Motorcycle restoration a loving tribute to Dennis Robinson's older brother, Steven
Posted: Tuesday, September 16, 2014 11:54 pm | Updated: 12:03 pm, Wed Sep 17, 2014.
For years, Steven Robinson's Honda motorcycle was a painful reminder of his 2010 death in a traffic accident.
Today, the restored bike stands as a gleaming tribute to a beloved brother and a life cut tragically short.
"It just amazes me to see it sitting there," said Dennis Robinson, growing emotional as he looked at his brother's motorcycle outside TBC Hot Rods and Bikes on Russell Street.
Dennis Robinson, 54, said he grew up idolizing his older brother, relying on him for advice and guidance when they were growing up in a military family in Fayetteville and around the world.
Steven loved to build things and was always thinking of others. Dennis' last memory of his brother came shortly before his death, when Steven was repairing a screened-in porch at his mother's house.
"He was my hero. He taught me integrity," Dennis said. "He gave me my work ethic. He was just somebody that I relied on an awful lot for how to live."
While Dennis took up surfing as a hobby, Steven favored motorcycles. For years, his ride of choice was a 1978 Honda CB 750.
Steven would ride the motorcycle on the roads around Hickory, where he lived and worked for a fiber optics manufacturing company. Eventually, he traded up to a Harley-Davidson, but he could not part with the Honda. He kept the bike in the garage of his home.
Steven Robinson was riding the Harley on July 1, 2010, when he was killed in a traffic accident near Hickory. Dennis said a truck crossed the center line and struck his brother head-on. Steven Robinson was 53.
The family, including Steven Robinson's wife, Jackie, and their two grown children, were devastated. Dennis said his brother was two years away from retirement and planned to spend his time traveling the country in an RV, working on Habitat for Humanity projects.
"His faith in God was phenomenal," Dennis said. "He affected the lives of a lot of people in a positive way."
Steven left behind his old Honda. After his brother's death, Dennis said, Jackie found the motorcycle to be too painful a reminder. She asked Dennis to take it.
Dennis, who does not ride, brought the bike to his Fayetteville home. For a couple of years, it stood covered under a tarp in his backyard.
Finally, Dennis decided it was time to let the bike go. He listed it for sale on the online sales site Craigslist.
To Dennis' surprise, one of the first people to call was an old friend, Tim Bradham. The two grew up near each other and shared a love of race cars.
Bradham owns TBC Hot Rods and Bikes and thought the Honda might make a good investment - put a little money into it, fix it up, sell it. He did not know until he responded to the ad that his old friend Dennis had placed it.
And he didn't know the story behind the bike.
After talking to Dennis, and hearing how devastated he was over the loss of his brother, Bradham's plans changed. He decided to restore the motorcycle as a tribute to Steven Robinson.
"I didn't know about his brother," Bradham said. "After he told me, I said, 'I'll make it a tribute bike.' I said, 'I'll call it the Steven Project,' and that's what we stuck with."
Bradham started work on the motorcycle more than a year ago, tinkering on it between jobs, often on his own time. Josh Cipra helped with some of the fabrication and mechanical work, and Robbie Lynch painted it. Miguel Flores of Moto-Tech Performance supplied some parts.
Bradham said the long-unused motorcycle had to be almost completely rebuilt. Little is left of the bike that was parked in Steven Robinson's garage when he died.
The rebuilt motorcycle looks like new. "The Steven Project" is written in script on the gas tank.
Bradham debuted the motorcycle at the end of August in the Bull City Rumble, a vintage motorcycle and scooter rally in Durham.
A plaque showed what the bike looked like before the renovation and explained a little about the inspiration for fixing it up:
"Steven Robinson was a great guy with a big heart," it reads in part. "By day, he was an electronics guru, but in his off time he loved to ride and construct things with his hands."
The plaque goes on to tell how Steven lost his life before he could fulfill his dream of retiring and doing volunteer work for Habitat for Humanity.
Dennis Robinson was at the Bull City Rumble to see people's reactions to the restored bike and its story.
"It was amazing. People walking by would spend an unusual time looking at it," he said. "I watched people walking away wiping tears."
The motorcycle will be kept permanently at Bradham's shop, along with the plaque explaining the reason for its renovation.
Dennis, fighting back tears as he discussed the restoration at Bradham's shop, said he has trouble coming up with the words to express his feelings.
Although his brother is gone, it is as if a bit of his spirit lives on in a newly restored Honda motorcycle.
"I know how my brother would have felt if he were here to see this," Dennis said. "He would be totally blown away."
Staff writer Rodger Mullen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 486-3561.