As a first-generation American born of Irish immigrants, Mike Corbin's journey tells a classic American tale.
Mike grew up not far from the original Indian Motocycle factory and had an immediate love of motorcycles. He was an inquisitive lad that took pleasure in creating things... the type of kid who would build a robot science project. He was also the kid that would swipe cigarettes and sneak into the theater to watch "The Wild Ones."
At 17, Mike joined the Navy and finished growing up aboard the USS Ranger Aircraft Carrier as an EM2. Following his Navy service was a stint at Pratt & Whitney before he decided to forge his own way as an electrical contractor. Fortunately, fate stepped in and changed his course.
It began with a Norton Atlas.
Attending a motorcycle rally on his customized Norton, Mike was asked to sell the homemade seat right off the bike. Facing a 100-mile ride home, he predictably declined. After prolonged pestering, he eventually found himself making the journey home on a folded-up jacket with an extra $40 in his pocket and a bright idea. That anonymous (and persistent) buyer had unknowingly launched a lifelong career and spawned the Corbin saddle.
Then in '69, two important things happened in motorcycling. The movie Easy Riders and the Honda CB 750 Four motorcycle brought explosive growth to the industry, and Mike never looked back.
If you had to choose a single word to define Corbin's career, it would have to be "Innovation." From invention of the Low CG chopper frame to the implementation of Ergonomically Engineered Seating, Mike Corbin has always pushed product design boundaries. Every Corbin product is methodically thought out and created with the heart and soul rooted in Old World Craftsmanship.
Over the decades, the industry evolved, and Corbin continued to innovate. Mike and company created the iconic Gunfighter seat and Warbird body kit while they brought riding comfort to the new class of sportbikes that emerged in the '80s. He has since conceived Bonneville-proven saddlebags, aerodynamically adjustable fairings, removable backrests, heated and cooled seats, and world-class comfort for all types of motorcycles.
In collaboration with Carl's Speed Shop, Corbin's design work permanently changed the face of "Partial Streamliners," while his own endeavors landed on the cover of the Bonneville Speedweek program twice. Mike's design expertise has likewise been employed by third parties like KLD, Arcimoto and Robomart in their pursuit of ideal form and function.
With 84 US Patents, there's no wonder Corbin's shop was dubbed "The Workshop of Wizards."
Mike is also considered the Godfather of Electric Vehicles for his pioneering work in the 1970s. He proved electric motorcycles could climb mountains and fly over the salt. In '73, his Magnificent Electric Machine was the first e-bike officially recorded over 100mph. He returned the following year with "Quicksilver" to set a robust Land Speed Record that stood unbroken for 38 years.
Decades later, Mike would spearhead the creation of 3-wheel microcars like the electric Sparrow and V-Twin powered Merlin. He heavily promoted these concepts in the motorcycle industry and helped open eyes to unique possibilities. His creations were groundbreaking and are now permanently housed at the Petersen Automotive and Skip Barber museums.
As a lifelong enthusiast, Mike even chose his location with purpose. The Corbin factory is located in Hollister, CA, the birthplace of American biker culture that spawned The Wild Ones legacy. There he became instrumental in the return of the infamous Hollister Motorcycle Rally. While on the East Coast, the Corbin showroom was always just a short jaunt from where Smokin' Joe Petrali set land speed records on the Florida sands.
In the year 2000, Mike was inducted into the National Motorcycle H.O.F, the American Motorcyclist Association H.O.F. and was also among the very first inductees into the Sturgis Motorcycle H.O.F.
When asked what it meant to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award, Mike said it was especially significant because it bears the Arlen Ness name, someone who was such a pillar of the industry for so long.
"I'm genuinely grateful to have spent my life working in an industry that I love so much, and I hope my generation gives all the new guys the courage to stick with it... but mostly, I'm hoping this doesn't mean
I'm finished!" he quipped.