Click here for Home
GOING THE DISTANCE
Photo by Genghis
MABEL WAITIN' TO GET IT ON: Like a big friendly dog.
DAVID SNOW DESCRIBING HIS OLD SHOVEL, FROM THE ARTICLE, "FATE IN A USED CAR LOT:"
".....my '82 FXE Super Glide. Supremely mellow, reliable, confidence-inspiring, like a big, friendly dog...."
What a great day, man. What a mellow and satisfying ride I had on Mabel (my 1971 Super Glide) today.
(1) 63 degrees in the A.M.--- perfect. Check.
(2) New $3.59 goggles from the paint aisle of Safee's Hardware in the Lower Beast Side of NYC. Check.
(3) Sage green MA-1 flight jacket. Check.
(4) 2 1/2 inch New York Jets Beanie Ballz hangin' from the sleeve zipper of said flight jacket. Check.
(5) Nowhere to go. Check
(6) A stripped-down '71 Harley Seventy-Four, with a Rosabilt Shovelhead motor stroked to 86 inches. Check.
Check out number (5), man. This is the key. What can be better than having nowhere to go, and hoppin' on the Seventy-Four for a lazy, hazy, cool summer ride? I'll tell ya what. There ain't nuthin' better n' that. Just go, man. Just like Marlon Brando's dialogue to the square chick in the coffee shop--just go, baby! Just follow the wind in whatever direction she wants to lead ya. This is life at its fullest, and most satisfying. Full. And mellow, at the same time. The more I think of Snow's analogy of the Big Twin as a big, friendly, mellow dog---the better I like it, and relate to it. I picture Mabel as Shovelhead-powered Giant Alaskan Malamute, bristling with muscular haunches waiting to lay down gobs of Mellow Torque down on whatever street or highway there is to wander at the time. We'll leave the temperamental yapping to the Chihauhaus of the motorcycling world.
I'm out in the early morning sunshine, and everything is perfect. Harmonious snick-snick upshifts, and seamless downshifts with second-nature, muscle memory-fed rev-matching. Not thinkin' about riding technique, I'm four decades past that stage, just diggin' the ambience of the ride, the background, sideground and frontground becoming a mere filmy stage for the main event: The Ride. Lost in thoughts. No thoughts at all. A confluence of thoughts. Pleasant thoughts. Exciting thoughts. It all happens. The Exciting Thoughts happen when I screw it on, man, flying by cages with a twist of stroker power. Some rides are like that: A cauldron where random thoughts bubble up to the surface, unbidden and in no particular order, just there for the sampling. Put it on low simmer man, while the Shovel sings her beautiful song of harmony and the pursuit of happiness, entitlements due to every Harley rider worth his 60 weight. There used to be a time for me, when the exciting thoughts far outweighed the quieter thoughts---a time when hormones ruled over the cerebral.
But those moments are few are far between today. Today, it's all about Mellow Riding, the type of riding that seems optimized on a good-runnin' Shovelhead. Laid back thoughts, like I had when a kid on his Ducati and I are are at a stoplight today, and the kid on the Duck, burns rubber away from Mabel and me. Mabel and I were not impressed. Hey baby, who cares? Not me. Not my bike. Not today. Mabel and me casually shifting into first gear, and then mellowly slippin' away from the intersection, not concerned, not paying attention, can ya dig it? My bike doesn't have to execute extreme histrionics to impress. At least to those, in The Know. Bikers in The Know, know Class when they see and hear it. Otherwise, if you have to ask....
Most of today, I am Lazy Rider, a close cousin to Easy Rider. Nothing frenetic, unless I lay a blast of Mellow Torque down on the blacktop, at a time and place of my choosing. This ain't wag the dog in reaction to events. This is laying back and attacking when---and if---I feel like it. In this way, I feel like I own the world. Did Genghis Khan ever feel more like a conquerer on his fiery steed, as I feel when I own the world on my Seventy-Four? Besides, Genghis Khan's ride only had one horsepower. I've got it over the other Genghis by a multitude of horses. But it's not horsepower that powers this day, it's Mellow Torque. Don't get me wrong. There are times when I want to attack traffic, but those times have become less and less frequent as I get older. Is it Lower-T, or greater wisdom and the wish to smell the roses, instead of mowin' 'em down with Stoker Power? Whatever it is, its agreeable to me.
I'm struck by how mellow and reliable, my Seventy-Four has become. There was a time, when even Mabel was a little bit more raw, more unmanageable. I attribute much of that to the mods I've made to Mabel over the years. The most impactful---that've made Mabel such a delight to ride and own---were the electric foot (Mabel was a first-year kick-only Super Glide) and electronic ignition. The former has allowed living with my motorcycle easy, and the latter has enabled Mabel to run smoother and stronger. I used to get occasional plug fouling in heavy traffic with the Bluestreak points. That hasn't happened even once, with Mabel's Vulcan (Nempco) electronic ignition. I'm guessing that the Vulcan ignition delivers a hotter spark. Here's another small thing, that Andrew Rosa recognized and implemented for me. He told me that inserting baffles in the straight pipes, "....would smooth her out. Try it." I was skeptical, because I've always been a straight pipes, loud pipes guy. But he was right. This did smooth her out. All these things refined my Shovel. I'm happy for Snow that he finds a Demanding Motorcycle gratifying to own, but for me? I don't need the drama, or want it either. I'm happy just gettin' on and going! It's that kind of day for me. Happy with my ride, and happy with the world.
I love my motorcycle!
It's a wonderful feeling to know that your bike is on your side. Knowing that she's not going to act out like a drama queen, or a hyperactive child in need of her daily dose of Ritalin. As I ride down the highway of life, I know that I've found my motorcycle partner for this journey. We will go the distance, happy with each other, mellow in the knowledge that the we each has the other's back, no matter what. Snow is right: It's funny how he and I have traded places. He started on Big Twins and moved on to his Motorcycle Partner in Life, a brutal '69 XLCH named "Animal Mother." I on the other hand, started out in 1968 with a brand-new, equally brutal Sportster XLCH named "Sally The Bitch"---and transitioned to a big, friendly dog of a Shovelhead stroker, named Mabel. Even her name reminds of an inherent familiarity and user-friendliness, as if I've known her all of my life. What Snow and I have in common though, is we both found the Harley of our dreams and lifetimes. Later.