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After Hours: John Duss— classic motorcycle maven

If you met John Duss near the office complex where he works, you might correctly guess (in one or twoduss on cycle small1 attempts) that he is an attorney, one of five partners in Duss Kenney Safer Hampton & Joos, P.A., a well-rounded business practice whose bedrock is commercial and residential real estate.

What you probably would not guess (just by looking at him) is his passion—motorcycles. He is a far cry from the stereotypical middle aged, tattooed and gray-haired pony-tailed biker who rides down the highway straddling a Harley Davidson. “Actually, I consider myself a motorcyclist rather than a biker,” Duss chuckles. “A motorcyclist is someone who has an interest in motorcycles. The common profile of the biker-type as portrayed in the movies is a bit different.”

An early love affair

Duss’ love affair with motorcycles began when he was a boy. “When I was about 12, I had my sights set on getting a motorbike. I got a paper route and saved for about a year to buy one. That was in 1956. Later I got a motorcycle to ride from our home on the west side of Jacksonville to Bishop Kenney High School on the south side. I put a lot of miles on that bike. I’ve had motorcycles virtually all my life since then.”

Once he buys a bike, Duss usually holds onto it. He now owns 14 motorcycles. “I tend to keep things. I actually have one that I bought in 1975. It’s considered an antique now, but it wasn’t when I got it!” he jokes. “I like to say I liked motorcycles before they were fashionable—which they are now. But, for a long time, they weren’t.”

Duss loves all things motorcycles, but especially vintage collector bikes. He says he has only one bike manufactured in this century. “That one’s not even here in Jacksonville,” he says. “It’s in Colorado.” The oldest bike he has is a 1931 Indian. “Indian was a very successful world renowned motorcycle manufacturer. It survived World War II but went out of business in 1953. I own one of their most celebrated models, a 101 Scout.

Vintage bikes appeal to him primarily because of their history, he explains. “They represent a different mechanical success at different times in the history of vehicles. I enjoy the complexity of some of them and the operational differences that are distinct from modern pieces of machinery.”

If history and education were not enough of a justification for owning vintage motorcycles, Duss says the investment is. “They represent a reasonable investment. Once you buy them, they tend to increase in value over a period of time, so they are basically cost-neutral. Of course, I hardly sell anything. I’ve sold a few over the years and regretted it when I did.”

His avid interest in vintage motorcycles has led him to be actively involved in the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, which was held in March, as well as Riding into History, an annual event that attracts several thousand visitors each May.

“I’ve been involved in the Amelia Island event from the very beginning. It’s primarily a vintage automobile show, but we have a class [competition] for motorcycles. This year we had Triumph vertical twin cylinder motorcycles that were first begun in 1938 and went up until the middle ’60s. We had 12 on exhibit.” In addition to coordinating the motorcycle end of the Concours, Duss also judged the motorcycles, with appearance and style taking precedence over historical correctness.

Riding into History, scheduled to take place in World Golf Village May 15, is a charity event benefitting the Wounded Warriors. Sponsored in part by the BMW Motorcycle Owners of Northeast Florida and the Historic Motorcycle Society, it will feature 300 bikes in competition for trophies. Duss will be one of about 30 judges for the event. “I’m the chief judge there. This year we are featuring British motorcycles, which are classed by years: older than 1946, younger than 1965, that kind of thing.” As the name suggests, the bikes are vintage models. To win in this competition, motorcycles must be historically accurate and stylish.

Owning vintage bikes can sometimes be challenging, according to Duss. “If you are dealing with something that was made in the past, it may have been the best that was available then, but it doesn’t exceed that which is available now.” He admits to tinkering with the mechanics of the bikes, but he does not restore them.

Duss gets a regular weekly “fix” of vintage bikes when he meets with other members of the Historic Motorcycle Society (HMS) for dinner and bike talk. “HMS is social, and there’s not any real structure in terms of officers and dues,” he says. He belongs to many other bike clubs, including the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) and the Antique Motorcycle Club of America (AMCA). I’m an officer in AMCA Sunshine Chapter, which is devoted to antique bikes that have to be at least 35 years old.” He also belongs to “just about” every club dedicated to a specific make, such as the BMW Motorcycle Owners of Northeast Florida

Although not all of his 14 motorcycles reside with him in Jacksonville, Duss still has a tough time deciding what to ride. “It depends on a number of factors,” he says. “If I am going to an event, it might dictate what I ride, if the event has a particular theme to it. Another factor is the distance. If I’m riding a long distance, some of my bikes are better suited for that than others, especially in terms of weather protection.”

He doesn’t really care what he rides, however, so long as he gets to ride. “When I see a motorcycle policeman, I think, ‘Gee, he gets paid to ride!’”

John S. Duss IV, Esq. is a partner in Duss Kenney Safer Hampton & Joos, PA, 4348 Southpoint Blvd., Suite 101, Jacksonville. He can be reached at 904-543-430.

 

SIDEBAR

Interested in vintage bikes?

Motorcyclists come from all walks of life, says Duss. Many have had an interest since a young age, but others have their interest reawakened when they go to an event such as Riding into History. And some are “slow starters” who take an interest late in life. If you want to get involved in vintage bikes, Duss suggests:

• Read. Bookstores carry a number of magazines devoted to vintage motorcycles.

• Attend shows. Go to the shows and talk with the owners.

• Hang out. Go to some club meetings. HMS members, for example, meet at a local restaurant weekly. You don’t have to own a bike to get to meet the motorcyclists.

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