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GOING THE DISTANCE
PHOTO BY GENGHIS
DAVID SNOW'S XLCH: A raw and vicious motorcycle.
CLICK HERE TO SEE SNOW'S NEW MOTORCYCLE
"GENGHIS RIDES A HARLEY" BY DAVID SNOW--AUGUST 1991 IRON HORSE MAGAZINE:
"Scotts's been riding for well over twenty years. His first bike was, now get this, a 1968 XLCH Sportster---the most hardcore cycle Harley ever produced. Magneto ignition and no battery, the badass XLCH made you prove that you were worthy to ride it with every kickstart."
It's hard to believe that Snow wrote this twenty years ago. Time does fly, on wings powered by a Harley stroker motor.
By the way, if you hit the link above, you can view a video of Snow with his new bike, which he named "Animal Mother." His words were prescient, as he ended up with the most hardcore of Harley motorcycles of all time, a late '60s XLCH. You can sense the profound respect Snow had in his words, for the raw and barebones racer-in-street-disguise that the late '60s Sportster XLCH is. This bike is no doubt, a one of a kind in Harley history. Never in the biker subculture, has any manufacturer sold a racing machine in pit bull form like the XLCH, to an unsuspecting public. An automobile analogy is the Corvette L88, which was a brute of a machine that was sold in the late 1960s.
The L88 was a further development of Chevy's "Mystery Motor" also known as the "Porcupine Motor," that briefly dominated NASCAR races in the '60s.
The L88 came without a heater and radio (the Chevy option was known as "heater & radio delete") to discourage merely casual buyers from stumbling into accidental ownership of this 600 horsepower (and this was an estimate, because Chevy deliberately underrated the horsepower at 450, thousands of RPMs below redline, to thwart insurance companies) monster with no low speed manners. L88s were known to run the quarter in the tens.
The 'CH is the same. Equipped with the famous race-oriented PB cam, the XLCH is a handful and a half, a racebike with a headlight and horn.
Animal Mother is an appropriate name, since like a pit bull mother, it would tear apart any threat in biteable distance. Approach at your own peril, lesser motorcycles!
The most distinguishing feature about owning and mastering an XLCH, is the feeling that you and the bike are one, self-sufficient and independent from battery concerns. You and the 'CH travel as a self-contained unit, knowing that she will start, no matter what. Hey man, no dead battery, broken solenoid or racked up starter motor blues for you, if you're an XLCH pilot. There is only you, the XLCH---and the road. Nothing stops you. For the 17 years I had my XLCH, she only temporarily stranded me once on the Belt Parkway in New York. We were clippin' along at 70 miles per hour, when the motor suddenly quit on me. We had to veer to the side of the road for safety. I opened up the magneto to discover that the set screw holding the points in adjustment got loose, causing the points to close up in full contact. I used a dime to gap the points and used the same dime to tighten the set screw, and off we went---as if nothing had happened. That is the kind of confidence that the magneto-fired 'CH can give you. Can any of you Harley riders out there who've ever been stuck on the road with battery problems, say the same? Like I said, XLCH pilots are self-sufficient, the rider and bike a force unto themselves, riding with confidence and bravado. Bring it on baby, whatever you The Road has for us, we got it!
As cantankerous as my 'CH Sally The Bitch was, I do miss this ultimate form of motorcycle self-sufficiency. Something else I miss about Sally, is her light weight. Hey man, she and "Animal Mother" weigh 450 pounds! Compare that with the 580 that my stroker shovel Mabel weighs. As much as I love the Navy destroyer-like feel of Mabel, I do miss being able to throw a light and nimble XLCH around at times. I do know that Snow's planning to run 19 inch wheels front and back to maximize the racer qualities of the XLCH. He currently has a sixteen in the back.
One mistake many 'CH pilots make is installing a 16 in the back in an effort to make it more like a Harley 74. These bikers completely miss the point. The Sportster is not a "74" and each bike has its own separate identity and attributes.
The 18 in back and the 19 in front, made the XLCH a great handling motorcycle. The idea is to maximize the XLCH's strength, one which it has hands down over the venerable 74: The bike's maneuverability.
Here's a funny thing about the rear 18 inch wheel that the late '60s 'CHs came originally equipped with: It came with screws running through the edges of the rims and tires, holding the tires in place because the power of the 'CH motor would otherwise make the tires rotate on the rims! The recommended tire pressure from The Firm, was a mind-blowingly low 14 psi. This rim design with the tire set screws was so unusual, that a Harley mechanic in the early '80s who looked at Sally's rear tire, was amazed. He'd never seen that before and couldn't believe that the tire pressure was so low.
I can't wait to see Snow's vision for Animal Mother develop. I sent him a Le Pera Silhouette solo seat for his bike, that I originally bought for Mabel but decided not to use. Snow bought a bobbed 'CH fender with OEM fender struts I think off of eBay for Animal Mother. His bike came with one of those rare Crazy Frank fenders that was sold by Jammer decades ago, and he sold it for operating bread to further complete his Sportster. Stay tuned, folks. It should be a fun ride watching Snow building his bike, his way. Later.