1972 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide And Sidecar - The "Can-Do" Kid

The expression "You can't keep a good man down" has never been more appropriate than as applied to Mike Simonson. In 1998, then 26-year-old Mike was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. Mike's situation turned critical, but a miracle drug came on the scene and saved his life. Three years later he was cancer-free. Usually, surviving cancer would be the happy ending to the story. Unfortunately, because of steroids used during chemotherapy, Mike needed a double hip replacement. And that wasn't the worst of it: Two years after beating cancer Mike developed radiation myelitis, a side effect from his treatments that caused incomplete lower-body paralysis. While Mike has a minor amount of sensation and muscle movement in his legs, he needs a wheelchair to get around.

Mike never threw in the towel, though-he simply plowed ahead. With a career as a real estate development project manager and a happy marriage, he still holds out hope for a treatment that'll allow him to walk again. So why is all this in Cruiser? First, Mike is a lifelong rider, starting on minibikes around age four. Second, Mike's father, Jim, built him the immaculate motorcycle and sidecar pictured so Mike could continue riding and-to excuse the clich-enjoy the freedom of the open road.

Ordinarily we wouldn't cover a sidecar rig, but there's nothing ordinary about this one. The motorcycle is a '72 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide. The sidecar is truly a rarity, made of fiberglass in 1969 by H-D for the Toronto, Canada, police department. Can you get something like this rig at any dealership? Not a chance.

Jim refurbished every piece during the process of building this machine. Then came the creating and fabricating, learned from 45 years of reading about and working on his and his friends' motorcycles and cars. His 40-year career as a tool-and-die maker, millwright and metal fabricator didn't hurt his skill set, either.

The most difficult parts of the build, which were mostly all designed and built by Jim, were the special systems Mike needs to operate the sidecar. That includes a Klicktronic Shifter System hand-controlled shifter; a vacuum-powered brake system operating all three brakes, with an emergency hand brake for the rear brake (for Mike's safety in case the vacuum system fails); an electric reverse system; sidecar mounting brackets; and special brackets to hold Mike's wheelchair.

The moral of the story? Mike wants everyone to understand that no matter how bleak things seem, one has to continue moving forward. Moreover, if you put your mind to it, whatever the circumstances, you can achieve your goals. Don't mistake that for some trite little feel-good greeting card saying. Mike Simonson is living proof that everything is possible. -EK