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GOING THE DISTANCE
"NEW YEAR'S MESSAGE 2010"
PHOTO BY GENGHIS
NEW YEAR'S EVE 2009
Another page is about to be turned in the Book of Bikers. The Book of Bikers is a special tome that encompasses the matrix of all who belong to the biker subculture. As we get ready to welcome in 2010, it behooves us to remember that while each of us is unique, that there is really nothing new under the sun that hasn't been experienced by bikers of the past. As proof of that, meet one of our spiritual forebears in the biker subculture, Joey.
NEW YEAR'S DAY 1938
Joey is 22 years old. He is actually Joseph Jr. and he is the son of Joseph, who owns a men's clothing store---"Joseph's"---in Queens, New York. The store offered nothing fancy. The usual wares were jeans, jackets, engineer boots, and work clothing. Joe Sr. was lucky that his store survived the depression which was beginning to subside. Joey was smitten by motorcycles. He has been saving up money from working in the store to buy a Harley-Davidson. The bike he really wanted was a new EL model, which boasted a 61 cubic inch motor with 40 horsepower. This revolutionary motor with overhead valves replaced the old flathead design, and was all the rage. Riders on the street started to call the EL the "knucklehead" because of the shape of it's distinctive valve covers.
Joey's dad couldn't understand his son's fascination with these two wheelers, and wished that his son coveted something sensible like his own Buick Special. Oh well, kids these days, he thought. Fortunately for Joey, Frankie down the block---who owned a '36 EL that he bought new---lost his job as a byproduct of the depression, and Frankie had to sell the bike.
Joey was able to buy the motorcycle which was in primo condition, for a prinecly sum of $235. Joey had his dream bike. The family store was prospering. Life was good.
NEW YEAR'S DAY 1948
Joey's 32 years old now. He still works in his father's store, and the mutual understanding is that Joey will inherit the family business. Joey got married to Mary, and they have two kids, Johnny and Katy. Joey still has his cherished EL, but he made a few changes. He's removed the front fender and cut short the rear fender. Bikers started fashioning their bikes after the flattrack racers of the day. These "bobjobs" had real flair and Joey was proud of his bike. The motorcycling world was abuzz however, with the about to be introduced new FL with it's valve covers that resemble kitchen pans.
Even before this new FL hits the streets, Joey and his friends are starting to refer to the bike as the "panhead." Joey likes it, but he thinks he'll stick with his EL.
NEW YEAR'S DAY 1958
Joey's 42 years old now, and his kids are young adults. He and Mary still ride his Harley EL, but they've put a down payment on a new Harley-Davidson Duo Glide, which they'll take delivery of in a few weeks. After Harley-Davidson introduced the telescopic fork in 1949 with the Hydra Glide, Joey began to think about trading in his EL. The new technology was starting to intrigue him. Now, with the Duo Glide coming out with its revolutionary rear suspension, the time seemed right for Joey to make the jump. By 1958, Harley-Davidson had perfected the panhead motor. Joey would be switching from the knucklehead to the panhead, at the pinnacle of the panhead's technical development. Joey was excited! New motor, more horsepower and the best in chassis technology. Suspension front and rear, which made his old EL with rigid frame and outdated springer fork seem like a pogo stick by comparison, crowned the Duo Glide as the avant garde of the Biker World.
What more could a biker ask for?
NEW YEAR'S DAY 1968
Joey's 52 now. His children are now adults and are out of th nest. It's just Joey, Mary and their Harley, of course. Joey's ticked off. Harley-Davidson has retired the venerable panhead and replaced it with a new design in 1966. Joey didn't like the new motor, which bikers have nicknamed the "shovelhead." In fact, Joey---as well as many of his contemporary biker friends---feel that Harley-Davidson made the last true Harley when the last panhead rolled off the assembly line in 1965. This new motor wasn't as righteous, as far as Joey was concerned. He told Mary on many occasions...."I'll never get rid of our panhead. She's the best! Shovel this, okay?"
By this time, he's modified his pan. Up front, he replaced the 16 inch wheel with a 21 incher. A Sportster gas tank sat in place of the fatbobs. Drag bars topped off the glide risers. The bike was righetous.
NEW YEAR'S DAY 1978
Joey's 62 now. He stood by his word and stuck with his Harley FL, which he plans to go the distance with. To Joey, this is the best possible Harley that any biker could wish for. He's taken care of his twenty year old girl, and she's rewarded him by running like a top. The only thing that bothers him about his bike is, his knees are slightly arthritic, and it's sometimes a painful chore now when he kicks her over---there are good days and bad days. He still manages though.
NEW YEAR'S DAY 1988
Joey's 72 now, but he still rides. Not only that, he still rides his panhead which he's indeed going the distance with. It's ironic, but Joey often thinks to himself that it's actually easier to ride his pan than to walk up stairs, what with his knee pain. Joey's only regret is that his kids have no interest in motorcycles. Oh well, he thinks---it's their loss. Joey still owns and runs Joseph's clothing store in Queens.
NEW YEAR'S DAY 1999
Joey's 82 years old now, and still has his FL. Joey closed his store recently, and is now retired. He doesn't ride as much as he used to, but at least he still has his bike and rides her when he feels up to it.
He laments that many of the bikers he's hung with over the years, have given up their bikes, even at relatively young ages. Joey thinks that they couldn't have been very dedicated. Only true bikers stay in the subculture, going the distance so to speak. He thinks about this phenomenon with pride, but also sadness. He's lost many friends in the life by attrition caused by death, poor health or inexplicably to him---just plain loss of interest in motorcycles. Too bad, he thinks.
NEW YEAR'S DAY 2009
Joey's 92, and his panhead still sits parked outside. Fortunately, both he and his wife have enjoyed good health in their old age. However, their Harley is the best shape of all three of them. She looks and runs like a new bike. Amazing, and a true testament to what a true biker's all about---cherishing and loving that bike to the point where's she's maintained like new, no matter how much time passes.
Joey's witnessed the passing of the shovelhead, and the ascension of its ubiquitous EVO generations, but he's not impressed. He still feels that all that came after the panhead have no real character.
NEW YEAR'S DAY 2010
For Joey, his wife and his Harley-Davidson, the history of this day is yet to be written.
In case you haven't figured it out, "Joey" is a fictitious character, but he does exist. How so, you ask? Joey is you, me and every other biker who's ever straddled a bike for the past century. We are different, yet the same. There is common thread that runs through all of our lives, and that golden thread is our motorcycles, and the life that's built around those bikes. This is known as the Biker Subculture. Ride on brothers and sisters, and Happy New Year! Later.