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GOING THE DISTANCE
"THIS THING OF OURS"
PHOTO BY GENGHIS
WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT, ALFIE?: It's the relationship with the bike, stupid.
Do you as a biker ever feel like you're in a "Sopranos" episode? Only, this one hour episode turns out to be years long. In my case, forty-three years long. Man, that's one muthertruckin' long TV show. If this were a "Sopranos" show, I couldn't be a made man, because I'm not Italian. I'd have to be an independent contractor, an out-of-the-famiglia button-man, blasting marks away with my Colt Government Model, or my Colt Commander. We know though, that pro hitmen prefer the finesse and non-drama of the more inconspicuous .22 caliber. My guns are overqualified for professional elimination---they're too loud and they create too big a hole.
Fortunately for me, we're not in a La Cosa Nostra TV show, but real life where the weapons of choice are not pistols, but motorcycles.
Our weapons are Outlaw 74s, used in such a manner so as to cause extreme distress and or wonderment, to citizens and straights. White line fever, baby! Ride 'em like ya stole 'em!
Pistols are intruments of self-defense in a destructive way. Motorcycles are instruments of life in a constructive way, because they inspire loyalty and offer emotional sustenance. Our relationship with our motorcycles border on the spiritual, even as they push the physical envelope as they defy the physics of the blackstop, every time we twist the loud grip. We balance our lives on four square inches of Avon rubber, where our tires meet the road. We're linked with Mother Earth through two small contact patches of tire rubber, but for all the commitment we have to our motorcycles, these two small patches of rubber conecting us to terra firma, might as well be two steel girders reaching yards into the ground.
There are parallels in the biker subculture with the scripted world of Tony and Carmela Soprano, but the Biker World stands alone when it comes to one's devotion to the hardware. One thing is for certain: In This Thing of Ours, the dominating factor as far as I'm concerned, is The Motorcycle. Clubs, rallies, parties--these are all dispensable. The only indispensable element in the biker subculture, is The Bike.
Even that may be simplistically stating the case. Even more paramount than The Motorcycle, is the biker's personal devotion to The Motorcycle. Without that personal commitment to The Bike, one's motorcycles become mere chattel to be bought and sold, as rich car collectors do with their "investment" cars. A motorcycle must be "priceless" in the sense that she transcends monetary value. A $4,000.00 Harley that is cherished, is worth millions and nothing at the same time.
This Thing of Ours is many things to many people. My belief is that the very heart of the biker subculture is a biker's relationship with his motorcycle. Relationships with other bikers are of ancillary importance.
Other people come and go in your Biker World, but your motorcycle is always there for you.
I believe a biker must have an intense and rooted relationship with his bike. If his motorcycle is a just a means for socializing, then his trip as a biker is much shallower than the biker who is wedded to his bike.
A biker must love his motorcycle, for the trip to be true. A biker doesn't necessarily need other bikers, but he does need his motorcycle.
I feel sorry for bikers who don't form emotional attachments to their bikes.
If a biker doesn't have this deeply felt bond with his bike, then that biker has missed the boat. Missed the boat? Man, that biker's not only still standing on the dock with his finger buried in a nostril up to the second knuckle, humming an Otis Redding ditty---he's at home oversleeping while the boat sails into the sunset.
For me, it's always the little things that remind me of how important my relationship with my Harley 74 is.
One such reminder occurred, when riding down a pothole-filled Houston Street in NYC.
After a huge pothole launched us airborne, I heard...."CLANK....CLANK....CLANK" as we braked and downshifted for a redlight. This noise from the back of my shovelhead Mabel, could only mean one thing to my highly trained ears, using this acute sense developed from decades of riding swingarm Harleys: The nuts on the fender strut bolts that anchor the struts to the frame were loosening. Ah ha! Doctor Genghis, the Harley-Davidson Diagnostician strikes again! Was Ben Casey ever this astute? Did Doctor Kildare find the cure for the common cold? This was nuthin' that a twelve inch crescent wrench and a 15/16th inch wrench won't fix! Man, I love easy fixes.
I did this in front of my apartment building in the Lower Beast Side of NYC. I dislike parking on the street between cars for something like this, (I just don't trust car drivers on either side of Mabel not to hit my bike) so I just ride up onto the sidewalk and park in front of my building.
A new security guard at my apartment complex who I'd never seen before, once came up to me when I was doing something with Mabel in front of my building, and said that another tenant complained about my parking Mabel in front of the building. This is something I've been doing for the past 26 years---so screw him. I didn't believe the security guard, since he refused to tell me who complained. I think it was a phantom complaint from a nonexistent neighbor--an excuse for the guard to try to throw his weight around.
Nobody's ever complained about Mabel being parked in front of the building. My neighbors are used to seeing me working on Mabel on the sidewalk in front of my building. Some even refer to her by name.
Here's a funny story regarding the loosening of these fender bolt nuts. A few years ago when I took Mabel to Rosa's Cycles, David Snow's Wide Glide "Rebelene" was sitting on the shop floor. Kenny Baron, who is Andrew Rosa's right hand at the shop, took the rear of Rebelene's rear fender with two hands, and violently shook the fender up and down, creating that familiar "CLANK....CLANK" noise I heard yesterday. So Kenny jokingly said.....
"See Scott, this is why you and David have to leave repairs to the professionals...."
Yeah, thanks Kenny. So I got those bolts tightened up, but discovered some fraying tape while I was at it.
This tape was covering a splice where I joined a replacement voltage rectifier wire to the old rectifier wire, because I was too lazy to route the new wire to the battery. This was over twenty years ago when I installed a new 22 amp alternator stator (the OEM stator was a 16 amp unit) after some battery charging trouble. I didn't want any weak links in the charging system, so I decided to replace the old voltage rectifier at the same time. The splice has held up and the now-twenty year old voltage rectifier has functioned flawlessly. Okay, so I was lazy for not routing the new rectifier wire to the battery, so sue me. Anyway, the point is that this was another minor reminder of what my role is in my relationship with my Harley: To make sure that she stays functional and happy. I retaped the splice with some black duct tape. That should git'r done fer another 20 years!
In this thing of ours, one's allegiance is not sworn to La Famiglia. Omerta is not necessary, unless you're about to insult someone who's handy with a ball peen hammer. What am I, a stugots?
I know that there are times when it's judicious to keep quiet.
In our culture, our primary loyalty is pledged to our motorcycles. Other humans are simply irrelevant in this thing of ours, unless it's someone like Andrew Rosa who helps me to maintain the health and well-being of my weapon of choice, my Harley 74. In the biker subculture, the only interpersonal (because motorcycles live, and have souls) relationship that matters, is the relationship between the biker and his motorcycle. It is this bond that defines one's identity as a biker.
My motorcycle fills my Biker World.
It is she who makes me a biker.
I am nothing without my Harley in the Biker World.
We sustain each other.
I am fortunate to be with her, not the the way around.
I need my Harley.