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Lucerne

  • Motorcycles
  •  | 
An Ironhead Finds a Home in Pittsburgh
Words by Kurt Diserio — Photos by Alexa Diserio
If you’re from Pittsburgh or Cleveland, you’ve probably seen this Sportster before. It’s been all over the internet and has bounced around to different owners before making a home with Erin Fitzgerald in the Steel City. In a lot of ways, Erin and Lucerne are a great fit together. It was her first chopper, and through the ups and downs she has put a lot of herself into the ironhead over the past few years. Alexa and I met up with her at a shared garage space to talk about her history, the bike, and the local moto community.
When did you move to Pittsburgh, and how did you first get into motorcycles?
Erin Fitzgerald: I first moved here when I was seventeen to go to the Art Institute but eventually dropped out and moved to Cleveland. After getting laid off from my job there and losing my apartment, I decided to move back to Pittsburgh in March of 2017. I had a month before the move, so I picked up my first motorcycle and a one-month membership to Skidmark Garage in Cleveland. Skidmark is a co-op motorcycle garage that does classes and has every tool imaginable. You pay a membership to use the tools, workbenches, and bike lifts. My bike was a Honda CB350 that had a hole in the piston and debris in the crankcase, so I used my time at the garage to rebuild the motor and have it running before the move back to Pittsburgh.
Harley-Davidson Ironhead Vintage Custom Motorcycle Pittsburgh
How did you first acquire the ironhead?
EF: I saw it listed for sale in Cleveland on Chopper Swapper a few years ago in its original state with a different exhaust, tank, seat, and so on. I knew that was my bike, but I didn’t have several grand laying around at the time. Eventually, I got a better job, and six months later the bike was posted for sale again. It was owned by Anna and Alex from Strange Cycle, who had a great reputation around the Cleveland area. I mentioned getting a loan for the bike to the owners of the company I worked for, and they were kind enough to offer me a salary advance to avoid a loan. My friend, Shawn, helped drive me to Cleveland to pick it up. Riding a chopper in Pittsburgh is a challenge, but learning to do so creates a sense of accomplishment that I find rewarding.
Was it chopped when you bought it?
EF: It was hardtailed. I was told that it was one of the first custom hardtails out of Gasbox in Cleveland and had been passed around the chopper crowd up there for a while.
What have you done to make it your own?
EF: I decided I wanted a rigid seat, so I chopped the tabs off and made a piece for a seat that I bought to clip into the frame. I added the dual lights by cutting up a bolt-together bracket. The raw tank was purchased from Lowbrow Customs, and I added the paint and decals. The exhaust was changed—I wanted upsweep pipes. There were a lot of little things I changed, like the air cleaner cover. My friend, Andy, did the welding for the sissy bar. We worked together to cut and fit everything for something that was drawn up, then I sat there day after day dremeling it to get it smooth.
Harley-Davidson Ironhead Vintage Custom Motorcycle Pittsburgh
How has the Pittsburgh motorcycle community been for you?
EF: When I moved back to Pittsburgh the second time, I didn’t really have many other friends here. I ended up hanging out with a bunch of different bike riders, and they taught me a whole different side of this city. I appreciate that the chopper scene here in Pittsburgh accepts diversity and isn’t into the hate or social exclusion that you might see in other situations. I would be ashamed if anyone in my group was into that.
Do you feel motorcycles have ultimately had a positive impact on your life?
EF: I had four-wheelers when growing up in upstate New York, and I liked the sense of having my own independent vehicle I could take on trails. That feeling is similar to having a motorcycle. If I looked back at myself as a sad, awkward teenager and compared it to where I am now, I’m one-hundred percent cooler than I had ever hoped to be. I have done things that I never imagined in my life.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
EF: I was lucky to have the money and support around me to get this bike, and some days it feels like a miracle that I’m able to keep it moving. I’m also trying to remember that having a bike doesn’t mean motorcycles now define me. There’s no need to feel so much pressure if something takes a while to fix or I can’t afford something it needs. We can’t all be fabricators and master mechanics, but if you’re doing anything with a bike, in any capacity, be proud of it and enjoy it.
Harley-Davidson Ironhead Vintage Custom Motorcycle Pittsburgh
Harley-Davidson Ironhead Vintage Custom Motorcycle Pittsburgh
Harley-Davidson Ironhead Vintage Custom Motorcycle Pittsburgh
Harley-Davidson Ironhead Vintage Custom Motorcycle Pittsburgh
Harley-Davidson Ironnhead Vintage Custom Motorcycle Pittsburgh
Harley-Davidson Ironhead Vintage Custom Motorcycle Pittsburgh
Harley-Davidson Ironhead Vintage Custom Motorcycle Pittsburgh
Harley-Davidson Ironhead Vintage Custom Motorcycle Pittsburgh
Harley-Davidson Ironhead Vintage Custom Motorcycle Pittsburgh
  • Featured in Issue 007
  • 1981 HARLEY-DAVIDSON SPORTSTER XL1000
  • ERIN FITZGERALD
  • instagram.com/ohpreciousdistance
  • Words by KURT DISERIO
  • Photos by ALEXA DISERIO
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