Heading down highway 21, just beyond the Indian reservation, adjacent to the Lake Huron beach community of Southampton, Ontario. Right before the even smaller town of Allenford, Ontario, you will come across a wooden sign of white, red, and black, at the road. Behind that sign, there is an unassuming older home with an old horse barn out back. This horse barn traded in its hay and horse manure long ago for milk crates of spare carburetors and air filters. Where horses once stood now stand an array of vintage American, British, and Japanese motorcycles. This is the setting in which Adam King has lived and done business for the better part of a decade. In fact, if you pass by the property at just the right moment you can see him, already half way through his second large Tim Hortons coffee, 2 cream no sugar, pushing a few old motorcycles out to the small gravel patch under some old growth apple trees. As you enter the side door of the barn past the ancient looking oil and gas signs, you find yourself standing in a small front showroom. It is abounding with a wide array of oil filters, antiques and spark plugs. Living in the small window are some rather large dock spiders, whose webs long ago claimed a miniature motorcycle model that sits on the sill. The main workspace of the shop gives good insight into Adam’s creativity and style. Flathead cases rest in the corner and a Knucklehead frame sits waiting to be put back together on a simple frame table. To those who don’t share a passion for old motorcycles, it may not look like much. To Adam, a quiet, unassuming, and humble motorcycle mechanic, it’s all he has ever dreamed about. Another notable feature of most flat surfaces in the shop are mostly empty Tim Hortons coffee cups, abandoned due to pressing matters elsewhere. It is a melting pot of artistry with just the right amount of clutter. It also shows his sentimentality due to the old pictures of past builds, vintage hill climb races and family, hung along the walls. It is a true display of real heart and pride in motorcycles and the community that surrounds Black Horse Cycle. It’s a “real deal” cycle shop as Adam proudly calls it, and he consistently proves that fact.
Adam King comes by his love for motorcycles honestly being a second-generation motorcycle mechanic, bike builder and restorer. His father Rick King opened up the original Black Horse Cycle back in 1984 out of a town called Kinloss, Ontario. That brand ran until 1999 when Rick decided to start a new shop called Clearly Vintage, which ran until the mid-2000s. Adam’s mom was a member of the Motor Maids for over a decade and was involved in starting the Canadian chapter of Women in the Wind. His uncle Billy was a member of an old Ontario motorcycle club, the Black Diamond Riders during the mid to late 60s. Adam has fond memories as a young child playing in his dad’s motorcycle shop and even stealing carburetor jets off of the workbench and swallowing them when his dad’s head was turned. Some people say they have motorcycles in their blood, but Adam has them in his gut, potentially still stuck there. Adam’s two-wheeled infatuation took hold at an early age. It wasn’t long before he started dreaming of owning a Knucklehead like his old man’s ‘47. Adam went into business for himself in 2004 under the moniker “The Wrecking Crew” but decided to revive the namesake of his dad’s business Black Horse Cycle in 2008. He has operated under that name ever since.
Adam’s mechanical vocabulary runs wide. He can fix anything from a two-stroke weed whacker to a well-used children’s go cart. His main focus has always been vintage motorcycles. He has had the privilege of owning specimens such as : a 1938 original Indian Sport Scout Hill Climber, a 1940 Jr Scout, a ’66 Triumph Rickman Metisse, a Norton Production Racer and a homemade contraption known as the “Blueberry Hog” built by his grandfather. His heart though has always belonged to Harley-Davidson and his collection has boasted bikes, including a 1936 RLDR, a 1957 XLRTT, and his two race bikes, a 1938 EL Knucklehead and a 1943 WLC Flathead lovingly named the “Vomit Comet.” There are aspects of what King does that really define him, not just as a mechanic, but also as an artist. It’s not so much what people notice about his bikes that set him apart, but it’s the things people can’t quite pick out. If someone described what Adam does with his bikes as restoration they would be incorrect. Preservation is closer to pinning it down, but it’s more than that. He doesn’t just preserve the metal and paint and patina that make up an old Harley, but he seeks to preserve the spirit of the bike and give it new life without making it shiny and new. Adam has a number of closely guarded techniques he employs to achieve the “right look.” Some processes are as simple as Scotchbrite and spilt coffee, but others take many hours and patience to achieve the desired result. Many have tried this esthetic in building motorcycles, but few are able to capture a finished product that doesn’t look staged. The outcome of Adam’s artistry in rust looks as if the bike was rolled out of an old barn, forgotten to man and time. The combination of old parts and new meld into a cohesive and authentic story of a motorcycle that wouldn’t have existed before Adam put his hands to work. Making old bikes look like they haven’t changed since a pre-war hill climb is not near as easy as some might think. The other half of the equation for Adam is making sure that his bikes start and run without issue. That is where his mechanical ability shines through because his bikes kick over and go, every time. This can sometimes be something of a rarity for an old Harley. Adam does what he does so well that he has experienced, at motorcycles shows, old timers coming up and saying things like “I bet that old thing doesn’t even run.” Adam will smirk, kick the bike over twice to prove them wrong and will watch as the expression on the old men’s faces turn from confidence to wonderment. By this point, the question changed to “how do you get these old things to run so well ?” That’s when he will reply without hesitation “because I’m a Honda mechanic.” This usually gets a chuckle from the old timers. He puts his money where his mouth is when he makes appearances in The Race of Gentlemen and his membership in the Frozen Few where his bikes show up and perform even under the racing conditions of beach sand and salt water, frozen lakes and snow. The Vomit Comet in particular has gone over the edge of a huge snow berm leaving Adam busted up. At The Race of Gentlemen in Pismo Beach it was t-boned by another motorcycle in the lineup, but after it was picked up, it again started without hesitation. His machines are amazingly resilient and purpose built, as he would define them.
The end of last year brought a new opportunity for Adam in the form of an old abandoned building. He decided to transplant his business and shop to a new location about 20 minutes back up Highway 21 to the small town of Underwood, Ontario. Here, he is in the process of converting a late 1800s mercantile store into his dream shop. The building has had many businesses come and go over its long life and the top floor was even a Masonic lodge. When he first pushed opened the doors, the neglect could be smelt in the stale air. It was in need of a massive cleanout, substantial repairs and some old fashioned TLC. The shop is really taking shape. Adam has recently started working out of the new location moving his parts hoard, tools and his life to this new building where he will live and work. He has taken the pride and style he puts into his bikes and imprinted that on his new building. The vast collection of antique signs, old pictures and bike parts now are settling into a new home. Coffee cups are starting to accumulate now and Adam’s three dogs have claimed their spots on the couch that was meant for customers. He discovered the old store counters covered by cheap wood paneling, creating a place for friends to hang out and swap stories. Adam may not have a wide range of hobbies but he wouldn’t have it any other way. A life devoted to wrenching, building, riding, racing and dreaming is where he exists. No one knows what the future holds, but Adam has all he needs surrounded by old parts and new dreams. He wouldn’t change it if he could.