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GOING THE DISTANCE
by DAVID SNOW
Photo by Genghis
I'M MAKIN' A POSTER OF GENGHIS & "SALLY THE BITCH:" Not for Scott, but for Sally the XLCH!
I'm sitting here on the deck of the trailer, quaffing a brew, taking a break from dismantling an old collapsed pole barn. Gotta get 'er done before chigger and tick season. Country livin', eh? Sometimes I really miss being a city mouse. There's not a day that goes by that I don't think of NYC. I got Bob Dylan's "Bringing It All Back Home" playing in the kitchen. I remember when my first wife Deborah and I rode the Shovel to Jones Beach in '85, there was a black gangsta-type carrying a giant boombox across the sand with "Subterranean Homesick Blues" blasting. Rap in its infancy---wonder if Dylan's influence has ever been considered?
Three weeks ago I removed Animal Mother's (my '69 Sportster XLCH) springer fork and sold it on eBay for $500. Not bad, especially since it was bent after we got hit by a deer last summer. Animal Mother kept chugging. We didn't go down, nor did we go off the nearby cliff, and I had to pick deer hair out of her front caliper. One of the rails was tweaked, but it didn't affect the handling, although the bars were cocked to the left and the tire wore on the left side. I tried to bash the rail back with a sledgehammer, but it didn't help. I resolved to ride her 'til the tire went bad, at least the left side.
So now I'm waiting on a bearing cup conversion kit (it allows late model forks with a 1 inch stem to bolt up to an Ironhead frame) for that gorgeous late model 39mm XL fork, my Frisco-style gas tank, solid mount riser kit, paint, etc, and I'll be riding in time for spring. Hopefully. Hah! This is the longest stretch I've gone without riding Animal Mother since I got her. I distract myself by collecting XLCH artifacts on eBay. I got a cool unused chrome handlebar clamp enrgaved with the sacred characters, "XLCH." I recall seeing them for sale in the '70s, along with clamps with "FX," "FXE," and "FLH" on 'em. Can't remember who made 'em. Yesterday I received a raggedy-assed denim jacket that I won for $15. It had an ancient Harley "XLCH" patch on it and had a #1 H-D logo patch. This is the second XLCH patch I've scored off eBay. I've seen 'em go for 30 bucks. I've missed a couple of belt buckles, presumably like the one that Genghis used to have (Scott had a buckle with "XLCH" on it), but they'll turn up again.
I truly enjoyed Scott's "New Year's Message 2013: The Mouth of the Alley" (Click here). I find Scott's days with his Sportster "Sally" and the trippy NYC bike scene endlessly fascinating. I think things were a lot more interesting in the old days. I remember this chick, Barbara Sodickson, who used to drop by the IH offices (circa issue #80) and she had a lot of cool pics of her dad, who was a member of the Aliens MC. I want to convert that shot of Genghis and Sally into a poster, and hang it in Animal Mother's corner, along with my EZ Rider and "Crossing The Ohio River " (the Danny Lyon photo) posters and the cover of Iron Horse #146.
I like way Scott had Sally set up---no front fender, chopper headlight, drag bars, Frisco mount tank (I am surprised that he chromed her swingarm---as I recall, Genghis came out against them in one of his IH columns). I'm going the same route with Animal Mother. I kept the Bates-style headlight from the springer. She'll use the the old Flanders drag bars that were on my Shovel/FXWG/Poject FU Chop (the chrome "XLCH" clamp is too pretty to put on a greasy bike!). I originally bought her kick lever at Deals in Wheels in Rahway, New Jersey. It was an original black XLCH kick lever and it also ran on the Shovel/FXWG/ FU Chop (replacing the generic chrome lever). The tank is from Factory Metal Works (via eBay, of course) and is the only true Frisco tank I've found---it correctly has the cap and petcock relocated. People don't realize how cluttered the right side of a real CH is. You got the carb, tank, magneto, petcock and fuel line all crammed together. Frisco-style tank mounting really helps spread things out a little.
I think the original FX Super Glide, aside from being recognized as the first "factory custom" or "factory chopper," should more accurately be seen as the first "factory Frisco-style" Big Twin. There was no precedent for for mid-range controls on a Big Twin. That was only found among the Frisco-style chops of the '60s Bay area. Outlaw riders were making Big Twins as Sportster-like as possible. Not just with skinny forks and small gas tanks, but with the seating configuration as well. I wish I'd realized this when I wrote "Celebration of the Super Glide" in IH.
So I guess I've become a bit obsessed with the heritage and history of Ironhead Sportsters, especially the mag-powered CHs. Last August, I sent a book proposal to Motorbooks International for a book about Harley setting the absolute land speed record for motorcycles at Bonneville in 1970. It stuns me that there is no definitive treatment of Harley's achievement. It was the last time the record was set with a single engine and the record still stands for its class (265.492 mph). It's an incredible story and nobody knows anything about it. It's barely mentioned in the Harley histories. Motorbooks International takes 8 months to respond to proposals, so I've got a month or two before I get the rejection letter. This is another object of my eBay safaris---I collect original Harley patches and stickers of "The World's Fastest Motorcycle" along with contemporary magazine accounts.
My goal's always been to get Animal Mother as close to the original XLCH ideal as possible. I spend most of my online time in the Ironhead section of the XL Forum site. Recently, someone posted a 1957 notorcycle magazine article that detailed the modifications a Sporty rider had made to his machine, that Harley borrowed for the introduction of the CH in 1958. Magneto ignition, bobbed rear fender, no front fender, staggered dual drag pipes, minimal lighting, sidemount rear taillight, etc. I'll have all of that, plus orange metalflake paint, black racing stripe and #1 decals on the tank. I'm sure I'll lose my license. I ride down here like I'm still splitting lanes in Brooklyn. I'd acclimated to that long chopper fork, but with a short front end with a modern disc brake, I'l carve traffic like an axe murderer. I plan to have Animal Mother's magneto tattooed Popeye-style on my inner left bicep under the legend: "Thunder, Perfect Mind" (from the Gnostic gospels), and across my fingers: "69HD" (right hand) and "XLCH" (left hand).
In the meantime, I'll be on eBay safari for a genuine '58-'69 XLCH frame and swap everything over next year. Then I will be complete.