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by Genghis




"The rigid-framed CHOPPER is not trying to look like a pre 1958 HD. Whilst the chopper subculture and aesthetic can clearly trace its roots back to the original bobbers and choppers from the early days, it continues on regardless of the potential comfort afforded by the mobile couches of today....It's no secret that the big clubs have switched away from Choppers and customs in general and are using late model Dynas....."


In case you missed it, here's the article Englishman was reacting to. I will have commentary following this:


"Whether your preference is swingarms or rigids, there is one indisputable fact: outlaws love swingarms. All one has to do to confirm this is, just look around. The overwhelming majority of one percenters ride swingarms. Is this a microcosm of our motorvatin' society where the general population of motorcyclists prefer swingarms over hardtails? Is this an indication of the true trend of the biker subculture? I emphasize "true" because if one were to base an opinion about this from the biker print and television media, you'd think that swingarms hadn't been invented yet. Most biker rags are still stuck in 1957, before the Harley-Davidson Duo Glide with its pivoting rear wheel suspension was introduced to the world. I have news for ya. Rear suspension was introduced for the big twin a long 52 years ago. The situation "on the ground" where swingarms rule, is a lot different than the rigid-framed picture painted by magazines. In other words, do ya believe your veracity-filled eyes, or the pablum you're fed on the printed page and on TV?

By the way, what's "fake?" Many in today's culture eschew the Softail as a "fake" of sorts, because it mimicks a rigid-framed bike. But think about this: a bike built with a rigid frame today, is also a "fake" as it attempts to mimick an old bike. Harley rigids haven't rolled off of The Firm's assembly lines in 53 years. Many in our culture building these fake old bikes aren't even that old yet. If the Softail is a fake, then a "new" rigid, either built from scratch or a swingarm bike converted to a hardtail, is just as much an imposter as the Softail is. Dig it man, those who disdain the Softail for being a dishonest motorcycle, must also show disdain for new hardtails, following the same reasoning, and principles of honesty.

Outlaw motorcyclists are often perceived as the avant garde of the biker subculture. As such, they're seen as trend setters as far as hardware is concerned. May I suggest that there is a wide divide between what one percenters are riding, and what the denizens of biker magazines seem to be riding? One thing is for sure: Outlaws are merely riding what bikers in the overall population within the biker subculture are riding, whether they're one percenters or independents. This divide is really a matter of perception, not reality. One percenters have simply moved on with the times. When clubs were formed in the middle of the last century, all outlaws had to ride were cheap, used rigids. Now that The Firm hasn't produced a factory rigid in over 53 years, one percenters have moved on to swingarms. This from Sonny Barger in his book, "Hell's Angel--The Life and Times of Sonny Barger and The Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club"..... "For years, most Hell's Angels rode rigid-frame bikes. Nowadays, they're switching over to FXRs.....A swingarm means the frame houses left and right shock absorbers in the back section for better road flex." This is an acknowledgement of over 50 years of swingarm manufacturing, with the conditions on the ground reflecting that reality. The romance of the hardtail, serenaded by celeb bike builders and magazine moguls, are once again exposed for the unreality it propagates.

It's a wonderful invention, the swingarm with those cushy shock absorbers on either side of your ass, taking the punishment of the bumps in the road, instead of your posterior. Seems like a more efficient and modern suspension modality than a sprung solo seat, doesn't it? I don't know about you, but it seems like a no-brainer of a choice to me, man. Are one percenters the vanguard of the biker subculture as many believe, or are outlaws merely a sign of the predominant trend of the biker subculture? Perhaps both.

When I was a young biker, a wise old head once said to me....."You can learn a lot just from observation, and you can get the answers to questions ya never have to ask if you just observe." It is self-evident, if one is observant, that most contemporary outlaws prefer swingarms. Does this mean that biker magazines and those celebrity master builder TV shows are misleading, that they represent a minority point of view in the culture by largely touting rigids as "hardcore?" I'll let you decide. You'll report, and you'll decide. Look at the bikes that one percenters ride. The bulk of them are swingarms. If you simply look around, I believe that you'll find this to be true of all clubs, not just the HAMC. Dig it: swimgarms are hardcore, man. Welcome to the 1960s, man, where the newest invention---the sprung swingarm---has just been invented. Enjoy this new innovation in a smoother ride and more comfy transit. Later."


Englishman contends that the intent of people who make modern rigids is not to make them look like old bikes, let's consider an exercise in logic:


To take a modern swingarm frame and modify it so that it looks like a 1957 rigid.


CASE NUMBER ONE: The Firm's research and development department modifies the rear section of a four speed swingarm frame, and designs a new "Project Softail" swingarm for it. The shock is hidden underneath, so the overall profile of the motorcycle appears to be that of a pre-1958 motorcycle.

CASE NUMBER TWO: A biker takes a four speed swingarm frame, does some hack work on the rear section and welds a hardtail to it. The overall profile of the motorcycle appears to be that of a pre-1958 motorcycle.

I don't see much of a distinction between the two cases, except that The Firm's R & D department had a lot more money. It is obvious that the objective has been satisfactorily achieved in both cases, even though the specific methodology differed. In both cases, there was a certain degree of deceptive intent involved. To purposely modify a contemporary frame design so that it for all intents and purposes, looks like a 1957 straight-leg rigid, is an exercise in dishonesty. The resulting motorcycles in both cases, are imposters in the strictest sense of thr word. Later.