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GOING THE DISTANCE
PHOTO BY GENGHIS
THE ELECTRA GLIDE PLATORM: Righteous genetics.
EXCERPT FROM AN ARTICLE IN A CURRENT MAGAZINE:
".....but not some Super Duper Electa Glide....There aren't even any parts on the bagger I'd be interested in. The engine is dull and boring. After that, what's left?....."
What's left? How about the venerated and righteous four-speed FLH swingarm frame?
The bloodlines are clear. When I look at my 1971 Harley-Davidson Super Glide, I can see the hidden genome that links it with the Electra Glide, that was introduced to the biker subculture in 1965.
The low-slung and sexy frame of the Electra Glide, also doubled as the frame of the 1971 first-year Super Glide. Mabel, my "74," was a first-year Super Glide.
The big differences in stock form between the '65 Electra Glide, the FLH---and the '71 Super Glide, the FX---were the Sportster fork grafted on the FX, and the kick-only configuration of the FX. Otherwise, the FLH and FX shared the same lineage that had provided the platform for the bulk of Outlaw 74s of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. This holds true for the ensuing decades to the present, as my '71 shovel swingarm can attest to, and Mabel never lies, baby.
The common denominator for the FLH and FX sisters was the righteous four-speed swingarm frame.
Blood is thicker than water, and Harley bloodlines consist of the highest 60 weight viscosity known to bikerkind.
These Outlaw 74s are stripped-down FLHs, often dressed with a 21 inch front wheel with no front fender, for that classic sixteen/twenty-one look. The elimination of the saddlebags, windshield, floorboards and various other extraneous parts, transforms the venerable 74 into a lighter and faster hot rod that can plain haul ass because of her diminished weight to power ratio. The transition from the super heavyweight division into the light heavyweight class, makes the stripped Electra Glide a highway fightin' machine, ready to do battle as a serious lane splitter and highway boss. Torque rules, baby!
The lightweight Electra Glide is the Classic Outlaw 74. Stripping of the FLH is the classic formula for cool, and true street cred in the biker subculture.
The stripped FLH as the prototypical Outlaw 74 is not a time limited, scope limited phenomenon. It is as true today as it was in the 1960s. All one has to do is look around at all of the FLH-framed custom Harleys that are roaming today's roads to know that this is the case.
The culture of late has become far more elitist than before---at least in the limited world of the chopper media. Used to be, that men who stripped their FLHs were simply bikers. There's that Occam's Razor again.
In today's chopper media, bikers who now customize motorcycles in an incrementally ascending order of self-ascribed importance, are first builders and then artistes. It's the agony of effete.
If you examine a 1965 Electra Glide, you can see the bloodlines that link it with her immediate ancestor, the Duo-Glide. Some minor differences in the Electra Glide frame to accomodate the electric starter,
made the seat post height slightly higher than that of the Duo-Glide.
The Firm introduced the Duo-Glide in fully suspended form, fore and aft in 1958. Before that, only the front end was sprung. The frame of the Duo-Glide from the seat area forward, look to me to be a Hydraglide frame with a modified back end. The modifications to the back end consisted of provisions for the mounting of a swingarm and shock absorbers. One can appreciate the evolution of Harley frames, from generation to generation.
The neck, the down-tubes and the backbone of the Duo-Glide seem to share a family resemblance to the Duo-Glide's predecessor, the rigid straightleg framed Hydraglide which was introduced in 1949. The only difference between the 1949 and the 1948 models, was the replacement of the springer fork with the telescopic front hydraulic fork in '49 (hence the name "Hydraglide")---which we now recognize as the venerable wide glide fork that has graced so many Outlaw 74s since time immemorial, or so it seems.
The scrutiny of Harley-Davidson frames reveals common detail carryovers from generation to generation, starting with the rigid frames and reaching all the way to 1986, which was the last year of production of the traditional four-speed swingarm framed motorcycle, in the form of the FXWG Wide Glide.
This historical and familial linkage all the way back to the 1940s, has great significance in the biker subculture. Before bikers turned Electra Glides into Outlaw 74s by strippin' 'em down, bikers were doing the same thing with Duo-Glides. Before that, bikers removed unneeded equipment from rigid Harleys to form the outlaw ideal. The stripping of Harley-Davidsons formed the very backbone of the biker subculture as we know it, and any who deny that fact, are in denial.
To ignore history in the biker subculture, is to disrespect the men who made it.
The men who made history in the biker subculture, were a pillar of the culture.
Is there any doubt that the Electra Glide platform, AKA Duo-Glide, AKA Super Glide, AKA Wide Glide, is another pillar of the biker subculture?
Their rigid framed Harley sisters that preceded them, are another pillar of the biker subculture.
Some may consider these righteous Harley frames expendable and not worth keeping. Some consider the magnificent knuckelhead, panhead and shovelhead motors that gave these frames motion and life "dull and boring," But I think this is a poor perspective, a perspective born of arrogance.
Generations of true bikers made these motorcycles their iron mates for life. To disrespect their motorcycles, is to disrespect these men. We're talking about eight decades of history in the biker subculture.
These bikes at the time of these men's riding lives, were the most central aspects of their existences---just as your motorcycle is the most important entity in your life outside of your family. Your bike is in fact, an intergral part of your family. Some motorcycles outlive bikers' marriages, and in many cases, outlast their owners' lifespans.
My Harley Mabel, may be revered and ridden by some lucky biker a century from now, if gasoline still exists by that time. The bike is always there for us, no matter what transpires in our fragile existences.
There is nothing disposable or boring about the righteous Outlaw 74s created from Electra Glide framed bikes. What are expendable it seems to me, are the motorcycles made from aftermarket frames and clone motors---these will be a mere asterisk in the history of the biker subculture, as seen through the gauzy filter of time, decades from now.
Through the coming years and decades, these aftermarket bikes will wither on the vine in terms of their longevity and significance. They will certainly not be perceived as iconic, as a '58 panhead is.
They will disintegrate into symbolic dust with the passage of time, and will not be rememberd a hundred years from now. There will be however, pans and shovels still running a hundred years from now, and these will roll in venerable four-speed Electra Glide frames. They won't be mere history, but actual, real-world, running motorcycles. Later.