Our Town: Game Plan: Jake Wolf, vintage bike rider

Jake Wolf and his son Johnny, 7, with their 1957 BMW R69 and Steib T500 sidecar at Capital Club 16 in Raleigh.

“Riding around rolling hills and country roads on an old bike,
there’s no other feeling like it.”

–Jake Wolf, co-owner-founder, Capital Club 16 restaurant

by Jessie Ammons
photo by Travis Long

“Family heirlooms come in all different shapes and sizes, and this is a special one,” says Jake Wolf. He’s not referring to the family photos or quirky trinkets decorating his German-American Capital Club 16 restaurant downtown; he’s talking about the 1957 BMW motorcycle with matching 1958 sidecar he inherited from his grandfather, Elvin Wolf. “His love for the bike has gone on through my dad and myself and now Johnny,” Wolf’s 7-year-old son, shown above, with wife and business partner Shannon Wolf. While Johnny doesn’t ride (yet), he knows how to start the bike and recognizes the purr of its motor. “He’s into it,” Wolf says. “I’m the current caretaker of it, and eventually it’s going to be Johnny’s.”

Johnny is the fifth generation of Wolfs to tool around town in the “complete” motorcycle-sidecar package with original paint and leather seats. The bike is at its best traveling 55 mph or less, meant for cruising the neighborhood, Wolf says. His grandfather Elvin bought the bike in 1965 when Elvin’s own parents were still living: Jake Wolf’s great-grandparents, grandparents, and parents rode the bike before him and his son, not to mention many aunts, uncles, and cousins. “The bike has really been an extended member of our family. Everybody grew up with it. It’s been a constant.”

The bike-sidecar was treated like a family member, too. Wolf recalls visits to his grandparents’ Pinehurst home when it would be out on the front lawn, “just getting some sun” after being “cooped up in the garage.” Now a classic motorcycle enthusiast, Wolf cherishes summer months when the days are long and he has ample time before and after restaurant work to ride. “I get it on the road as much as possible. It wants to be ridden. If I let it sit, then it gets finicky.” Johnny is usually by (in) his side(car), but sometimes Wolf rides solo. “When I go out to run an errand and I take the BMW, Shannon knows I’m not just running an errand. I might take the long way there and the long way home. I don’t go very fast. But it’s in the riding, not just the getting there.”