Ride, Daryl, Ride

Daryl Dixon on his MotorbikeAs we pick apart all things The Walking Dead, let us not forget important questions such as what kind of bike does Daryl ride and is that the best choice?

All we know is that Daryl is riding his brother Merle’s motorbike. It has a lightning-bolt SS insignia on the tank. The saddlebags contain, among other things, all sorts of legal and illegal drugs including prescription antibiotics and painkillers. (I, for one, find these completely believable given Merle’s alluded-to background.)

But let’s back up a bit; I’d like to point out that someone riding a motorcycle would be a valuable asset to a group of apocalypse survivors, be it the zombies, the Russians, or even the Republicans. Motorcycles are good for scouting ahead, checking on stragglers, seeing if the group is being followed, and delivering messages between vehicles in a convoy. They also use less fuel – always a good thing when resources are limited – and can get to places four-wheeled vehicles cannot.

To be fair, motorcycles have limitations. They do not carry a spare tire. They must be balanced like a bicycle. They offer the rider no protection from the elements, zombies, or Republicans. They generally require all four extremities to operate.

Now, back to Merle’s/Daryl’s bike …

I could tell right off this bike isn’t a Harley as it lacked the distinctive V-twin motor and both exhaust pipes exit the front of the engine, not a Harley design. Many non-riding viewers might expect Merle to ride American iron given his personality, but he’s riding a British bike. In my nearly six minutes of research, I found that consensus on the Internet seems to be this bike is most likely a Triumph Bonneville 650 originally built anywhere from the mid-60s to 1971. The Bonneville was cherished and heavily modified by hardcore riders nearly as often as the more ubiquitous Harley product; many are still being ridden today.

Although a cool and truly badass ride, a vintage Bonneville isn’t the best choice for post-apocalyptic transportation. Oh, it can do all the things I mentioned above fairly well including go off-road (but only in extreme circumstances); however, the bike has three large strikes against it: age, noise level, and range of travel.

Old-school choppers may be easier for a shade-tree mechanic to work on, but finding parts is more difficult than for newer or more commercially popular bikes. Replacement parts for a newer-model bike would be easier to, ah, “acquire”.

In a world where noise attracts walkers, the far-reaching powerful throb of an un-muffled motorcycle engine is sure to announce one’s presence to every walker for miles around. Daryl prefers a crossbow to a rifle because of noise concerns, so why would he ride this bike?

Another of the bike’s limitations is the small gas tank – referred to as a “peanut” tank – that generally only carries 2-3.5 gallons of fuel. When removing all the non-essential parts of a bike – “chopping” – a small gas tank is used to reduce overall weight to increase its speed. However, in any post-apocalyptic scenario, a larger tank that allows more miles between fuel stops would be preferred, at least by me.

A much better motorcycle for Daryl would be one classified as a dual-sport, meaning it can be ridden on-or off-road. Like any hybrid, a dual-sport isn’t the best in either category, but rather has characteristics of both. It isn’t as comfortable and won’t carry as many supplies as a big road hog like the Harley-Davidson Electra-Glide or Honda Gold Wing. Also, it won’t be as rugged as bikes designed for off-road use only, such as Suzuki‘s RMX450Z or Kawasaki’s KX450F. Dual-sport bikes are heavier and will not have as much suspension travel for overcoming obstacles.

While not as quiet as street-only bikes, they are designed to not shatter the quiet of wooded riding areas. Additionally, their fuel tanks can hold up to twice as much fuel as a peanut tank. As most major motorcycle manufacturers still have dual-sports in their offerings, parts for these would be easier to scavenge.

So, with all these marks against it, why does Daryl stick with Merle’s bike and not find something more appropriate? Simply put, it was Merle’s. Daryl rides this bike in honor of and in tribute to his big brother; it’s the one tangible thing Daryl has to remind him of Merle. To remind him of all that they were to each other, good or bad.

I can easily imagine this bike was Merle’s one true love, all his time, energy, and spare cash put into making it his perfect “sled” – customized motorcycle. Bikers express their personalities through their rides and these creations are seen as personal declarations, much like heraldry for knights of old. Bikers don’t want “cookie-cutter” sleds that look like all the others on the road. Bikers want their bike to be immediately recognized as theirs. There’s no doubt this particular bike belonged to Merle Dixon.

The biker in me understands this completely and will shout with a raised fist in support of Daryl as he thunders by.

  • jadedmage

    very insightful!

  • Sarah Hughes

    I just wanted to add that I think another crucial reason Daryl searches so tirelessly for Sophia is that he too was lost in the woods when he was a kid. And not a damn person looked for him or even noticed he was gone. Fuck if he was going to let Sophia go through that. And when Carol tells him not to go, to rest instead, because she not even sure she has hope to find here? Well, to Daryl, she’s just giving up on her, like everyone in his life has done to him. Fuck her, she’s Sophia’s mother. He expected more from her.

  • Scuba

    The bike in season 2 has a knobby front tire while season 1 had a street tire


    he’s right singel carb trophy i had a bonni 4 awhile better than harley the engines have balence i.e. inline not v twin one the same pin. there are better twins out there 180 crank pin. honda hurricane comes to mind v 4 4 carb 180 crank pin. however harley has a size advantage. i like darrells’s bike mine was stock and i did not want to ruin the value i allways wanted to chop it and customize it but a 1969 bonni in perfect condition you don’t ruin lol DARRELL MUST NOT DIE HE’S WAY TOO COOL!

  • Chris

    I wonder if this ray with the SS symbol has some reference to Hitler nazitas. have?

  • John Birong

    I like the article but you must have some issues brining politics into it. What an asshole.

  • Daryl

    Next time, can you cut out the anit-Republican rhetoric. It’s just so old and overdone.

  • terrytriumph

    The fact is that during the 70s alot of these bikes were bobbed, or made into rat bikes. This means these bikes were made simple and pieced together with random parts being custom gives it the opertunity to upgrade the tank. Top speeds are iffy variables, mainly because it only has a 4 speed gear box. This one runs most likely on a single point harley set up witch can use a 67 chevy pick up point for spare parts. The fact is, isthat this is an ideal post apocalyptic bike for reasons like logic, available spare parts, available jerry rigging, easy operation, and awesome acceleration. The noise would give it the right aspects to head off heards for distraction. Your only huge worry would be rotten gas, and that’s in and small cylinder motorcycles…..

  • thesco

    the simbol SS of hitler.

  • Jayme Swier

    Whoa! This brings me back… the journey I started a year and a half ago has seen some changes…. lost 80 pounds, took the risk and went full time at the crisis center and gained an intuitive understanding of the woman I care about. It’s more like how Daryl cares for Carol, not anything like Shane. I know what it’s like to grow up the way he did… and I also know that I have gained a resiliency that has gotten me through. There is still some things ahead with the woman I care about. I have to hold strong and be there when i am needed.

  • Jayme Swier

    Now you know.. Merle sacrificed himself and Daryl had to put down the walker Merle.

  • Merle Dixon’s left hand

    What would a Republican apocalypse look like anyway?

    (I bet that sounds really weird out of context)

  • Stevo

    Whats with the republican junk? I blew your article off immediately after reading that. You fail.

  • Steve

    Would it be possible to recreate this bike?

  • Adam

    Yeah, I have a ’65 triumph that is similar. Actually, I have just about all the parts I would need to make a bike that would look almost identical. The old old school chopper look isn’t really my thing, i’m more into the bobber look, but this bike is still pretty cool.

  • Steve

    What exactly would you need to do so? And around how much would it cost?

  • Daryl Dixon

    while I agree he shouldnt have brought politics into the article you couldnt be more wrong. The SS insignia is a symbol created by the extreme right winged party the NSDAP, Republicans are much closer to that ideology than democrats are.

  • Vegasdad702

    Im sorry Mr. Dixon but you fail on your argument. First of all do you know what the S means in your NSDAP? Its mean SOCIALIST. They were the National Socialist party-NAZI. You at best are trying to argue a European model of political party lines, NOT American. Look it up, it is well documented that the Democratic Party historically has ALWAYS been on the opposite side of racial issues. Republicans like president Lincoln freed the slaves, Dwight Eisenhower penned Civil Rights, and a Republican congress passed when 94% of Democrats opposed it. I am not attacking Democrats, I am simply stating that HISTORY does not support the silly comment above. The Democratic party started Unions in this country, and still run them today. The problem is the original Unions were called the “White mans workers party”- Their symbol….Drum Roll…The SS Insignia. Opps history hurts sometimes. The KKK- Democratic origins. Its all documented FACT. WHY? do people not understand and know this history??? Maybe its because ALL fasicts of social engineering are controlled by…Drum Roll… the Democrats! Well all but FOX news, but thats another topic of propaganda, and I don’t care much for FOX. Seems like a silly topic for us to be discussing on this thread, but lets keep it real, and not pretend history is something different than what it really is. :) Have a great day sir. :)

  • Vegasdad702

    One thing I would like to mention(not that it matters), is I am NOT a Republican. I am a Classic Liberal by definition. I just happen to be a huge history hound, and to be honest I don’t care much for either of todays modern two party system. I just love this show and like an above person wrote think its comments like the “Republican” remark that are dividing people and making us feel like we are on different sides rather than United. Daryl is a great character, and I LOVE this show!!! I just wish political jabs would be “equal” (keyword), or non existent. But its a free country and I support the authors RIGHT to say ANYTHING they desire, I just think its STUPID! I am sure there are many Republicans who watch the show, and would be offended or hurt by such a silly remark. Of corse people also need to get a sense of humor as well, and realize its not so serious, but at this time in our society, I think its obvious that the whole time and place aspect of this kind of humor applies. But again just my humble opinion.

  • Bart

    In the U.K. the SS logo means support slavery, as in Satans slaves MC. So not Nazi at all.

  • Bart

    Don’t know if it’s the same in America.