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Riding motorcycle history

Photo by Brian Hansel Richard Sorgert received a trophy in the Antique Class at the Minnesota Harley Owners Group (HOG) Rally at Cragun's Lodge near Brainerd. Sorgert rides a 1968 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide.

Richard Sorgert was graduating from high school in 1969 when his parents decided to put him on a Harley-Davidson.

He had a muscle car and a smaller motorcycle, and now he was given a choice between two different year models of Harleys. Sorgert opted for a used 1968 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide motorcycle, and for the last 43 years the bike has been a trusted friend.

Sorgert attended the Minnesota Harley Owner's Group (HOG) Rally June 28-30 at Cragun's Lodge near Brained, and his old companion ended up winning him a first place trophy in the Antique Class - which both surprised and delighted the Wadena County resident.

"They classified it as an 'antique,'" Sorgert said. "I don't think it's an antique; I think it's a classic."

Unlike many other Harleys of the 1968 vintage, Sorgert has not "chopped" his bike or modified in any way.

Sorgert was amused by the judges who checked his bike over at the state rally. It's not often people see a 44-year-old Harley, and some had difficulty believing their eyes.

In addition to having his ruby red bike judged at the state rally, Sorgert joined 1,000 other Harley owners in traveling to other towns in the Brainerd area. The rumble of that many Harleys is not an experience Sorgert will soon forget.

"It was kind of exciting," he said.

Sorgert owned a 175 Bridgestone prior to receiving his graduation present. Going from a Bridgestone to a Harley was quite a leap for a teenage boy, and the ride home from the dealership in Minneapolis to Forest Lake is a trip he has never forgotten. He found himself riding a massive bike in Twin Cities traffic.

"I was scared because the bike weighed so much more than my Bridgestone," Sorgert said.

Sorgert did not have his bike long before it was stolen. The thieves abandoned the bike in a cow pasture, where two nature lovers found it in a junk pile. The thieves put some scratches on the bike, which are still visible because Sorgert has never wanted to repaint it.

"I think it's a pretty remarkable bike," Vikingland Harley-Davidson owner Dan Walton said. The Brainerd dealership was a big part of the three-day event and Walton is quick to point out that the popularity of Harleys is holding up very well.

"More than 57 percent of the new bikes sold are Harleys," Walton said.

Sorgert's old Harley could fetch 10 to 15 times what it sold for in 1969, but he is holding onto his property. He has a sentimental attachment to his machine.

"I like the fact that it's U.S. and I like the fact that it's got the rumble to it," Sorgert said.

Sorgert rode his bike in the Ronald McDonald House Ride recently and thoroughly enjoyed the event, which attracted 1,507 bikes. His presence on the ride was appreciated by organizers of the New York Mills event.

"He is a true version of a motorcycle enthusiast," Ronald McDonald Ride organizer Greg Karvonen said.