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GOING THE DISTANCE
PHOTO BY GENGHIS
SNOW IN NYC.
MIKE ZAPP AT THE SEEDY X-BAR:
"Since at this time, there isn't a bike rag worth picking up, buying, and reading anymore, I'm now buying OLD back issues of Easyriders and iron horse off E-gay to read. I have several of the Dave Snow issues, but I need to fill the holes in my collection. What issue number did he become editor? Also what issue # were you and Mabel featured for the first time? Thanx."
I'm not certain when Snow took over the reins of Iron Horse. I know it was in sometime in the late 1980s. I can tell Mike that Mabel was first featured in IH #100, an issue that represented a milestone in the biker rag industry. Check out Snow's editorial from Issue #100. Keep in mind that Snow wrote under many pseudonyms in those days, to create the impression that IH had numerous staff writers. Among these pseudonyms were Max Wedge, Oral Hedd, Phlegm Jim, Reginald Q. Bathysphere III---and many other colorful secret identities. For Issue #100's editorial, Snow disguised himself as "Grub." Read what Snow had to say in this editorial:
"It was nearly thirteen years ago. In the fall of 1978 there were hints in the pages of the Paisano publications Easyriders that something new was on the horizon. That something was a new magazine intended as a sister magazine to Easyriders that was geared towards the bikers who rode makes of custom bikes other than Harley-Davidsons. Iron Horse debuted that winter featuring an interesting mixture of customized Hondas and Kawasakis as well as the European marques like BMW, Triumph, BSA, Norton, along with beautifully restored antiques from motorcycling's rich past.....Iron Horse stayed on the west coast for over five years until the spring of 1984 when the magazine was sold by Paisano to its present owner who relocated the offices to New York City. With the demise of Jap custom bikes in the early '80s, Iron Horse had come to be treated more as a poor relation to Easyriders rather than a sister publication.....Things changed under the new owners. Harleys became the focus of Iron Horse instead of Jap bikes.....With a large portion of U.S. motorcycle registrations concentrated in the northeast, Iron Horse came to specialize in covering the unique brand of biking found in that region of the country. Thus, Iron Horse developed a harder edged tone than the west coast based biker rags. Iron Horse features custom cycles that have to be tougher than the inner city streets they inhabit, bikes that get ridden and abused everyday under the most grueling riding conditions imaginable. It goes without saying that the bikers who ride these sleds are a hardy, tough breed.....Some people like to sit around and scope out Ness bikes and other flashy, pretty machines put together by big money boys.....That's cool---there's got to be an audience for it.....But those sleds wouldn't last fifteen minutes on the streets of New York City....."
Iron Horse was less politically correct than the bland mainstream lifestyle rags you find on the newstands today. A regular IH feature for example, was the Jap Junk Of The Month. These were monthly installments showing the dilapidated carcasses of Japanese motorcycles, mechanical corpses left rotting on the means streets of New York City--left to die and be ignominously stripped by kids and pissed on by uncaring dogs. A major point of these literate exercises was that the former owners of these abandoned bikes
were uncaring dogs themselves, so little did they value their motorcycles. Contrasting these abandoned bikes, were the Harleys owned by Iron Horse readers which were cherished and worshipped by these true members of the biker subculture. IH readers may have flogged their 74s on the pothole blighted highways and byways of cities like NYC, but these Harley hardcores loved their bikes as the very centers of their Universe. They valued their bikes beyond their monetary worth.
They were bikers whose bikes were often left out in the harsh elements to fend for themselves instead of nice, warm garages---but these bikes were taken care of and never discarded like yesterday's garbage. These hardcore bikers were prepared to go the distance with their Harleys, in spite of the severe riding conditions of the inner cities. Like my Harley 74, Mabel.
This was a valid and stunning point made by Snow, a point that he reiterated throughout each and every hardhitting issue of Iron Horse.
It's been nearly twenty years since Mabel was featured in Iron Horse #100. Nothing much has changed with me. I still ride the mean streets of New York City, and I still live on the Lower Beast Side of NYC.
Mabel is still parked outside, weathering harsh winters with a toughness and durability that only a Harley can exhibit.
Mabel however, is better than ever. Since Snow featured her in #100, her 74 inch Shovelhead metamorphosed into a Rosabilt Stroker, courtesy of my good friend Andrew Rosa of Rosa's Cyles in Huntington, New York. Longtime IH readers know that Andrew is a legendary motor builder and ace wrench. Andrew is a no-bullcrap kinda biker, a guy who has true disdain for celeb master builders. Andrew said to me one time...."Can you imagine me spending a week making a custom fender for a customer, for his stupid bike with flashy paint and fat rear tire....?" It is absurd when ya think about it.
Mabel as you can see from the photo, has changed incrementally with powdercoated parts since #100. She also runs better than ever since going to electronic ignition. She starts with a wallop, and runs with a hotter spark that prevents plug fouling while white-lining in NYC bumper-to-bumper traffic. Man, Mabel rulz.
Snow's Iron Horse represented an ideal within the biker subculture, an ideal that has been diluted in the biker magazines that are sold today. While this hardcore ideal had been watered down in the politically correct environment fostered by today's biker rag industry, you can be sure that this ideal is lived and ridden everyday in cities like New York City, and on bikes like my 74---and celebrated on websites like Going The Distance and The Seedy X-Bar. Later.