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GOING THE DISTANCE
"DEMISE OF THE MILLION-DOLLAR MOTORCYCLE"
The greedheads are going out of business.
EXCERPT FROM THE WINTER 2011 "STREET CHOPPER" EDITORIAL:
"As of October 2010 West Coast Choppers had closed its doors for business. What both lit the spark and later burned out thousands of would-be chopper builders has now gone the way of so many other businesses hit with our current economic times, hard luck and scandal....Don't try and act as if Jesse James' influence didn't spark your interest in choppers.....He was the one who brought it back to the masses.....I was fortunate to know Jesse.....the million-dollar rock star choppers....."
Million-dollar choppers? I guess the price of these motorcycles went up since I last checked abiut ten years ago. Back then, it was only hundred grand bikes, which was bad enough. Can anybody but me see the big picture here? In the Real Harley World, no motorcycle is worth $100,000, let alone a million bucks, man. What planet are---or were---these people living on? Not on good 'ole Planet Earth where I live and ride. And what I ride is no hundred grand---or million-buck bike. What I ride cost me $4,000 when I bought her used. I'll tell ya what though. My righteous stroker-shovelhead-powered "74" is invaluable, and unpriceable. That's how much an average street biker's Harley means to him: Priceless, baby!
"High end parts" on my bike, "Mabel?" Not on yer life, man. That's too gay fer me. I'll leave that for the effetes. The Biker Effetes.
I use inexpensive OEM parts, and aftermarket parts straight outta catalogues, and I'm proud of it. What counts with a biker's motorcycle, are not the gaudy parts costing ya an arm and a leg, but the very heart of the bike---in Mabel's case, her shovelhead mill, her traditional and indestructible 4-speed tranny and her class 4-speed swingarm frame. This has been the frame---along with the wishbone and straightleg rigid frames that preceded her ancestrally---that has formed the platform for vast multitudes of outlaw-influenced motorcycles early on the history of the biker subculture.
The Biker Effetes celebrate the accessories of a bike. True bikers celebrate the heart and soul of the bike. We celebrate the true essence of the motorcycle: Her motor (the term "Shovlehead" will live forever in the biker subculture, terms like "WCC" are transient), and Classy Chassis. All else is extraneous and beyond insignificant. Fat rear tire? Who cares? Billet parts? For the fussy wusses of the "masses." Custom one grand seat? Yer ass feels the same on a La Pera. Splashy paintjobs? Straighten yer wrist, boy. Biker Effetes need not apply, man. Screw the "exclusivity" of one-off accessory parts. Celebrate the ubiquity of knuckles, pans and shovels.
Can the Million-Dollar Chopper even touch the significance of these traditional outlaw bikes in the grand scheme of things? I don't think so. A hundred years from now, these traditional outlaw designs will be remembered and revered, but the Hundred Grand Custom will be a mere blip on a very long-lived radar screen, that doesn't even warrant an asterisk in the subculture's history. Bikers in 3011 will be saying...."WCC? What was that?....Jesse James...do ya mean the cowboy outlaw?"
It is the height of arrogance within the grand scheme of the history of the biker subculture, to even contend that a few greedhead celeb biker builders "brought it back to the masses," and had even a scintilla of meaningful significance. I'll tell ya who had the greatest historical influence in the culture. It was the legions of nameless and faceless bikers through the '30s, '40s, '50s and '60s who stripped their ELs, FLs and FLHs down to formulate the outlaw ideal: a lightweight Harley that once was an obese garbage wagon. It was Jenny Craig, motorcycle-style. These stripped-down Harleys were the Biggest Losers, but in a good way.
I can guarantee you that these traditional outlaw designs didn't have pricey parts on 'em. But in the Big Picture, they shone like beacons in the AMA Darkness. Off came the saddle-bags. Crash bars? What are those? Windshields? Hey man, what are we riding, cars? Strip it and take off like a gun, man!
Million-Dollar Choppers couldn't last forever. What goes up must return to Mother Earth sooner, rather than later. What we're seeing now, is the biker subculture returning to its natural state. It's Biker Homeostasis. The water of the culture is seeking its own level, and has apparently found it.
Things are becoming as they should be, and how they had been before the greedhead madness and hero worship of "celebrity bike builders" took flight---thankfully a short flight in the bigger picture---in the 1990s.
Why would anyone pay big bucks for billet grips, when good 'ole rubber grips that might cost the price of a cheap six-pack, and are not only just as good, but actually better from a functionality standpoint?
Isn't rubber more tacky than metal? Doesn't that provide a better grip? Isn't that why they're called "grips" in the first place? If yer gonna install $500 aluminum grips on your Million-Dollar Motorcycle, then ya might as well smear vaseline on 'em to reach the logical end-stage of such design, which is total lack of "grip."
Yup, here's what's happening in the biker subculture: We're returning to our natural state where average street bikers are not caught up in the exclusivity of their motorcycles, and the status symbolism of the parts bikers put on 'em. "Exclusivity" is a word that is associated with wealth. Hey man, that ain't me, and I'm willing to bet that it ain't you either. Waning are the days, along with a inverse rise in proper perspective, of equating "wealth" with "class" or "righteousness." A ginormous bank account doesn't make you a better biker. It only makes it easier to buy $500 billet grips. In the biker subculture, sometimes less is more. That's true in terms of how many pounds of cosmetic crap you've burdened your Harley with, and is true with the amount of glitz you have or don't have on your Harley: Less is more.
R.I.P. MILLION-DOLLAR MOTORCYCLE
Rest in peace big buck chops, and praise the ascension of the average street biker's righteous Hogs. These street Hogs are special for one reason: History and tradition. Class bikes throughout the years never lose their riighteousness, even though they might have ordinary rubber grips on their handelbars. One-off parts costing an arm and a leg? Hundred-thousand dollar customs? Leave these for the Biker Lites, or the folks who bid at Barrett-Jackson. I've got my $4,000 Harley 74. I'm happy. Later.