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GOING THE DISTANCE
PHOTO BY GENGHIS
REAL WORLD: Swingarms rule the street fifty to one.
EXCERPT FROM A RECENT MAGAZINE ARTICLE:
"....he came across Jeff's Pan that is set-up like a lot of the cats would have done...back in the day. See, a swingarm frame was not as uncommon then as it has become...."
This excerpt stuck out in my mind like a particularly abrasive burr under a Le Pera saddle. When reading a biker rag article, I tend to read between the lines to decipher what the writer is really saying, or alluding to. This often puts the writer's subconscious attitudes about the biker subculture, on full undisguised display, like a billboard with Klieg lights glaring truth beams of light on it. What does this writer truly believe about swingarms (and conversly, what is he saying about rigids by contrast), that's the question that our investigative detective work begs.
On the surface, it seems that the writer believes that on today's streets, rigids greatly outweigh swingrams numerically, but how can that be? His statement presented as fact that "....a swingarm frame was not as uncommon then as it has become...," contends that swingarms have become a rarity on today's highways and byways, "uncommon" using his word. I've got a newsflash for him: Every time I see a motorcycle, it is usually rear-suspended.
When I randomly see, and lets restrict our discussion to Harley-Davidsons for the sake of simplicity---when I randomly spot Harley motorcycles on a typical week on the streets, I may see one rigid for every fifty swingarmed bikes, if that. There are some weeks when I don't see a hardtail at all, so what is this author talking about?
I call the way things are on the street, the Real World.
Often, looking into the subconscious of a writer by reading between the lines of his writing, reveals his factoids as mere wishful thinking. That author may "wish" his contention to be the case. If this is the case, then the writer is living not in the Real World, but in the Wish World. When writers live in the Wish World, then they have a subconscious (or conscious) agenda to swing---pardon the pun---opinion to their side.
Frankly, all writers do this, including yers truly. However, some of us present our opinions based on the Real World and not an exaggerated Bizzaro World where up is down, down is up and where facts are skewed to what one wishes, instead of what one sees on the streets with our truth-seeking orbs. If up is up, and down is down, then swingarms outnumber rigids fifty to one, unless one is standing smack in a middle of a magazine-sponsored rally where Me-Tooism rules in Konformity Kingdom. Under the artificial circumstances of the magazine rally, the numbers are skewed toward hardtails where the numbers are as inaccurate as Obama's approval ratings, polled at a Democrat Party fundraiser.
"Hey man, believe me, not yer lyin' eyes!"
Yeah, that's the ticket!
There is another possibility, and that is that the writer is referring to a smaller demographic group within the biker subculture, and that smaller demographic subdivision, are denizens of the Magazine World, where the followers of a magazine skew toward that publication's views on what the biker subculture "should be" instead of what the biker subculture really is. Of course, that may depend on what the definition of what "is", is---according to the Clinton Doctrine.
Can it be that Bill is a silent partner in the ownership of these biker rags?
That in turn, begs the question: What is the biker subculture?
There was a lively and provocative debate in Snow's Iron Horse, about "who's a biker?" What developed out of that melee with readers, is the "Snow Doctrine" regarding this pithy subculture issue.
True to Snow's nature, his definition of "biker" cut to the basics, and ignored all of the peripheral bullcrap such as what bikers looked like, what type of bikes they rode, and what extracurricular activities they might engage in that signify bikerism in a superficial way to the observing public. Snow's definition was quite simple, and beautiful in its simplicity.
According the Snow Doctrine, the biker subculture consists of "bikers," and according to the Snow Doctrine, a "biker" is anyone who owns and rides a functioning motorcycle. The Snow Doctrine further clarified, that if a biker's motorcycle stopped functioning and had gone into the shop for repairs, then for the interim period when the bike was out of commission, that bike's owner was not a biker.
This Snow definition does torpedo the agenda of any magazine writers who would prefer to shrink the definition of bikers to those who rigidize their bikes, to the "wished for" smaller demographic subdivision, instead of the biker subculture as a whole. Showing the culture as it really is, wouldn't do at all! Believe the contention, not the evidence, man.
Have you noticed that anytime a biker rag features a swingarm it is always with an apologetic tone, as if someone's holding a .45 ACP to the writer's head while he works at the keyboard on the story? The stories always offer up some sad sack qualifications for Peer Pressure Group Consumption, for why the swingarm, at all.
"Well, ya see....that's we way we do it in this area...the way others used to do it....this bike is pretty cool for a swingarm.....Joe (or insert "Frank," "Tony," or "Tiny" here) is gettin' older so he hadda get shocks but he's still hardcore...."
This is the typical modus operandus of biker rags for the past few years. That excerpt that I cited, represents at the same time, a pandering to, and manipulation of readers, who then tend to reinforce the agenda of the publication. Hey man, everybody wants to be loved, so can ya blame 'em? Iron Horse was the last biker rag to depict the biker subculture, accurately. Ya see, the Snow Doctrine also called for Truth, Justice and the American Way in biker journalism.
Everything that followed Iron Horse, was a hard push to an image. Image promotion is the name of the game, instead of respecting reality now.
One little trick that biker rags use to reinforce their agenda, is to hold rallies for their followers. Since these rags tend to promote rigids over swingarms, then the majority of the readers who show up at these parties, are---no surprise here---riders on hardtails. This is known as a lesson plan in Peer Pressure 101.
The juvenile game of ostracizing those who are different, is alive and well in Magazine Rally World. In this environment, rigids are cool, and swingarms are rationalized by excuses.
Using parties where readers can preen with pride to brother preeners, is a useful technique used by magazines to keep readers in line with respect to what's cool, and what's not.
I'll be honest with you. I tend to run against the grain, at least the grain of the view (a minority view?) of these magazines that have been pushing rigid frames as the "norm." But am I really running against the grain? If the "grain" is what happens in the Real World, then I'm right smack in the direction of going with the grain. Let me remind you that the Real World is much larger and more comprehensive than the Magazine World. The Magazine World is an environment where real world values semi-exist as an abstract notion, without dimension and weight. Taking the place of real world values in the Magazine World, are artificial values that are installed by the magazines.
Another way to view the cited excerpt is that the writer perceives swingarms as old school, and sees rigids as the "new kids on the block." Either way, the writer is wrong. I'll state the obvious: Rigids have been around longer than swingarms.
Rigids have been around since 1903 (remember, we're restricting our discussion to H-Ds), while swingarms have been provided by The Firm since 1958 for big twins, and slightly longer for Sportsters.
The writer's logic is reversed. Rigids would be "old school" while swingarms would be the newer trend.
In further contradiction, writers who tend to depict rigids as "old school class" while presenting swingarms as "stock," are wrong. Both are "stock" if they're OEM framed. They just occurred in different eras, but both rigid and swingarm frames are stock if they were made by The Firm.
Motorcycle rigid frames pre-1958 (for H-D big twins), are just as "stock" as 1958 to present Harley swingarm frames.
Oh, wait a minute! Maybe the author was referring to aftermarket hardtail frames, and not "stock" rigid frames. Yeah, but don't the aftermarket swingarm frames being sold today destroy his argument? It seems to me that aftermarket swingarms are just as "unstock" as aftermarket hardtails. Aftermarket equals "unstock" and Harley-made equals "stock." Just personal taste, but a "stock" Harley wishbone rigid frame to me, is far more righteous than any aftermarket clone. There's nothing like the real thing, man.
If yer gettin' confused, don't worry about it. The ideas and contentions of biker rag writers are just as, or even more confused. Do ya know why? Because they don't live in the Real World. They live in Magazine World. Later.