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GOING THE DISTANCE
"US AGAINST THE FIRM?"
Photo by Genghis
"......an excellent take on the scene. I would add that Class is a distilled essence of form and function. You know it in yer gut when ya see it. That's not to say that form follows function in some slavish manner. Plenty of real crap has been created using that mantra as an excuse for an overly simplistic ordering device. Form can follow function fer sure, but it doesn't necessarily have to. The HD of old had Class from years of cooking down the formula to its essence. It was a successful formula so long as the target market had a basic level of mechanical skills. In other words, the bike needed you almost as much as you did it. But along the way the culture changed so in order to survive HD abandoned Class and created the Universal American Motorcycle. The results were wildly successful from a financial standpoint...saving the company with untold profits from motorcycle and t-shirted accessories sales. Unfortunately for a segment of the market it resulted in a toaster on wheels. So fer me the last bit of Class is a mighty Shovel in the garage. And besides, toasters are for kitchens."
SNOWMONKEY, AT THE SEEDY X-BAR & GRILL:
I'm not sure about this. Although Snowmonkey makes a good point about The Firm selling out with regard to maximizing the popularity of their product, let's keep this in mind: this began long ago, perhaps when The Firm grafted a Sportster fork onto the FLH shovel 39 years ago, and called it the "Super Glide." Harley-Davidson hit on a marketable winner with this move, as it mimicked what backyard customizers did on their own, which was to swap parts to create interesting hybrids. From a marketing standpoint, it was brilliant. It did increase sales, but is this really such a bad thing? After all, it did boost the longevity of the company that turns out the iconic motorcycle that is the veritable backbone of the mechanical end of the biker subculture.
Let's not also forget the attitude of the Hardcore of the era of the early 70s, not to mention of the decades preceding the 70s, toward The Firm---and vice versa. Even back then, Harley riders did not trust the Harley-Davidson Motor Company. Yes, The Firm was seen as the progenitor of the motorcycle, which powered the subculture, but---and this is a very big "but"---the motoring public that wasn't engaged with the AMA and therefore considered technically "outlaw" by AMA and Motor Company standards, flat out dismissed The Firm as "not in their interests." Except as the provider of the Basic Motorcycle, that is. The Firm was seen then as now, as a necessary evil. like an adverse parent. Conversely, The Firm perceived it's outlaw customers as unruly children, out to ruin the perfection of its product. The only true difference between now and then, is that the contemporary Motor Company sees the value in embracing the customizing ethic made so popular by its customers. In many ways, this "alliance" between The Firm and its backyard customizing customers, made customers (like Snowmonkey, and even Snow) even more distrustful of The Firm. Can you see the irony in this?
Was that truly much different than it is today, or when The Firm introduced the Softail to much success among Biker Lites? I don't believe that it's any different, except proportionally with regard to sales numbers. I believe that The Firm still provides motorcycles as realistically reliable for dedicated bikers, as it always has. While it's a nostalgic and romantic notion that the "last real Harley" rolled off of the production line with the "----------" (insert "Knuckle", "Pan", or "Shovel" here), we know in our heads that this is not true from a real-world standpoint. There is really nothing wrong with today's Harleys. In fact, there was nothing really wrong with the Softail. As a real-world motorcycle, the Softail performed just fine. It's not the motorcycle's fault if a bajillion Biker Lites bought 'em and then sold 'em.
With any company, the bottom line is always survival first, and increasing profits second. We can FTF all we want, but in the end, The Firm wouldn't have been able to provide Knuckleheads, Panheads or Shovelheads to us, without being a viable corporate entity. I've always been able to separate in my mind, Harley-Davidson, The Righteous Motorcycle Provider, from Harley-Davidson, The Firm. That's one of the reasons that when Snow soured on The Firm and went radical with his Patch Flipping, which led to his abandonment of H-Ds and going with his F.U. Chop---I was able to maintain a steady perspective on Harley-Davidson. Later.