit on shelves, tattered and oil-stained from years of dedicated use. Halkyard still routinely pulls out a repair manual, even if he has done a job countless times, just so no detail has a chance of being overlooked “It’s important to take the time to do the job right every time,” he says.
Wall space not occupied by tools or parts sports an antique sign, weathered poster or motorcycle curiosity. The back wall has become a memorial to friends who have passed — Tripper’s old Levi vest, Guyron’s custom license plate, Alan’s plaque.
Born and raised in San Francisco, Halkyard grew up around motorcycles. His parents rode because it was cheap transportation. They would motor around San Francisco and surrounding towns to skate in roller derby tournaments, a popular pastime in the ’50s and ’60s.
In the ’30s and ’40s, Halkyard’s father was a parts runner for Dudley Perkins, one of the country’s oldest Harley dealerships. Halkyard also remembers being babysat by champion dirt track racers. Early on, motorcycles emerged as the framework around which much of the rest of his life would be wrapped.
As a young man, Halkyard was working in San Mateo, raising money to head to Alaska, when a friend told him about some property in Oregon he owned and invited him to stay there any time he needed.
“It sounded like an adventure,” Halkyard says. “So I headed north to a small town called Glide to stay for a short spell. That was 1973.”
Whether fixing a car or a motorcycle, Halkyard has natural mechanical skills that he was always able to fall back on when other jobs didn’t work out. Eventually, those abilities landed him a job at Harley-Davidson of Douglas County, which gave him the additional training he needed to become a professional motorcycle mechanic.
Years later, in 1991, he opened the shop he still occupies. Dixonville Cycle is the only shop in the area that has stood the test of time. Back in the day, there was a dealership in Roseburg for almost every major motorcycle brand. Today, there are none.
Halkyard, who has never advertised his business, attributes his success to a loyal client base. “I’m grateful for the support all these years; I’m truly a lucky guy to have such great customers,” he says.
Those customers are welcome to visit the shop to check on their bike’s progress. He often uses those moments to teach folks something about their ride. Customers may even be handed an antique, oddball tool and asked to speculate as to its use.
Halkyard, who calls himself a “motorcycle enthusiast” instead of a biker, takes great pleasure in teaching. Years ago, he and best friend LeRoy Hecker, who gave him the nickname Fast Eddie, were the first traveling motorcycle safety instructors in Oregon. Halkyard obtained a teaching certificate from Oregon State University, then spent four years riding around the state teaching safe riding practices and skills.
“We called ourselves Fast Eddie and Funky LeRoy’s Traveling Roadside Circus and Motorcycle Safety Review,” Halkyard says with a laugh.
By applying what he taught, Halkyard has never had a serious accident while racking up countless motorcycle miles over the years. He shares that he has clipped a few deer, but escaped with nothing more than a banged-up foot.
After owning and riding all kinds of bikes, including several Triumphs and the occasional Yamaha, Halkyard settled on Harleys in the ’70s. “I stuck with Harleys over Triumphs because less parts fell off them,” he says with a grin.
Halkyard is particularly fond of the Knucklehead model, named after the knuckle shape of the motor’s rocker boxes. He currently owns a 1938 with sidecar and a 1947 classic bobber style, both of which he meticulously restored.
He is particularly proud of his ’47 Knucklehead bobber. It took more than 10 years of collecting parts or fabricating one-offs, then designing and hand-building the frame. Halkyard says people are often curious about the flappers on the bobber’s upswept exhaust, something normally found on an old tractor.
“I tell folks it’s been Oregonized; those flappers keep the rain out of my exhaust pipes,” Halkyard explains. Since he rides year-round, rain or shine, they’re a necessity.
Halkyard says his most challenging job was the detailed restoration of a rare 1933 Harley factory racer. The bike was one of five ever built. The work took five years of research, followed by Halkyard having to locate or hand-make period-correct parts before the restoration could begin.
These classic motorcycles are now starting to be seen as working art. The Guggenheim Museum hosted an exhibit called the Art of the Motorcycle, featuring 114 bikes, including 14 classic Harleys with three Knuckleheads.
Halkyard believes in keeping the old iron on the road, saying bikes are part of American history and heritage. “What better way for folks to see a classic motorcycle than to have it motoring down their street?” he asks.
He also relishes finding rare relics and curios. One example is a photo from the 1920s of the original Roseburg Harley shop. Halkyard says he was lucky enough to have met one of the mechanics in the photo. The old-timer spoke fondly of the drag races they used to have down Jackson Street and the hill-climb competitions they would hold on Rose Mountain.
Back in the day, Halkyard says, people rode because motorcycles were cheap transportation and provided a real sense of freedom. When you took a trip, there were no cell phones, laptops or GPS.
“You just had your bike, a few tools, a bedroll if you were lucky, and maybe a minor change of clothes. All strapped to the sissy bar,” Halkyard says. “Now, despite all the modern-day conveniences, being on your bike out on the road still provides a genuine sense of being free.”
“When living this type of life, you make some good friends along the way that tend to be loyal and willing to help when you are in need.”
Halkyard says he is proud to have raised his kids in his adopted lifestyle. “You will get some interesting looks, though, when dropping your kid off to school, riding a classic Harley with your youngster in the sidecar,” he says with a smile.
The passing of time has brought an untold variety of motorcycles through the shop doors of Dixonville Cycle. Bikes continue to change as the years drift by, and the techniques needed to work on them must evolve as well. With that in mind, Halkyard continues to learn new skills and tackle fresh challenges.
Like his old Knucklehead, Halyard has remained steadfast and dependable and made Dixonville Cycle a Roseburg institution. So every workday morning, just as he has for over the past 25 years, Halkyard unfurls the U.S. flag into the breeze, sets it in position at the front of his shop and flips the door sign to Open. Then he’s ready for another day devoted to keeping the iron on the road.