Panhead Billy: Keeping it in the Wind

Monday night a friend of mine forwarded the American thunder Newsletter, as we had gone on the Yuma run together with this group.  As I read The Directors Corner there was the following blurb about Panhead Billy.

I had the distinct honor and pleasure to meet a true road warrior and nomad, “Panhead Billy”, aka, Billy Burrows (friend him on Facebook) at the Hampton Inn before we departed on Sunday.


Billy showed off his scoot, ’48 hardtail frame, ’60 motor and ’94 Springer front end (pardon any errors in my recollection of what he told me). I was in awe of this 1,000,000 mile machine cobbled together like Frankenstein’s monster and held together with love, luck and an assortment of zip ties, wire nuts, bailing wire and chewing gum (I’ll just bet)….and just a bit envious of a man living his dream!


Billy shared with me his “philosophy” on life, on riding and on life on the road. I’m honored that he took the time to speak with me and impart his wisdom, sage advice and general good common sense (named so because it’s less and less common nowadays).

Dave Laskey


American Thunder


Panhead Billy

Panhead Billy

I was first sent this picture of Billy’s bike by a girlfriend after the Yuma ride, I downloaded it to post on my Fanpage and to Twitter, I named it the “homeless bike”.   I received a Tweet from a woman saying that she had seen this bike in Chicago a few years earlier The picture gained much attention for the day.

Upon reading Dave’s article I shot off an e-mail to AT. Dave messaged me back , he told about the photos from Billy’s daughter’s wedding on his Facebook page and how well Panhead Billy cleans up. I sent a friend request to Panhead, along with a message, the next day the request was accepted.

I hopped over to his page take a look. This man is quite amazing with friends from around the globe, and no, there is nothing homeless about Panhead Billy Burrows.

I received a message on my Fanpage from friend of his in New York, Wednesday afternoon, A few hours later, my phone was ringing and we had a nice little chat. Carol described him as “The wind, he is stealth.” she says.  He is a rock star and a historian, he is private and quiet, a veteran.

“He is an endangered species, if you try to seek him out, he simply disappears. I love him.”  She says.

Panhead Billy 2012

Panhead Billy 2012

Panhead and Carol met three or four years ago in Sturgis.  She is obviously protective of him, I understand and appreciate her desire to maintain his privacy and from those who may not have his best interest at heart.

Billy is a true American inspiration.  Not just to the biker community but to humanity in general.  Billy is originally from Massachusetts and now he is from where he happens to be coming from.

He is a man worn from the sun and the wind but in good physical condition.  His eyes are azure blue and they sparkle with a smile. Billy sleeps where ever he can find a spot under the stars and  has criss -crossed our nation time after time. Billy Burrows gives an entirely new meaning to the saying, “Been there done that.”  My greatest burning question to Billy would be, “What put you on the road?”

He is the epitome of what most bikers only dream of.  Casting off the social stigma of “biker” and what others may think of his pieced together scoot, piled with his daily needs and a bed roll, topped off by a small American Flag.

“He doesn’t have a single tattoo or use curse words ever.” Carol told me.  “He is the one that when you meet him, you want to take him home and make him dinner.”  But it seems that he will have no part of that and is self-sufficient in every way, depending on nobody for anything.

Billy's Lid

Billy’s Lid

Among the photos curated by Carol of reader sightings and friends, there is a photo of Billy at his daughter’s wedding. He is dapper in a morning suit, holding her as gently as he did when she was a baby and with all the strength of the greatest armies, the world wrapped around her in his arms. There are not words to describe this picture and unfortunately, I will not share this with you, but the photo moved me to tears.

As I looked through the photos of Billy from every bike run, ride and rally from sea to shining sea, I was witness to a man who lives his life as his own throttle master. He lives with such greatness that it shines through like a beacon. I was touched by these photos and his vigor for life, choosing to live it fully and on his own terms.

Panhead Billy 2012

Panhead Billy 2012

Like Dave said, his bike is a collage of pieces and parts gathered from the 4 corners, highways and byways across America. It’s a 1960 Panhead that was in pieces when he got it, now with a 48 Wishbone frame and a 93 Springer front end, and only a few aftermarket parts according to Billy during a brief 2008 interview with Wheels Through Time  .

Panhead Billy and his bike are a testament to one man’s love of the road and making good with what’s on hand and making due so he can point his tire back to the road ahead to chase the sun.

Billy uses up about 800 gallons of gas each year and has been to every state capitol with the exception of Alaska and Hawaii. According to his Facebook page, he has visited 800 Harley Dealerships across the United States, and is happy to wrench on a bike or three when he rolls into a shop.

Billy cruises the back roads avoiding the major highways when he can, and he doesn’t ride in the rain according to Carol. He has been saddling up on this same bike for 26 years and on the road for 24 of them.

Today I sit here and wonder about that flag that whips in the wind on Panhead Billy’s bike. Obviously he is a patriot, and when he points his bike in any given direction it is with a purpose and forethought.  Having visited every Capitol in the continuous United States, it says something about a man.  I have seen his Atlas and the roads highlighted in yellow markers of the hundreds of roads that he has traveled, in a word, Astounding.

It's Good to be an American

It’s Good to be an American

This is a man who doesn’t have just one story to tell, he has a million of them. And maybe if I am lucky enough, one day we will sit down with a cup of coffee and he will impart some of his wisdom on me.

I have a pretty good idea about where he is about now, and could probably track him down with little effort and a few phone calls.  But I have a deep respect for this dude and if he wants to tell me a story or three, he can reach me if he so chooses.   If not, I respect that too.  I suspect, I will see him in the wind sooner or later.

3 responses to “Panhead Billy: Keeping it in the Wind

  1. I saw a bike parked outside a grocery store in Sturgis during the rally a few years back!! There were hundreds of thousands of bikes in town……..BUT……..this one was different. It was an “old school” cobbled together panhead that obviously had high mileage on it 😉 It also had about 3,000 pounds of camping gear, canteens, clothing, etc. strapped to the handlebars and frame!! I remember thinking where is this guy’s next adventure?? The bike was Panhead Billy’s 😉 I’ll never forget it!!



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