“You can’t plan adventure.” Adam Sheard, of the Chattanooga motorcycle shop Speed Deluxe, lives by that axiom. Proof of that is clear when he shares the story about rolling up to Chastin Brand’s tattoo parlor in Warner Robbins, Georgia. Strapped into the box of Adam’s mid-1960s Ford F100 was his 1971 Triumph T25T 250cc Trailblazer. The day before his visit to add an inked sparrow to each hand, Adam had been out riding the Triumph on dirt roads. When Chastin came out to greet Adam and saw the old dirt bike, a spark was ignited. “We spent the entire afternoon tattoo session talking about vintage off-roading,” Adam explains. “That led to us racing together in a few vintage motocross events, and then we met some other riders. Over a meal one night, we were all chatting about how I wanted to do some kind of long-distance adventure ride on vintage motorcycles.”

Vintage is the watchword: is this scene from 1971 or 2021? Rick on a Penton looking period correct.

They’d heard something about an event where motorcycles under 500cc, purchased for less than $500, are ridden 500 miles. Adam couldn’t find any information, so in 2015 he opted to do the next best thing – host his own ride. “Five hundred miles sounded like nothing,” he says. “I wanted a real adventure and said 1,000 miles on as much dirt as possible sounded like fun.” Thus, the Speed Deluxe Vintage 1000 was created. Adam and his wife, Jamie Sheard, posted the concept to their Instagram page – five days aboard pre-1981 motorcycles, no size limit, no price limit, but insured, registered and street legal. All required gear to survive, including tools, spare parts, and camping equipment but not the cooking implements, had to be strapped to the machine. “I had no route or anything really planned, but people signed up for it,” Adam recalls. Now committed to the project, Adam needed an off-road route and learned about Sam Correro and his TransAmerica Trail. Sam spent years scouting and mapping a route across America that saw little pavement, and Adam reached out for advice.

Watch out for that rock! One reason aluminum rims aren’t common on dirtbikes. Mikey’s BMW rim took a beating in Arizona – the rim was straightened out using rocks!

“We talked about what I wanted to do, and Sam mentioned some good routes in Mississippi,” Adam says. “I figured riding 250 miles of the TAT to the routes, 500 miles of the routes, and 250 miles back would be ideal.” Adam bought Sam’s maps, which are roll charts, booked the campgrounds and ordered the food. What could go wrong? Come go-time, there was a motley assortment of machines including a Suzuki SP370, Suzuki DS125, Honda CB360, Yamaha DT360, a small Kawasaki 2-stroke, Adam’s Triumph T25T and Chastin’s Honda CB500. “We rode 160 miles the first day,” Adam recalls. “We got into the campground at around 10:30 p.m. A couple of bikes had broken down, but much to my surprise everybody was in reasonable spirits. Still, I sat and wondered what I’d done, especially after Chastin’s bike had caught fire when the cap came off his spare fuel container gas hit the exhaust pipe.” Jamie and Lauren, Chastin’s wife, drove a single-cab pickup towing a 12-foot flatbed trailer along paved roads, following the riders as best they could. They’d meet the group at campgrounds, load up broken down machines, and cook the meals. On day three, while only three of the seven riders left for the trail, “We had a really good run,” Adam says, and continues, “on the last day, most of the bikes were running again and we all made it back into town. I figured, that was it, but the response was fantastic and it was really an adventure – and you can’t plan that, I don’t think.”

When the road turns into a hillclimb, and a rocky one at that.  Among the piñons in Arizona.

Born and raised in a small rural English village, Adam and a handful of his young friends were heavy into BMX bicycles. Motorcycles, ranging in size from 50cc to 100cc, soon followed. “We’d green lane them,” he says, “my dad bought me a 1978 Suzuki RM100, and it was a bit of a project. We did the top end on it and put it back together and I rode that quite a bit. By the time I was in high school, though, I was involved in so many other sporting activities such as soccer, football, rugby and track and field that I didn’t have time to ride.” Adam’s dad nurtured his enthusiasm for machines, however, and took him to speedway races and taught him to drive a manual transmission vehicle. When he got his driver’s license, while Adam’s parents were fine with him riding off-road, they didn’t want him on the street on a motorcycle. That’s when he got into air-cooled Volkswagens. “I bought a 1966 Beetle as a project when I was 17 or 18. I couldn’t weld, so I took it to a shop for some welding work. That took six months, and when I got it back the job wasn’t really done that well.” Disappointed but undaunted, Adam bought an inexpensive MIG welder and taught himself how to fuse two pieces of metal together, with success. “Then, I started doing a few things for other people, and when I was in my early 20s, I rented a small industrial unit to work on my own projects,” he says. While doing these jobs, Adam was working at his dad’s civil engineering firm. “I was going to go to university to take electronic engineering, but decided it wasn’t something I really wanted to do. My dad’s company had a position to fill, and I took it on as an interim job but it was actually something I really enjoyed.”

When your output shaft oil seal blows out in the field, what you gonna do? Replace it on a picnic bench at night.

In 2006, though, Adam decided to make a change. He got an engineering job in New Zealand and moved there for a year, then moved to Australia where he met his future wife, Jamie. “I was commuting in a rental car,” he says, “but I went to an exposition of new cars, and new motorcycles were on display there, too. That day, I put a deposit on a Honda 600 Hornet (CB600F). A week later, I met Jamie. She was from America studying in Australia, and she had a Honda Shadow. I got my bike license on her Shadow, and instead of buying the Hornet I transferred the deposit to a 2007 Honda CBR1000 – my first road legal machine. It was the easiest bike to ride, the power delivery, the brakes, it was as smooth as you’d want it to be. I was just always super respectful of it. I rode that bike every day for two and a half years.” More car projects followed, including a 1968 Mercedes-Benz and a Toyota FJ40. Motorcycles changed, and Adam was next riding a 1,200cc Harley-Davidson Sportster. Adept at painting tins, Adam altered the Sportster’s color three times in his first seven months of ownership. Recalling a magazine article he’d seen while living in the U.K. about a Triumph bobber, Adam thought he’d next try his hand at building one. A frame and unit-construction 650cc engine, along with other parts, were purchased in the U.S. and shipped to Australia.

Campground parking lot in the evening; do you see your bike in there?

“I bought a lathe and a TIG welder,” he says, “and made all kinds of stuff for that Triumph bobber. That’s basically how I found that passion for really building stuff again. At the time, I was doing really well in my engineering job but wasn’t particularly happy. Jamie was working on a PhD, and when she was done, we moved to the States.” In the spring of 2013, the couple landed in Los Angeles and bought a used RV. They traveled around the country, visiting Jamie’s dad in Chattanooga and other family in North Carolina and Illinois. Adam even built a Honda CB350F café racer in Jamie’s grandpa’s garage. “We had to figure out where we were going to settle and made a short list and put Chattanooga on it. It’s two hours from Nashville, two hours from Atlanta, and near the Smoky Mountains. The cost of living was less expensive, and we moved here – and we’re still here.”

Canyon carving with actual canyons in Utah.

Just a week after landing, Adam signed a lease on a shop and opened Speed Deluxe on October 1, 2013. While not in the same location, the shop has expanded and contracted over time. At one point, Speed Deluxe was in a downtown Chattanooga character building, and included a coffee bar. “We hosted a lot of rides and tech sessions, but running the business was time consuming. We couldn’t even take a day off, and our quality of life wasn’t really that great,” he says. Now, it’s just Adam fabricating and wrenching on motorcycles all built prior to 1981. That’s how he came to own his ’71 Triumph T25T Trailblazer. It was a non-running project that he pieced back together and, recalling his days of green lane riding in the U.K., took to a local off-road park. “It was a blast,” he says. “I started to take it to some vintage motocross races, and it was right around that time when Chastin saw the bike and that led to the next adventure.”

Nice selection of semi-appropriate and inappropriate off-road machinery on a pre-1968 Vintage 1000.

After running the first Speed Deluxe Vintage 1000 event, Adam says he planned to do it all again in 2016 using the same TAT routes. He knew where he was going and more of the logistics, and says he’d be better prepared the second time around. Twelve intrepid riders turned up, and while there were a couple of break downs, “It was really good, and I decided the next time around I’d make my own route.” Now, this is the part Adam really enjoyed. Looking to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, Georgia, and North Carolina, he figured out a start and end point and roughly measured out the miles using Google Maps, Google Earth, Forest Service maps and aerial photographs. He laid out the campgrounds, created a hand drawn roll chart of the route, loaded up his bike and hit the trail. “I’d make adjustments to that roll chart on the fly, but that’s how the 1,000 miles got laid out for each event,” he says. Year after year, popularity of the Vintage 1000 has increased and locations have changed. Events have been held in Arizona, Utah (the June 2023 Utah route is now sold out) and Florida, but Adam says he’d love to plan routes in states including California, Oregon, Idaho and Michigan, “as long as people are interested.”

In the end, it’s all about the people; note the smiles despite mud on this slimy hill.

And it’s the people, Adam says, who make the adventures so much fun. “The people we attract are just the best,” he says. “For example, you don’t have to be mechanically inclined to participate, but many of them are. If you break down, by the time you get off the bike someone else already has a tool roll out and is helping. If you turn up here alone, by the time the ride is over you’ve made many friends for life, and a lot of those friendships – and adventures — are made at the side of the road during a breakdown.”

Jamie Sheard crossing Charlies Creek on her Honda XL350.
[Photo Credits : Matt Best, Spencer Powlison, Thomas Watkins, Mark Miller, Rick Bennet, Randy Bennet, Kate Lamb, Brad Allen, Harrison Holland, Mark Harman, Adam Sheard, Jaime Smialek.]


Greg Williams is Profiles Editor for The Vintagent. He’s a motorcycle writer and publisher based in Calgary who contributes the Pulp Non-Fiction column to The Antique Motorcycle and regular feature stories to Motorcycle Classics. He is proud to reprint the Second and Seventh Editions of J.B. Nicholson’s Modern Motorcycle Mechanics series. Follow him on IG: @modernmotorcyclemechanics


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