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Photo by Genghis

FORTY-ONE YEARS OLD: But frisky as a teenager.

My parts are deteriorating.

Not my Harley 74's, mine. I'm suffering the typical symptoms of my age, which is 65. The joints are stiffer, the aches and pains accrue and multiply with every passing day. Everything I'd taken for granted as easy when I was younger, now present more of a physical challenge than before. Many bikers complain that they had to stop riding because of age-related changes to their bodies. This is not true for me, in fact, just the opposite. Riding is easy and pain free, for me. The pain doesn't start, until I get off the bike. When I'm astride my stroker shovel Mabel, there is no pain. The pain recommences, when I trade in the 16 and 21 for my feet as transportation conveyances. Maybe I should quit walking due to age, and ride during my waking hours, instead. It's hard to convey how the pains and stiffness accumulate to someone who hasn't been there, done that. But as someone who's there and doin' it, man---believe me--it's no picnic. That's why I believe that motorcycles are better than people.

Is there any doubt that motorcycles are better than people? I wish that I could replace my worn parts as easily as I replace my Harley's. Check it out. My Harley is 41 years old, yet she enjoys the youthful exuberance of a teenager, and always will as long as I diligently take care of her. Now granted, some of Mabel's parts are fairly old, but I don't expect any appreciable age-related decline of these parts. The frame is 41 years old, but I expect it to last virtually forever. Ditto the risers and drag bars, which are actually older than Mabel are. They're 43 years old. Although her shovelhead mill is technically 41 years old, the motor's S & S innards are only 19 years old, and they can be renewed if and when that becomes necessary or desirable. Everything else on her are subject to discretionary replacement, according to condition and performance, but the bottom line is this:

A bike can be made as young as your mindset and bank account allows.

For certain, my Harley's in better relative shape than I am. She doesn't gulp down Alleve when she wakes up, or gobble aspirin like a kid eats candy during the day. Her joints don't put a hitch in her getalong. She doesn't groan with every ache that consumes her life, as the "new normal" does in mine. Nope. She is forever young, man. Mabel is definitely blastin' down the Ponce de Leon Expressway, while I'm hobblin' down Rip Van Winkle Lane. At least while I'm riding Mabel, I feel young once again, as the aches and pains disappear as if by magic. Hey man, wake me up when the ride's over. I'll dismount from my Harley with a long white beard and a prescription for Vicodin.

Here's the whole point about bikes, which relates directly to Going The Distance with 'em: Their very immutability renders them worthy of reverence and the royal treatment that bikers give our Harleys. Man, they are the best, and can be kept at their best, for all time. These motorcycles are entities that are meant to be our partners for life, through thick and thin, richer or poorer, sickness and health. The Bike is always there for us, not matter what mortal failings we humans develop and suffer from. As the Incredible Hulk would refer to us, we are puny humans. In contrast, our Harleys are the Hulks, indestructible and indomitable by the passage of time.

The fact that bikers across this great nation--and the world---own functioning Harleys so old, that they make my '71 Super Glide seem like a kindergartener, makes you appreciate what an amazing phenomenon the Biker Subculture truly is. There are 70 year old knuckles and 60 year old panheads runnin' around out there, that are Grand Old Ladies that run and look like 25 year old hotties, thanks to the devotion of the bikers who partner 'em. I don't believe that there has ever been another culture where motor-owners maintain aged machines like bikers extensively do, with our bikes. Hardcore bikers keep up their bikes as Functional Young Machines, that are capable of being used every day as viable transportation. Unlike hardcore bikers, car collectors tend to preserve their collectible aged automobiles as virtual museum pieces, sequestering 'em in climate-controlled garages, never to see the light of day or black of asphalt in their lifetimes. Harley riders rarely own Harleys for investment reasons, just the opposite of car collectors.

Photo by Genghis


Hardcore bikers obsessively keep their precious Harleys as good as possible. It's always been that way, and it will always be that way. The strength of the willpower of bikers to maintain their Harley-Davidson motorcycles, borders on the religious. When bike parts fail, they get replaced. When components start to look ratty, they get refreshed. I have witnessed a change in a nice Harley recently, which runs counter to this trend in the biker subculture. When I first laid eyes on this neat little rigid sporty on Avenue A in NYC, it was a gem. flat gray frame, and tin painted gloss black. The tank had some custom pinstriping on it. This evolved though, over the past few months. I should say devolved. The owner stripped the paint off the tank and fender, allowing the tin to rust in a rapid fashion. What it looks like now, reminds me of the Jap Junque submissions in Snow's Iron Horse. This is an example of felonious assault on an innocent, unsuspecting and righteous Harley. I have to believe that this change in the guy's bike is intentional, and what a shame. This bike now looks like a piece of junk. This bike and her owner, are the exception to the rule in the culture. Most bikers keep their bikes young, as I wish we bikers could keep our own bodies young. Harleys are better than people. Later.