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GOING THE DISTANCE
PHOTO BY GENGHIS
A PRODUCT OF THE GARDEN SHED?: It's a CB750, not a CB74.
ENGLISHMAN AT THE SEEDY X-BAR:
"Au contraire mon frere.
You are basically saying that a 'biker' is a monolithic entity that ONLY adheres to the HD philosophy etc. I contend that is not necessarily so....we feature pro builds for inspiration and the art they provide.....Flipping through the latest issue, there's some jappers in the letters section, and.... in the event coverage.....These guys, slaving away in their garden sheds....can't just be dismissed as 'biker lites' just because they don't buy from the one company. I know you won't agree with this, so we'll agree to disagree. I still feel if someone....rides the hell out of it, he's a biker."
What my friend David is engaged in, is the Game of Revisionist History. This had been tried before almost 40 years ago, when the original Iron Horse magazine squirted out of EZ's heavily Harley-populated womb. Back then, the editors of Easyriders' poor stepsister tried to differentiate Iron Horse from Easyiders---EZ never had Japanese motorcycles in it, unless sledge hammers or bonfires were involved---by inserting an abundance of Japanese customs into the pages of IH. This was clearly an attempt at artificial insemination that did not work. This futile and clumsy attempt to alter the biker subculture did not work. The implanted embryo did not bear the fruit of the proliferation of Japanese choppers in the last four decades. This weird science experiment at social engineering, failed and the biker subculture continued to be what it always was and always will be, a Harleycentric culture. This attempt at presenting the culture in a biased way, was a combination of wishful thinking and subtle manipulation.
How do I know this? Easy. Just believe yer non-lyin' eyes, baby!
The empirical evidence backs me up, here. Since the '70s, I haven't seen a widespread influx of this mysterious and elusive creature known as the Japanese chopper, into the real world. Don't forget, there's a gimormous difference between the real world, and the "magazine world." The real world is like the actual field of play for football, while the magazine world is like fanatasy football, a bunch of guys huddled in their basements, dressed in pajamas, trading fake players and winning fake games.
Oh sure, I've seen the occasional example, especially in the '70s in California when I lived there, but since then? I can say with complete honesty, that here in the NYC area, I see mostly Harleys with a smattering of
custom Trumpets and Beezers from time to time, but have never seen a customized Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki or Suzuki in the New York area. You read that right, never. Unless you count the addition of clip-ons.
But that's in New York. Maybe they're reproducing like rabbits and runnin' around Michigan in droves, I don't know.
This attempt to depict or change the biker subculture by the original Iron Horse in the '70s, by having an inordinate number of Japanese customs in the magazine, did not work for this reason: The Biker Subculture is a much larger demographic group, than a mere magazine's readership rolls. Obviously, the bikers in the New York area don't comprise much of the readership of contemporary magazines, if the empirical evidence on the streets and highways is any indication. I don't see many Suzukis runnin' around the tri-state area with weld-on hardtails, fatbobs and springer forks. In fact, none. Not even one Kawasaki with a Sportster tank! This may change if there's ever a smokeout in NYC. Then you'll see custom Japanese bike riders converging on the event, like lemmings rushing headlong to a mass suicide in the sea.
One word about my feeling about my view on Japanese bikes, in general: I have nothing against 'em from an ethnophobic point of view, but I do feel that they are inferior motorcycles, and I am a Harley loyalist---so to me the old platitude, "Harley's best, screw the rest," applies. As a Chevy loyalist, I similarly feel that Mopars are inferior, and Dodge is an American brand.
I'm not of the "Pearl Harbor" mentality. WWII was a long time ago, and the Japanese are our strong westernized allies now. We know how many righteous Japanese biker brothers are riding Harleys over there, and we have a true kinship with 'em. As Snow said recently, "The Harley scene in Japan is refreshing and inspirational!"
My son Mike, is married to a wonderful Japanese woman named Masayo, who he met at college here in New York, when she was an exchange student years ago. They eventually married and moved to Japan for a number of years, before they moved back to Brooklyn to live permanently. My views of Japanese bikes in the biker subculture, are not based on xenophobia, but I am adamant that the biker subculture is what it is, and should be shown as such.
I believe in the accurate depiction of a scene, which if accurately done, is the documentation of what is actually there. Revisonism happens when reality and the picture presented, don't match. Reality and the magazine view on Japanese customs' role in the culture don't match.
There is an undeniable disparity between the measly numbers of custom Japanese motorcycles seen on the streets, and the profuse numbers seen in current magazines. The disproportionality of this disparity, places it squarely on the Thirteenth Floor of the Twilight Zone. Anne Francis may make her appearance, on a raked and stretched Yamaha rigid, with a frisco-mounted Sporty tank, highway pegs and a ribbed Brit rear fender---her skirts flaring wildly in the wind.
Perhaps the current biker media should've learned the lesson of the original IH from the 1970s: You can't change a subculture, by displaying it in an inaccurate way.
I do understand that today's magazines have built up a substantial contingent of Japanese bike riders among the readership. The efforts to depict the culture in a certain way by the insertion of copious numbers of Hondas, Kawasakis, Yamahas and Suzukis into the magazines, does promote the practice of customizing of Japanese bikes.
This in turn, may have increased the numbers of Japanese customs among magazines' readership, which are particularly visible in pictures of magazine rallies. But, and this is a very big but, the readership of magazines pales by comparision to the biker subculture, at large in the world.
The readers of the current custom media, are a medium drop in the bucket in the biker subculture.
Be honest, when's the last time you saw any customized Japanese bikes on the streets? Not at magazine rallies, but on the streets? My guess is "Gee....can't remember..."
Here's the Ken Kesey Acid Test of whether today's magazines' fantasized vision of a Biker World where customized Japanese cycles run side by side with Harley-Davidsons, in numbers great enough to justify what I perceive as biased coverage, and the promotion of Japanese brands as typical in the biker subculture:
When "750" becomes a term that's as closely associated with bikers as "74" is, that's when. Ever see a flying pig? Me neither.
The simple incantation of seventy-four is known and respected in the culture as an icon. "Seven-fifty?" That might be your change from your Happy Meal at McDonalds.
The Game of Revisionist History, doesn't work when it comes to changing the true nature of an entire subculture. What it may do, is to increase magazine circulation and advertising dollars. If I had to choose between Snow's purist approach to the biker subculture, and current magazines' suspect representation---I'll take the Snow Horse's every time. Later.