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GOING THE DISTANCE
"THE CASE FOR LIMEYS"
Photo by Genghis
It's been 12 years since the real Iron Horse went down, three years since Snow tried to revive the old nag, and two years since he went AWOL from the dying animal. Yet, I still find myself fascinated with David as a person. On a personal level, I considered David a friend, one of a select few that litters the landscape of my past. On a cerebral level, I find Snow fascinating, because Snow is one of those geniuses that spellbinds people by the sheer charisma that he exudes. David is curious combination of self-deprecation and true genius.
He, and he alone---along with his IH---resurrected the Harley-Davidson inspired chopper aesthetic whose upward trajectory culminated in a burning-hot zenith for years, before choppers came crashing back down to Earth again, falling like a stone that approximated the loss of interest from yuppie biker lites. What interest in motorcycles they lost, was lavished on their golf games and antique collecting.
It is also for personal reasons that I found Snow's turning away from Harley-Davidsons fascinating---yet repugnant---as it unfolded even before the defunctification of Iron Horse in 1997. A love for Harleys that was once white-hot in Snow when I first met him in 1989, ended in embers of disappointment and disillusionment. Frankly, it hurt to see it happening right before my eyes. I felt strongly then, as I do now, that Harleys have always been the mainstay of the biker subculture. I've always thought of Harley-Davidsons as the spine that bore the weight of the body of the culture since the 1930s. As such, the Harley-Davidson motorcycle to my way of thinking represents an irreplaceable icon without which the biker subculture wouldn't have existed, much less flourished in the last century. It is for this reason, that I found Snow's eventual hatred for all things Harley, beginning with the FU Chop, truly ugly. But hey, at least the FU was a Harley clone. Snow's later disgust that extended even to clones, is difficult to digest unless you know the specifics of the evolutionary process that Snow went through after he moved back to Little Rock---more on this later. This is still of interest to old Iron Horse readers, as IH and Snow are still revered by the readers as the shining moment for biker subculture related publications. Snow's following has substantial breadth and depth. Iron Horse readers enjoy knowing what made Snow tick.
When Snow rescusitated Iron Horse for a brief tenure in 2006, Snow made his preferences clear. Here's what he had to say regarding this in the June 2006 Iron Horse:
"......After the FU went down, I realized that I wasn't really into EVOs anymore, much less H-Ds. Everybody builds H-D choppers, it's their default position....but the BSA haunted me, dare I say it---it excited me.....It's the allure of the forbidden fruit, the temptation of that secret passion that will not be denied....Repressed, perhaps, even entombed within the depths of the psyche---but never ignored, only deferred....As a result, its indulgence is perceived by society as a repugnant, messy, and disgusting affair, indicative of a lack of self-control and discipline. Yet, it is so easy to simply give in, to succumb, to finally embrace one's true nature and actually revel in the consequences of ostracism and prejudice....Mainstream abhorrence only enhances its overwhelming, sometimes fatal attraction and the haunted and persecuted develop an uncanny ability to unerringly, recognize a fellow disgusting pervert, er, sufferer....There is hopefully found some measure of solace and consolation in another's company and dare it be said---unholy comfort? It is the love that dare not speak its name and the pervs can only gather together and whisper among themselves, 'Triumph...Norton...BSA.....' "
Being an opinionated biker, it is difficult for me to see another view as valid. Believing as I do in the rightousness of the Harley-Davidson, and its pivotal role in the very existence of the biker subculture, it is even harder to see what people see in Limeys. It is undeniable though, that there is great passion about Britbikes. That much is evident in Snow's words. Allow me though, to analyze my old friend with regard to his gradual u-turn from Harleys, crossing its apex at Harley clones, to the 180 degree position away from Harley-Davidsons.
Snow's first shunning of Harleys was both insidious and mind-numbingly gradual. It was like torturously watching a slow drying enamel paint dry. I will say that the motivating factor was philosophical. He believed that his beloved "Rebelene," his Harley Wide Glide, was emblematic of compromise---too much compromise for his Editor's Brain which at that time, was developing a hatred for the factory. The Firm to Snow, was a robber baron who feasted on the talents and ideas of backyard customizers. He postulated that this trend began when Willie G. Davidson introduced the 1971 Super Glide, with its stripped down attitude, as a copy of what average street bikers were doing to their full-dressers---taking all of the excess equipment off of their garbage wagons. To Snow, the introduction of the Softail with its false rigid looks, was the straw that broke the camel's back in terms of The Firm's coopting their customers' customizing ideas.
The Harley-Davidson Motor Company, became a symbolic Public Enemy Number One in Snow's estimation. That's how the eventual slide into the Harley-less FU Chop began. At first, he debated whether to use Rebelene's EVO motor in the FU, discarding that option when he realized that he had to sell Rebelene as whole entity for the bread. That's how he came to the decision to have Andrew Rosa build him an S & S motor for the FU Chop.
You might ask, was he happy with the FU after it was finished? I would say yes, resoundingly. How did he then turn away from the FU to a total embrace of Britbikes? The answer lies in what happened after Snow moved back to Arkansas. One day as he was trying to pass a semi, the truck forced him into a violent evasive maneuver onto the curb, which led to Snow and the FU being thrown into a muddy ditch. The FU was trashed, but luckily Snow escaped serious injury. Snow apparently was not into the total rebuild of a bike that he slaved over for years to complete. It was in his mind, not an attractive proposition. This is why I believe, Snow turned to Britbikes as a viable alternative to Harleys. I feel that he could not face rebuilding the same machine all over again.
Unfortunately, that's where the story ends, unless I missed an installment where his BSA project bike reached fruition. The last I saw in Iron Horse before Snow split the scene, witnessed Snow back on a Honda 550. That's quite a steep fall from his Harley FXWG, Rebelene. Here's where it gets tricky for me. It's almost impossible for me to relate to his position about his Limey chop, when I don't even know if it was finished, or if he even still has that bike. The most recent vision of Snow was on his Honda 550. Talk about being left in limbo. I could've lived with his being happy and finally at peace with his stated eventual desitination---what he called his "....secret passion that will not be denied....", a finished Limey chop. It would be great if David was happy in his motorcycling world. However, that is not known since Snow has disappeared from public life and is not replying to old friends in any way, shape or form. Go figure. I will say this, though. I believe that if Snow still had the best bike of his entire life, his Harley-Davidson FX Wide Glide---a bike that served him faithfully for years without major trouble or complaint---that he would still be a happy biker this very day. I'm convinced of it. Man, that was a good bike. Unfortunately, Rebelene now belongs to another, and is making that biker a happy clam. Later