Off the Clock: Dean Lloyd Griffiths, Hog Rider
Posted: November 20, 2002 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am
By Robin Herron
While Harley-Davidson, the company that makes motorcycles known as “hogs,” celebrates its 100th anniversary with great fanfare this year, Lloyd Griffiths, dean of the School of Information Technology and Engineering, is quietly celebrating his third anniversary as a hog rider.
It all started as a surprise to him when his wife, Arlene Page, presented him with a bright yellow-and-black-painted bike three years ago. It took him awhile to realize that the shiny, 700-pound, powerful vehicle was exactly what he needed. “Arlene is very intuitive about things like that,” he says. “Somehow, she just knew it would be a good idea. And she was right.”
Not that he was a total stranger to bikes. Both he and his wife had motorcycles, “oh, maybe 25 years ago,” he says, but they abandoned motorcycle riding as family and career priorities took over. With children grown and having a little more free time, however, they were both ready for a new hobby. A year after the dean’s wife brought a bike home for him, she bought one for herself. Now, the open road beckons them at every opportunity, and they’ve found many riders like themselves, who don’t quite fit the stereotype of beer-swilling, tattoo-sporting hog riders of the past. “We’ve met some great people in this,” Griffiths says, “even a lot of people in the technology community.”
Of course, not having ridden in many years, Griffiths had to re-learn how to ride, and how to ride a Harley, which was a much larger vehicle than he was used to. He was fortunate that his wife’s brother, Fred, was the proud owner of a ’73 Harley and was willing to teach him. “I was scared to death to even get on it,” Griffiths admits. He took a motorcycle safety course at Northern Virginia Community College–“an excellent program”–got his license, and was ready to roll.
Safety continues to be the couple’s number one concern. “We try to ride together or with other cyclists,” he says, “because people are less likely to see you when you’re alone. I’m terrified of an accident–not that I’m afraid of getting hurt, but I might ruin my paint job,” he jokes. He says they also avoid congested roads and city riding. “I like to ride out toward Middleburg or Skyline Drive, all the little roads like the Snickerville Turnpike between Route 50 and Route 7. It’s pleasure.” Griffiths, his wife, her brother, and her niece all ride and often make a foursome.
Lloyd Griffiths and wife Arlene Page show off their Hogs
Griffiths admits he’s fallen into the sport wholeheartedly, drooling over the displays at the local Harley dealership, planning improvements to his bike (“you can’t have too much chrome”), and developing weekend and vacation itineraries that involve a lot of bike riding.
To hear Griffiths tell it, the $15,000 bike you buy off the showroom floor is just the beginning. When they’re not riding, Harley owners are shopping for add-ons, accessories, and enhancements to their bikes. “The first thing you do is replace parts that are aluminum or steel for chrome,” Griffiths states matter-of-factly. Mufflers and tailpipes (prime parts for displaying chrome), seats, tires, lights, forks, and just about everything else on a bike can be customized. A special paint job can give a bike a unique look–and cost up to $15,000. Suddenly, you can have a bike worth a lot more than what you paid for it initially, which may explain why people hold on to their Harleys. “You won’t see Harley-Davidsons in a junk yard,” Griffiths says.
The proper apparel is also part of riding: the helmet, leather jacket, pants, boots, and gloves are all essential for safety. The equipment is getting increasingly high-tech as well. For example, a good pair of “shades” features ultra light aircraft aluminum wrap frames, suspension spring hinges, silicone nose pads, and micro-thin, multilayer Titanium coatings on poly-carbonate lenses.
Griffiths says the Harley-Davidson brand has a mystique about it. Not only does the company have a long history, but it has put effort into building an image of quality and inspiring loyalty among its customers. In addition to selling motorcycles and parts, the company produces Harley-brand clothing, boots, rain gear, and accessories such as neckties. You can even get a Harley knife or a Harley Visa card. Walking into the dealer’s showroom is like walking into a jewelry store, Griffiths says. “Everything is in glass display cases with the price tags tucked underneath.”
One of the keys to the company’s success is its organized chapters of H.O.G. (Harley Owners Group) that boast 650,000 members worldwide and offer numerous activities for their riders locally, nationally, and even internationally. Races, rallies, motorcycle shows, and tours around the world foster camaraderie among bikers. Griffiths and his wife actively participate in local biking activities and rides organized by their Harley dealership. Picnics, poker rides (in which you have a map and get cards punched each time you stop at a check-in point), and fundraisers (in which you collect pledges for the miles you ride), are some of the events locally sponsored. Griffiths says he and his wife try to do one of the Harley activities at least once a month. “It gives you an excuse to ride,” he acknowledges.
Riding their motorcycles has taken them even farther afield. This past summer, they took a two-week vacation to Colorado, visiting relatives and hauling their bikes on a trailer in search of some “curvy roads.” They also detoured to South Dakota for the famous annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, where hundreds of thousands of motorcycle riders converged on the small town of Sturgis for a week of races and partying in a family atmosphere.
Even though motorcycle riding is a passion for Griffiths, you won’t often see his Harley parked at George Mason. “I don’t usually ride it to work.” He adds, “Stopping and starting in traffic is not what it’s all about.”