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GOING THE DISTANCE
ANDREW ROSA ON HIS SHOVELHEAD DRAGSTER:
9.22 SECONDS AT 140 MPH!
"My stroked 77 shovel started making more noise than usual. It sounded like the push rods. I set about with the routine of checking and adjusting each of them. The front exhaust didn't feel right as I checked it. I called Andrew's shop first thing saturday morning and whatta you know? The man himself picks up the phone and speaking in his quiet and confident tone says "Rosa's Cycles". I haven't called there in a coupla years and he immediately remembers me and my brother. I tell him my problem and he puts me at ease. I couldn't believe that it's been 10 years since he rebuilt my mill and 15 years on the tranny! I put her back together and shes runnin fine. I told him that I still get comments on the Rosabilt points cover, he chuckled a bit. He really seems humble. I wish his shop was closer. If it wasnt for IH I would never have met Andrew a true master builder. Rosa Rules baby!"
"SHOVELIN IT" AT THE SEEDY X-BAR
I find the very idea of celebrity in the biker subculture stupid. To my mind as an average street biker, bikers' worship of so-called "master builders" is the antithesis of what a true biker should be: Someone who is a steel-minded individualist and strong-ego'ed iconoclast. As bikers we don't need no stinkin' icons to kiss the feet of, man! The image of bikers as autograph seeking groupies, is as repugnant as the day is long when yer broke down on the Brazos. Gov't Mule would agree with that. Dogmatic we ain't, man.
Yet, if there is one man who deserves all the praise we can heap on his humble head like a ton of stroked shovelhead motors, it is ace mechanic and master motor builder, Andrew Rosa. Andrew has for years now, been the genius behind Rosa's Cycles in Huntington, New York. As Shovelin It said, he met Andrew through Snow's IH, and Andrew was one of the True Guiding Lights during the SnowHorse era to many, including yours truly.
Long-time Iron Horse readers know of Andrew's legendary motor building skills. His motors bear the vaunted "Rosabilt" label, a label that carries with it the heavy weight of reputation, that is known far and wide, for Harley motors imbued with strength of build and integrity of performance. Rosabilt motors are built to a dazzling degree of specification, that make 'em true servants for a lifetime. In other words, they're built to go the distance.
This is a testament to Andrew's dedication to substance, not show, in his philosophy in motorcycle building---which provides a key contrast between Andrew and the TV Bike Builder Evangelists, who would rather shift audiences attention to the flimsy flashiness, that they practice and preach. From their raked, stretched and gaudily painted pulpits, they spit fire, fat rear tires and brimstone, leaving their rapt congregations breathless and wanting..."More...more...more," but it is an empty experience.
Andrew deserves the applause that "master builders" get on television. These celeb bike builders who I think act more like master baiters to gullible TV watching groupies.
Yet, Andrew has shunned the very spotlight that has shone on many an adept opportunist in the biker subculture.
The Klieg lights of TV fame, have avoided Andrew Rosa like Obama avoids common sense and adhering to reality---unlike biker celebs who've starred on television shows for their own self-aggrandizement and profit.
Andrew has not gone this route for publicity, because he has integrity and deep-set principles that he would never breach for the almighty dollar. Andrew's untarnished rep has grown primarily through word of mouth from super-impressed and satisfied customers who have experienced his mechanical wizardry firsthand.
Andrew and I recently discussed the self-back-patting "masters" that have TV shows. Andrew derisively said, "Can you imagine me spending days fabricating a fender for a customer? What bullshit...." That's Andrew in a bored and stroked nutshell: Direct, honest and no bullshit.
I first met Andrew 25 years ago when he ran the service department at New York Harley-Davidson in Queens, New York. He helped me accrue all the small bits and pieces that comprised a Softail wide glide front end. My Ideal Front End was a short wide glide fork, reminiscent of the forks that graced the simple and stripped Harley 74s of the '50s and '60s. The short wide glide fork to me, exemplifies ultimate strength and simple aesthetics, a style that is timeless and symbolic of hardcore 74s before the deluge of flash and flimsiness. Coupled with a sleek 21, it could star in a David Mann painting, leading the charge of a jailbreak. I would have my Dream Fork, but it would take years to obtain.
I employed this piecemeal approach to acquirng all the parts for the fork because I was poor then. This was a process that took three years to complete. I just couldn't afford to buy many parts at one time.
I'd nickel and dime my way through it, buying a few parts here, and a few parts there until we had what we needed for the Compleat Ideal Front End. The only parts of Mabel's (my Rosabilt Stroker Shovelhead) wide glide front end that aren't Harley-Davidson, are the 4 inch under tubes made by Forking By Frank. Andrew guided me toward the fork that I love so much---a wide glide fork that in its length, is short like the stripped Electra Glide forks of the sixties.
Can ya picture Lee Marvin guiding it to Hollister steered by buck horn bars, Chino's cutoff leather jacket and striped polo shirt flappin' in the vintage California wind?
I can, every time I take a ride on Mabel. Lookin' down at the front wheel spinning gyroscopically on the blacktop, I see that wide glide that reeks of class and righteousness, just like it did back in the day. It is absolutely hypnotic.
Some icons never die. Righteous Harleys never stop giving pleasure, baby---write that down.
It was following the completion of Mabel's fork while Andrew still worked at New York Harley, that he converted Mabel from a kick-only bike, to kick and electric start.
I can say unequivocally, that electric start has been one of the best modifications ever done on my bike. It has added so much pleasure to my riding experience, that belies the ludicrous rep that electric start has suffered from the spittle-spewing mouths of self-proclaimed "hardcore bikers." Say it. don't spray it---and while yer at it, wipe yer chins. In some quarters of the biker subculture, thinking for yourself, is unacceptable behavior. Any ideas that run against the grain, are like Picard resisting the Borg. Resistance, is not futile.
As individualistic bikers with strong egos, we don't give a worthless rodent's pucker, what others think. We know what's too cool for school, baby!
The "me-tooism" tendencies of some in the culture, reveal how shallow these chronic followers are. True bikers make up their own minds, they don't allow others to do it for them. Thinking by proxy is for losers.
Some are born to lead and some are born to follow. Every biker worth his 60 weight should be a leader---leading himself, that is. Sock monkeys need not apply.
Say what you will about The Firm's introduction of the 1971 Super Glide (which is what Mabel is), as it was touted as a factory stripped down bike---but here's where I believe The Firm missed the boat on the original Super Glide's design.
I believe that Harley-Davidson made two fundamental mistakes with the Super Glide's equipment: The omission of electric start and disc brakes, both of which were already in service in 1960s era Electra Glides. Why slap an ineffectual Sportster narrow glide on the Super Glide equipped with its infamously poorly performing drum brake? Can you imagine a contemporary 2010 manufacturer choosing a front drum brake for a new top line model, with an already available disc brake in the parts bin?
This made zero sense to me, as it hobbled the abilities of the Super Glide compared to her full-dresser sister. I obviously feel that I've restored these capabiilties to my Super Glide, first with the wide glide fork with its disc brake, and then with the electric start. Better is better, baby! I would've just stripped all the crap off of the FLH fork, and slapped a 21 incher on the first Super Glide. Think what a hit that would've been.
In the early '90s, Andrew left New York Harley to start his own shop. It was in the transition period before he got his own space for the shop, that Andrew built Mabel's 86 inch stroker motor. Andrew suggested that a relatively subdued displacement for reliability and longevity was the way to go, and I agreed.
The work was done in Kenny Baron's Long Island garage, and man---that garage was jumping even before Andrew's shop proper was opened. Andrew's reputation as one of Big Jim McCauley's disciples, preceded him. Big Jim McCauley was a legendary mechanic and motor builder from Connecticut, who was Andrew's mentor. In this transition period when I finally got the cash to buy the S & S stroker parts, Kenny Baron had left New York Harley with Andrew. Kenny is Andrew's right-hand man. When I visited Kenny's home garage on Long Island---which was a typical suburban garage space---the garage was just wall-to-wall Harleys waiting to be worked on. Can you imagine Andrew's following based on reputation alone to spark this type of response?
The day when the motor was finished, will be etched into my memory forever. Patty and I arrived by Long Island Railroad at Kenny's place, as Andrew, Kenny and some others were gathered around Mabel. Kenny said, "I think Scott's gonna like this..." Andrew hit Mabel's starter, and "Wuh...wuh..wuh...RRRROOOOOOmmmmmmmmm....ROARRRRRRRR! Man, I'll never forget how different Mabel sounded at that moment, compared to when she was a 74. Her sound became a "baritone bellow" with that characteristic stroker crackle when backing off the throttle. Andrew said, "Warm her up with a fast idle..." as Mabel's mightier exhaust bellowed her strong song. Andrew said, "Take her out with Patty. let me know what you think." What I thought was this. The biggest difference that Patty and I noticed (besides Mabel's more muscular sounding exhaust note) was the incredible increase in torque and instant acceleration in every gear. It just seemed compared to Mabel's 74 inch days, that the 86 inch stoker mill makes Mabel leap forward with breathtaking immediacy.
After our wreck in '94, Andrew resurrected Mabel through extensive repairs. He also rebuilt Mabel's classic 4-speed tranny.
His recent magic was changing Mabel over to the Vulcan (Nempco) electronic ignition, which has made her an even better Harley. It was no exaggeration when I referred to Andrew Rosa as a true Guiding Light to us in Iron Horse magazine. On technical matters, Andrew was a masterful source in IH nobody could match. As an influence in terms of forming the personality of the types of mills that powered IH writers' bikes, he was The One.
Look at the facts: Andrew built motors for four of us at the Horse. Snow's Wide Glide's Evo in Rebelene (his Wide Glide), the S & S Motor that powered the F.U Chop, Flynch's Devil Doll Sportster motor, Seate's Super Glide mill and of course, Mabel's stroker shovelhead motor. There is nobody in the biker subculture who I admire more, with good reason. Later. Give Andrew a call at his shop if you need work done right:
540 New York Avenue
Huntington, NY 11743
Phone: 631-424-4955, 631-424-1235