Jeff Decker is rider No. 21 in the 2010 Motorcycle Cannonball and he will be astride a 1914 Harley-Davidson. But that’s only part of his story. Decker is also an internationally known artist who’s bronze-cast sculptures depicting the synergy of man and modern machines--particularly historic motorcycles--is well known in both the motorcycling community and the world of fine art.
Across the board, Jeff has a reputation as a man of his word that is honest to his craft. As both a rider and an artist, it is from this dual perspective that Decker signed up to participate in the Motorcycle Cannonball. And it is from these perspectives as well that he has agreed to sculpt the award to be presented to the one rider from the single cylinder speed class who garners the most points in this amazing trans-continental endurance ride.
Decker grew up in SoCal with parents who thought weekends were best spent at the racetrack. Drag racing was everything to the Decker clan and Jeff’s happy childhood memories are littered with flashbacks of hanging at swap meets with a Dad who was also his best friend. The elder Decker was also a very talented mechanic, and Jeff absorbed much from his father, but ultimately chose his own path.
“I knew I wasn’t mechanical like my Dad, but I grew up with seven acres of junkyard, and he fully encouraged my art. Sculpting is really the only art that is mechanical, and the lost wax process I use goes back thousands of years,” Jeff explains.
The Motorcycle Cannonball trophy is to be called the “Wyman Cup” in honor of George Wyman who completed the first coast-to-coast motorcycle ride in 1903. Whether or not the award Decker crafts will be in the form of a traditional loving cup hasn’t been decided. Decker has been given full artistic license to create this one-of-a-kind work of art.
When asked about the trophy for the Motorcycle Cannonball, Decker shared, “I can’t multi-task. I need to focus on just one thing, so by May I will be able to figure out exactly what I plan to do. We, (Lonnie and I), have discussed several ideas, but I think the award will be more sculptural than an actual cup.”
Working at his Hippodrome Studio in Springville, Utah, Jeff’s sculptures have depicted the history, passion and quest for speed associated with motorcycles, along with such diverse riders and devotees as Motor Company founder Walter Davidson, famous motorcycle racer Joe Petrali, two-wheel land speed record setter Rollie Free, and Elvis Presley with his first Harley-Davidson.
Decker’s work speaks to the man he is. Jeff has a truly amazing understanding and intricate knowledge of the details of motorcycles and his sculpting routine always includes meticulously working with actual machines. Anyone taking a moment to view the nuances of one of his sculptures can recognize instantly the personal relationship Decker has with his subject matter.
“Lonnie is brilliant in coming up with all this (the Motorcycle Cannonball),” Jeff declared in a recent interview from his home, situated not far from the Bonneville Salt Flats. “This whole ride is going to be an amazing experience, but I am afraid of the mental challenge more than anything. Sitting for 8-10 hours, with the motor humming, kind of puts me into a Zen meditation and I miss things. Worrying about the bike will be mental torture. My Dad used to ask me, ‘Didn’t you hear the motor before it blew out and you were stuck sitting on the side of the road?’ One good thing is that I don’t have an extra 100 pounds packed around my belly. As it is, I’m concerned about making the distance. My whole goal is just to finish.”
As a rider, artist, a full-fledged fan of the vintage motorcycles, Jeff Decker is a very welcome addition to the historic Motorcycle Cannonball.