“The 25-year old Panhead chopper riding, middle school teaching, stunt riding, badass biker.”
There is so much to say about Megan Margeson. Editing this article down to what it is now was almost impossible. There’s so much history with her family and their choppers, so much cool stories about their trips, questions I want to ask about her being a middle school teacher and so much interesting attributes to her being a police-bike stunt rider. Even with fewer than 10 questions, we ended up with enough information to fill this whole issue.
When you first meet Megan, you would never know what she’s all about. She’s a bright-eyed beautiful little lady who you’d never suspect is such a powerful badass. She’s a middle school science teacher by day and a Panhead chopper riding biker by night – this is the shit superhero comics are made of. I met Megan through Instagram and some mutual friends she rides dirt bikes with. I wanted to know more about her so when Revolution Magazine was looking for a “cool lady” to write a story about – I thought of her instantly.
I went over to her house and sure enough, she had so much going on I could hardly keep up. Cool bikes lined up in the garage, family history plastered all over the garage walls, 3 old boogie vans parked in the driveway, dirt bikes in the backyard and stunt riding gear laying around. I took a ton of photos and asked her for some family imagery as well.
There’s no way for me to possibly sum up what all goes on with Megan and her life with bikes, so here’s some answers to questions I asked her about her life:
- Who are you? How old are you? What do you do?
My name is Megan Margeson. I am 25 years old, and I am a Middle School Science Teacher.
- How did you get into bikes?
I was born into a motorcycle family.My parents joke that they began brain-washing me from a young age. I got my first dirt bike when I was 7 years old and took my first ride on the back of my Dad’s 1949 Harley Davidson Pan Shovel Chopper when I was 8. Anyone who rides knows the feeling—one ride is all it took, I was hooked.
I was constantly around bikes: attending bike nights, going to (family-friendly) motorcycle campouts, hanging out in motorcycle garages, etc. This was my normal and it really wasn’t until High School that I learned that my family’s hobbies weren’t quite the same as my friends’. Apparently, most Moms aren’t riding Shovelhead Choppers around the neighborhood?
My Mom got her first Harley when I was 8 years old: a Harley Davidson Heritage Classic, right off the showroom floor. I remember a lot of men were telling her it was “too big” of a bike for her and that she “couldn’t handle it”. Not only did she “handle it” just fine, she tried riding my Dad’s chopper and decided she needed one. Shortly after, my Dad began building my mom her very own Shovelhead Chopper. My Mom and Dad spent years working on that build, spending hours in the garage every weekend. I’m lucky to have grown up with such a badass female as a Mother. I was raised to never think I was incapable of doing anything simply because I’m a girl. I never had a question of whether I would have my own bike when the time came; it was always just a part of the plan.
- What is your bike?
The South Bay of Los Angeles is a Mecca for Chopper history, and I am lucky enough to call this place home. I grew up around true legends, both men and women who made incredible contributions to the motorcycle world. My bike is a true “South Bay” style bike and was built that way with intention.
My bike is a 1964 Harley Davidson Panhead Chopper. My bike doesn’t have a name, and I think I prefer it that way.
The 13’ over springer front end was made by a man named Richard “Fat’s” Noriega, thus the front end is referred to as a “Fat’s” front end. Fat’s was a family friend who passed away when I was just an infant. We continue to celebrate his life each year at our annual “Fat’s Run” up in the Sequoias along the Kern River. This year will be the 25th anniversary and there will be at least 20 choppers in attendance, all with Fat’s front ends. The front end is one of my favourite aspects of the bike. I just love the feeling of a springer as it bounces down the highway.
Another tell-tale sign that my bike is a “South Bay” chopper is the auxiliary gas tank on the sissy bar. This tank is probably the thing I get the most questions about. Is it a mini beer keg? Is it a nitrous tank? Do you keep water in there? All great guesses, but it is just gas. My dad made it from an old aluminum fire extinguisher. I go on long rides and would not be able to get to the next gas station in some areas without that extra gas. Not only that, but having to stop for gas every 80 miles on a 5,000 mile trip would get pretty exhausting. With the tank, I am able to go about 130 miles comfortably.
The style sissy bar has what is referred to as a “South Bay swoop”. Due to the weight of the 1.5 gallons of gas in the axillary gas tank, that “swoop” gives the sissy bar more support.
The sissy bar and seat are also nods to the era. I decided to go with a King and Queen style seat to pair with the high sissy bar. I helped design the stitching pattern and placement of the buttons with Danny Grey to create my custom seat. I also had memory foam and gel put into the seat for extra comfort! Worth every penny when you’re 500 miles into your day.
The tank, fender, and frame were painted by Dennis Babin, Chris Morrison, and Richard LaPorte (it was a group effort). Choosing the paint was definitely the most challenging aspect of the build for me. I wanted to make sure I chose something that I wouldn’t get tired of—this was key. Both of my parent’s bikes have flames. Flames are classic, never go out of style, and it would keep with the unintentional theme my family’s bikes seem to share. I started doing research and came across a picture of flames that looked almost rainbow in appearance, with: pinks, purples, blues, and yellows. It was perfect—I love black, so I went with black as the main colour and then the pink, blue, and purple flames were added. I really wanted the bike to be period correct and thought this paint did a great job of that. One little secret I have with the paint is that I had Babin paint a purple heart onto my fender, where no one can see it. My friend passed away while we were building the bike, and I wanted to make sure he was a part of it. His favourite colour was purple and now he is with me on all of my adventures.
My Dad’s bike was originally my uncle’s. My uncle passed away in 2001 and my Dad got his bike shortly after. My Dick Allen two-into-one exhaust was originally on that bike. Not only is the exhaust super rad because it’s a DICK ALLEN but the fact that it was on my uncle’s bike makes it incredibly special to me.
- Who does most of the work on your bike?
My Dad’s philosophy is if something goes wrong with my bike (it’s old, so stuff happens), then I have to fix it. He has me troubleshoot and try to figure out on my own what is wrong, even though he usually knows right away. Once I think I have it figured out, he makes sure I learn how to fix it. He’s always there to teach me and guide me through it, which I am so grateful for. Some of the best learning experiences have taken place on the side of the road and gas station parking lots. My dad said “I could take my whole bike apart, bolt by bolt, throw it in a box, and put it all back together again.” His goal is for me to be able to do the same one day.
- Tell us about the Summer trips you do with your family?
For years, my parents have been going on a 4,000-5,000 mile trip every summer. They take 3 weeks and have travelled across countless states and into Canada. The summer of 2018 was the first year I tagged along. We rode 5,000 miles, starting at home in Torrance, CA travelling up the coast, into Canada, down to Sturgis, south through the Four Corners Monument and back home, visiting friends along the way.
My parents joke that “of course” the first time I join along, we have the most bike issues. My mom’s front wheel bearings went out while in Glacier National Park, Montana. This lead to countless strangers stopping to try and assist us. We had my mom’s bike propped up onto a curb in a gas station parking lot. We sat on a cardboard box, that used to hold containers of nacho cheese, eating ice cream cones and huckleberries (provided to us by a couple in a motorhome that wanted to give us a snack), waiting for my dad to return with the kind stranger in who offered to take him to his home to fix the wheel. Then, also in Montana, my Dad’s bike began acting up—turns out his motor needed a new rear cylinder. Thanks to our wonderful friends Phil and Lydia at Cycle Works who overnighted us a new one (WHO DOES THAT?!). Now where do we make the repairs? At our new friend Kevin’s house, of course! We spent days in Kevin’s garage making the repairs. He and his wife welcomed us into their home with open arms, even letting my dad borrow his bike to get around town while we were stuck there. Then, we had some more bike issues in Sturgis where we, once again, met the most amazing humans. A man named Rick invited us into his home in Sturgis to use his garage and make the necessary repairs. If this trip taught me anything, it’s that there are some really incredible humans in this world.
This summer, the three of us are headed to Alaska! We’ll ride up the coast from Southern California and take a ferry from Washington into Alaska. Then from Alaska, well ride through Canada. last summer, we only spent a few days in Canada, so I am very excited to spend more time there this coming summer. I love that no matter where you are, you always seem to be riding along side a body of water—whether it be a river, stream, or lake. I also appreciate how it seems every little town we ride through has baskets of brightly coloured flowers hanging on the street lights lining the streets (America needs to get on this!). The trip will end up being somewhere between 5,000-6,000 miles over a three-week period.
Last summer, I decided to count our gas stops—it started as a joke, really. Everyone always sees our bikes and says “You guys must not be able to get very far. How often do you stop for gas?”. So I thought it would be fun to count. Well… over about 5,000 miles, we made exactly 61 gas stops. It may seem like a lot, but when you’re riding a hard tail chopper, your butt appreciates each one!
- Tell us about your stunt riding team – how’d you get into it, where do you perform, what exactly do you do?
After my mom discovered the team and I graduated college and got a stable job, I contacted the team and asked if I could try out. I made the team and have been enjoying it ever since. This is my third year stunting with the Victor McLaglen Motor Corps and the team has become family to me. We practice every Sunday and have many performances throughout the year. Though I started as only a climber (the person that climbs to the top of stunts), I have begun practicing being the “motorman” of stunts, meaning I ride the bike while the other men on the team climb. It has been such a fun challenge learning, not only how to ride an old bike with a foot clutch and jockey shift, but also how to maneuver a bike with upwards of five grown men hanging off the sides of it. Being the only female on the team is pretty empowering. Some of my favourite memories are of little girls coming up to me after a show to tell me they want to join our team when they are old enough—it totally warms my heart! I am so lucky to be on a team with a group of men who are incredibly supportive and believe I can do anything they can do. Even though, at times, I may not feel like I am capable of being able to do a certain stunt, they are always there to encourage me and help me become a better stuntwoman.
The team has been around for over 80 years and is truly a part of history. As much as it is fun, I also really enjoy being a part of preserving history. Some of the men on the team have been members since they were teenagers and were introduced to it all by their own dads who were members of the team in the early years.
- Tell us about your job and how that fits into your lifestyle.
Teaching wasn’t always the plan. I actually went to school to become a doctor—my degree is in Biomedical Science. After getting my bachelors degree, I went on to get my Doctorate, even made the move to Chicago to attend school there. In the first semester, I quickly realized that I actually did not want to be a doctor. Yeah, the money sounded nice, but I knew it wouldn’t make me happy in the end. I decided to quit while I was ahead and move back home. I got a job teaching Middle School Science and haven’t looked back since.
The holidays and two months off every summer are really working out for me. I’m not sure if this is what I plan to do forever, but for now, its allowing me to spend my weekends doing what I love and my summers are spent on long motorcycle trips without having to request off any vacation days.
I do my best to separate my personal life and my work life. I don’t show up to work on my chopper, though the kids have requested I do, nor do I wear my leather jacket and skinny jeans. Whenever parents get word that I ride, or stumble across my Instagram, they always approach me in disbelief. I think it’s a good lesson for both the kids and the parents – not all “bikers” look the same.
I love how my younger female students see it and the discussions my hobbies have encouraged in class. I’ve had young girls tell me that, because of me, they want to ride a motorcycle when they’re older. It is incredibly humbling and makes my heart so happy to see a younger generation of females not afraid to step outside of the box.
- What else are you into?
I grew up riding dirt bikes. I started when I was 7 and rode consistently until I was about 18. Once I was in college, I didn’t have the time to go riding. I ended up selling my bike when I was 20 to help pay for my college tuition. A few months ago, I decided I wanted to get back into it. For months I switched back and forth from riding my Mom’s CRF250X and my Dads CR500. One day, at a track, Husqvarna was there doing demo rides. I borrowed their 2-stroke 125 and was sold. I purchased my 2002 Suzuki RM125 a couple weeks later and have been riding almost every weekend since. While I grew up mostly riding desert and doing grand prix races, I have been loving the track lately! I’m thinking of getting into racing, but have a bit of practicing to do first.
For most of my childhood, my dad had an old Chevy Van. There weren’t any seats in the back; my sister and I each had a beanbag we would sit in. Maybe not the best example for safety, but it sure was fun! I loved that van! We ended up selling it and getting a “safer” vehicle. I always wanted a van—they are so versatile, handy, just awesome! I’ve always loved old Econolines so my brother and I got an old 1974 Ford Econoline to fix up together, complete with a three-eyed panther mural painted on the side of it. It is currently a pile of junk… but we’ll get there… eventually. My goal is to insulate it, get some wood paneling and shag carpeting, and set it up with a fold up bed so I can use it for camping but also haul bikes.
- What are your future plans with bikes? What would you like to do more of? Learn more of?
I really want to learn how to weld. It is such a useful skill in the world of motorcycles and I feel like I would be pretty good at it. While in college, I made birthday and wedding cakes as my “side gig”. The couple times I have taken welding clinics, I’ve noticed the methods for welding seem very similar to piping on a cake. Maybe I’m crazy but it seemed that way to me!
I also want to continue to broaden my knowledge of my bike. With an old bike, it is pretty much inevitable that things are going to happen and repairs will need to be made.
- Anything else you’d like to add or give shout-outs to?
I want to give a shout-out to anyone who has ever stopped to help a fellow biker on the side of the road. Without the kind souls that have helped us on our journeys, we probably wouldn’t have made it home. At least not without having to rent a trailer.
Thanks Megan, it’s been an honour talking to you about your history on bikes and your family.
Readers – If you see the Margeson’s on the road during their cruise through Canada this summer, be sure to say hi! You can keep up with Megan’s bike and rides through her Instagram: @meganmargeson