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Photo by Genghis

WILL SNOW STAY WITH H-Ds?: I never pretended I could read his mind.


"I had a sub to Iron Horse back when Paisano (Easyriders) owned it. I was riding a Triumph. It was a step-child mag featuring some jap, but mostly Brit bikes. Anyway, The mag went to NY porn purveyors in the '80s. We were introduced to Dave Snow and his stock FX Superglide. We were then introduced to a new project bike...the same shovel transplanted into a yellow rigid frame, red flames on the tank, and a brown tractor seat. Then..Back to the swingarm. Then...Shovel gone.

For a brief period, he wrote about a Sporty that he hated. Then, the 1985 FXWG came along, and was featured in many issues of IH, along with his iconic Super Glide History issue. The problem? At about that time he wanted to build the FU chopper, using NO Harley parts...a 180 degree departure from the '85 FXWG years. THEN, a diluted version of IH hits the stands, and Snow is riding a 500cc Honda, claiming it's the best of the best. Now, he's getting anal about a Sportster being an all original Harley, worried about an inch or two on the frame. Bottom line: Snow is an entertaining read, but there is no conviction when you look at his history."



I consider David Snow one of the true friends in my life. I'll never forget how Snow helped me after my wreck on Mabel (my Harley 74) in '94, how he gathered up Mabel from H-D of New York in Queens after they were good enough to take my wrecked shovelhead in, and trucked her out to Andrew Rosa's shop for her resurrection. To me, that spoke volumes about conviction. He also rode Mabel back to my garage when I was convalescing, as I was in no shape to ride yet, at that point. Besides, that one ride on Mabel was a reaffirmation (I'm sure), of how superior the shovelhead is, to the Evo. Nah, I'm kidding.

His conviction that he was doing this for a bud out of a sense of obligatory loyalty, stands out in my mind as I reminisce. He acted on "conviction" there, as far as I'm concerned. By the way, Harley-Davidson of New York didn't charge me a single red cent for picking up the equally-injured Mabel and storing her for days. Check it out, man, no towing or storage charges. There's no more helpless feeling, than while being loaded into an ambulance, and you look out of a corner of your eye and see your bike lying on her side on the road, leaking precious fluids and parts broken beyond redemption. That hurts the heart, man. I'm grateful to the folks at H-D of New York for picking her up, and keeping her safe until David got to her. How's that for terrific, for a Harley dealer? Of course, this was the same dealer I bought my first Harley, "Sally The Bitch" (my XLCH) from, in 1968.

That's all I need to know with respect to Snow's "conviction." That being said, I have to admit that as a hardcore, dyed-in-the-wool Harley Loyalist, I had some of these same thoughts while Snow was going through these changes at Iron Horse. I never could fully relate to Snow's shifting loyalties from motorcycle to motorcyle, and that failure to relate to it, formed the premise for much of my motorcycle-related writing: Contrasting Harley Loyalists who would rather fight than switch, with those bikers who feel the need to change bikes periodically.

That's "the why" for the "Going the Distance" title I chose to use in IH. The GTD title to me, represented bikers who were dedicated to their bikes enough, to go all the way with 'em. Ya gotta represent, man! With my column, I felt that I was a voice of average bikers everywhere, who felt attached to their Harleys, attached enough to go the distance with 'em. I've always felt that having this attribute as bikers, was more important than say, having the skillset to fabricate one-off parts for one's bike.

I've come to the conclusion that those who change bikes every so often, never relate to bikes as living entities, as Harley Loyalists do. They seem to exhibit no emotional attachment to their bikes, as Harley Loyalists do. This story from Hunter S. Thompson's book about the HA is now a cliche, but is still relevant: A journalist asks a Hells Angel what "love" means to him. In response the HA says, "Love is the feeling I get when I think of my motorcycle." This quote is now a part of the folklore of the of the biker subculture. No biker ever encapsulated what being a biker is all about, better than that biker.

To Harley Loyalists, their bikes live! That's why many of 'em (us) name their (our) Harleys. We think of our machines as having viable souls and personalities, replete with their own idiosyncratic ways. Some of them (us) actually talk to their (our) machines. For example, I talk to my bike Mabel, my Vette Mary, and I also talk to Patty's F150 pick-up Amy. By the way, we just had Amy repainted black, and she looks awesomely sinister now. I always have a few words to say to each of 'em after parking 'em. This is usually accompanied by an affectionate pat of the motor in Mabel's case, or a loving pat of a fender for Mary and Amy.

Photo by Genghis

SAY HI TO MARY: I always do.

Of course, I always speak these words to Mary, Mabel and Amy in hushed tones, out of the hearing range of people, who just wouldn't understand. Who wants to be chased by Doctor Melfi wielding a butterfly net? As the platitude goes, If I have to explain, then ya wouldn't understand. However, Harley Loyalists and those owners loyal to their cars and trucks, do understand. They understand the implications of their naming their vehicles. They understand that they love their vehicles as members of their family, just as surely as wives, parents and children are members of their family. So what if the vehicles speak through their exhaust pipes? So what if they walk and run on rubber instead of feet? Hey man, they're people too! But as far as being a Harley Loyalist is concerned, there's hope for Snow. After all, he did name his Sportster, didn't he? I'm just glad that he's back in the Harley Fold, man, which brings to mind that other biker subculture platitude:

I'd rather have my sister in a whorehouse, than my brother on a Honda.

Words to live by man, words to live by. The next sign of "conviction" that I'm waiting for from Snow, is a Harley tattoo. I don't think he'll have a problem finding a tattoo parlor for this. That'll be the ultimate sign that he won't end up back on Japjunque. Another sign that Snow's truly in the Harley Fold forever, is if I catch him looking embarassed as he furtively talks to his Harley.

Photo by Genghis

SHHHHH...: I'm talking to Mabel.

One other point, a very salient point regarding Snow's perspective while he was at the helm of Iron Horse: Snow was always cognizant of the central role of Harley-Davidsons in the biker subculture. He celebrated the historic central role of the Harley-Davidson motorcycle, in the way that he formatted Iron Horse. IH was always Harleycentric, as IH under Snow's steady hand, reflected the reality of the subculture. There was the "Jap Junque" feature, always a heavy favorite among the Harley Faithful. There were the bike features, the majority of which were Harleys.

Snow never let the shifting sands of his personal motorcycle brand tastes, affect the content of the bike features which were heavily weighted toward Harleys. There weren't tons of hacked-up Yamahas, as you see in today's IH imitations. Snow had a heavy respect for the iconic role of Harley-Davidsons, even as he vented about "flip your patches." I have the greatest respect for Snow as a freethinker, who doesn't allow what others think and say affect his individual path in life. His "conviction," is his own.

IRON HORSE'S MISSION: Snow was a serious analytical writer about the subculture.

Beyond that, I believe that many bikers misunderstood the mission of Iron Horse magazine. It would be frivolous to state that IH's mission was to merely "entertain" readers, as HTH admits Snow accomplished, as this would fall far short of the mark. Although IH was a Harleycentric specialty magazine, the goal of entertaining Harley riders, was secondary in my view. While being entertaining was an important byproduct of what Snow accomplished with IH, I believe that his primary mission was to provide a publication that depicted the biker subculture in a serious way, with serious literary competence and with the writers' integrity intact. I once asked Snow how he saw his role as IH's editor, He said in complete seriousness, "I see myself as a sociologist of the subculture."

Before I joined IH, I was so impressed with the literary quality of the magazine. I'd never seen a biker magazine that made readers think, and that did not pander to the lowest common denominator among the readership of bikers. Biker rags up until Snow's Iorn Horse, treated bikers like low-grade morons. This Neanderthal Ethic among biker rags, would change direction under Snow's con of the helm. IH treated bikers as if they had actual brains! If some of the honest opinions of the editor and writers ran against the grain, or infuriated some, then so be it. So, IH was entertaining, but it was more than that. The SnowHorse hosted insights into the biker subculture heretofore unseen in magazine format. The way that Snow protected the magazine's integrity, is the greatest proof of his conviction, that I can think of. Later.