Story and Photos by Darlene Ferris
Motorcycles have been in Bob Cleary’s blood for nearly 50 years. When Bob wasn’t up to his elbows in grime working on bikes, he could be found riding, drag racing (gas and top fuel), custom building, selling, or just talking motorcycles. The love of motorcycles became a way of life for Bob when he went into business for himself, specializing in Harley Davidson motorcycles. Thirty-five years ago, Mid-State Cycles was born. Bob Cleary opened the first shop in Paxton, IL and became a registered Illinois motorcycle dealer in 1976. After nearly four years, he moved the business to Champaign, IL . Over the next 22 years the shop moved twice more. In 2000 the shop opened in its current location at 801 Bloomington Rd. Champaign, IL. On Saturday, August 13, 2011, Mid-State Cycles celebrated its 35th anniversary.
The celebration got a kick start on the eve of the big event. Friends came from near and far to help celebrate. Mike Calhun rode his Street Glide all the way from Austin, Texas to help his lifelong friend celebrate 35 years. As business closed Friday, beers and memories started flowing. Many interesting stories were told. Many friends and relatives were on hand to help get the shop set up for the big day. Bob drug out shop t-shirts that span the past 35 years of Mid-State Cycles. With a little encouragement from this author, each was hung from the ceiling… decorating complete!
Saturday morning found the shop doors open and the parade float in the parking lot…that float was a story in itself. The girls told Bob he could not have a ride from the shop to Bradleys without a lead float carrying motorcycles and big boobed, nearly naked women! The girls built the float and the run was set. Bikes started rolling into the shop’s parking lot before 11:00. The party made for a great vintage motorcycle show. Several Indians showed up for the occasion along with flatheads, pans, shovels, and even a knuckle or two. Once attendees had a chance to look over the bikes, they were invited to sign the anniversary banner and receive a door prize ticket. Over 100 bikes were present by 2:00 when the Champaign Police showed up. Not to worry, they were there to help celebrate. At 2:00 it was kick stands up for the ride to Bradleys. Police controlled traffic at intersections, allowing over 100 bikes to roll through Champaign. A few minutes later, kick stands were back down and everyone was ready to get the party started! Great food, cold beverages, and live music was waiting for everyone to arrive at Bradleys. The band, Outbound Drive got the party rocking with some awesome country music. When the band took a break, door prizes were awarded. The shop gave away everything from hats and t-shirts to oil change kits.
The afternoon seemed to fly by. Storm clouds rolled in and blessed the celebration with a little rain. The skies then cleared and made for a beautiful evening. As the party died down and many friends had gone home, Bob found himself at the bar with a few great friends. Some from near, some from far, but all who are always there for their friend. Why? Because Bob is always there for them. Just ask Roger who blew a head gasket after the boys left Bradleys. Who was it that drove to Mid-State Cycles, hooked up the trailer, hauled the dead bike to the shop, then gave his vehicle to Roger so he had a ride home? Yep, you know it! It was Bob Cleary.
Bob put on one heck of a celebration. However, he did not do it alone. He did not get Mid-State Cycles to 35 years alone either. It has been said that behind every good man stands a good woman…this is not the case with Bob. His wife of 30 years, Sheila, has been at his side most every step of the way. She also gave him four amazing sons who have all had a hand in getting to 35 years. Joe and Chris, the twins, play an active role in the family business. Joe, who shares Dad’s passionate love of motorcycles, runs the shop with his dad. Chris, a CPA (strategically planned by Dad?… we will never know!), makes a huge contribution by doing the books for the shop. Brandon helps when he can, but after the anniversary party he, along with his sweetness, Charla, left for China to teach English for the next year. The youngest of the crew, Jason, is always right there to give a hand whether it is helping Mom at home or Dad at the shop. When Jason is not helping, he can be found in class at the University of Illinois.
Bob Cleary, along with his family and friends, are a fine example of a small family business, alive and well in America today. Bob and Joe would like to invite you to stop by the shop the next time you are in Champaign and for all your Harley Davidson motorcycle needs. At the very least, check them out on the web at www.midstatecycles.com. Additionally, in a few short years Mid-State Cycles will be celebrating 50 years. See you there and remember, every day is a good day to ride!