Sweet Return

By Mike Seate

In a Hammonton, NJ garage a drag racing legend has accepted the most emotional 2-wheeled challenge of his life; the same motorcycle that he raced the quarter mile on as a teen, the same motorcycle that killed his father in 1982, has come back into his life and he’s rebuilding it for season 5 of Café Racer TV.

Rickey Gadson is a ten-time World Drag Racing champion and a brand ambassador for Kawasaki. The self-proclaimed “Fastest African-American on 2 wheels” (217 mph), Gadson came up on the hard, inner-city streets of West Philly where, as a scrawny teenager, made his bones in the winner-take-all world of outlaw street motorcycle drag racing.[nggallery id=94]

The entire Gadson clan were bike riders, including his late mom and brother, both of whom encouraged him to take his skills to the strip where he’s dominated. In 1982, at 14, he raced his father’s 1979 Kawasaki 1300, a fearsome, 560-pound six-cylinder beast of a bike, at New Jersey’s Atco Raceway. Later that same year, his father was killed in a crash on the big Kawi and the damaged bike was sold. He never saw it again.

Nearly 30 years later, without notice, the second owner showed up at Gadson’s garage with the 1300 in tow. “It had been sitting outside his house on the street in Philly,” Gadson told us during a recent visit to his bike-packed workshop.

It was a real mind-blower to be back in possession of the first motorcycle he’d ever raced, let alone the streetbike that claimed his father’s life. Bad demons aside, Gadson will appear on season 5, trading in his leathers for welding gear. His goal is to tear down the Kawasaki and transform it into a sleek, street-worthy café racer.

And the test ride? “We’re definitely taking it back to Atco where I first raced it,” Gadson promises.

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