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GOING THE DISTANCE
"THE BIG TWIN MAGNET"
PHOTO BY GENGHIS
#333 AT THE SEEDY X-BAR:
"But!! The Big Twin always gnawed. I do have to agree with Genghis with this: I wanted to move up to a Harley. I loved the Triumphs, but wanted an H-D, even though I was sometimes in denial about it. Sold the '78 in '81 and got an XLCH. Happy for awhile, but again, in somewhat of a state of denial. I wanted a 74/80. I finally just admitted it....."
#333 AKA HALFWAY-TO-HELL
This was a typical mindset thirty years ago in the biker subculture. I had a similar experience in the same era. Call it peer pressure of the times, call it what you will---and many of those times did call it exactly that. There was a distinct if unwritten peer pressure to "move up" to a Harley big twin in those days. As a subcultural phenomenon, bikers bred their own rules and regulations, spread by word of mouth and enforced by peer approval and disapproval---depending on which side you landed on at the time. You either rode the best, a Harley big twin---or you rode "something else." That something else might've been Limey, or a Sportster. Whatever that something else was, it didn't measure up to the legend and reality of the standard bearer of the culture: the Harley 74.
As a young biker, I fully admit that I was not immune to the standards set by my seniors in the field. In the circle of older hardcores that I hung with, the Harley 74 ws the gold standard. The Harley big twin was what every young biker aspired to ride....eventually. The siren call of the "74" was loud, persistent and seductive. Like a beautiful woman, she called to us to drop whatever Plain Janes we we were straddling, to finally mount the Ultimate Motorcycle---the Harley big twin.
By the mid 1970s, I was beginning to feel the magnetism of the Harley 74. It gnawed at my mind like a subliminal message of the Biker Subculture Gods, emitting radio-like waves to my brain.....
"Get a big twin..."
"Get a big twin..."
"Get a big twin..."
My personal financial times were tough then--how often have you older bikers from that era heard this refrain...."I can't afford a 74 right now....the (insert "Beezer", "Trumpet" or "Sporty" here)...will have to do for now..." That's what I said and how I felt. In the early 1980s, I attended a bike show at the old New York Coliseum, where I sat down on a Harley Low Rider. It was like a religious experience, so powerful was the feeling of rightness that I felt as I sat with that shovelhead between my legs. It was a feeling of....destiny. A destiny that would be fulfilled. I immediately vowed to start saving bread for a righteous used shovel, no matter what my monetary circumstances were. I would save my pennies and dimes until I finally had enough to get my 74. That day arrive in 1985 when I had accrued four grand, which I used to buy Mabel. The rest as they say, is history. I've never looked back.
Most of you will remember what I did with my '68 Sportster, "Sally The Bitch." I gave her to my father-in-law, Chick Cicchinelli, who sold the bike to a Los Angeles bike shop. Sally wended her way to a British biker in London named Dave. This was all documented in Iron Horse. Do I sometimes miss Sally? Not really. Did I ever miss her? Perhaps as merely an interesting artifact because I did mildly customize her with a fiberglass molded frame, and a professional looking rattle-can candy apple red paintjob. However, I did not miss her as an object to be loved and ridden, because I now had my Ultimate Motorcycle---my Harley 74.
The Harley 74 enjoyed an iconic status in the biker subculture since the introduction of the knucklehead in 1938. The question is, does the big twin still occupy that hallowed space in today's popular biker culture of aftermarket motors and non-OEM frames? I say yes. I submit to you, there there is a culture within a culture at work here. The larger framework is the biker subculture that has been historically significant for eighty years. This is huge monolith within which there are trends, a popular subculture of passing interest, if you will. We've all seen these insignificant trends come and go. An example were the knee high Bay area Ness bikes of the early 70s that resembled tricycles. These trends come and go in the temporary popular culture within our subculture. A hundred years from now, bikers will still know what a knucklehead, panhead or shovelhead is--because those bikes will still exist and run. These big twins last forever. Nobody a hundred years from now, will know what a "Big Dog" is. Later.