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Photo by Genghis

Young shovel rider notices it.


".......Why aren't there mags dedicated to the 'true' biker spirit? Because they would be bankrupt inside a year. The David Snow Iron Horse would not survive today......The hard facts are; there are simply not enough.....biker types that would be willing to support such a publication......Is there some big Evil plot to try and make the Japbike more palatable to the biking public? Nope, it's just what's happening out there today......I remember the scene in the 70s, but that's just not there anymore......Sure, there are pockets here and there, but the big MC clubs have evolved into something different, as has the general motorcycling public."

"Biker type?"

What the hell is that about? Freudian slippage?

Is Englishman right? Is the Biker Subculture as we've known and revered it, deader than a medieval doornail? Is the venerable Harley 74 being replaced by hordes of Hondas, Yamahas, Suzukis and Yamanahahas among young bikers? The truth is, I don't know. I don't know because I've got mine and I ride alone in the dead of early morning, when most other bikers are forty winks short of full awakeness. I guess that makes me and my trusty Stroker Shovelhead Mabel, the official New York Dawn (actually Pre-Dawn) Patrol. We tick along the highways and byways of Manhattan, Queens and Long Island of the Empire State, noting the soothing, enveloping darkness illuminated by artificial means, like a NASCAR night race at Bristol. Round and round we go, reveling in each other, the way that devoted men and machines have done since 1903. Mabel and I are a match made in Harley Heaven.

There was a notable exception to this solitude in my biker life, and it occurred yesterday, when I wasn't even riding. It happened when I was walking back home from work. I was standing at the curb at the corner of Astor Place near Lafayette Street in the Lower Beast Side of NYC, when I met a young biker. He was a young man I estimated to be in his mid-twenties. He had tats and walked with a cane. His tatted girl was with him, and they were looking at used vinyl records being sold by a sidewalk vendor out of his van. I turned around when the young man said, "Hey. I like your tat." I get that once in a while, but wasn't paying particular attention. Hey man, everyone in the Lower East Side has tats, bikers and non-bikers alike. I said perfunctorily, Thanks. The young man said, "I have a 1974 shovelhead. I just moved here from Texas. Do ya still have yours?"

That, got my full attention. Do you know how often another shovel rider approaches me, recognizing one of my tats for what it is? About never. This tat is a takeoff on the Harley-Davidson bar and shield, except that it has "74" inside the shield, and "Shovelhead" bordering the bottom of the shield. I said, No shit? Ya just moved here, huh? He said, "Yeah. What year's your shovel, a '74?" I said No, a 1971. He looked puzzled, as he looked at the "74" in my tat. I explained that in the old days, Harley big twins were referred to as "Harley 74s." The young biker got it. His generation isn't generally aware of this biker slang from decades ago, unless they read the literature. Sonny Barger for example, refers to "Harley 74s" in his autobiography.

I found meeting this young biker refreshing, because of his participation in the culture with a righteous shovelhead, instead of a hacked-up Yamaha XS650 Pretend-Harley like you'd see in THBC. Englishman claims that customized Japanese bikes are the growing trend in today's chop scene. I find this hard to accept as fact, at least, in what I consider the Biker Subculture. If we refer to this scene as the "chopper scene" as opposed to the Biker Subculture,then there might be some credibility to Englishman's claims. This is because there is a fine distinction between the two.

The chopper scene would include the hacking up of any machinery, whether they're righeous Harleys or Japanese junque. The Biker Subculture has deeper and broader roots, connoting a culture born of the outlaw spirit, riding on the backbones of Harley-Davidson motorcycle frames. The riders I refer to as True Bikers can inhabit both worlds, but the Biker Subculture can only be comprised of True Bikers. The "chopper scene" can include anybody and his brother, whether they're bikers or not, as long as they're wielding Sawzalls. I guess that means that "biker types" are the ones in the Biker Subculture.

Back in the 1990s, bikers were calling that period, the lost decade in the Biker Subculture, and feared (as we do now, with the XS650 invasion) that the outlaw biker culture was on its deathbed, because of the RUB invasion. It is for this reason, and perhaps for this reason alone, why there is such a vehement bias against Softails to this day among bikers ("biker types"). The Softail was the model that attracted RUBs like manure draws flies. The '90s was the Yuppie Softail Era.

That too, did pass. And rather quickly, in the long-term historical perspective of the Biker Subculture. True bikers on their shovels and pans were saying back then too, "I've got mine," while ignoring the lawyers and stockbrokers on gleaming new H-Ds, just as we're ignoring the Nipponese Junque With Sportster Tanks, today. We're waitin' for 'em to go away, man. Proponents of Nipponese Junque With Sportster Tanks make the same argument for 'em, as libs do for gay marriage: "It's an idea whose time has come!" They try to force us into acceptance, by constant lobbying. This is a case of coercion by constant repetition. Bikers in the 1990s knew then, as we know now, that true bikers will still be on their righteous old iron, while trend-setters and trend-followers (even the ones on their XS650s with Sportster tanks) fall by the inevitable wayside. My attitude is, "I've got mine" and I'm stickin' to my story. True bikers will feel this way. Check out what 19Panhead50 has to say about this:

".....I cant really argue about the numbers game as it pertains to supporting a magazine. I obviously do not publish a motorcycle magazine or have any direct knowledge of what it takes to keep a magazine such as THBC up and running. It's just deep down in the very marrow of my aged bones I just can't fathom the fact that there ain't enough of us out here to support an all H.D. (and occasional BritBike) magazine. It would be a mistake and total disservice to Snows Iron Horse to even try to copy it. But not enough of us out here? Well if that's really the case, farc that. I've got mine. Maybe this era is just an interlude between this junque madness and guys figgerin' out how to thwart the company's plans for cookie cutter bikes by brainstorming ways to make these new era Harleys as stripped down and righteous as their ancestors. In the meantime I'm gonna stick to keeping true to the ideals of the past till the past once again becomes the present. Maybe thats one two many pints of Guinness talking but I guess ya know what i mean."

19Panhead50's got that right. There is hope, as I found out yesterday. I have proof positive of the younger generation on shovels. Hell, I even shook his hand, like some long lost nephew with a Texas twang. Botherhood on Harleys lives, man, in spite of what the naysayers tell us. They may tell us that the smokeout fields full of Nipponese Junque With Sportster Tanks, " just what's happening out there today," but we instinctively know better. Just like we intuited during the Yuppie Softail Era of twenty years ago. Transient interruptions may blot the course of the Biker Subculture, but it is always the "Biker Types" that keep the faith, and have faith in their old Harleys, and keep 'em runnin' like new, that sustain the culture. I believe that this Junque Madness will pass, just as the Yuppie Softail Era passed with nary a whimper. Later.