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GOING THE DISTANCE
"BAG THIS, OKAY?"
PHOTO BY GENGHIS
RIVERCITYSLIM AT THE SEEDY X-BAR:
"When I was younger, I rode bikes that made no concessions to utility. None of them had bags or windshields; some didn't even have front brakes. I started reading Iron Horse a zillion years ago (back in the Paisano days) because it seemed they were writing about me and the kind of bikes that turned me on. I never thought I would someday be riding a geezer glide (or garbage wagon in the old terminology); in fact I was sure I never would.
Now I'm 57, and comfort and utility are much more important than they used to be. I ride my bike to work every day, so the ability to carry a briefcase and lunchbox (yeah, I work in an office these days) are important. When I got my first bike with bags about thirteen years ago, the first ride I made on it was to the store to buy rain gear, and have never been without rain gear since. What a concept. The old lady is much more willing to ride with me now that she can always bring her purse and whatever other crap she needs to feel happy.
The fairing and windshield, which I used to think of as slightly ridiculous, have turned out to be features I can't imagine doing without now. My glide is an Ultra, so I have the lowers as well. The fairings allow me two full months more riding time. When it's 45 degrees out I can just tuck my feet in behind the lowers and keep on riding. They are great to have in the rain as well. My old back loves the support of the rider back rest, and the old lady is so comfortable and secure with the tour pack backrest that she sometimes starts to fall asleep! I did remove some of the truly extraneous stuff, like the CB, rear speakers and some ugly side lights that the dealer apparently talked the original owner into adding.
For pure aesthetics, I still find the older bikes more interesting to look at (and listen to). But I want to ride my bike, not just look at it (or wrench on it). And I know my Evo motor will never sound as good as a Shovel with a cam and drag pipes, but it sounds more like a Harley than all the new computerized Twinkies with no mufflers I hear roaring around here all the time. Over the last few years I've upgraded just about everything (carb, cam, ignition, brakes, exhaust, shocks, fork springs) so it performs and handles as well as any bike of its size, age and weight possibly can.
For a 21 year old machine, my bike still looks pretty damn good. The uninitiated often think it is new! And in the sea of new Twinkies, a 21-year-old stock-appearing Evo dresser is something of a rare bird.
So if desiring comfort and utility in a motorcycle makes me a wuss, well so be it. I no longer care much what anybody else thinks anyway; I'm way too old to be worrying about 'being cool' or any of the other bullshit I used to care about. So for me this bike is it - I just want to keep riding it until I can't hold it up anymore."
ARBY AT THE SEEDY X-BAR:
"The bagger of yesteryear is a far cry from the bagger of today. By today's standards, the Electra Glide of the 70's IS pretty much utilitarian. There were no seats with armrests, no cushy wrap-around backrests, no multi speaker entertainment centers that put out five times the decibles of your exhaust pipes. Hell no. You got a trunk, two saddlebags and a no frills faring with a windshield. Basically ya got some containers to carry a few things for a long haul.
These days folks are cruisin'down the road on two wheeled Winnebagos that the factory already strapped on just about everything you can possibly strap on a motorcycle and they got more storage spaces then Carters got liver pills. Ah well. I guess the days of wooden ships and iron men are long gone.
Baggers may have their supporters but they're just not for me. Heck I'm only 58 years old. To me, riding a motorcycle is like running away from home. The idea is to leave it all behind, not take it all with ya."
It's all too easy to rip someone for their views or taste in motorcycles. I don't want to do that. I'll leave that to the sanctimonious editors of biker magazines, who must appear cooler than thou at all costs. All I can do is to succinctly present my opinion for whatever it's worth. I will say this, though. I do fall on Arby's side of the handball court. Here's my serve, a low and singing killer that I hope, may be difficult to return. Let me preface this by stating what many of you already know about me: I hate change. I've changed remarkably very little over the years. Is this a case of arrested development, or is it a principled stand based on traditional tenets of the biker subculture, that withstands the inexorable river currents that time ultimately sends our way, trying to effect our attitudes and eddies as we get older? Obviously, I prefer to think that it's the latter.
To me, the Hardcore Harley is more than a machine, to paraphrase a decades-old advertising slogan of The Firm's. If a Hardcore Harley was merely a machine, it would present to us as a somewhat frugal-to-upkeep form of transportation, that is incidentally fun to operate. It would not inspire the passion for Harleys, that bikers think of as the centerpieces of their existences. It would not inspire bikers---if it was just a machine---to have the name of Harley-Davidson etched indelibly on their skins, as I've had, among legions of others. When's last time you saw "Honda Goldwing" tattooed on someone's bicep?
However, it is not just a machine. The Harley 74 is to me, a concept.
Even the term "Harley 74" is not totally accurate nomenclature, as it may also refer to any righteous Harley big twin that displaces more than the original 74 cubic inches of the Panheads and Shovelheads that inspired the term. Example: my 71 Shovelhead is 86 cubic inches, but I still refer to her as my Harley 74. It is an iconic term in the culture, that any true biker recognizes.
The concept of the Harley 74, exists in the biker subculture as a conceptual conveyance that carries the hardware end of the culture, the software end being us---the somatic end of the spectrum, that rides the hardware. Although the term "Harley 74" may refer to garbage wagons (excuse me, but I hate the term "bagger" and all other new agey terms that have surfaced more recently), but are rarely thought of this way in the culture. The term "Harley 74" predominantly brings to mind, an outlaw bike that is stripped to her leanest iteration.
I will make this observation: Rivercityslim's view speaks of acceptance, while Arby's view shouts of passion. The idea of the "Outlaw Harley 74" inspires. It does not inspire its advocates to merely accept the concept. It inspires its proponents to be impassioned about their bikes. The concept of the Outlaw Harley 74 has inspired me for the past 42 years. See, I told you that I don't change much. I'll tell ya what, man. I not only have "Harley-Davidson" tattooed on my epidermis, I also have "74" tatted on me, never mind that my Shovel Stroker displaces 86 inches. It is this type of passion that is inspired by the stripped Harley. Bag this, okay? Later.