The Can-Do Spirit Lives in Philadelphia

Adam Cramer of Liberty Cycles is also someone who is concerned with the de-industrialization of America. A motorcycle mechanic in Philadelphia for the past 25 years, Cramer has what many would call an obsession with vintage motorcycles. Brooklyn-based craft-juggernaut Etsy recently produced a video about Liberty Cycles in which Cramer expresses concern that the younger generation of Americans will not be able to pick up the torch and continue America’s “can-do spirit.” A subject that was explored thoroughly here.

In addition to being an entertaining interview and a walking sound bite, Cramer’s shop looks to be full of amazing motorcycles and their accoutrement, a third of which aren’t for sale because Adam can’t bear to let them go. He describes his passion for motorcycles as something that is more likened to a disease than a hobby or a job.

This Liberty Cycles video is, in my mind, the equivalent of the most ornery episode of “Hoarders,” in which the well-worn subject spends the entire 22 minute show – amongst a wonderful selection of vintage motorcycles – pining for the industrial landscape of yesterday, all while holding dumb and dumber from American Pickers hostage in the back room of the garage. This is to say, basically, that Cramer is a true patriot and he ought to have his own TV show so Junior and Senior can fade back into obscurity where they belong.

[via Etsy Blog]

Comments on “The Can-Do Spirit Lives in Philadelphia

    jdg on March 8, 2011 11:34 AM:

    Seriously? What’s your beef with those guys? As a professional cyber-fetishist of rugged shit I would think you’d at least have some respect for a couple guys who actually get their hands dirty.

    Michael Williams on March 8, 2011 11:37 AM:

    I’m semi-pro. Re: American Chopper, I just think it is time for those guys to step aside. Just because you “get your hands dirty” does not make you talented or good. At least not in my book.

    Chris on March 8, 2011 11:43 AM:

    Just a week or two ago you were going on about Three Potato Four, which appears to sell stuff very similar to what the guys on American Pickers are finding and selling every day. The biggest difference I would say is that Antique Archaeology isn’t selling any replicas mixed in with their stuff.

    jdg on March 8, 2011 11:46 AM:

    You said American Pickers, not American Chopper.

    Michael Williams on March 8, 2011 11:48 AM:

    I made reference to both and don’t particularly care for either.

    Chris on March 8, 2011 11:48 AM:

    I am 100% behind the American Chopper guys stepping aside

    Michael Williams on March 8, 2011 11:49 AM:

    I’m glad we can agree on something. on March 8, 2011 11:52 AM:

    Just yesterday I had one of my students (college) do a presentation on rebuilding an old motorcycle as part of a personal development project. The 12 year old kid across the street helped throughout the process, and is obsessed with helping my student work on bikes, cars etc. I think more of this kind of thing still goes on than this guy realizes.

    jdg on March 8, 2011 11:52 AM:

    Well, I will say those dudes from American Pickers aren’t buying their rugged shit off etsy.

    Michael Williams on March 8, 2011 11:53 AM:

    There is nothing “rugged” about dumb and dumber from American Pickers. Please stop. Although, I will say if I was on that show I’d be the fat annoying one, not the skinny annoying one.

    jdg on March 8, 2011 12:09 PM:

    wait wait wait: since when does one have to BE rugged in order to fetishize ruggedness? wouldn’t that somehow destroy your entire bloggy/marketing raison d’être?

    Michael Williams on March 8, 2011 12:17 PM:

    JDG — You are putting words in my mouth. Please stop. Agree to disagree.

    ken on March 8, 2011 12:29 PM:

    I grew up in ‘rural’ NE Ohio. The personally owned small motorcycle shops that exist out there are pure gold. Nothing can compare to the level of personal attention and experience you get from taking your motorcycle to a small shop. You cannot find that at a dealer service department.

    robbie on March 8, 2011 12:36 PM:

    The guys from American Pickers romanticize junking, they also make ‘weekend warriors’ come out like cockroaches driving the price of things up.

    I think its great that History has a show about American items, but I agree they could do much better. As for American Choppers, that show is on the same level as Dog the bounty hunter et cetera.

    jdg on March 8, 2011 12:38 PM:

    Come on, Michael. I pointed out that “dumb and dumber” pick their old motorcycle engines and Americana out of barns for a living. You find “rugged” shit on etsy and visit Brimfield and high-end vintage/antique shops.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with what you do, I just think you shouldn’t be so openly derisive towards a couple guys who obviously share a lot of your same values.

    Kat on March 8, 2011 1:46 PM:

    I think it’s rugged to say “raison d’etre”.

    Makaga on March 8, 2011 2:07 PM:

    @Kat, haha, perfect!

    James on March 8, 2011 2:22 PM:

    I agree with Chris, how can you rave about Three Potato Four, while discarding what the guys on American Pickers do? You know they’ve been out picking long before they ever had a show.
    Is it because they find, buy and sell all the same great Americana we all drool over? Seems like a case of “hipster” bias if you ask me, “they don’t fit into my idea of the type of people that should be dealing in these items”.
    Maybe a proper ACL profile of Mike and Frank is in order before we discard what they do.

    Michael Williams on March 8, 2011 2:26 PM:

    I’ll do an ACL profile on dumb and dumber but it will be through my “hipster bias” lens.

    James on March 8, 2011 3:00 PM:

    Hey Michael, listen I respect your opinion and love ACL and all it highlights, but I gotta call it as I read it so to speak.
    I think you should take ride in the Antique Archaeology van. I for one would love to read that profile here!
    And C’mon, who among us wouldn’t like to find some vintage goodies in an old barn while traveling the back roads of America?

    Also, would love to know your opinion of Mary H.K. Choi’s piece in this months GQ, entitled Don’t Wet Your (Waxed Cotton) Pants, Man!?

    CTP on March 8, 2011 3:06 PM:

    See also the book Shop Class As Soul Craft.

    Coleman Horn on March 8, 2011 3:12 PM: on March 8, 2011 4:35 PM:

    I am trying to contectualize the above conversation. Just curious, do JDG and Michael know each other beyond the internet. Either way, enjoyable to read the banter.

    CP on March 8, 2011 4:56 PM:

    This is a cool video, but I agree with a previous comment, that this is still something that lots of young people are into.

    Every christmas as a kid my dad would buy me and my brothers tools to add to a set that we could have for life, and I still use these to take apart my bikes, fix a car, or fix anything really. I spent a lot of time with friends in high school fixing/modifying cars or bikes or making skateboard decks or whatever.

    I am only 23, so that wasn’t too long ago either, but I don’t think things are quite at the point yet where people don’t know what to do with a screwdriver, but then again I steer clear of idiots so I could be wrong.

    Dan Skorich on March 8, 2011 5:18 PM:

    I earn my living as a picker/seller and it’s tough work with long hours, that being said, I enjoy American Pickers for what it is – entertainment. American Pickers has morphed from being a show about real pickers into a show about celebrity pickers with pre-arranged picks…tis’ a shame in that respect..but that’s what happens when the networks do their thing. Mike and Frank are laughing all the way to the bank…and more power to them.

    Ray Hull on March 8, 2011 5:52 PM:

    Um, the American Can-Do guy has a shop full of no-can-do Brit hardware. Nice thought though.

    sinuhe on March 8, 2011 6:21 PM:

    Fetishes, ruggedness… Who cares… A beautifully crafted piece of cinema verite with a well spoken subject…

    tintin on March 8, 2011 6:21 PM:

    God bless the man. BTW, nice Austin Healy 3000 in the garage.

    BSA. Norton. Triumph. Moto Guzzi. I grew up with these names and loved the style they came with…at no extra charge. Never had a problem until I was a passenger on a 650 Yamaha. Wound up in the hospital for two weeks my senior year of college. They thought I broke my neck. But I only dislocated shoulder and had severe road rash since I was stupid enough to wear tennis shorts (BOAST).

    Who has the gonads to ride in center city Philly? Not me, baby. No one there knows what a red light means.

    Sean on March 8, 2011 8:40 PM:

    All you “American Pickers” fans realize they have a whole team of scouts that set out days before filming finding and placing objects for those two to “pull the trigger on” right?

    To quote the great Mel Brooks “They ain’t found shit!”

    uhlander on March 8, 2011 9:48 PM:

    Growing up in Rural America we used to laugh at people such as the ACL crew coming to our “hood” shopping for our junk. Now it is romanticized in over priced shops, web sites, brokers and a tv show. Now as an adult I do take pride in what our forefathers have build and manufactured daily. The Orange County Chopper guys as well as many other small businesses are the few retaining any day to day hard manual work for an honest living. I dont know what you all do for a living, but like most of our younger work force I could imagine you don’t get dirty or manufacture goods for the rest of our country to be proud of. A cheaper product to be purchased at Wal-Mart has been worn and purchased to retain a bottom line. Wake up America, we need to get back to our roots of working hard & smart to support our citizens, whether it is to manufacture autos, clothing, cameras, furniture or anything else. I’d rather pay a couple extra dollars to support my neighbor.

    Chris on March 8, 2011 10:08 PM:

    People do realize that Mike and Frank were picking before they had a show, right? I don’t mean to sound like an American Pickers rep or something but they didn’t start doing this when they got a show. Yes, it is obviously much easier for them now and Mike himself said having the show means sleeping in hotels instead of a van. I guess it would be cooler if they opened an etsy shop instead of a store in Iowa.

    Michael Williams on March 8, 2011 10:18 PM:

    Chris — I had no idea. I thought they were actors before the show. Can you tell me more about their Etsy store in Iowa, sounds cool. Do they have any old stuff there?

    Chris on March 8, 2011 11:05 PM:

    Michael, this is a pretty good interview. While not a mechanic like Adam Cramer, Mike Wolfe’s passion does seem to be old bicycles and motorcycles.

    Part 1:

    Part 2:

    mrbutter on March 9, 2011 1:12 AM:

    I disagree with the assumption that its only a small fraction of the day to day workforce that gets their hands dirty (and I seriously disagree with the idea that the Orange County Chopper guys are the epitome of hard manual labor). Many youth still spend their early labor years doing menial labor for low prices in dirty places. The majority of youth now grow up in cities, and most jobs don’t require hard manual labor because that’s not the nature of the current economy. The values we associate with developing through hard manual labor are still present and flourishing in today’s jobs, we just don’t see them as frequently because there isn’t a necessity to show them in today’s world of instant gratification.

    In short, if we want to see more of these values out in the open we need to provide the opportunities for our youth (or anyone really) to participate in them. If you have a great hobby, interest, or ability, take someone under your wing and help them develop a healthy dose of appreciation for it. There’s a reason apprenticeship was the foundation of economy for thousands of years.

    Elias J on March 9, 2011 7:25 AM:

    Watching this video makes me think at 36 I have missed an opportunity. See my step father was a mechanic, owned his own shop for 15+ years. In fact just retired Jan 1. Growing up, I longed for a white collar life. I busted my ass through school, and got a full ride at Bucknell Univ. Since I was 25 I have done several start-ups, made enough money to do whatever I want. I guess the lost opportunity is I could have still done all I have done and spent a few weekends a month learning things my Dad did. I just see certain skills to be like endangered animals, like a generation or two from extinction. See you can’t learn to ride a bike from watching a video or reading a book. Where are all of the apprentices at? I guess there all in college learning how to shuffle paper. Thanks for the video MW

    Paul on March 9, 2011 9:01 AM:

    I think my experiences may be instructional for you, and hopefully others.
    After the age of 40 I left a very secure and prestigious corporate job to follow my passion for making baseball gloves. My baseball glove making evolved into other things and I now have a small, but growing business.
    No doubt, certain skills are endangered in this country, and for this I reference one of Michael’s earlier posts about the dismantling of American factories.
    My point is that you are not too old to embrace your calling. For me it was teaching myself how to make baseball gloves at the age of 40.

    fabio on March 9, 2011 11:55 AM:

    Great video and congratulations on your work. Not all of us have the passion, talent, or the guts to do what we love, I admire that! I’m also a bike lover, yet, I never owned one. I learned to ride at 16, no I’m 47, but I would love to have the opportunity to ride and have work on one of these beauties. Are you open to visits?

    Very cool stuff!

    Tony on March 9, 2011 12:25 PM:

    Video is nicely done but this working class hero shit is getting old.

    Chris on March 9, 2011 2:00 PM:

    Where abouts is this Etsy store in Iowa?

    I’m a loser. on March 9, 2011 2:09 PM:

    Checked out your site and saw mainly footballs and baseballs. Do you selll the baseball gloves somewhere else?

    Paul on March 9, 2011 2:40 PM:

    I am not offering baseball gloves presently. Sadly, I learned that I can’t make baseball gloves profitably (yet). My post above was simply to illustrate the idea that we are never too old to engage our creative muscles. on March 9, 2011 4:02 PM:

    Thanks for the update, the footballs and baseballs look amazing. I can only imagine how much you would have to charge for a glove, still I bet they were pretty cool. I am sure there are a few CEOs out there willing to pay a grand for a good glove.

    Best of luck!!

    Rose on March 9, 2011 6:17 PM:

    I agree with @mrbutter – the only way to pass on skills and tradition is to actually become a mentor or teacher. Believe me there are kids out there that would die to learn these skills, but probably not from the fella that is presented in this film. He may not really be this much of a curmudgeon, but this is the way he comes across.

    Andrew on March 9, 2011 8:36 PM:

    Hey Guys, thanks for checking out the film. Interesting discussion. @Rose I wanted to keep the piece short and sweet so I didnt have time to get into everything, but Adam actually has a few students from the local high school come in during the week that help out as part of a program.

    I’m in my twenties and rebuild vintage bikes myself. I’ve know Adam for a while and he has helped me with issues I have run into with some of the bikes. The guy definitely knows what he is doing and is the first person to give a helping hand. I still need to sync the carbs on my latest project, and he offered for me to come to shop and use his gauges.

    I was happy that ETSY give me a chance to make a short film I have always wanted to make and I can’t thank Adam enough for letting me hang around his shop.

    Alfred E. Neuman on March 9, 2011 9:50 PM:

    For a site extolling the virtues of the working class and the working man it’s sorta pathetic that there is no discussion anywhere about what’s going on in
    Wisconsin. It’s a little sad y’all are fighting about the street cred of some tv stars when the working class is being torn apart and being kept down by corporate America.

    Do any of you care about the history of all this stuff or just worried about whether that union pin is repro or vintage?

    New yuppies

    Michael Williams on March 9, 2011 9:52 PM:

    There’s an Esty store in Wisconsin?

    There’s some union talk over here:

    The main purpose of this website is to promote the $109 notebook industry.

    Chris on March 10, 2011 11:16 AM:

    I now remember why I try to never carry on a conversation in an online setting.

    HJA on March 10, 2011 2:32 PM:

    So, Adam Cramer works with his hands. And, the argument goes, that makes him more of an American, more of a man, more of a human than those of us who don’t. But here’s the irony: his baseline is completely arbitrary and self-serving. Somewhere out there, some homesteader who lives off the grid is looking at him in the *exact same way* that he’s looking at folks who wear suits to work.

    The DIY, working class ethic is so cosmically trendy now that there’ll always be somebody doing something for themselves that the rest of us outsource. Does Cramer buy whole pigs, butcher them, and cure his own bacon? Does he raise chickens in his backyard? Because if not, then someone could argue that his Raisin Bran breakfast is an much of an abomination as the inability to fix one’s own motorcycle.

    Michael Williams on March 10, 2011 2:39 PM:

    Well said HJA.

    Chris on March 10, 2011 3:46 PM:


    90% of the Earth’s population stopped slaughtering their own pigs 50 years ago.

    The point is we replace things rather than repair them. Ever sense we starting importing cheap disposable assembled materials from abroad.

    Older motorcycles are serviceable/valuable.

    Side note: the US still raises their own livestock…on Farmville.


    Whitecollar Redneck on March 10, 2011 7:37 PM:

    I enjoyed the video. Interesting banter, but I have to agree that the American workforce in general has lost its work ethic and trade skills. What we have gained in return is rampant GREED (corporate and consumer), and more around our waist (obesity). Manufacturing, Apprenticing, Hunting, Craftsmanship, etc. are endangered cultures from America’s vibrant past that are soon to be extinct if something does not change in our techno savvy greedy society.

    HJA on March 11, 2011 12:24 PM:

    @ Chris

    When you want to write someone, do you pull out a Remington typewriter and an envelope, or do you email them on a laptop with a lifespan of 2-3 years? I think that’s my point. Nostalgia’s nice and all, but it’s off-putting when it perpetuates the myth that there’s some earlier time to which we can return, should return, and want to return. If Cramer likes vintage motorcycles, I think that’s great, but I think he should just leave it at that and spare us the socio-cultural critique.

    Ken on March 11, 2011 1:00 PM:

    “Indian” Larry Desmedt (April 28, 1949 – August 30, 2004)

    Elias J on March 11, 2011 7:07 PM:

    @ HJA,

    I think Cramer like everyone sees the world from their own front porch. His quote “socio-cultural critique” (You must have been a sociology major or something) is just his expression of his own experience or frustration. I don’t know a craftsman, tradesmen, and I know quite a few, who don’t say that it’s getting harder and harder to find competent help. They all say that young people aren’t interested in learning or working with their hands. I guess next time I hear that I will tell them to relocate their shop to Brooklyn… There seems to be an endless supply of “can do” or “want to try” hipsters.

    John King on March 12, 2011 1:17 AM:

    Good stuff!

    Andrew M. on March 13, 2011 1:29 AM:

    Haha. So the summary is that young Americans can’t, won’t, or don’t know how to do “actual work” anymore, and if they dare to pursue “actual work” in any tangible way we’ll dock them for being insincere or inadequate. Bad situation made worse.

    AEW on March 15, 2011 1:37 AM:

    I live in Brooklyn and I don’t think I know a single person who could tell me what OHC and OHV stand for, let alone explain to me the difference between them.

Comments are closed.