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GOING THE DISTANCE
"HELL'S ANGEL IRONHEAD"
Photo by Genghis
NYC HELL'S ANGEL: Dealing with traffic on Broadway.
I'm a creature of habit. I usually walk home from my office along a well-beaten path, taking the same streets, making the same turns and crossing at the same corners every single day. It's a two mile walk from my office in the West Village of NYC, to my house (again, "house" is a generic New York term for any home, whether house or apartment) next to the East River in the Lower Beast Side. I usually meet my wife Patty, one-quarter of the way home, where we walk together the rest of the way to our apartment. Today, I walked home alone because I left work early. On the way home, I decided vary my route so that I could pass by the NYC Hell's Angels clubhouse in the East Village. I hadn't been by there for awhile, and I was curious about the types of bikes I'd find parked there.
The New York City Hell's Angels have been in the Lower East Side at this one clubhouse, for practically as long as I've been living in the area. When I moved into the East Village in 1969, the Angels were there as the NYC chapter of the Aliens M.C. This was before they were re-patched as the Hell's Angels. I've always dug their bikes. They rode the types of Harleys I've always considered righteous---stripped-down, lightweight and unpretentious. Their bikes never seemed to be vulnerable to mindless trends, like fat rear tires. The New York Angels stayed constant and consistent, with respect to sticking with what they considered righteous in a class ride. The functional style of the NYC Angels' bikes, have always been beautiful in their simplicity, much like "Mabel," my '71 Super Glide. As an illustration of this simple approach to stripped-down and unpretentious Harleys, here's what I did not see in front of the NYC Angels' clubhouse.
(5) Any other extraneous crap you'd find on a garbage wagon.
You get the idea. These bikes are my kinda Harleys, man. I also didn't see a single rigid frame there at the time. These were all righteous Big Twin swingarms, and one very special lookin' Ironhead Sportster. What was so special looking about this XL, was that the owner kept her pristine, stripped-down, and as unpretentious as the rest of the Angels' bikes parked there. This was an XLH. OEM frame painted black. Stock round swingarm, painted black. Invader wheels. Short fork, chromed, topped with chromed five inch risers and chromed drag bars. Motor painted silver. Bare aluminum primary cover. Chromed rear shocks. Stock rear fender struts, chromed. Three gallon dual-capped Mustang-style gas tank, painted black. Slightly bobbed stock rear fender, painted black. No front fender. Side-mounted license plate. She had a "regal duke" seat, minus the usual pillion that attached to that type of seat. It looked good, with just that front solo portion, with that slightly raised back support for the rider. Looking at this bike, I was reminded of how low and cool my old '68 Sportster, "Sally The Bitch" looked. Both Sally and the Angel's Sportster maintained that low and stripped-down New York aesthetic, without having all types of fussy crap on 'em for effect. The cool factor in such unpretentious Sportsters, is 10 on a scale of 1 to 10.
Photo by Genghis
MY '68 XLCH "SALLY THE BITCH:" The Angel's bike was configured like her, low and lightweight.
You know from David Snow's article, "Fate In A Used Car Lot," that Snow has finally ended up with "Animal Mother," who is the Harley he's been looking for all of his life. This Harley of his dreams is a '69 Harley Sportster. There is always something affirming in seeing what type of cool Harleys the New York Hell's Angels are riding, for all of their bikes are righteous. They've always had impeccable class in the styling of their bikes. I know from their history, that the NYC Angels ride stripped-down, lightweight and straightforward Harleys---the type of Harleys that do not suffer foolish trends gladly. Seeing this neat Sportster parked in front of their clubhouse, was reaffirming of the righteousness of Snow's Harley Instrument of Choice. Hey man, if it's good enough for a New York Angel, it's good enough for anyone.
I would have taken a picture of this bike for this article, except that there are two places in New York I would refrain from pictures in front of, without explicit permission. One place is the Federal Courthouse near Ground Zero. The other place is the HAMC clubhouse. I'm reminded of the wedding scene in "The Godfather," where the FBI is taking pictures of mobsters' cars parked outside the Corleone wedding site. The scene where Sonny Corleone comes storming out to confront the feds taking pictures, where he starts smacking the photographer around, and smashes his camera to the ground. Believe me, it is not judicious policy to be taking photographs in the venues I've mentioned! The privacy of the New York Angels must be respected.
My faith in New York Outlaw Bike Style has been reaffirmed. In these days when so may outlaw clubs are riding baggers, it does my heart good to see that the New York Hell's Angels are still riding lightweight, stripped-down, unpretentious Harleys---that shout, "CLASS!" all the way---rugged bikes that are built with survival in mind. The New York No-Bull Aesthetic, that celebrates stripped-down honesty, pervades NYC bikers. NYC is an unusual gene pool that brings up bikers that forego effete and foolish styling exercises. If it's not geographically genetic, then it's a subtle movement. If this is a movement of sorts, I feel like I'm a part of it, have been a part of it for 45 years.
Photo by Genghis
A NEW YORK "SURVIVOR HARLEY:" Stripped-down, lightweight, pragmatic and unpretentious.
These New York bikes are low, light and without airs---yet pragmatic. New York bikers are known for being forthright with their Harleys, having to deal with the harsh reality of dense city traffic and unforgiving, pothole-filled streets and highways. NYC is a warzone that demands rugged Harleys that deal it right back to the asphalt, Survivor Harleys that give no quarter and ask none---except for the privilege of patrolling our hard city. New York City bikers are tough, like The City itself. Fussy Customs need not apply.
The cool Ironhead Sportster that was parked in front of the NYC Hell's Angel clubhouse, is a testament to the New York principle of motorcycle beauty that is found in simplicity. Simplicity in Harley style like this Ironhead, exudes a power that eludes fussier custom treatments. There is such a thing as "trying too hard" when it comes to modifying bikes, an attribute that this Sportster definitely isn't guilty of. New York Harleys like this NYC Sportster, has Class in spades without breathing hard. Later.