ago and quickly became an escape for second generation Americans from the overcrowded slums of Lower Manhattan.
Iconic American brands built factories on huge lots of waterfront property overlooking what would become the skyline of New York City. By the late 1800s, the Domino Sugar Refinery was processing more than half the sugar used in the country and was also one of the first dozen companies of the Dow Jones Industrial Average.The F. & M. Schaefer Brewing Company was located on the waterfront just south of the Williamsburg Bridge, which connects the two boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn. Peter Luger Steakhouse opened in 1887, and is still one of the most famed steak houses in the world.“A Tree Grows In Brooklyn” was written by Betty Smith and published in 1943. NYPD Officer Frank Serpico was famously shot in the face in Williamsburg in 1971. And the urban myth of the mid-1970s of packs of wild dogs roaming the streets turned out to be true.Today, Williamsburg is a mix of many people from diverse backgrounds and everyone seems to get along — families that have lived here for generations, the original hipsters, artists, musicians, retail and factory owners, bankers, trust fund kids, young families, and former Manhattanites who left the island because they got tired of the grind.One thing is certain across the wide demographics — the Honda F6B Gold Wing is one heck of a head turner and conversation starter no matter which side of Williamsburg you are from.Low on fuel, a rare occurrence on a bike with a 6.6-gallon fuel tank, I find myself riding past Schaefer Landing — the former Schaefer Brewery is now two towers of hundreds of luxury apartments with the East River Ferry at its doorsteps. The plushly suspended F6B glides over the potholes that seem to appear every 20 feet.As I pull into the gas station, a black Ford sedan follows me. Before I have the gas nozzle to the tank, a 30-something man named Matt is firing off questions to me. What kind of bike is it?vHow much does it weigh? How fast have I gotten it up to? How much does it cost? I’ve never seen one before; can I sit on it?After he gives the seat a touch, a huge smile takes over his face — he is a fan. He tells me about three bikes he has at home, and then asks me for advice on how to convince his wife he needs a fourth. Perhaps he should have brought her along.As I ride back down Kent Avenue, I pass the Domino Sugar Refinery. Its demolition process has started, and the factory that produced sugar until 2004 will soon be refined into luxury apartments to the tune of $1.5 billion by Two Trees Management, with the blessing of Mayor de Blassio.Over the next 10 years, the site will remind someone more of Shanghai than its current campus of brick, conveyer belts, and smokestacks. If all goes as planned, one residential structure will be shaped like a 40-story squared donut.In Williamsburg, I seem to always be doing one of three things: Riding the F6B to a great place to eat; riding the F6B to look at some amazing street art; and talking motorcycles with locals of all ages.On Kent Avenue, I see my friend, pop artist Christian Hooker, while he is packing up his studio. Christian reinvents the American flag and dollar bill on giant construction collage paintings using recycled materials — super-cool art from a super-cool guy.I ask Christian how many times he has moved studios in the two decades he has lived here. He gives me a look one would expect from an artist who has moved studios more times than he would like to discuss — it’s somewhere around eight.Christian’s eyes light up when he tells me about the giant dollar bill he hung up in the middle of the night off a building on Metropolitan Avenue. When I tell Christian that I will be cruising around on the F6B looking at the street murals, he immediately instructs me to check out 5Pointz in Manhattan and The Bushwick Collective in Bushwick. I want to stay in Williamsburg and, as it turns out, it isn’t hard to find murals that are 50 feet long and three stories high.Colorfully imaginative murals are painted on the side of abandoned buildings throughout Williamsburg. There are also works painted on quarter-block long metal gates of an EDM (Electronic Dance Music) club, along with the usual ads for sunglasses, liquor, and video games, and a really cool American Flag outside a pizza and empanada bar. There are also hundreds of smaller pieces, including one that depicts Marlon Brando in his Godfather role arm-in-arm with a hipster‚ showing that you don’t have to go big to be creative.Consuming street art makes me hungry, so I’m off to Crif Dogs on Driggs Avenue, above the Bedford Avenue/North 7 Street subway station for the L line. Crif has the best hot dogs ever — and I’m a vegetarian.Besides dogs that are handmade from naturally smoked beef and pork, they serve up killer veggie dogs with sautéed onions and melted cheese. They come with ridiculously sized side orders of Tater Tots and waffle fries. Between the birch beer and the Ms. Pac-Man cocktail table game, Crif Dogs makes for the perfect lunch.Before I get back on the F6B, several construction workers ask about the bike — these guys know motorcycles and want some arcane specification questions answered. I don’t have the numbers off the top of my head, so I satisfy their curiosity by telling them it is definitely one of the coolest, smoothest motorcycles I have ever ridden.Despite the tag art and street murals, it is obvious that the north side of Williamsburg remains a community of factories and manufacturing plants. As I am riding around, checking out the walls, it is apparent that the workers that dine from street trucks or are on a smoking break are checking out the F6B.When I stop in front of Acme Smoked Fish‚ a family-owned business with roots in Brooklyn dating back to 1905, it doesn’t take long for a dozen workers to start telling me about their bikes or asking the two questions that everyone seemed to ask — How fast does it go? How much is it? I haven’t had it up to top speed here in Williamsburg, and the base price is $20k. After 20 minutes of talking, we feel like we have been riding partners for 20 years.Heading south, I spot my friend Lorenzo. He is smoking a cigarette outside an Italian restaurant on Berry Street that he co-owns. Antica Pesa comes from a distinguished pedigree. Their family’s “other” restaurant has been operating in Rome since 1922; this is their first venture into the United States. Madonna, Lionel Richie, Morgan Freeman, and Chelsea Clinton have all been spotted finishing their dinner with the best and most unique tira- misù in the City. Along with a voracious local following, getting a reservation is a challenge.Of course, Lorenzo and I talk about the bike and the predictable technical questions are posed. However, it doesn’t take long for Lorenzo to take the conversation towards beauty and function, as he focuses on the lines of the Honda and how the bags flow into the F6B’s body.On the ride home, I stop at Skinny Dennis‚ Williamsburg’s only country bar. After taking in some twang, I’m back on the street and spot what I know is the best taco truck in Williamsburg — Endless Summer.In four seconds flat, the F6B is parked on the sidewalk on Metropolitan Avenue. I order a set of veggie tacos that I wash down with Mexican orange soda. A few authentic “I have lived in Williamsburg all my life” high-school kids walk by and start telling me the F6B looks like the Batmobile.They ask if they can sit on it, and how fast have I have ridden on McGuiness Boulevard. When riding the Honda F6B Gold Wing, some questions are too obvious not to be asked.Photography by Carley WilliamsStory from Ultimate MotorCycling magazine; for subscription services, click here.