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GOING THE DISTANCE
"IT AIN'T CHUMP CHANGE"
PHOTO BY GENGHIS
IS THE HARLEY MARKET PICKING OUR POCKETS CLEAN?: Rapacious prices.
DAVID SNOW ON BUYING A HARLEY AFTER WRECKING HIS F.U. CHOP:
"The insurance company gave me 10K and let me keep the wreck, which I sold to an Outlaw in Fayetteville (who also gave me a Chevy C-10, a deer rifle and a VL frame).
I felt like a chump lookin' at H-D related prices, for the price of a set of heads I could get a brand new Chevy crate 350. I had the dollars but got turned off at the whole scene.
Hell, when I built my Shovel chop, my '51 wishbone cost $450, but those days are gone.
Just overpriced through the roof, which to me, is ultimately anti-Harley, at least the Harley I grew up with.
I'll get another H-D at some point, but refuse to be raped for it."
I hear ya, man. Yup, those days are gone, and these bloated prices are not the Harley I grew up with either. Then again, when I bought my brand new Sportster in '68, it cost me a frugal $1,818.48, and that included the sales tax. The list price of my XLCH was $1,743.00.
Yup, those days are gone forever, and the reasons that Harley bikes and parts---whether OEM or aftermarket---are so high are the usual suspects that are laid at the feet of the popularity of Harleys with the Biker Lites beginning in the 1990s.
We're all familiar with the fateful saga, of how the surge in sales to yups, rubs, and whatever else acronymous groups whose labels became synonymous with the Brando-Come-Latelys, littered the 1990s Harley Landscape like multitudes of credit card bearing locusts---precipitated the rise in prices.
Many bikers faulted the Softail because it was such a hot item with yuppies, but that blame is misplaced. The truth is that if it wasn't the Softail hypercharging yups' lives, then it would've been some other Harley model---or the Dodge Viper if it caught fire in the midlife mindset. The impetus for yups buying up Harleys wasn't the Softail design, it was the underlying internal clock of all those yups suffering what popular culture calls "midlife crisis," ticking inexorably toward the end of youth and vigor.
These guys who never thought of motorcycles until they hit their fourth decade on Earth, suddenly wanted to buy into The Dream That Would Make Them Young.
It just so happened that the vehicle that would get 'em the girls in the bikinis, was on two wheels and was colored Orange and Black.
Snow's Iron Horse was there to document the feeding frenzy by the Acronymous Bikers, chronicling every incremental, insidious step of the Gold Card Invasion of the scene.
The day of the Acronymous Bikers M.C. had arrived.
The outlandish prices of Harley motorcycles, and Harley-related parts can be directly attributable to the ascendance of the Acronymous Bikers M.C. in popular culture. Suddenly, it was acceptbale to ride a Harley. Not just acceptable, but highly desirable. Once peer pressure got rolling in the affluent set, Harleys snowballed their way into Nine Iron Land.
Two wheeled pariahs became Heroes.
Dangerous greasers with tats and antisocial tendencies, became Gentlemen Bikers who traded cuff links for leather vests and motorcycle rallies. These leather vests whose pockets were stuffed with money made from hedge funds and contingency fee agreements, meant one thing: Vendors could now justify hiking their prices. Slowly but surely, Harley prices went through the roof, bringing us to the point where bikers like Snow feel it a matter of principle not to pay what the market bears, but paying a price of his own choosing.
The surge of the Acronymous Bikers M.C. money into the culture, was like a giant stimulus program that caused The Firm to hike their bike prices for greater profit. Soon, the prices of used Harleys began to creep up correspondingly, followed by Aftermarket Avarice. There came a time when bike builders self-labeled themselves Master Builders who natch, started charging Master Artisan level prices, These "Master Artisans" made their way to the TV air waves, which made their merchandise even more valuable due to abundant exposure to the Acronymous Bikers M.C. Master builder TV shows were to the Acronymous Bikers M.C. what "The Wild One" was to early bikers of the '50s. They validated their newfound status as two-wheeled daredevils. The symbiotic relationship between master builder TV shows and the Acronymous Bikers M.C. was firmly etsablished.
One hundred thousand dollar motorcycles powered by Harley clone motors became the New Norm, the Gold Standard among Acronyous Bikers, as true street bikers watched in amazement and bewilderment. Guys like Snow, who threw so much passion into his writing about the biker subculture, found themselves on the outside looking in, refusing to pay rapacious prices for Harley bikes and parts. This my friends, is where we came in.
The Acronymous Bikers M.C. rose and fell, eventually crawling back into the teak and mahogany woodwork that lined their high rent condos, but the high prices remained. Like long-established welfare government programs, the financial structure of Harley merchandising was easy to create, but hard to dismantle. There's too much bureaucracy, and too much entrenchment to undo. The Construct For Making Profit was erected, and it continues to charge exhorbitant prices. It has to, just to make up for the loss of sales to the fleeing Acronymous Bikers M.C. Once the fatted calf of yups was no longer available to feed on, Harley related business compensated by milking true bikers like there was no tomorrow. When it became apparent that the Day of The Acronymous Biker was fizzling out, the hopeful refrain of bikers everywhere was....
"Soon there're gonna be plenty of cheap Harleys on the market for us!"
It never came to pass. High prices stuck around like unwanted and unemployed in-laws living in the house, eating at our tables and watching our TV, burrowing deeper into the culture with no signs of receding. "Cheap Harley" is an oxymoron these days. Here's how I've felt all through the decades, even though in the early days I had no clue about the impending explosion of Harley-related prices:
I've got mine.
When I latch onto things that I value beyond money, I tend to treasure them by vowing to keep them forever. Whatever comes, comes, but there is one constant. My Harley. Closing in on three decades with Mabel, and she will always be with me.
Bikers have opportunities in their lives that present themselves, and bikers should recognize such opportunites such as a Great Harley, and treat them accordingly. Many Great Harleys come into the hands of bikers, and for some reason these gifts slip from their grasp over the years as if they never existed. The grass is not always greener, especially when that grass is Orange & Black.
I feel this way about my Harley 74: Mabel's here to stay. I wish my friend Snow the best of luck finding the cherry Harley Low Rider he covets. If and when that day arrives, I have a gift for Snow---a brand new Le Pera Silhouette Solo seat. If he wants it, that is.