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I'M IN FAVOR OF A RADIATOR: But in my Vette, not my Harley.


"So did Harley owners want liquid-cooling....? It's a safe bet that....customer feedback included plenty of complaints about.....engine heat radiating onto rider and passenger legs...."


The success of relationships between man and motorcycle, like relationships between close friends---depends almost entirely on chemistry. It's the same thing between spouses in successful marriages. The minute I met my wife Patty 31 years, I knew that we related in a special way, that there was "great chemistry" between us. Chemistry is that mysterious x-factor that makes or breaks a relationship. Think about it. Haven't there been people in your life when you first met 'em, you felt an instant special ease with 'em? In these cases, there is an immediate "like" (pardon my raid of Facebook's lexicon for this) with them.

Conversely, haven't there been certain people when you first met em, you for whatever reason, felt a discomfort with them? You might've even experienced an intense revulsion toward them. These visceral reactions all occur without conscious thought. There is no on-site cerebral deliberation, as to why you felt this way about these people. Love at first sight, hate at first contact, it all boils down to "chemistry." After reflecting on the reasons why you may develop an instant like or dislike of a particular stranger you've just met, you may not be able to think of logical reasons for your negative feeling toward that person---but it's undeniably there. It's because of chemistry, baby.

I've always experienced a lack of chemistry with Harleys made after 1984. They just leave me cold, lacking that emotional x-factor, that sizzle that Knucks, Pans, Shovels and Ironhead Sportsters stir in me. I can see a iron-motored (as opposed to aluminum) Harley on the street, and my response is warm and fuzzy, as if I'd just run into a long-lost relative I haven't seen for years---but whose countenance and character I couldn't fail to recognize from a football field away. The recognition is just like that---similar to recognizing a cherished close one that the passage of time and span of great distance, could not erase. With Harleys made after 1984, I acknowledge 'em as part of the Harley family tree---but they strike me as strangers, with whom I have nothing in common, like a distant relative I've never met and whom I wouldn't recognize without a name tag on his lapel. The recognition is awkward, cool and distant. I may have a fleeting, subconscious thought...."I don't like this bike."

One reason for my ambivalent-to-negative feelings about later Harleys, is because the bikes that followed the last Shovelhead in 1984, have become so unlike the Harleys that I'm used to---the older Harleys that warm my heart---that I can scarcely recognize them as Harley-Davidsons. At least as the Harleys that I've known. The changes have come fast and furiously in the past 29 years. With each incremental change from the Harleys that I known and loved, the emotional distance between me with these later motorcycles has grown accordingly. With this latest evolutionary change---the introduction of radiators on Harleys---the estrangement seems complete, and irrevocable. It isn't that I can't recognize and appreciate the advantages in efficiency and power that may accompany such changes to these later Harleys. I can do that. It's just that, I can't relate. There's that chemistry thing again. It's an emotional rejection of these bikes that I feel.

I can't relate to the idea of owning a Harley made after 1984. I just can't picture it. The notion is as alien to me as the idea of having a transgender operation. It's just not Me. For that reason, I would not own a Harley made after 1984. Although I'm a dedicated Shovel-Biker, I can relate to the idea of owning a Knuck, Pan and Ironhead Sportster. In other words, these other alternatives to a Shovel are not my preference--but I could live with 'em. The same is not true with post-1984 Harleys, and is most certainly true of one with radiators on 'em. Radiators are too rad man, for Harley-Davidsons as I've known them. Liquid-cooling changes the basic nature of the Harley-Davidson motorcycle. 19PANHEAD50 described liquid-cooled Harleys, as "The Death of Tradition" at the Seedy X-Bar. I meant to cut and paste his entire post to this article, but accidentally deleted his text there before I was able to cut and paste it. The essence of what 19PANHEAD50 was conveying, was that the Harley motor has traditionally been air-cooled, and should always remain so, to retain its basic nature.

Can't relate to it, man.

It's as simple as that. Can't relate, don't even want to try---and will not try. My revulsion to such a bike gives me the creeps. It makes me shake my head with disgust. Nope, I won't relate to a Harley with a radiator. It seems like a breach of contract between The Firm and true bikers---true bikers who cherish tradition above all. My negative reaction is straight from the gut, with very little input from the brain. It is visceral, and it is absolute. If this is a chemically-driven train, then I'm on it.

And I'll tell ya what really turns me off. What's the deal with some Harley riders complaining about engine heat? These may be Harley riders who complained to The Firm about, "...engine heat radiating onto rider and passenger legs...," but they are most definitely not "bikers" in the purest sense of the word. What kind of pantywaists are being surveyed by The Firm, anyway? If these wimps are so concerned about motorcycle engine heat, then let 'em ride in air-conditioned Caddies, instead.

Yup, it's all about chemistry, the ability to relate to given motorcycles. It's for this reason---my inability to relate to Harley cycles made after 1984---that I've stopped caring one way or the other about what The Firm is putting on the streets. The 2014 Harley might as well be a 2014 Honda, for all I care. I generally relate to both the same way: As motorcycles foreign to what my idea of a motorcycle should be. I chemically deny them, equally. My chemistry, my ability to relate on a positive emotional level with Harleys, stops at the year 1984. With Harleys made before then, the chemistry flows hot and heavy in my veins. What it simmers down to, is that I'm awfully glad to have my '71 Harley-Davidson, and that's all that counts. She's the only Harley I have to relate to. My "74" sustains me. Even if I can feel her engine heat radiating onto my legs. Later.