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GOING THE DISTANCE
"LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT"
Photo by Genghis
CHARISMATIC: Follow your Harley heart.
19PANHEAD50 AT THE SEEDY X-BAR:
"Ride what moves ya soul Flynch. What ya got there is one effen tempting offer, but if the FXR is the bike that does it all for ya, hang on to it with a death grip. In 1991 I had a brand new vivid black plain jane FXR. EV-3 cam, drags with the baffles hacksawed in half, screamin eagle ignition and coil. Lotta power and torque, doin' the ton was like floatin' on a cloud. It felt like ya could take it off road in the Baja 500 and she would give a good account of herself. Having said all that, there came a day when I walked into a bike shop and asked the owner if there was anything interesting in the showroom and he said "go take a look" and I did. Well there she sat on her sidestand, oxidized paint, pinstriped, leaking oil, upsweeps with MUFFLERS no less, p-pad. A 1950 pan with a shovel top end. I knew this was the bike my future was gonna be wrapped up in right from the get go, from that first look. Love at first sight. When I was able to pull myself away from Magdalena's incomparable beauty I turned on my heel and put a couple hundred dollars down till I could make her ALL MINE for ALL TIME. Needless to say the FXR was history. But it was an amicable divorce and I remain friends with all FXRs. If the '83 Glide don't move ya like Magdalena moved me Flynch, then hold on to what works for you man."
Most of us know what love at first sight is. It's at the moment when you see The Girl, the contents of your chest cavity from your clavicles down to your groin, do a flip-flop. That's the feeling I got when my wife Patty, then Patty Anne Cicchinelli, walked into the lobby of the Third Street Music School in New York. This was where I ran my martial arts classes in one of the music school's dance spaces. Five foot two, shining brown hair down to her sexy shoulders, sparkling brown eyes, saucy and voluptuous figure, all wrapped up in gray corduroy bellbottoms and a tight black T. She had a wiggle in her walk, not quite a giggle in her talk---sorry, Big Bopper. Patty had come to enroll in my class, referred by a fellow black belt in my old school that she was dating at the time. Oh well, no pain no gain. It was his pain, and my gain.
The same phenomenon happens when you first see The Bike. It's Chemistry 101, baby.
For some, meeting The Bike occurs after experimentation with Some Bike(s), who doesn't or don't quite reach a hundred on the Love-The-Bike-Meter. With me, it happened the second time around. For Snow, it might've occurred after several trysts with a few one-night stands in motorcycle ownership terms. I'll tell ya what, though. I'm happy as a prosperous clam, that Snow's back in the Harley Fold with his XLCH. It's gotta be a Harley, man. Snow made a momentous choice in his Harley, "Animal Mother."
Life's all about choices, and one's first or third choice may not yield the True Love that most bikers are fortunate enough to find. Some bikers never find that true love. Some are too wrapped up in seeing motorcycles as just another disposable phase in their quest for The Next Project To Finish, before the girl's sold like so much chattel, a personal article to be sold for profit, with a wandering eye toward The Next Project. For some, that Next Project may be hacking up a Japanese bike, which is simply a waste of one's time and energy with these worthless rolling scrap heaps---not to mention money wasted which would be better served by saving it for a Harley.
"Love is the feeling I get when I think about my motorcycle."
This is a semi-famous quote from an HA in the 1960s, but no less valid a half of a century later. This attitude is typical for dyed in the wool bikers who dedicate their lives to their motorcycles.
Many members of the biker subculture whose lives circulate around their Harleys like subservient planets around the sun, would see in many cases, their relationships with their bikes outlast marriages, so strong is the man-bike bond. The path that different bikers take to the same goal, which is "The Bike" may take stemwinding twists and unforseen turns.
Every biker has a different path to the The Bike than others, and may call upon a different Harley to fulfill his emotional and practical needs, than the biker next to him. Mine had to be a swingarm shovel with that classic four-speed frame, and the righteous motor that was the successor to the panhead. An "improved" panhead, in my humble opinion. No wonder 19Panhead50 found a Pan-Shovel so irresistible. That shovel top end, hovers over the cases like Silver Twin Towers, which can never be knocked down.
I still remember the day that I met The Bike. This was in 1985, when my path led to a tree-lined cul-de-sac in Brooklyn.
I'd seen the ad for The Bike in the Buylines, a now defunct paper:
"1971 Harley-Davidson Super Glide, excellent condition, garage-kept by original owner. Custom paint. $4,000 firm. Call John at 718...."
I called the owner John Bays, and he said another potential buyer already looked at it and was considering buying it. I felt such a gut conviction that this was a great bike and maybe "The Bike," that I told John that if he could hold off on selling the bike until the weekend, that I'd show up on saturday with cash-to-buy and a truck to take her home, "But I have to see the bike run," I told him.
John said that he'd buy a new battery at Brooklyn Harley, and have her ready to run when I arrived.
I rented a cargo van from the Hertz truck outlet on the west side of Manhattan. I brought Patty and Jeff along to help. Jeff was one of my black belts, at the time when I moved my dojo from the Third Street Music School, to the Educational Alliance building on East Broadway. He was also dating my sister at the time. John Bays and his wife Cindy lived in Canarsie, which is in Brooklyn. This was my first time in Canarsie, and I was surprised at how suburb-like Canarsie was, incongruous with the common perception of New York City. I shouldn't have been suprised though, because I knew from growing up in Queens, how suburban Queens neighborhoods could be, as suburban-looking as any on the outer reaches of Long Island.
People outside of New York may not realize how parochial residents of each New York City borough can be, and how that colors their view of boroughs outside of the one they live in. There are people in Brooklyn for example, who were born and raised in Brooklyn, who admit to never having been to Manhattan.
John and Cindy were gracious but cautious. John was a non-descript looking guy, who worked at Willoughby's camera store in Manhattan, and Cindy was a pretty, petite blonde who worked as a bank teller at Chemical Bank. I think they were surprised that I actually showed up with a truck, and were suspicious because I'd brought Jeff along. In spite of Jeff's jovial manner, many people are put off by his hulking heavyweight size.
I would've been cautious too, with my mind on a possible ripoff.
I showed the four grand in cash to the Bays, to show that I was serious about buying Potentially The Bike on the spot, if she turned out to be all that John advertised her to be. John explained that he'd owned her since he bought her new, but didn't ride her much anymore. It's too bad the coals of passion for riding, cool for some bikers.
He said, "Cindy and I used to ride her into Manhattan in the early '70s all the time, especially to the East Village..." He'd found a new passion, which he showed me in his garage: An Austin-Healy he was restoring.
John took me to the side of the house, where She sat, quiet and majestic, gleaming in the bright Brooklyn sun. A '71 Super Glide, with Frisco-mounted Sportster tank and bobbed rear stock fender. She had the stock Super Glide narrow glide, with shortened stock front fender. The tin was painted metalflake purple, reminiscent of the paintjobs popular in the '70s. She had the same fork and awful drum brake that I had on Sally The Bitch (my '68 XLCH)---yechhh.
Straight pipes. Clean bike, man, obviously well-preserved and never abused. She still wore the stock Bendix carb.
John started kicking her over. On the eighth kick, she caught and that wonderful shovel music filled the air from those straight pipes, and my heart did a triple somersault. My respiration quickened, and I knew. I had to have this bike. What sealed the deal for me, was taking a ride on the bike. No, John wouldn't let me ride her, but he took me as a passenger for a ride around Canarsie---and I was hooked, fully swallowing the line and sinker too.
I was in Certified Motorcycle Love, an enduring love that hasn't quit 26 years later. If anything, that love has grown. I had found My Bike. This bike called to me in that Harley's Siren's Voice, the way that Magdalena called to 19Panhead50. There is nothing as seductive as a Harley's thunderous voice.
Cindy, being the bank teller she was, carefully scrutinized every single bill of the cash I brought along. She proclaimed that none of it was counterfeit, and it was a done deal. The bike was mine. Jeff and I huffed the Harley up a board I brought along as a ramp, into the Hertz van. I asked Jeff to sit on her during the trip home, because I came unprepared with tie downs of any kind. On the way home, I drove on the Belt and Grand Central Parkways, which was illegal. In New York City, commercial vans like the cargo van I rented, are prohibited on "parkways," although they are allowed on "expressways" in New York City Highwayspeak.
19Panhead50's description of how he found and fell for His Bike Magdalena, parallels what many of us experience when we find The Bike. The Bike in my case, is Mabel, my ever-lovin' Harley 74.
Man-motorcycle match-ups are a matter of chemistry and personal preferences, some would say personal prejudices.
There is no One-Harley-Fits-All. There is one thing I am adamant about: If it ain't a Harley, it ain't fit. Nipponbikes don't fit, you must acquit! No blood in the Bronco, man! Just don't buy a used Harley from Marcia Clark.
There seems to have been a bloodless revolution since the SnowHorse closed it's saloon doors in 1997. Nipponbikes, widely derided as Junque in the biker subculture just a few short years ago, have insidiously been promoted by Nipponese Junque Apologists as worthy bikes to own in the biker subculture. It's interesting isn't it, that there wasn't a whiff of this sentiment in the late '90s? Yet here we are in 2011 with a few proclaiming, "I'd rather ride a worthless japbike....than drive a car." Not me, man. If I didn't have a Harley, then I'd rather drive my rompin' stompin' 40 year Vette Mary, than ride a Nipponbike that's straining to emulate a Harley, while I saved for a Harley.
Mary is a Righteous American Machine. Chevy is as American as apple pie, Harley-Davidson and Colt automatics. That's more than I can say for the circus of hacked up Nipponese Junque that we see being pawned off, as being worthy of belonging in the biker subculture.
How did Nipponese Junque suddenly become acceptable in the biker subculture? The answer is, they didn't, despite what the Nipponese Junque Apologists say. Let me say this: Whatever "The Bike" turns out to be, it's gotta be a Harley.
Different strokers for different folkers, but make it Orange & Black.