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GOING THE DISTANCE
Photo by Genghis
"...Scott, it's always good to hear how much you're enjoying your bike. You are one special biker who's shown that you don't have to want a new bike every two years...."
This was an email from Ace wrench and master motor builder Andrew Rosa, who builds his Rosabilt motors at Rosa's Cycles on Long Island, New York. This was in response to an email of gratitude that I sent to Andrew. Sometimes I have my most reflective moments about life while in the saddle of my righteous '71 Super Glide Stroker Shovelhead "Mabel". Of course, the predominant reflective thoughts during these moments are usually about riding and Harleys in general. On this particular ride that sparked the email to Andrew, I felt a gigantic wave of gratitude to have my Shovel, and a specific gratefulness to Andrew for all of the work that he's done on Mabel for the past twenty years. He built her stroker motor and made certain significant modifications that've made Mabel a motorcycle that's better now, than when she left The Firm in 1971. There's the electric start, that's been a real blessing. There's the rebuilt transmission---Mabel's venerable four speed unit that's indestructible and will live forever---that I would never trade for more extraneous gears beyond the basic four. There's the electronic ignition, that's made Mabel run even better. There's the wide glide fork with disc brake that's made her look more traditional and stop better than the former drum brake equipped fork was able to---that he assembled from parts that I nickle-and-dime collected over a two year period. There's the paint and powdercoating, and perhaps dozens of minute parts and changes that Andrew has instituted over the years. As Mabel and I get older, Mabel in shape and looks---seemingly gets ironically stronger as she ages. If it was ever so simple with human beings as with well-kept Harleys. If I got stronger and better with age as Mabel is, I'd be Superman by now. Here's the point:
A Harley-Davidson if maintained with diligence and love, will last forever, as good or better than new.
I have a certain rapport with Andrew that goes beyond the wrench/customer relationship, in that we share a basic love for Shovelheads, and early model Super Glides. Consider this: Andrew is a guy that has built his fantastic Rosabilt motors in every single engine configuration possible. Knucks, Pans, Shovels, Sportsters, EVOs, Twin Cams and aftermarket mills like Snow's S & S EVO that powered the FU Chop---you name it, he's built it . He's raced his record setting Shovel Dragster that runs in the 9s. Yet, he still maintains his early 70s Super Glide in its 74 cubic inch configuration. This bike is not only beautiful, it is righteously spotless. Andrew could have any type of bike he wants, all he has to do is to build it, yet---this Super Glide is his bike. Here's a little gem that Andrew laid on me one time:
"....The Shovelhead is the strongest motor that Harley-Davidson ever made, not in horsepower, but structurally. It really is a superior motor...."
Now, keep in mind that this remark was made to me years ago before the Twin Cam came along. I do know that he has a high regard for the Twin Cam. I don't know what Andrew specifically thinks of the Twin Cam in comparison to the Shovel. This much is clear, though. He has an abiding and perservering respect for the Shovelhead motor, for the Shovel's superior characteristics. It is obvious how my and Andrew's philosophy coincide. We both love the Shovelhead motor, and simply think of it as the cream of a varied and crowded crop. There are different philosophies regarding motorcycle choice and how bikers think about how long to keep a specific bike, in the biker subculture. Many in the culture, especially those who consider 'emselves builders---have the mindset that they only want their latest build, before moving on to their next project and rejecting the current ride, like a used condom. There's a "been there done that" mentality that pervades this group that I find shallow. There are more traditional bikers like me and Andrew, have a true love for their respective life motorcycle partners, who go the distance with their bikes. Bikers in the first group, those who change bikes every couple of years or else they get bored---never really develop a personal relationship with their bikes. More's the pity, man, they're missing out on the key experience as a biker. I feel sorry for 'em. Hey! Love yer Harley, man! Later.