The Magazine Job that Changed His Life

By Matt King
Copywriter and editor at Mercury Marine and an MSF RiderCoach

Explaining when I first rode a motorcycle is easy. It was many years later before I actually became a motorcyclist.

Like almost every other kid who grew up in the 70s, I spent some time riding dirt bikes. I remember my first “ride” like it was yesterday. It was at a Boy Scout outing in 1979. One of the dads had brought a small dirt bike along and all the scouts took turns riding it – or at least trying! I don’t recall the size or brand, but I’ll never forget swinging a leg over it, popping the clutch and launching it out from under me, leaving me on my butt with a bruised ego. After that, it was close to another 20 years before I was back on two motorized wheels, riding around the island of Bali on scooters with a college buddy on a trip through Southeast Asia in the early ’90s. 

Later I spent eight years as an editor at Hot Rod and Car Craft magazines in Los Angeles and Detroit. During that time I owned about a dozen project cars, dyno-tested hundreds of high-performance engines and aftermarket parts and raced on tracks and drag strips all around the country. In all that time I never owned a motorcycle or even sat on one. 

That changed when I was hired away from Hot Rod in 2005 to become the editor of Harley-Davidson’s Enthusiast magazine, at the time one of the oldest and largest circulation motorcycle magazines in the world. Editing a magazine about motorcycles for motorcyclists was something I knew I couldn’t do effectively as a non-rider, so a few weeks after I was hired and before I had even moved to Milwaukee, I flew down to Florida and signed up for a Motorcycle Safety Foundation licensing class. About a month later, I was back in Florida for my first Bike Week in Daytona and put my first miles on a street motorcycle. 

The 15 years that followed changed my life personally as well as professionally. Thanks to my job as editor of the magazine and as a member of Harley-Davidson’s product communications team, I had the opportunity to explore some of the greatest roads and most scenic destinations in the United States and abroad in the best way possible: on the seat of a motorcycle.

Attending press events, photo shoots, and rallies in epic locations in the United States and abroad created many great riding memories, but by far my best days on a motorcycle have been spent mostly alone with my thoughts on lonely stretches of two-lane roads somewhere between here and nowhere. 

Over the years, my interest in bikes expanded beyond Harleys and cruising. I’ve owned a few of them, in addition to bikes from Buell, Ducati, BMW, several KLR650s, and a small fleet of scooters. I’ve also built custom bikes, crewed on race teams in the AMA XR1200 series, and improved my riding skills by attending an MSF course for experienced riders and the MSF DirtBike School. It snuck up on me somehow, but along the way I became more obsessed with motorcycles than I ever was with cars. Now I own seven bikes and want a few more!

While I have switched jobs and currently work in the marine industry, I haven’t left the motorcycling industry completely. My local Harley-Davidson Riding Academy had mentioned needing to recruit more coaches to fill the demand for rider training courses, so last year I decided to take the plunge by becoming an MSF RiderCoach myself.

Now I’m teaching Basic RiderCourses at a Harley-Davidson dealership near Milwaukee. It’s a tough job, but it’s rewarding to contribute to the growth of motorcycling by helping to train a new generation of riders to share the passion for two wheels that changed my life.