A couple of inveterate tinkerers and V-Twin innovators lead the pack headed into the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum Hall of Fame Class of 2016. Both Bert Baker and Jerry Covington have made an indelible stamp on the industry and have "the right stuff" to meet the Museum's criteria for inclusion in a select group of individuals who have impacted our industry.
"The Hall of Fame's mission is to honor those who have made a positive and significant impact on the industry and the lifestyle," says Sturgis Motorcycle Museum & Hall of Fame Executive Director Myrick Robbins. "So it is fitting for our 15th Anniversary that we have Bert and Jerry headlining the Class of 2016 because both these gentlemen have definitively shaped the way we ride."
When aspiring motocross racer and mediocre student Bert Baker enrolled in Michigan State University's Mechanical Engineering program, little did he know the die had been cast for a unique career path. Although there was an obvious talent, Bert was not the model student nor an ideal employee at General Motors where he ended up after graduation due to the regimented requirements of these institutions. What he was suited for was being his own boss and racing headlong where others feared to tread.
Baker left behind a cushy career at GM to risk running his own business building a better motorcycle transmission - and motorcycling is better for it. A stalwart champion of the American-made movement, he's an enthusiastic gearhead with far-reaching mechanical ability; we all benefit from Bert's solutions to making his own bikes run better and faster. Bert is also a V-Twin drivetrain innovator, savvy businessman and stalwart patriot who has been described as having a pathological aversion to conformity. And what's wrong with that?
"Designing innovation is what we do... The fact of the matter is that our industry was changed by BAKER," claims Bert. "We were the first to develop an Overdrive 6-Speed, Right Side Drive, the 7-Speed and the first to incorporate Direct Drive. For more than a decade we have changed the face of the aftermarket motorcycle industry, and we're really looking forward to the next ten years of changes we have up our sleeves."
Like Baker, Jerry Covington has followed his own innate sense of what motorcycles should be, with a career spanning more than 40 years, Jerry is recognized as one of the top custom builders in the business. Having built his first chopper from the ground up at the ripe old age of 17, he realized early on that he "had an instinct" for just the right custom and performance modifications for both cars and motorcycles.
Born and raised in Texas, he built choppers through the '70s and turned his hobby into a family business in 1993 with wife Kathleen and sons David, Dusty, Peewee and Cameron moved to California, where he quickly became immersed in the custom hot rod scene. Ultimately seeking a more laid-back environment, Jerry, with wife and business partner, Kathleen, moved to Woodward, OK, where he began to build custom motorcycles for friends.
His reputation and customer base continued to grow, and it wasn't long before Covington's Customs had created their own cult following. Performance is a factor in every build and details are tended: welds never show, lines flow, and rideability is paramount. But you'll seldom hear much of this from Jerry, an unassuming man who lets his bikes do the talking and his actions speak for themselves. Look to the media where the Covington clan's work has been prominent and their charity efforts praised. Over the years his company has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars building custom motorcycles for a wide range of charitable events.
In addition to Baker and Covington, three other equally deserving inductees are included in the Class of 2016.
The Class Of 2016
Bert Baker - V-Twin motorcycle drivetrain innovator, businessman and patriot, Bert Baker is committed to using materials, labor, creativity, know-how and grit born of America. Jerry Covington - Whether it is on TV or the cover of virtually every biker magazine in the world, it is hard to miss custom builder Jerry Covington. What does get overlooked is Covington's behind the scenes commitment to the motorcycle community, his selfless donation of time and resources to those less fortunate through has various charity projects. John Penton - One of the most influential figures in off-road motorcycling in the world, John Penton developed a legendary brand of motorcycles that bore his name (better known as KTM today). He also founded Hi-Point, an accessory and distribution company that had 50% of aftermarket sales in the U.S. and set the mold for modern distribution powerhouses like Parts Unlimited, Tucker Rocky and WPS. Gary Spellman - Using motorcycle as means to further charitable causes, philanthropist Gary Spellman has been quite effective in utilizing motorcycles to raise money for charities benefiting first responders and their surviving families. He has also brought major business owners into the family of motorcyclists as well as creating the Peace, Love and Happiness Charity Ride with fellow Hall Of Famer John Paul Dejoria. Buddy Stubbs - Talk about being born into the business, Buddy Stubbs was raised in his father's Harley dealership in Decatur, Illinois and has spent his entire life in and around dealerships, including opening two of his own in the greater Phoenix area. This year marks his 50th year as a dealer and more significantly an ambassador to the motorcycle lifestyle.
"Honor the Ride. Build the Legacy... Join us for the 2016 Hall of Fame induction ceremony during the Sturgis Rally," says Robbins. "The 2016 Hall of Fame Induction Breakfast will be held August 10, 2016 at the Lodge at Deadwood in Deadwood, South Dakota." Breakfast tickets are available for a $35 donation, tables of eight for $300. Tickets are available by calling the Museum at 605.347.2001 or they can be purchased online here.