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GOING THE DISTANCE
"KILLJOY KILL SWITCH"
by DAVID SNOW
Photo by David Snow
SHUT 'ER OFF: Pain in the ass button.
I'm sittin' on the deck, surrounded by pitbulls with Animal Mother beside me. Just rode her for the second time with her new fork, and I'm kinda glad I did a year and a half with that dufus D & D/Jammer/Paughco narrow springer on her. It makes me truly appreciate what Animal Mother's capable of when not handicapped by a six inch chrome pegleg. It's stunning what a 44 year old Iron head can do. She's ticking and dripping and cooling beside me, and I think she forgives me for riding her for so long, hobbled like that.
It brings to mind what Indian Larry once told me about setting up a rigid as a serious road bike: "Get the best handling front end you can." With this 39 mm fork on her primitive frame, Animal Mother feels totally different. I've already clobbered Evo riders and crotch rocketeers in traffic. I love to blow by 'em, splitting lanes right next to their handlebars while they're sittin' in bumper to bumper traffic. Now I'm a Compleat Headhunter (weird! I once drew an IH "Bizarre Biker" 'toon titled, exactly that---"Headhunter," and he was on an XLCH!). I'll collect their scalps and all they'll see is my "antique" plate and gasp vapors of 60 weight!
Do you know what required the most time and effort with this fork swap? It was putting the friggin' kill button on my Flanders drag bars (I chopped 1 1/2 inches off of each side to narrow 'em down a bit)! It was the most convoluted, ridiculous Rube Goldberg rigamarole imagineable! The switch consists of a small metal housing with button, spring and washer, sitting atop an insulator block, held in place by two pot metal straps, secured by a screw fastened to what looked like a threaded throttle cable ball. It had to be assembled just so, or the button wouldn't depress in the housing due to interference from the strappy shit. I just now got it on, and it gave me an excuse to kick her over to test it.
I had been worried about Animal Mother lying dormant for the last four weeks, but after a couple of clutch adjustments and setting the tappets, she fired right up! In fact, without the extreme lean angle induced by a chopper front end on an unchopped frame, she was much easier to kick over, as she sat in her rightful, upright XLCH position. Man, I can't tell you how long I wished to once more grasp those righteous one inch Harley grips. The 7/8 inch bars on the springer seemed flimsy, as did the whole front end.
I've reported this before, but no other bike I've ever ridden encourages aggressive riding like Animal Mother. I suppose this is a characteristic of Ironheads, but that willingness, no, that insistence to to rev, is irresistable. My stroker Big Twins were mellow and relaxed and I've ridden new, fuel-injected XL 1200s, and Kawasaki Ninjas. Hell, I test rode a Ducati Hypermotard 50 miles a couple of years ago, but nothing seduces a walk or run on the Wild Side like Animal Mother. I guess that's what I'll tell the cops: "She made me do it!"
I really dug Genghis' account of riding his XLCH, "Sally" when he was on acid ("Memoir Part 2"). Scott's a an original, and I mean that in the biker sense of the term, like a dude's "original" back in the day. I consider anyone who rode a Harley before the end of the '60s, an "original." They participated in and helped form what became Biker Culture. Larry, my partner at the tat shop, got his first Harley in 1965 and built one of the first choppers in Texas. He built it in '68, and had to fabricate everything on it. Today he rides a cherry 1969 FLH, a true original too.
Scott should pay no attention to critics who try to fault him for being "repetitive" in his articles. What he is doing and what I'm doing when reciting reminiscences, is exchanging "tales of power." Every ride is new. We all achieve some kind of altered state on two wheels and we can attest that it is addictive, and that life would be unimagineable without it. When Scott recalled tripping on his Sportster, Sally, it prompted my recollection of a ride that radically altered my consciousness way beyond the usual Nirvana of two wheeling.
I was on my first bike, a Honda CB 360T. I'd been riding a year and a half and was cruising the backroads with a good friend. This was my high school buddy, Martin, who was pictured on his Evo Sporty in an "on the road" article, circa IH issue #116. On this day in November 1978, he was following me on his KZ 400 and we were looking for a herd of buffalo I'd seen in a pasture earlier that summer. We were in the twisties and with my head on a swivel looking for bison, I took a curve too fast and ran off the road. It was a pretty good spill. I can still recall the blur of grass and gravel right before it smashed into my faceshield. Once the earth was no longer blurred with the sky, I leaped out of the drainage ditch and started wrestling with my 360T as Martin rolled up. We got it onto the shoulder. The headlight was trashed and the forks were tweaked, but it was rideable.
As we removed our helmets, I stared at Martin and said:
"Hey man, I don't want to scare you but I don't know who the hell you are."
I didn't know who I was, didn't know where I was, didn't know what time of year it was, didn't know what year it was. The only thing I knew was that the Cowboys had beaten the Redskins 37-10. Martin was laughing his ass off. Then I had a revelation: "This is just like Don Juan! This is just like a separate reality! Don Juan was right! I'm awake for the first time! My life has been a dream until now. I've just woken up! It's all an illusion!" I continued babbling and Martin kept laughing. We'd been reading the Carlos Castaneda books and my concussion assumed mystical significance.
I still recall the clarity of that, sitting by our bikes on the side of the road, waving off good samaritans. After about an hour, after Martin had repeatedly introduced himself, I started to lose my grasp on the separate reality and returned to the mundane. Each moment no longer seemed unique, and I said, "You're Martin, right?" We took turns sttarightening the Honda's forks between our knees, and I rode it up and down the road a few times.
A couple of days later, we rode to the local indy shop and I bought a Bates chopper headlight for the 360T. The guy behind the counter assumed we were Harley riders and told us of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The Harley dealer in Memphis had burned down and a local businessman, a carpet wholesaler named Odus Pack, had bought the dealership's smoke-damaged Harleys and was selling them out of his warehouse. Big Twins were going for $2,000, Sportsters for $1,500, cash and carry at the time. A new FX went for $4,500. Martin and I hauled ass to Odus Pack's. Pickups were loaded with what looked like brand new Hogs and Sporties, long haired bikers whooping and pumping their fists from from their truck windows as they drove off. with their smoky Harleys. Unreal.
We rode up to a biker loading a chocolate-brown Super Glide into his pickup bed, rolling it between giant rolls of carpet. He said that Jones, the Little Rock Harley dealer was pissed! All we could do was stare and drool, a coupla broke assed bikers on Jap Junk. It was just like Don Juan. A gift of power, but we weren't ready for the leap into the Ultimate Reality of Harley-Davidson.