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GOING THE DISTANCE
"THE EXTREME EMOTION OF TRADITION"
PHOTO BY GENGHIS
HERE IS 19PANHEAD50'S REACTION TO MY COLUMN ABOUT THE MAGAZINE WRITER'S APOLOGY TO A PEER PRESSURE GROUP FOR MAKING HIS BIKE MORE COMFORTABLE TO RIDE:
"Your right Genghis, why that writer for some bike rag regurgitated that veiled apologetic drivel is beyond my limited understanding. The tone of the writing was kinda uptight and whiney. ... all and what anyone else thinks about his ride. Does the writer harbor some deep seated need to be liked ? My Magdalena is a 1950 pan/shovel in its original frame. Rocker clutch and hand shift. When i sit in that bike I am always concious of its history and the miles she has traveled and the places shes been. I try to imagine the previous owner or owners having their good times and bad, and how maybe the decades pass but the bikers who owned this lady are , at the core level, basically the same. To me it has become almost a sacred rite and a historical imperative to keep Magdalena alive and on the road. The whole start up procedure is almost mystical in character. turn gas on, retard spark, coupla twists of the throttle,a few prime kicks, ignition on and kick her over to hear milwaukee music at its finest. I respect everyones choice of which harley to ride but when all is said and done its me an Magdalena till the end, bad back an all the othe maladies that come down on a guy closer to 60 than 55. For all you seedy x faithfull I wish you an open road on a warm summer morning, full gas tanks, a pocketfull of jing an no need ta be anywhere special. Enjoy yer rides!"
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT, HERE IS THE WRITER'S APOLOGY:
".....Call me a fag...but I think I removed all the 'cool' from my bike. With the shit from getting nailed by that fuckin' bus and the Peterbilt goin' on in my back it didn't look like I was goin' to make the Long Ride or any other ride for that matter. My spine is fucked from my shoulder blades to my butt crack...constant pain more or less. So I had to make some adjustments.
Since this summers ride is going to be over 8000 miles I had to turn my back to looks and go for function instead. Hence the lower bars, functional rear suspension (always had a swing arm but it didn't really work with the short shocks and shock angle), and the big ol' comfy Mustang seat. Fuck it man, I want to ride and could give a rats ass if I fall into the "cool" catagory...not that I ever did!
So let the onslaught of opinion begin, I'm not happy about it but the bike did all the damage, it's going to have to pay the price for me to keep riding!....."
I don't know if you all realize what you were reading in 19Panhead50's words. It was sheer emotion, steeped in tradition. Can you say "eloquence in emotion"? Here's the effect that 19Panhead50's statement had on me: it put me into the seat of his rigid Pan/Shovel.
It not only caused me to feel what he feels when he starts his Harley, it made me feel the emotions that I felt, when I kickstarted my Harleys with exactly the same ritual. It was the ritual of it all. Best of all, his statement of factual emotionlism regarding his Harley, made me understand how one can choose whatever ride he or she truly loves, no matter what it is. It made me feel that same righteous reverence for his Pan/Shovel, that fills his chest. If someone can do that with his or her words, then you know that there is substance to it. Not substance over style, but just pure substance. The substance that's behind the vicarious thrill that his statement engendered, is historical tradition.
There isn't enough written in today's chopper rags about tradition. Without tradition, the Harley-Davidson would not have been the iconic masthead, that the rest of the ship of the biker subculture has been built around for almost a century. Without tradition, that ship would never have sailed out of the harbor.
Without the understanding of what came before us, all of our present not to mention our future as a culture, is nothing. Without the historical perspective that is given like a Golden Gift to us bikers, we are just hobbyists looking for the latest project to please our friends for their slaps on our backs, for our short-lived ego-gratification. But there is more to the biker subculture, than that momentary, superficial happiness.
There is the connection.
Just as 19Panhead50 made me feel connected to him, the tradition behind his statement is a statement of its own. It is s statement about a connection that we all have with the bikers of the past. How they felt when they primed their carbs with two kicks, before they went through the time-honored ritual of starting their bikes. How they felt a swelling pride 60, 70 or 80 years ago, as they rode their rigids down the highways and byways of America's past. How they felt when they rode their Harley-Davidsons, in the wind and free. How they felt special, because of their involvement with, and abiding love for their bikes. All of this points to an obvious fact: tradition breeds emotion. It is emotion after all, that makes me choose my 38 year old Harley over a new Honda. It is the ritual of it all, the sheer emotional ballast that outweighs any logical thought. Tradition is powerful. Tradition is so powerful, that 19Panhead50's contagious emotion in his words, made me love his rigid. Think about that.
There is so much superfical writing about so much dreck these days in chopper magazines, that you wonder why they can't match the level of emotion that 19Panhead50 has about his special Harley. There is a reverence for his bike that comes shining through, that blinds absolutely. This shows that there is more to being a biker than merely crowing about one's latest accomplishment in his or her completed project. The biker subculture is all about being engrossed in a continuous project, a life-long project---to revere and honor one's righteous bike.
To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part.