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GOING THE DISTANCE
"PERCEPTION IS REALITY"
BENJAMIN GRADLER AT THE SEEDY X-BAR:
"I read Genghis' The Case for Limeys and I thought a few things were missing from it.
Genghis says " I've always thought of Harley-Davidsons as the spine that bore the weight of the body of the culture since the 1930s."
I don't think this is true. Before WWII Harley was not the only brand around, Indian was just as popular, and before the depression took them out, there were a LOT of other American marques that had a lot of respect.
After WWII, Limey bikes were HUGE. Look at all the Daytona wins or just look at all the Limey entrants in that race alone. If you look at photos and films of Laconia and other big races and goings on, Limeys were there too.
And they were steeped in society enough to be featured in 1953's The Wild Ones.
Another thing I think Genghis left out was what Harley Davidson was doing back in the eighties and nineties. IronHorse had a number of features back then about how Harley was TAKING franchises from people who had Harley shops for years or decades, and giving them to ass-hats that had deep pockets and could put up a bigger shop full of Harleys bullshit "boutique" items like coffee cups and knives and clothing etc..
When Harley started doing that, screwing with peoples jobs and them making a living, then they did indeed become enemy number one. After AMF a bunch of corporate ...heads took over the company and like most corporations all that mattered was MONEY. It is great to have a successful motorcycle factory in the USA, but if it has no soul and does not give a damn about anyone then it does not deserve any loyalty at all, because it gives none.
I have no issue with the Harley as a machine, they are fine and dandy and I have ridden them and loved it. But I will not give the factory a dime. They have been pumping out close to a hundred thousand Evos a year now for over twenty years, and I think they are ready for a fall. There are Evos and sporties laying around stacked up like cord-wood and they are for sale every week in every classified and the prices are getting back to where they were twenty years ago.
So when Snow was building the FU chop, it was not anything against the Harley motorcycles at all, it was a statement against the Corporation, he was not going to give them a dime when instead he could have a Harley by giving the same or less money to USA manufacturers that had soul and gave a shit about producing something besides a cash-cow appliance.
And if he quit riding even clones, I can understand that too. Because dipshits out there who see a cool cat like Snow out on his clone will not know what it is or what it is about anyway, all they will do is run to the Harley dealership, slap down a credit card and attempt to BUY the cool, and there goes more money to the Corporate stock-holders.
At least 90% of the "Bikers" out there on their millions of alloy engined Harleys are not in it for any good or noble reason, they are in it as some extension of their ego. I have seen people I know become "bikers" in a week, all they have to do is throw down the cash.
When some instant biker on a Harley yells to me and my Norton "Hey that is a cool bike!", all I think is What the hell do you know? And FYI, I think your bike is a piece of consumer-trash and you are a ...ing idiot.
I have had people walk up to my bike and say "hey that is a really nice..." at that point there is a pause while they are looking at the tank and reading the badge on it, no shit, then they finish their sentence "Norton!".
Once upon a compliment from someone who had never even ridden a bike before, I replied " it is always nice to get the input from experts". I give the guy credit, he started to laugh at my comment which pointed out that he would not know what made a bike nice or not to save his life.
Anyway. Harley for sure has been there through all of Bikerdom, from it's birth on, but it sure has not always represented Truth or integrity. Now days when I think of Harleys, and I am not alone, I think of the millions of Minute Bikers out there who went to a Corporate Harley boutique and bought their lifestyle and image, THAT is what Harley is synonymous with now, at least to those with a bit of an open mind and objectivity..."
I can't disagree with anything that Benjamin has said. He made some very valid points in his Seedy posting. Unlike many subcultures, the biker subculture has been in many ways a renegade subculture, that defied comprehensive historical documentation, due to the eclectic and gypsy-like demographic patterns of bikers ourselves. This doesn't exactly lend itself to an encyclopedic level of historical perspective.
Because the history of the biker subculture has been so poorly documented, much of what the subculture seems to consist of, will depend purely on the subjective experiences of individual biker groups, and individual bikers. Obviously, Benjamin "came up" in a very Britbike-centric environment, while I and others came up in environments where Harley-Davidsons were revered above all other brands. That accounts for how there may be many truths regarding which motorcycle marques reigned supreme in the subculture, according to individual and demographic experience. That being said, allow me to make a few devil's advocate points.
It is true as Benjamin said, that Limeys were big after World War Two. Indeed, there was more parity between the makes back then. Competition was heating up among The Firm, British bikes and Indian. However, let me point out that that era was over 60 long years ago. If the biker subculture is to be perceived in a linear fashion chronologically, then that era of the 1940s and 1950s may be depicted, as the biker subculture in its adolescence. The 20s and 30s were the culture's childhood, and the years after World War II can be seen as the biker subculture's maturation. In the 1960s going forward, there was a quantam leap where Harleys became the default pinnacle of the hardware that we employed. Indeed, as I pointed out in earlier writing, many motorcycle clubs' constituttions had a strict prerequisite of Harley-Davidson ownership, as a requirement for membership. Those clubs that didn't clearly state such a prerequisite, had an underlying unwritten rule, that H-Ds were the desired brand to move up to. You may or may not accept the premise that one percenters were some sort of vanguard of the biker subculture, but it cannot be denied that M.C.s were a strong indicator of the direction of thinking within the overall culture. Today, Harley-Davidsons continue to be the generic default position motorcycle favored by one percenter clubs. If you can think of any that may hold Britbikes in such high esteem, I would submit to you that this is a club that is an aberration.
Members of the biker subculture never did enjoy a happy relationship with The Firm.
At best, the relationship was symbiotic.
Bikers that identified with non-AMA ideas of nonconformity (outlaw culture), were always looked down on by Harley agencies and The Firm, so that is true. However, that did not stop bikers from revering their Harleys, even if we had to crawl into hated H-D franchises at times, to get parts for 'em. We loved our Harleys, even if we didn't love The Firm.
I haven't really cared (or even paid much attention to) what The Firm has done since the late 1960s. I've got mine, and that's all that matters. I've made Mabel, my 1971 Harley shovel, all mine. just the way I dig 'er. Extraneous issues, such as what others think or how they style their bikes, what Biker Lites ride or don't ride, and what The Firm does, is as irrelevant to me as a newspaper from 1974. It's old news, baby, and the only news that matters is the news that I and my Harley make in this thing of ours.
Today, true bikers really don't care that Biker Lites are on Harley-Davidsons, just as bikers in the subculture's adolescence 60 years ago, didn't really care if AMAers backed by The Firm, were astride Flatheads, Knuckleheads and Pans. There was a totally different mindset between AMAers and those outside the AMA culture,
and there continues to be a totally different mindset today, between dedicated bikers, and Biker Lites who ultimately move on from Harleys to other trendy activities. True bikers know who we are, and we revere our Harleys....and yes, Nortons. Later.