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by Genghis

"Dear Mr.Wong,

I've been reading Iron Horse since before you started writing for D.Snow. I even remember "Mabel" being featured in the rag a few issues before you started "Going The Distance". Mabel alone is "living" proof of how you envision bikes. For the last 20 years she changed only a little bit, and the little changes were made after your accident in 1994. I can really respect this (a lot). Although as an Outlaw I personally have a more open mind and vision on bikes than you have. I still respect and even agree with most of yours. My favourite Harleys are certainly old four-speeded FLHs, but I believe in freedom of choice and learned to see differences as an enrichment and not as a threat, we can't all ride four-speeded glides... Here in Mechelen it has always been more important to have a BIKE so we could RIDE and if you were lucky you had a HARLEY! But a brother on a Jap (as long as it doesn't have a fake kick-starter {why do we never see that on Japs but allways on Yuppie-harleys?) is still a BROTHER. It never bothered me that much to see yuppies on softails in the nineties. I somehow hoped back then that one day they would get tired of the posing and sell their bikes for little money...and they did and right now they ALL do...they sell'em for insane little money (check Ebay). I bought a '91 FXSTS for 5000 euros ($6500) two years back (with 2259 miles on it). I put on an '84 FLH front-end (don't like springer-handling), floor-boards,engine guards,an S&S Super E,a two into one with a fishtail muffler, a solo-seat and a National-Cycle windshield for it, and I love it. The bike's a real daily-rider and on my 700 mile ride to the Rock and Blues Custom Show in Derbyshire (UK) this summer, she never missed a beat. And it's a great kick to ride a yuppie-glide,being an outlaw! I also had it spray-painted in Charcoal-Hammerite and have my club's name in old hand-painted lettering on the tanks. I named her "Wart Hog" as a tribiute to Deedee Ramone (I was friends with this famous New-Yorker in the nineties). Like Deedee I am also a bass-player, half German and was also a dope fiend, since 1996 I am clean and my only dope since is the road... After going through my old collection of Iron Horse magazines I started wondering, what has become of Genghis and Snow? Doing so, I found your columns on the web, that I enjoy reading (about 10 of 'em now) a lot. Most of the old Horse readers allways whine about the good ol' days and it's true. It was fun to read how you upset a lot of people with your opinions about the biker culture back then, but today I can sit in my lazy seat with a laptop surfin' in to check for a new article or read one of the older ones without having to go to Brussels hoping that the newsstand hadn't sold out on Iron Horse. Hey and look, it shows that you even have a side unknown to me before, but greatly apreciated. You're an artist! My late grandfather was a photographer too, in WW2 he even was a spy-photographer for the resistance. I still have some of his work. What also amused me to find out about you is the fact that you live in a city apartment with CATS !! (I know it's your woman's thing) We (Peggy Sue and I) have seven cats living with us in our house. They sleep in our bed with us. Most of'em we found half-dead and dumped by a lowlife. We don't have kids,we have Cats!"

Outlaws M.C.
Mechelen, Belgium


Hey man, you have all of my sympathy about the cats. Ah, the things we put up with for love, eh buddy? Nah, I dig our cats. They're cool. Thanks for the words from across the pond. The respect you have for your Softail is absolute proof that Harleys discarded by the yups like Softails, that have been castigated by the supposed biker cognoscenti as unworthy, are not only good bikes---but are actually as worthy and competent as any Harley-Davidson out there. "Competent" is the key word here, denoting functionality as a motorcycle. Function will always be more important than image, because image in the public perception is transient at best. Image is at the mercy of the fickle finger of trendsetting. If you pick up any of the American biker rags out there, or read the opinions of the so-called experts on the internet's American biker forums, you'd think that Softails are nothing but the rotting fishheads and putrid garbage found in a restaurant's dumpster from last week's meals.

But hey, we know better. We know that in the real world, as opposed to the opinion-skewed fantasy land populated by Me-Tooists who are in competition to see who can outdo the others in peer-pressure-motivated putdowns, that the Softail is a perfectly good motorcycle that is capabale as any Harley in serving its master on the road. To me, there's nobody more hypocritical than an owner of a rigid, who questions the rear-suspension ability of the Softail. Think about the irony in that. Sure, the Softail doesn't have the amount of travel that Mabel's 13 1/2 inch shocks do, but the Softail's rear shocks travel a hell of a lot farther than a hardtail's non-existent shocks do.

Here's absolute proof that these Softail critics, who are in love with the image that rigids project, are so much more interested in promoting an image than real world capability: have you ever seen a Softail that has been converted into a rigid by installing solid struts in the place of the underneath shocks? It seems like a cheap and easy way to convert to rigidity, does it not? Why not do it instead of spending a lot of bucks or euros for an aftermarket rigid frame? I'll bet you haven't seen such a conversion. I know that I've never seen it. Do you know why? Because that bike would appear for all intents and purposes to the outside world, to be a Softail.

Hey man, we don't want that, do we? What we (they) want, is for everyone to acknowledge that we (they) are on hardtails. Why destroy our (their) peer review standing with our (their) bros, right? There would be no way for a casual observer to know that this particular bike is in real life, a rigid. If one can't advertise the fact that a biker is riding what is considered a hardcore rigid, than why bother? After all, the guy can't impress his bros parked at the corner with a bike that looks like a Softail, even if it's really a hardtail. If someone actually installed solid struts on a Softail, think of the mind bending irony involved. This bike would be a suspended bike designed by The Firm to look like a rigid, made by the owner into a true rigid that still looks like the suspended design intended to mimick a hardtail. Got that?

To me, the important issue is not whether the Softail should be considered worthy, because it clearly is a worthy motorcycle in the Real Harley World, as is any Harley that rolled off the assembly lines. It runs. It stops. It corners, and it provides riding functionality to its rider. To me, this debate centers around the mindless criticism by those who have inflated opinions of their own self-worth as "experts" on the biker culture. The mental picture I have a rigid rider bouncing around from potholes, pontificating about the suspension deficiencies of the Softail, is cringe-inducing, and produces barrels of LMFAOs.

In other words, this debate about the Softail says more about those who seek to discredit the bike, than about the motorcycle itself. I'll say one thing about people who ride Softails, and are proud of 'em: they're strong minded individualists who just don't care what others think of them or their rides. That's why I can relate to 'em. I never cared what others thought about me. After all, I may not always be right, but I'm never wrong. By the way, we have nine cats. Later.