This is a new bi-weekly column, where we highlight famous, obscure, and important contributors to the motorcycle movement.
When San Francisco native Harry Wong was a kid, he saw a motorcyclist zoom by on a BSA or something similar. To the young teen it looked and sounded so cool he knew that someday he would be riding.
Fast forward to May 15, 1994. Wong, now a practicing chiropractor and experienced rider based in Belmont near San Mateo, assembled 15 riders, giving the first free Doc Wong Riding Clinic. “It was fun and useful to riders and the next month there were 30 riders and the popularity has continued,” he said. “I love and find satisfaction in riders improving their skills and knowledge. They ride better and safer, and most of all are having more fun.”
Since that first day, as popularity has steadily increased, Wong added more free workshops: Riding Position and Ergonomics, Suspension Basics and Setup, Emergency Braking, 911 First Aid Essentials, Long-Distance Touring, GPS Use and Operation, Dirt Riding, Dual-Sport Riding and Track Days. He’s also hosted events such as Rider Skills and Survival Day.
So far the number of riders that have attended his various workshops, classes, clinics and events have totaled over 42,000 riders. “I’m looking forward to hitting 50,000 riders,” he added. “Why? Because doing the clinics is fun for me and others.”
5. At 14, Wong delivered newspapers, did odd jobs, and worked summers stocking groceries to pay for his first bike. At 15 1/2, motorcycle permit in hand, he bought a bike: a little Honda 350 twin. “I had a blast,” Wong said. “I was a little too exuberant as I received eight moving citations in the first 12 weeks of riding a motorcycle. I went to juvenile hall and the judge suspended my license for only 30 days: how cool was that?!”
4. At 17, while riding in San Francisco, a car zoomed out of the South of Market Toyota dealership, making a hard left in front of Wong after crashing into a car. He followed it around the block where the driver crashed again and the stolen car was disabled. He ran to Van Ness Avenue and jumped aboard a bus. Wong parked his motorcycle in front of the bus, got into it full of people, and told the bus driver to stay there. “The perp was trying to exit the back of the bus,” Wong explained. “I told the bus driver to not open the door and that I was making a citizen’s arrest. With five-foot-seven, 150-pound me blocking the way out, here’s the guy about twice my size trying to leave. I told him to ‘SIT!’ Amazingly he did, and I had him stay there until the police came and arrested him.”
3. Wong’s love of riding never stopped except for a 10-year break due to chiropractic school and raising a family. Then in 1990, a patient came into his office with a helmet and leather jacket. They talked motorcycles for a bit and he threw Wong his keys and after taking a short spin, he was amazed at how much motorcycles had improved over the last 10 years.
“That weekend I got a new bike, a 1990 Suzuki Katana 600 sport tourer. I put 5,000 miles on it the first month, then a rider passed me on a Yamaha FZR1000 and of course I wanted that bike and got it the next weekend. Not having any formal training, I didn’t even know about counter-steering. When I blew a corner and afterwards my buddy told me about it, I thought he was crazy. Of course I found out it was true and remains true to this day. That’s when I realized that there was a method or technology of riding.
“That’s when I got Keith Code’s book Twist of the Wrist. I would read a chapter before going out on a ride applying the information in that chapter, and as the months went by my riding improved remarkably. Riding just about every day, every opportunity, and on weekend trips with many different riders, it wasn’t long before my street speeds were getting out of control. The addiction of speed was a bit out of control.
“As I improved my riding skills and knowledge of riding and how to manage risk, I started recognizing the vast number of errors other riders were making. These were riding skills errors and errors in riding strategy. I knew more lives would be lost, so I decided to hold a riding workshop at my chiropractic office.”
2. Though Wong doesn’t consider any motorcycle or make the ultimate bike, classic Moto Guzzis are dear to his heart. “I have a few older Guzzis such as a ’65 V700, ’78 Le Mans, ’72 Ambassador and a ’74 Eldorado Police Bike. My favorite track bike is a Kawasaki 600 and since I only weigh 150 lbs., I don’t need a liter bike to go pretty fast. My favorite dual-sport bike is a KTM Adventure, but I ride my BMW R1200GS most of the time. I avoid high-performance sport bikes for the street because they make you do bad things.
“Ducatis are pretty sweet too. I’d even have a Harley or a new Indian if I had more garage space. My favorite dirt bike is a KTM 200 two-stroke. It only weighs 200 lbs. and I can lift it out of tight spots when I have to. I love riding less capable bikes on the street as it encourages you to relax and not go so fast.”
1. After going through several majors in college and following an electrical engineering path, Wong’s wife Safari woke up one day with pain in her hands. “She went through two years of hell, with many doctors, medications with a severe loss of circulation of her hands. The final outcome was going to be an amputation of all ten of her fingers. She was devastated. That’s when we found a chiropractor that discovered it was a pinched nerve that caused the lack of circulation.
“That changed my life. I switched careers midstream and became a chiropractor and haven’t looked back since. My purpose in life is to help people live a better life, without pain and suffering.
“So whether it’s chiropractic to lessen suffering or helping motorcycle riders gain skills to avoid crashing and injuries, it goes along the same purpose.”
Boulanger spent 24 1/2 years in the bicycle industry, but his aging body and active mind convinced him to switch to motorcycles last year. He commutes 45 miles each way to his day job as store manager of the Dainese D-Store in San Francisco on one of three motorcycles.