I've heard that phrase for years now, mostly in reference to a particular brand of motorcycle. The phrase took on new meaning for me when we all drove down to the annual Popular Rotorcraft Association Fly-In in Mentone, IN. In this case, "Popular" means "for the people" and if regular folk are owning and operating rotorcraft, that generally means that they're building those helicopters and gyrocopters themselves.
I know one such person. In fact, I'm related to him — and he's the reason I wanted to go, to take him to see the gyros fly around. See, my father-in-law built his own gyrocopter when he was 18. He ordered it as a kit, and spent countless hours building it. Shortly after completing it, he was drafted.
He's never flown it.
He'd never even seen one fly. Until now.
We didn't know exactly where the Mentone airport was. We knew it was roughly south and west of Mentone, so we drove down in that general direction, and watched the skies. Sure enough, little spindly craft started appearing, arcing lazily through the sky like dragonflies on a hot summer day, and it wasn't hard to figure out where they were all coming from.
Happily, there wasn't much to separate us common folk from the men and their machines, and we spent a good number of hours walking between the aircraft, talking to owners, builders, manufacturers, and sellers. ($7500 buys you a gently-used gyrocopter. I thought about it.)
The cool thing, of course, was watching them fly.
A big part of the fun, for me, was to hear the reports of what my father-in-law was doing and saying as he ran around, talking to people and looking at aircraft. At first, I didn't think he wanted to go — he kept saying things like, "Oh, I can't go rebuilding my gyrocopter, I'm living on savings, and I have to be responsible..." but only later did I realize he was saying that to contain his excitement!
One of the editors I was working with a year or so ago, Micah Ross, told me that most people that fly airplanes also ride motorcycles. You would have been hard-pressed to disprove that at this show; I saw as many two-wheelers on the ground as I did gyros in the air. The same spirit of cheap innovation was applied to the bikes I saw, too.
And after the day was done, and we were driving back home with the kids, I had to wonder... If I built a plane, would I fly in it?