Former state Sen.
David Zien, R-town of Wheaton, poses in front of the state
Capitol in Madison. Zien was the first state lawmaker to
ride a motorcycle and was known for defending ridersí
rights while in office. He helped lead helmet law protests
and worked to make Wisconsin the only state to override a
governorís veto of a repealed helmet law.
WAUKESHA - For former state Sen. David Zien, R-town of Wheaton,
riding a motorcycle has always had a special place in his heart.
He has ridden across the country and back again - several times.
He has ridden in hail, sleet, rain and snow. And now he has ridden
more than anyone else.
Zien is about to become the first person to ride a
Harley-Davidson motorcycle 1 million miles, which might be the most
miles ever logged on any bike ever.
"Itís just a spiritual experience riding a
motorcycle," he said via phone interview from Mountain Creek,
Ga. "Youíre in contact with Mother Nature."
Zien is riding his 1991 FXRT from Florida this week to Halís
Harley-Davidson in New Berlin, where heíll officially cross the
During his time on the bike, Zien has collected numerous riding
records, including logging 1,616 miles in 24 hours and riding 3,032
miles in 48 hours and through 48 states in eight days.
The entire time he said he has been saving all of his gas and
repair receipts, logging each mile between fill-ups.
Zien said his infatuation with motorcycles began in high school,
when he wrote a poem called "Lonely, Wild and Free" in
"What got me into motorcycles was that my horse wasnít
fast enough," he said. "I started off on a 1962 49CC
Montgomery Wardís mo-ped and it has been all motorcycles since
During his time as a lawmaker, Zien was known for becoming the
first motorcycle-riding lawmaker in Wisconsin, riding his bike from
northwestern Wisconsin to the Capitol in Madison religiously. He
even rode it there in bad weather.
Waukesha County Executive Dan Vrakas, who sat next to Zien when
both of them were serving in the state Assembly, said his love of
riding was downright infectious.
"He got me back riding," Vrakas said. "I remember
a few of us went to a conference and we flew there. Dave rode his
motorcycle there. I got the bug again after he did that and not too
long after I was back riding motorcycles again."
During his rides, Zien has had his share of incidents. He said he
has survived four deer-motorcycle collisions, and on the trip to New
Berlin he has had several near misses.
He also has seen a few of his fellow riders die.
Itís because of this and the responsibility that a rider must
have that Zien said he supports training riders in emergency
"If thereís a natural disaster or a chemical, biological
or nuclear war and thereís massive traffic jams, itís bikers who
can get to the front fastest and help save lives," he said.
"Itís a tremendous, tremendous asset to society."
Besides the physical dangers encountered by his long rides, Zien
has also had to deal with numerous mechanical issues.
On this last leg alone, he said he has had a transmission blow
up, spark plug wires go out and on Thursday, the starter in his
ignition went out.
Kirk Topel, president of Halís, said his store has done plenty
of work on Zienís bike over the years.
During that time, Topel said theyíve put three motors in the
bike, one of which got several hundred thousand miles of service - a
rare feat for motorcycle engines.
"Dave is just old school. There are few people out there
that embrace our sport and get as much enjoyment out of their time
in the saddle as he does," Topel said. "Heís one of the
old school riders - they ride their bikes almost exclusively. Iíve
been involved in the business for many years, and during that time
there has been a changing of the guard. But Dave is still old school
where he has a default setting in his mind to ride his bike any
Once Zien reaches Halís heíll be greeted by numerous
enthusiasts and friends to congratulate him on the accomplishment.
But Zien will keep riding after he finishes his journey to 1
million miles, if for nothing else than his health.
"I have a bad heart now, but when Iím on the bike with the
vibrations and everything, Iím not under as much stress,"
Zien said. "So when I keep riding my motorcycle, Iím better
and I feel better."