Snakes. Brazil has some of the biggest snakes in the world. And some of the meanest. It is also home to what was at one time the world's biggest, meanest motorcycle - The Amazonas Motorcycle. Throw in some huge warrior women (Amazons), a few hundred thousand square miles of hostile jungle, bad roads, 50,000 road deaths a year and red mud and I had another small adventure while riding around the world.
South America was the second leg of my third ride around the globe. The first leg, around America, found me chasing the sun and Sasquash on the 1947 Indian Chief. The second leg found me in search of Amazons on the only motorcycle to have been completely manufactured in South America.
After my first motorcycle ride through Brazil (1998) I hoped I would someday return. The people I found there were some of the nicest I had met anywhere on the globe. The motorcycle people were extremely friendly and welcomed me like I was far more than the rolling road trash that I looked like. And the country fascinated me with it's harshness and space for adventure. The 1981 BMW R80 GS that I used that first time I had highly modified to meet the toughness of an extended trip through North, Central and South America. But Brazil made the BMW GS weep. I limped out of the Brazilian jungles, half-beaten and hungry, not for food, but for more of the adventure. As I did I was already thinking about a future ride in, around or across Brazil, but one of a far different nature.
This time I found my adventure on 1600 cc's of Volkswagen engine and transmission mounted in a frame built to take the knocks and bites even a Mike Tyson could dish out. In fact, the Amazonas motorcycle was designed specifically for Brazil. The government selected the Amazonas Motorcycle over the Harley-Davidsons because the Amazonas was more dependable, needed less maintenance, and parts were easier to get. Their road cops soon figured out that H-D's marketing jazz about "American Made" meant little to the speed bumps, potholes and heat of Brazil.
Upon arrival in Sao Paolo I was invited to stay with Guilherme Hannud Filho, the owner of the Amazonas Company. He purchased the company in 1986 at the age of 31, which made him at the time the youngest motorcycle company owner in the world. Until 1989, when Brazil's economy slid down the poop pipe, the Amazonas Company produced about 450 motorcycles. 25% of their production went for police and escort use in Brazil. Malcolm Forbes bought two. Many went to Japan and a few found their way to Europe and the USA. The motorcycle was, in it's day, the biggest motorcycle in the world. Huge, monstrous, and just the behemoth I needed to hunt large warrior women through the jungles of Brazil. Guilherme provided me with two bikes, a nice solo model and his personal sidecar model. Both came with the standard 1600cc Volkswagen engine and transmission, with reverse. He also welcomed me into his life, company and history books. Guilherme is like any harried successful businessman, but underneath he is a motorcyclist first. He took time away from the needs of his company and family to spend some time with me eating, feeling and living motorcycles. Even though his daily ride is a BMW R1150 GS you can still feel his love for the Amazonas and the richness this motorcycle brought to our culture of motorcycling. I was an avid and thankful student and enjoyed learning about this wonderful motorcycle.
Guilherme Hannud Filho, taking the bull by the horns, to keep it from scratching his sidecar, called a "Julliet" for the love match with the bike. One of only eight produced.
I was also introduced to the Amazonas Moto Clube and shown how truly "in love" the members are with the Amazonas Motorcycle. One former owner of an Amazonas nearly cried when I told him if I had a choice I'd rather be riding an Amazonas than a Harley-Davidson. When he asked, in amazement, "Why?" I told him, "Harley-Davidson is everywhere, but there were only 450 Amazonas Motorcycles made." He went on to say that he had sold his Amazonas three months before and went to a Yamaha V-Max, but deeply regretted letting the Amazonas go, far deeper than he thought he would.
There are still numerous Amazonas motorcycles being used by the Road Police of Brazil. This one was also a member of the Amazonas Club.
The motorcycle is big, like an old John Deere tractor. Learning to ride it takes more than just putting in the key and turning it on. I got to be pretty good with the 1986 model I used. I was deadly at hitting snakes in the road with it, could keep from scraping the side stand and even did a little lane splitting, but not at speed. The brakes teach you to plan well in advance, but then again I had just stepped off a 1947 Indian Chief from riding around in America, and it's brakes were a prayer. After several days I felt comfortable with the Brazilian Behemoth, and gradually learned to love it. This was a motorcycle which liked to be petted, even though it was huge and some say ugly. If you caressed it just right it would purr, all 800 pounds of it. Learning to ride it reminded me of what a Harley friend once said about his rather large wife, "She's a big girl and not very pretty but she treats me like a King, and I treat her like a Queen."
Guilherme Hannud Filho says of a motorcycle "The first 5,000 kilometers of a motorcycle relationship is like dating - we are getting to know each other. After that you have learned how to enjoy the benefits of the relationship and each other." The Amazonas Motorcycle and I enjoyed a great relationship. We happily banged and humped over and around some of the toughest parts of South America and not once did it cheat on me, nor me it. I feel like I would like to see one sitting next to my Indian Chief back in the USA some day. In 1988 $8,500 USD could get you a new one. $2,500 USD would add a sidecar.
Some of the ladies of the Amazonas Moto Clube. The less attractive person in the middle is not one of their members but instead some American Indian tourist wandering around the jungles looking for Amazons.
The first Amazonas Motorcycle was hand crafted in 1978 by stuffing a Volkswagen engine and transmission into an Indian Motorcycle frame (for you motorheads reading this you should see a thread here). By the end of production in 1989-1990 the company had a full production line and was using some very modern technology. Later owners would add fuel injection, and a Cycle World magazine test in the mid 1980's had their drag specialist test one pumped to 2275 cc's. He said his personal "V-Max seemed flat on the bottom end compared" to the monster Amazonas.
In my travels around the world I often meet people who dream of traveling to the United States and riding a Harley-Davidson. I can remember when it was a dream for me to go to Germany and ride a BMW. There is something about riding a motorcycle manufactured in the country where you are riding. I can not put my finger on the exact definition of the feeling, but it is there, a cosmic jiggle, something mystical. I experienced it when I was riding the 1947 Indian Chief down the "Mother Road of America", Route 66, and I felt it again as I was riding the Amazonas through the jungles and vortexes of Brazil.
One might say I am on a hopeless hunt: Big Foot in America, Amazons in South America, and Yeti in Northern India/Nepal. This much I know: Who ever is saying it is not saying it to me directly. Instead they are saying "What year was that Indian made?" and "Nice Amazonas, which year is it?" Then they wish me well, some saying "Go with God." Nice people, nice bikes.
Regivaldo Rosa Correia of Salvador let me try his 1980 model. Like I said, "Nice people, nice bikes."
July 27, 2000, Going Out Again - 'Round The World
October 4, 2000, Why Another Long Ride, The Plan, and Mr. Fish
October 10, 2000, the beginning, in America on an Indian
November 6, 2000, AMAZONAS-Tamed By Beasts in Brazil
November 22, 2000, Monster Cow, Wolpertinger and Autobahn Crawling Across Europe
December 22, 2000, Enfield 500 Bullet, India Motorcycle Dementia, Ozoned Harley-Davidsons and Gold Wings
December 25, 2000, Yeti on a Harley-Davidson, Nepal By Enfield, No Carnet Sexpedition
January 1, 2001, Haunting Yeti
January 25, 2001, Monkey Soccer, Asian Feet, Air 'em Up: Bhutan and Sikkim
February 12, 2001, Midgets, Carnetless, Steve McQueen on Enfield, Bangladesh
February 20, 2001, Higgledypiggledy, Salacity, and Zymurgy - India
March 20, 2001, Road warriors, sand, oil leaks - meditating out of India
April 8, 2001, Bike Cops, Elephants, and Same-Same - Thailand
May 1, 2001, Little Bikes, Millions of Bikes, Island Riding - Taiwan
May 15, 2001, Harley-Davidson, Mother Road and Super Slabs - America
June 8 , 2001, Crossing The Crazy Woman With A Harley-Davidson, Indian, BMW, Amazonas, Enfield, Hartford, SYM, Honda
January 1, 2002, Donged, Bonged, and Gonged - Burma
January 20, 2002, Secrets of The Golden Triangle - Thailand
March 31, 2002, Bear Wakes, Aims Green Machine Around The World
April 10, 2002, Moto Cuba - Crashes, Customs and El Jefe (Fidel)
May 20, 2002, Europe and The Roads South to Africa
June 10, 2002, Morocco Motorcycling, Thieves and Good Roads
July 30, 2002, Russia – Hard and Soft, By Motorcycle
August 30, 2002, USA – American Roadkill, Shipping Bikes and BIG DOGS
September 30, 2002, Good Times Roll Home, Riding With Clothes On, Team Green - USA
November, 2002, Mexico By Motorcycle - Gringos, Little Norman Bad Cock, and Bandits
March 2003, Laos by motorcycle - Guerrillas, Mekong Beering, and Plain of Coffins
July, 2003, Alaska by motorcycle – Deadhorse, Fish Story and Alaskan Bush
January 2004, Angkor, Bombed Out Roads and Dog Eaters - Cambodia
April, 2004, Minsking, Uncle Ho and Snake Wine
August 2004, Around The World Again, 1st Tag Deadhorse
February 2005, Colombia To The End Of The Earth - South America
January 2006, My Marriage, Long Strange Ride, Montana Nights
May 2006, Cherry Girls, Rebels, Crash and Volcano - Philippines
September 2006, Break Bike Mountain Ride – United States
March 2007, Kawasaki Cult Bike “No Stranger To Danger Expedition” - Thailand and Cambodia
November 2007, Lone Wolf Wanders: Bears, Moose, Buffalo, Fish
April 2009, Global Adventure Roaming: Burma through the USA to headhunters on Borneo
February 2010, Adventure Motorcycle Travel: Expedition to Alaska, then Java
May 2013, The World Motorcycle Adventure Continues
Copyright © Dr. Gregory W. Frazier. 1999- All Rights Reserved.
Thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author,
and not necessarily Horizons Unlimited