By on December 3, 2015

breakout

The appeal of the Harley-Davidson motorcycle was once as much of a mystery to me as was the appeal of country music. As a teenager, I’d walk five miles in each direction just to sit briefly on a yellow RZ350 before the salesman shooed me out of the showroom. I was captivated by the names and the numbers of Japanese sportbikes: Ninja. GSX-R750. Interceptor. FZR1000. I bought my first sportbike (a 600 Ninja) in 1993 and what probably will not be my last sportbike (a VFR800 in the anniversary colors, which I insist on calling an “Interceptor” in conversation) in 2015.

I always had contempt for the Motor Company and its products. Next to these warp-speed machines, with their aerodynamic fairings and outrageous power and lamentable graphics, the V-Twins from Milwaukee seemed old. Stodgy. Slow. Demographically undesirable, the choice of white trash with factory jobs and Boomers with transparent orange bottles full of blue pills. The company itself was on welfare; it survived thanks to a tariff. Pathetic. It never occurred to me that I’d ever do so much as swing a leg over one.

Time, of course, has a way of reducing the most fervent youthful convictions to dimly remembered aversion, and then to nothing at all.

When I started dating a girl who had learned to ride on a 1200 Sportster, I groaned inwardly at the whole NOKD aspect of it. Out of respect and affection, however, I visited a few H-D stores in her company. I learned a bit about the company, its history and its traditions. We even went so far as to visit the Milwaukee mothership and tour its very upscale and impressive museum.

At the same time, the cumulative effect of my 90-plus broken bones were starting to catch up with me. I started thinking about motorcycling as something that might be relaxing, low-effort, in approximate harmony with the flow of traffic around me. We rented a massive six-cylinder BMW tourer for a trip up the California coast and I managed to get used to the idea of a motorcycle that was longer than my prone form and more than three times as heavy. Oh yeah, and we binge-watched “Sons of Anarchy.”

And so it comes to pass that I am finally seeing the light about Harley-Davidson. It is no longer an utterly unthinkable idea that one might wind up next to my four Hondas. I’ve even come up with a favorite bike, the one I’d probably buy. It’s not the V-Rod, although said V-Rod is quite impressive. There’s a fellow in my office who rides his V-Rod “Night Rod” to work at the same time every day that I ride my CB1100 to work and to be honest my big Honda retro-bike just flat smokes the impressive-sounding but slack-steering V-Rod.

No, the Harley I want is something that doesn’t pretend to cater to the import crowd or the sportbike crowd or the retro-racer crowd. It’s called the “Breakout” and it’s this aesthetically wonderful statement of pure cruising lassitude, the zero-fucks-given mindset translated into metal. In stock “103” form, it’s about as fast as a V-6 Accord. What I need is the “CVO Screaming Eagle” one, which might possibly keep a distant eye on my CB1100 or Interceptor in urban traffic. I don’t require that it be fast. I don’t own any fast bikes, although that new ZX-14 in the same color scheme as my ’86 Ninja is tempting. I just can’t spend $25,000 on a bike and have it be slow.

The Breakout has many wonderful qualities, most of which actively work against its utility as a motorcycle. It has wide, flat drag bars that probably aren’t as comfortable as the Heli-Bars on my Interceptor. The seat is low and flat and wide and it will probably make my knees hurt. The shifting, amazingly enough to someone with my background, is done by stomping two different pedals instead of flicking a tiny level with the vamp of one’s shoe. The rear tire is slightly wider than the front tire on my 911.

It’s not a true chopper or an authentic custom motorcycle. It’s a factory-produced bike that sells in the tens of thousands. Yet it isn’t that far away from being a custom bike. It’s also remarkably close to the Harleys of the ’50s or ’60s, particularly once they received a thorough working-over on the part of their owners. The switchgear is modern, but the aesthetic is old-school. If I showed someone who was not a Harley enthusiast a picture of a Breakout, I don’t think they would have a way to tell me what decade it was from.

Yet the Breakout is perhaps the most modern-looking Harley on offer, with the exception of the aforementioned V-Rod. When I visit a H-D dealer I see nothing but motorcycles that deliberately hearken to the distant, dimly imagined past. They all look like old bikes. The defiant modernity of a KTM RC8 or Ducati Panigale simply doesn’t apply.

That’s the way the customers want it. They don’t want modern fairings, as evidenced by their preference for the Electra Glide over the Road Glide. They don’t care for the latest engine tweaks or high-rev performance. What they want is a bike that looks classic but operates in a fuss-free, modern manner. The wealthiest and most successful of them think nothing of spending $45,000 on a bike that looks like it could have been ridden by some Oakland pimp in 1971, but which boasts Bluetooth and 100 pound-feet of fuel-injected, zero-stumble torque.

None of these customers are blind. They know what a modern motorcycle looks like. They see Gold Wings and Gixxer Thous and Beemer LTs and Ducati Diavels everywhere they look. They know that Harley could build such a thing. Heck, for a while Buell would sell you what amounted to a Harley sportbike with some features that were more radical than what the Japanese could offer. But Buell didn’t stay in business, because the Harley buyer is not looking for the latest and greatest. He is looking for something else entirely. A link to his childhood. A sense of belonging to a tradition, even if that tradition is as much a product of the media as it is of history. An identity that has a little bit of Brando and a little bit of Peter Fonda and a little bit of Ron Perlman or Charlie Hunnam.

It’s been a long time since Willie G. Davidson and his partners told President Reagan they didn’t need protectionist tariffs any more. Today, it’s the Japanese who are on the run; Honda closed its Gold Wing production line years ago and turned into warehouse space. The big-bore “space” in the market is owned by Harley-Davidson and I wouldn’t guess they’re going to give it back any time soon. They do it by offering a comprehensive ownership experience that is based on style and retro appeal but which is backed by a fundamentally reliable and satisfying product.

So. If Harley can make new bikes that look old, why can’t Chevrolet make a Corvette that looks like a ’63? Why are even the “retro” Mustangs so far away from their ancestors as to be utterly different propositions altogether? Why is Cadillac afraid to make a car as big and impressive as the Escalade? Why is all the design mojo and momentum on the other sides of the oceans?

Don’t tell me it’s all down to crash regulations. The power of CAD to meet those challenges has long since been demonstrated in the remarkable grace and comportment of three-ton SUVs. Moreover, the desire for classic styling and attitude is so strong that even when a company half-asses it (see: current Challenger) the public still eats it up. Think of how many people bought a Chrysler LX car because of the way it looked, even though they knew it wouldn’t match a Camry for reliability or resale value. Think of how important that look and experience truly is.

I like the new Continental, and I think people will buy it, but I think they’d rather have one that looked just like a ’63. I like the new Corvette, but I think people would spring for the option of bodywork that was reminiscent of older Vettes. There’s a market for a vehicle that looks more like itself than everything around it.

There are plenty of reasons why the automakers almost never do such a thing. I think it boils down to this: Harley-Davidson respects their customers a lot more than any automaker respects their customers. (And you can take the word “customer” to mean “dealer” or “end user” in this case.) Harley builds what people want. Automakers build what they want to build. That’s unlikely to change. But if it did, even in the case of a few niche vehicles … what’s the worst that could happen if you didn’t force your product to conform to every passing fad? You’d wind up like the Jeep Wrangler?

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116 Comments on “No Fixed Abode: Learning From Willie G....”


  • avatar
    ajla

    Remember when you bought a Town Car? That is what I expect your HD experience would be.

    The thing about retro cars is that people have different tastes. So unless the car really has just one “this is it” look it doesn’t work.

    I want my Impala to look like what you could buy in 1982, you might prefer 1961, and another might want 1996. I think the E38 is one of the best looking sedans ever, you’ve called it a boring dead-end and praise the E65.

    Really, my big problem with the American cars of today isn’t that they don’t look like copies of 1963 (a ’63 Riviera with a 2.0T would still be lame to me), but that they so completely and sadly attempt to be Japanese or German.

    Plus everyone wants a crossover anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      ClutchCarGo

      This. I want my Impala a ’65 (and 2 door, please), my Continental a ’61, my Vette a ’63, and if Buick revives the Riviera name I want a ’63, but I know people who would pick entirely different years/decades for each of those. Look what happened when Ford tried to make a retro Thunderbird, choosing elements from multiple decades, and pleased few.

      • 0 avatar
        VolandoBajo

        I don’t know about the retro Thunderbird comment. I personally believe that the 88 Sportcoupe with the 5.0L & the AOD, a moonroof, dark blue leather, metallic titanium silver paint and the cast aluminum wheels from another model that should have come with it, was a really sweet spot of performance, comfort, styling, etc.

        It had a lot of the size and feel of the Birds of the Sixties, the stylishness, adequate (plus) performance, etc.

        It felt like the two-seaters, but with a backseat and a spacious trunk.

        YMMV, but to me, that car embodied all the things I associated with the best of the Birds over the years, and I go back as far as detailing a two-seater from the fifties for a dentist who was a beach volleyball team member and friend.

        Plus I came yea far away from trying to buy and restore a 64 Bird convertible in coral at one time. And I have rode in and/or driven a few others.

        Plus it always held an iconic spot in my mind and heart, matched only by the Vettes for multi-decade superiority.

        And in the late 80’s, IMNERHO, the Bird was by far the better ride.

  • avatar

    Speaking of Brando, if you want authenticity when you ride a Harley or other V-twin, the company that made Marlon Brando’s motorcycle jacket in The Wild One was Reed Sportswear of Detroit. They’re still in business and they will still make you the same jacket for a fraction of what Japanese enthusiasts will pay for reproductions. Some of the patterns and equipment they use, like the presses for putting on snaps, may very well be the same ones used back in the 1950s.

    Disclaimer: The Reeds and Silvers are old family friends and I do business with the company as both a customer and supplier. I just happened to find out about The Wild Ones jacket while doing some historical research. There was a time when Detroit produced a lot of motorcycle leather goods. There was the Buco company, that sold saddlebags and supplied the Brando jacket (though some folks say it was made by Schott) and Brooks, which made racing leathers, was here too.

    Someone is trying to revive the Brooks brand and at the website they have a history section that mentioned that while Buco sold jackets, they didn’t make them, that they were supplied by Reed. My neighbor and friend, Mark Silver, now runs Reed so I asked him about it and he said that it was true, that he personally made deliveries to Buco.

    It bothers me that Shinola has made Detroit literally part of their brand, but that they source their varsity jackets from California and not Reed, whose factory is maybe 10 minutes from Shinola’s digs in midtown.

    • 0 avatar
      TR4

      Brando rode a vertical twin Triumph in The Wild Ones. See:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wild_One

      The popularity of British motorcycles after WWII is sometimes cited as why Harley developed the Sportster series.

      • 0 avatar

        Thanks for the clarification. It was the drunk guy in the (likely staged) photo from the “Hollister biker riot” who was sitting on a Harley.

        I could be wrong, but I think Brit bikes didn’t start getting popular in the U.S. until the 1960s (see Bob Dylan’s Triumph t-shirt).

        • 0 avatar
          TR4

          Quote:
          1950 Triumph sells more bikes in the U.S. than any other market, including Britain.

          From:
          http://www.motorcycle.com/manufacturer/history-triumph-motorcycle.html

          I think their popularity peaked in the 60s before the Japanese ate their lunch.

          • 0 avatar
            Syke

            1969 was Meriden Triumph’s best year, with 1970 closely behind. 1971 was when it all went south due to the cumulation of some really dimbulb decisions on the part of BSA/Triumph. Including a line of restyled bikes that were completely inferior to the sixties bikes.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        TR4 beat me to it. Brando was on a Triumph.

        The problem with Harley is that they have virtually no appeal to new buyers. People too young to be nostalgic want a cheap light easy to ride entry level bike to start on. The loyal Harley tribe looks down upon any Sportster 1200 or smaller as girls bikes. They are also trapped by the success of the “old bike” cruiser look.

        I am getting to be a bit old for a sport bike but I still like performance. That means turn, stop and go. The Ducati Diavel hits my sweet spot. I read that it has been a huge success for Ducati. They’ve sold 20k of them.

        Harley – no thanks. My brother has one and so do a bunch of mutual friends. They close ranks even on me when the conversation turns to bikes. That also alienates new riders.

        The XR1200 was close as it got for a Harley to float my boat but unfortunately for them virtually every bike maker makes a better sporting standard.

        i can see Jack’s attempt at linking cars to bikes when it comes to success in the retro arena but Harley has been Harley since the dawn of the V twin. Fashion just caught up to them not the other way around.

        • 0 avatar
          ellomdian

          You’re kind of right on the nose with your fashion comment, but one of the big reasons why HD is seeing a resurgence is that Gen-X riders finally got old enough to be fine with the trappings that come with the ‘Harley’ rider image. You can talk about the friends closing ranks, but how many of them owned a HD more than 5 years ago? Honestly, most of the ‘real man’ biker image went out the door when stockbrokers started trailering 30k bikes to Sturgis.

          What’s more interesting is that their entry level offerings aren’t doing very well with millennials, if their promotions are any indication, so they aren’t jumping outside of their traditional market. They’ve just got to content themselves by squeezing insane markups on branded everything.

      • 0 avatar
        VolandoBajo

        Sonny Barger, the former president of the Hell’s Angels, in one of his books, said that it was almost by coincidence that the Angels ended up centering on Harleys.

        According to him they were looking for something that was a large touring bike, and had even considered Japanese bikes at one time. Though of course they later rejected the idea entirely.

        As to the rise of the Brit bikes, at least in and around the U of Fla, the big takeoff in popularity began about the time Dylan was pictured on that Bonneville on the album cover.

        At that time, Norton was also a popular choice, and BSA Lightning Rockets were not uncommon, with their unique partially chromed tanks.

        Velocette single-bangers were rarer, but not unheard of.

        And I bought a basket case 600cc Norton Dominator, made in GB, and not imported through Berliner, that, with its open dual carbs and a competition cam, was surprisingly faster than all but a blueprinted 750 Norton Commando that belonged to an engineering student.

        Faster, that is, after my mechanic tore it down for me after I purchased it, to find out why it was so sluggish. Turns out the guy who had rebuilt the motor had put the rocker arms on backwards. 1.1 to 1 mechanical advantage turned into a 1 to 1.1 disadvantage, a swing from 1.1 times lobe height to .89 of lobe height, a loss of over 20% of its intake and exhaust capacity.

        Once they were turned around, I had a truly unique cafe racer style British bike. Definitely on my shortlist of vehicles I have owned that I wish I still did.

        After the engine got sorted out, I wanted a candy apple metalflake paint job for the tank. A good painter convinced me he could do better than the iconic tangerine color popularized by Tom Wolfe, and fixed me up with a slightly darker orange metalflake apricot color that was truly unique…a complete showstopper on a sunny Florida summer afternoon.

        It was to me what the Vincent Black Shadow was to Richard Thomson.

        • 0 avatar
          kmoney

          ‘Sonny Barger, the former president of the Hell’s Angels, in one of his books, said that it was almost by coincidence that the Angels ended up centering on Harleys.’

          In his biography he also states that if he had the option, he would probably ride a BMW or a Honda ST1100.

          • 0 avatar
            VolandoBajo

            @kmoney Thanks for the followup. I knew there was more to it, but don’t still own the book and couldn’t recall which bikes he said he liked.

            I’m sure his thoughts aren’t unknown to the average Angel, but I also think that 99% of the rest of the world have no idea he feels that way.

            I forget the reason he said he preferred the Beemers and the Hondas. Do you recall that info or have access to it?

        • 0 avatar
          kmoney

          This is the quote from the bio (I think we both basically remember different parts of the same sentiment).

          ‘But Hell’s Angels started riding Harley-Davidsons mostly because, unlike today, they didn’t have much choice. In 1957, it was either ride a Harley or settle for a Triumph or BSA. They’d already stopped building Indians. It’s always been important for Hell’s Angels to ride American-made machines. In terms of pure workmanship, personally I don’t like Harleys. I ride them because I’m in the club, and that’s the image, but if I could I would seriously consider a Honda ST1100 or a BMW. We really missed the boat not switching over to the Japanese models when they began building bigger bikes. I’ll usually say, “#$%* Harley Davidson. You can buy an ST1100 and the mother#$%*er will do 110 miles per hour right from the factory all day long.” The newest “rice rockets” can carry 140 horsepower to the rear wheel, and can easily do 180 miles per hour right out of the box. While it’s probably too late to switch over now, it would have been a nice move, because Japanese bikes today are so much cheaper and better built. However, Japanese motorcycles don’t have as much personality.’

          He seems to slam the Motor Company a lot in his later motorcycle safety books as well, for a lot of the same reason — they’re just not anywhere near the pinnacle of engineering for motorcycles, and don’t have durability for someone who puts a ton of miles on them. I guess it’s also reflected in his choice to switch to riding a Victory.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      “Speaking of Brando, if you want authenticity when you ride a Harley or other V-twin…”

      I might be a bit slow today but how does wearing a jacket that an actor wore in a movie deliver authenticity to a rider of a Harley, Triumph, or any other motorcycle?

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        hubcap – there is a dress code when one buys a Harley. one needs linemen boots, leather chaps, a beanie helmet, jeans, a black leather vest, finger less gloves and a leather jacket preferably with a lot of fringes.
        You get chastised for wearing anything else. I knew a guy who was deathly allergic to bee stings so he always wore a full faced helmet but owned a Harley. He got bugged about it all of the time.

        • 0 avatar
          Luke42

          @lou_BC:

          There’s a Harley dealership near my house. I got to missing my old Kawasaki Vulcan, so I stopped by the Harley dealership just to see if I was missing anything.

          The place looks like a g*ddamn leather goods store at a shopping mall. They pushed the motorcycles out into the parking lot. It was a f*cking fashion boutique, focused on a certain aesthetic.

          I’m sure its a brilliant business move, and gets some fashions conscious wives and girlfriends interested. But, as someone who expected to see, you know, motorcycles in a motorcycle dealership, I found the whole thing off-putting. Bit the motorcycle dealership was the 6 bikes in the parking lot.

          I’m sure this retail experience is highly profitable. I just am not their target customer, as I’m more interested in cheap fun small motorcycles than fashion accessories.

          I owned a 500cc Kawasaki Vulcan. The Vulcan was faster than I needed, so my next bike will probably be a Honda Rebel 250 (or something electric). It probably won’t be a Harley, because I don’t care for dress codes (even ones with a lot of leather and “personalization”), or fashion boutiques. The Honda/Polaris dealer down the road sells, you know, motorcycles.

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            Luke42 – The Harley Dealer in my town has a lot of bikes and a large selection of accessories. It is brilliant to push the lifestyle aspect of it.
            My leathers are 2 piece but patterned after race gear. They aren’t very comfortable to wear off a bike. They are black and so is my Arai helmet. It made no sense to me to get any designer or colour matched gear since that would mean swapping out gear when I got a new bike.

            Married with children currently kills the odds of me getting a bike right now.
            A Ducati Diavel is my fantasy bike but a 650 VStrom, KLR650 or DRZ400 SuperMoto would be more in line with my financial reserves and my preference for the back country.

  • avatar
    01 Deville

    I am really surprised by the statement

    “Harley builds what people want. Automakers build what they want to build”

    especially coming from you.

    Businesses want to build what people want. I recall you lamenting as much about the current gen Z06 loosing racing character of the previous generation.

    While it can be reasonable to disagree with marketing bets backed by millions of dollars of market research while sitting on our arm chairs, the premise that a mainstream business concern will put whims of certain individuals over market research is a bit hard to swallow.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      Indeed. There is only one company that does this, and they might have smog cheated their way out of solvency. Sorry Piech, we might have to put that Phaeton II on hold during this fight for our survival.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      01 Deville – Harley just builds the same thing or variations of the same thing. Like I mentioned earlier. Harley has always been Harley. Fashion finally aligned with what they sell.

  • avatar
    Scuttle

    I have come to respect HD more with age but the one thing that always kills a cruiser for me tends to be the brakes. I don’t even ride super sports but I cannot accept the spongy brakes that many cruisers have.

    I did get to test ride a Victory Gunner at the IMS in San Mateo and if I had not moved out of the US then I would probably be riding one now. Current bike is the FZ6N (naked version not sold in the states). Wouldn’t mind trying out a multistrada if I felt like spending that much money.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I guess for authenticity, just buy a huge BMW bike, paint it “feldgrau”, equip it with a sidecar (MG42 optional except in certain cities) and away you go!

    Bikes aren’t my thing, but H/D has the tradition and style thing nailed shut, and I give lots of props for that.

    As for Corvettes, I like the new model as well, but the 1963-67 has a style that is timeless. That’s the point: TIMELESS style. When a vehicle, appliance or some other object has achieved a TIMELESS style, that’s how it should stay, even if it needs to be optional.

  • avatar

    This is a surefire way to pander to a rapidly dwindling audience. Sure the baby-boomers have money now, and want to buy things that are decently styled like “the old days”, but soon enough that group will no longer be buying anything new, and the next generation won’t want to buy anything associated with the old and stodgy. It’s a short term gain sacrificing a long term strategy.

    • 0 avatar
      ect

      About 15 years ago, one of the presenters at a conference I attended put up a chart that showed, year by year over several decades, 2 lines. One represented the % change each year in the number of American men turning 47, the other showed the year-over-year % change in HD sales.

      They fit almost perfectly. Apparently, the typical first-time Harley buyer had long been in the 45-48 year old range. If this continues to be the case, the next generation will gravitate to HD, but not until they are old enough.

  • avatar
    kkop

    – None of these customers are blind. They know what a modern motorcycle looks like. They see Gold Wings and Gixxer Thous and Beemer LTs and Ducati Diavels everywhere they look. They know that Harley could build such a thing –

    This makes it sound like those bikes are more numerous than Harleys, when in fact Diavel and BMW etc. are rare sights compared to Harleys.

    I honestly doubt Harley could make anything like that; to make the V-Rod, they turned to Porsche for engine development. They are secure and successful in their space, and intend to stay there (even if the wheels are starting to come off that business model lately)

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      I’ve been waiting for Harley to produce a roadster reminiscent of the XR750. Their latest try was the XR1200X and while I like that bike it’s a hundred pounds too heavy.

      you’re right, Harley knows their market. I do wish they’d remember that they also have a performance heritage though.

      • 0 avatar
        bunkie

        I came fairly close to buying an XR1200 five years ago.

        These days, I’m thinking about something a bit roomier than the Ninja 650 I ended up buying. Part of me really wants to like what Harley has to offer, but I just don’t like the feeling of not having my feet underneath me when I ride and the rear seats on most of their offerings are absolute jokes. Then there’s the suspension travel or, rather, the lack of suspension travel. I do most of my riding two-up and, since we are baby boomers, we need a bit of comfort and no 2-inch travel rear suspension bike is going to cut it on the frost-heaved roads we ride.

        In some respects, I envy Harley owners. They have loyal dealers and a manufacturer that clearly values their customers, something largely missing at many Japanese big-four dealers.

        If I were to buy a new bike today, a BMW oil-head or a 1200 Multistrada would probably be at the top of the list with a look at one of the new, bigger Bonnevilles.

        By the way, my Reed jacket is still doing fine after 15 years, it’s worth every penny.

        • 0 avatar
          hubcap

          @Bunkie

          Feet forward is awkward for me also but I do like the Breakout,the V-Rods as well as the Rocker C which is no longer in production.

          I’m hearing good things about the new water cooled R1200. I don’t know you’re budget, but do yourself a favor and take a ride on the RS.

          It’d be my choice for two up touring and the R is an all around very good motorcycle (something I really wasn’t expecting).

    • 0 avatar

      Not just Porsche. Roush was involved in the V-Rod story before Porsche was.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    I think the demographic that wants exact copies of old style icons is waning quickly. Younger people would see such cars as inauthentic and vaguely sad, even as the originals stay cool (for some of them, at least).

    I’ll also offer up another practical reason: packaging. It would certainly be possible to design up an exact ’63 Conti replica on the outside. But making it conform with modern safety standards would further shrink what is already a small interior, both by modern standards in general and compared with the exterior size. If there’s one constant of vehicle sales over the last decade or two it’s that poor packaging does not sell to a mass audience. CUVs took off partly because the FWD car platforms allowed vastly roomier interiors than traditional SUVs could afford. Small premium cars are now FWD-based because it’s the only way to get a semi-reasonable amount of interior space. The BMW 3-series continues to shatter sales records in the luxury market not because it’s satisfying to drive but because BMW has solved the RWD/interior space puzzle better than anyone else. A bunch of cramped cars by segment standards (Malibu, ATS, 1-series) have struggled. A modern ’63 Conti with an interior the size of a Cadillac ATS’s wouldn’t succeed.

  • avatar
    strafer

    I think JB would enjoy riding the new Indian motorcycles more than HD.
    Retro style, but modern performance, and has history unlike Victory bikes.
    I’m eyeing the Scout Sixty myself.

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      “and has history unlike Victory bikes”

      The most recent episode thereof being bought by Victory’s parent company.

      Anyone remember the Indian logo plastered on 100CC dirt bikes back in the early ’70s?

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      They’re nice, and I’m half seriously looking at a Sixty Scout myself. Biggest holdup on the idea is that I owned a Springfield Indian – a 1929 101 Scout. And having had the original kinda skews your perception of what an Indian is.

      I’d ridden the Gilroy Indians and they weren’t bad bikes. Once they got away from the S&S motors I was ready to pull the trigger on a 2004 model. And that’s when the venture capitalist bastards pulled their money back and put the effort out of business.

      • 0 avatar
        strafer

        yea that wasn’t a good time for new bike companies. I had some stock in Excelsior (BIGX) but lost money, of course.

        • 0 avatar
          Syke

          A classic case of designing a motorcycle, getting the funding, putting out a product . . . and forgetting to set up a dealer network. Near the end, my Harley/Triumph dealer outside of Harrisburg took on the line because they came and begged him to at incredibly favorable rates.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    I’d love to be able to buy a modern Corvair, but there’s a reason you don’t see those lovely, delicate pillars on modern automobiles. As someone who’s had two people close to him involved in accidents that left them wheels-up but unhurt, I’m OK with that. CAD can’t work miracles.

  • avatar
    carrya1911

    “Think of how many people bought a Chrysler LX car because of the way it looked, even though they knew it wouldn’t match a Camry for reliability or resale value.”

    Guilty as charged.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      I bought my LX car 90% for the V8 and 10% for it being a large sedan. Without the V8 I wouldn’t have even shopped it.

      I actually wish the agressive styling was toned down a few notches.

    • 0 avatar
      Zackman

      Yep – we owned an LH platform 1996 Intrepid with the 3.5L. An incredibly beautiful car, but fearful of the Ultradrive, and even after the fuel rail recall was taken care of, occasional hard-starting issues began, that prompted me to trade it in. We almost pulled the trigger on a new 1999 Camry, but for 6K less, we traded for a new similarly-equipped 1999 Status, which we sold before it got out of warranty, even though we no issues with it.

      We bought our 2002 CR-V for Wifey and later I switched to Chevy for me, and we haven’t looked back. Both are excellent cars.

  • avatar

    Should Change the title to ‘man Realizes he’s getting old’ and then this post makes more sense. Oh and of course The VFR800 isn’t a sportbike, not even close.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      Try not to cut yourself on all that edge, Joey Dunlop

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      Mr. Morrison,

      You talk big, boy, can you ride as well as you flap your gums? If you’re like most hot stuff sportbike guys (as I learned in my years as parts manager at Ducati Richmond), you can’t.

      Don’t underestimate an old rider – I’m 65, will have had my motorcycle endorsement 40 years next June. The garage is currently two scooters (the Metropolitan is Maggie’s, the Zuma 125 is my daily commuter), ’87 Harley FXR Superglide, and a ’98 Honda 996 Super Hawk. And there’s an ’83 Yamaha Venture Royale about 3/4ths built, just because I’ve always wondered what a full dresser is like. I’ve owned lots of stuff, from a 29 Indian 101 Scout to a few state of the art Japanese sport bikes back in the 90’s. Most of which got streetfightered.

      ‘man Realizes he’s getting old’ means you’ve learned to quit being stupid, not that you’ve lost your nerve. You just know a lot better as to when and where to take your chances. And when to keep your mouth shut (having flown colors in three clubs enables one to hone that to a fine edge).

      Yeah, a VFR800 isn’t a cutting edge sportbike. It’s too comfortable, practical, and will actually take you a couple hundred miles down the road on a nice day, not just bar hopping and street drags on a Saturday night like a Ninja or Fireblade. And that VFR will still do a track day as nicely as any of the former. You just get to ride it to the track, not trailer it.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        Y’know, I’ve never ridden a bike – I’m not that guy, just a big car cruiser, especially now that I pretty much lost my left eye 13 years ago and I can’t adequately explain how that has affected my driving, not to mention the general slow-down of my reflexes and mental processing ability, so a bike would be a death sentence to me.

        How do you feel about the Can-Am trikes out there? If I were a biker, that would most likely be the practical option for me.

        • 0 avatar
          Syke

          I’ve got a real mixed feeling for those. I rode one of the pre-production prototypes in ’07 (since we were taking them one, one was brought in and every employee got to take it home for one night). What I hated: Linked brakes with only a foot pedal (almost rear ended a car at the first traffic light going for the front brake first – like you’re supposed to). It doesn’t lean into turns. They’re incredibly over complicated (computerized key? why?) and have had a ton of recalls (as I’m the guy who processes the warranty paperwork at our dealership, I have excellent job security thanks to those).

          The good side: They’re getting a lot of people in the wind who otherwise would get to, due either to physical inability or just being scared of falling over.

          Yeah, I’m not terribly positive towards them, but I keep cautioning myself not to laugh. In the next 10-15 years, if I want to keep riding, I may be forced to go for one of these, or a traditional bike/sidecar combination.

          I intend to keep riding until the day I die.

          • 0 avatar
            VolandoBajo

            @Syke I always thought the CanAms looked like a poor imitation of Piney’s trike on SOA.

            I especially like your comment about learning when to keep your mouth shut.

            And while it is obvious that you are on good terms with the Pagans and the Outlaws, in fairness I have to say that it is not an automatic that Angels have a bad attitude.

            Never rode with them, but in the seventies I was married to Brooklyn probation officer, and one slow rainy hot summer Monday night, we and her co-worker and his wife, another govt employee, ended up in CBGB’s on the lower Eastside, no band that night, just beers and shooting pool.

            It was just around the corner from the NYC Angels clubhouse.

            After about a half hour, on our second beers, three Angels came in, flying their colors. They put their quarters up to challenge, and sat down.

            As I finished shooting, I noted my three companions were whispering to themselves. When I rejoined them, they asked “What are we going to do?”

            My reply was that I was going to act like a normal human being, and treat the Angels the same way. And if they couldn’t handle that, it would be best if they left.

            And true to my predictions, the Angel waited their turns, respected the rules of the table, introduced themselves, and were visiting with us well before the night was over.

            I was also doing a computer project in KY in the eighties, and through a young lady I met at a local “gentleman’s club”, I got to know a few of the Iron Horsemen, including their former president. All of them, too, were perfectly fine people to have a beer with, or whatever.

            As you note, it is almost entirely about the attitude you come with.

            I also used to live in Richmond for most of the Eighties. Used to hang out in the old Copa and the place the Confederate Angels had on southside (just remembered its name, the Last Chance).

            Might have even sat at a bar or a table with you, for all I know, if you used to run in those circles. Our ages aren’t that far apart.

            Did/do you know Big Al? The one with the Jeep with a big block Chevy motor. Any word on how he’s doing? I knew him fairly well back then. Not best buddies, but solid friends nevertheless. I’ve lost touch with him over the years, having re-married, moved away, and raised a son. But I always found him to be a decent human being.

          • 0 avatar
            Syke

            Actually, it is quite a fair assessment when your loyalties are totally and openly with the Outlaws. My second club (which I was one of the founders) patched over to the Outlaws in ’05. I was the only one who didn’t because I was living in Montpelier, VA by that point (having moved south in ’98), and the thought of a 500 mile round trip for weekly church was rather daunting.

            Final club in Richmond was Deranged Few. Got out in ’08 after a nasty run in with HA once they finally discovered why the Outlaws knew about every time they set foot in town. Figured I better quit before I caused the club irreparable harm. As it was, the Pagans put support patches on all the local clubs about a week after the shakeup.

          • 0 avatar
            VolandoBajo

            Thanks for the history lesson, Syke.

            Although I haven’t ridden for years because of health, and never was in an area where there was a club I would want to ride with when I did. I was on good speaking terms with members of a few clubs over the years, though, and like to at least have a general idea of who is doing what, as long as it isn’t too confidential (for the kind of reasons you mentioned, for example).

            I use my brain, and don’t share the knee-jerk typical reaction that much of the general public has about motorcycle clubs. As I’ve said before, just about every member I have met has been a standup guy.

            So it is interesting to me to hear about various adventures such as yours.

            There was a fairly visible Pagans chapter here in Philly though they have taken a lower profile recently. I used to know a niece of a former president when I used to work downtown, and it was during the time when they were getting a lot of publicity, so I used to get both the newspaper version and the version the Pagans maintained.

            Never had a chance to meet any the members themselves, but they too seemed like standup guys, especially when a non-motorcycle club tried to invade their south Philly territory. It appears they handled it well, at least according to reports I heard.

            I believe in giving all club members, as well as people in general, respect. According to how they act, I either decide to give them even greater regard, or move them to my caution list. If you know a person for a while, it usually (though not always) isn’t too hard to figure out who should go in which direction.

            Having said all that, from your accounts, you seem like a righteous person also. If I ever have occasion to be back down central VA way, I’ll at least stop in at your parts counter to introduce myself. (And to get a look at what you’re riding, too. Sounds like you have had some interesting machines.)

            For what it’s worth, I have a good destination dining tip for you, if it’s still there and open.

            Tanglewood Ordinary, about 25 miles west of Richmond. Near or in Goochland, as I recall. All you can eat, choice of two main dishes, fried chicken was one of three or four choices, plus good country style fresh vegetables, and “real” deserts. I forget the road, but if it is still open you should be able to find it easily enough.

            A nice country ride, and a comfortable place to have a leisurely meal. And you won’t catch any attitude from them, either, for riding up on two wheels instead of four.

            That, and Extra Billy’s BBQ, were my two favorite restaurants in Richmond, though there was also a couple of decent hole-in-the-wall BBQ places on southside.

            Tobacco Company, of course, was a nice “fancy” choice, but a bit too pretentious for me. Mostly used to just go there to see who/what was on the streets, rather than to eat. But the other places are down to earth and good food. And of course there is the Smokey Pig BBQ in Ashland. BBQ just OK+ but the hush puppies are the best in the area.

            But there is a real good chance you probably know all this. But just in case, thought I’d share. Tanglewood is a bit off the beaten path, but well worth checking out.

      • 0 avatar
        bunkie

        Syke, I *desperately* miss my ’98 Superhawk (which I had to let go at a tough time a bunch of years back). I’ve had my endorsement for over 42 years. Modern “mid-performance” bikes are so good these days, almost no one can ride them at the limits. I bought my 650 Ninja off the dealer floor five years ago and I have been stunned at how good it is considering what I paid for it. These days, I concentrate on being safe and as smooth as I can be. Any testosterone-filled idiot can yank the throttle thinking that they are channeling their inner Valentino Rossi. Riding (or driving) well involves engaging the brain to process and plan moment-to-moment. I remember reading an interview with Eddie Lawson talking about Kenny Roberts giving him advice. Lawson was stunned at Roberts ability to capture every detail of what he was doing and, playing it back in his head, use it to his advantage. Roberts told him about a particular track surface irregularity that he used to kick the rear out ever-so-slightly to gain a bit of corner exit speed. Lawson then tried it and, of course, it worked. Most of riding well is mental, “being ahead of the airplane” as my flight instructor hammered into me. My reflexes may not be as quick as they used to be, but my situational awareness and judgement are so much better. Age definitely has its advantages.

        • 0 avatar
          Syke

          Amen. Back while I still had it, I’d ride my ’69 Bonneville cafe racer to work every Saturday (we closed at 1500), and would snicker at the amazement of the squids in the parking lot as I went thru the startup drill (kick to loosen the clutch, tickle the carbs, one kick to prime, switch the ignition on, one kick – bam!). Of course I’d invariably get some jerk (usually) on a 600 Gixxer making comments about me riding an antique piece of junk. At which point I’d invite him to a certain spot in Richmond’s West End to try an beat me on a pre-picked five mile course towards my home.

          OK, you’ve got a 44hp forty year old Triumph against a 90-100hp Suzuki (or Kawasaki, Yamaha or Honda). And he’s at the disadvantage, because I picked the road which has absolutely no straights after the first quarter mile. He invariably jumps me off the line, I pass him on the first curve, and its all over baby blue. I had a couple of these jerks lay their bikes down trying to catch me in the twisties.

          And there’s nothing more deflating to a 20-something squid than to have a guy old enough to be your father, riding a bike twice you age, to shut you down. And if you dump the bike in the process . . . . .

          That’s always been my problem with sport bikes: the riders. At least on a cruiser, I can usually assume that the rider is running the bike within 75% of its capabilities. Most squids can’t do better than 25% without going over.

          And in defense, I ran the same course a number of times of the ’95 ZX-6R I owned for a year or so. Never could come within 20 seconds of what I could do it on the Bonnie. Never was good enough to get my knee down, and usually realized any of those bikes were way more than my abilities.

          Which is why I love cruisers, tourer and dual sports. I can ride them.

          • 0 avatar
            VolandoBajo

            Which road was that Syke? I lived in Richmond for a decade. Trying to figure out which one it might be.

            I used to do the same thing in the mountains of VT with whaletail Porsches when I was in my carbed gas Rabbit, re-jetted and a less restricted exhaust, plus sway bars.

            Porsches couldn’t get ten car lengths on me in the mountains. Cheap thrills, good memories…

            Never had an occasion to have one spin out chasing me, however, as I never slowed down enough for any of them to come up behind me.

          • 0 avatar
            Syke

            Start in Short Pump (the big malls hadn’t moved in yet) and head up Howards Mill Road towards Montpelier.

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      The sad truth that most sport riders don’t want to accept is that something like a VFR is still way more than 95% of riders can ride to its potential. And as someone who went from dailying a TL1000S to a VFR, I’ll tell you that ABS, a riding position and tank size that favour long rides, and hard bags to put your stuff into make riding a lot more enjoyable than a couple of more degrees of theoretical lean angle before the pegs scrape, or suspension adjustments knobs that most of us will never learn how to use, can.

      It’s true that a VFR is slower than a “real” sport bike. It’s also true that it’ll still do 0-60 MPH in less than 3.5 seconds, the quarter mile in the 11s, and offers more lean angle in the curves than most people will ever have the guts to use on the street.

  • avatar
    redliner

    As somone who has owned both a Honda VFR (excuse me, Interceptor) and a Buell XB12 Lightning, I see the appeal of both. The Buell is a horrible everyday motorcycle, but it exudes a charisma and character that Honda can’t equal. On the other hand, the Honda has build quality and engineering that might as well be equal parts rocket-science and sorcery as far as the boys from Milwaukee are concerned.

    Life is short. Ride them all.

    However, HD is not the most retro-authentic experience out there. Indian and Victory seem equally less generic and more sincere in execution.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      redliner – I’ve ridden multiple Buell’s and what really soured it for me was quality and consistency. I’ve ridden identical bikes back to back and they felt different. I’ve ridden 3 different Kawasaki ZX6’s in one day and they all felt basically the same. Same can be said for European stuff.
      One can say that consistency kills personality but i disagree. I had a ’96 YZF1000 that definately had its own character and personality compared to other litre bikes.

  • avatar
    DougD

    Although we’re the same age I’m not there yet. I’m all about what a motorcycle can do as opposed to how it looks or who it impresses (including me) so my Concours C10 does the job just fine.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      Former Concours owner, loved that bike.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      Connies are wonderful tourers. My best friend, the Kawasaki/Yamaha/formerly Meriden Triumph dealing in Johnstown, PA tried to put me on one, but my heart was set on one of the first Hinckley Triumph Tridents that came to PA. Added a three bag Givi setup and a small Givi windsplitter shield – and had a wonderful 19 years and 117,000 miles on it before that deer took me out last November. I survived nicely. The bike wasn’t even a rolling basket case by the time it came to rest.

    • 0 avatar
      greaseyknight

      Yep, had a Connie for a year and a half and it was an everyday bike. Commuting to work, touring, packed full to go camping, fast pulls on the freeway. Truley a multipurpose bike street bike. Heavy as all get out, not a question of if, just when that you’ll drop it at slow speeds.

  • avatar
    FormerFF

    There’s a big difference between a motorcycle and a car, expectations wise. A motorcycle is just for fun for most riders, while a car is almost always expected to be functional. Going back to 50 year old design language isn’t going to provide the level of function that is expected today.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      +1.

      Contemporary, 80mph cruising in anything with appendages like 50s cars, will create a downright annoying amount of turbulent noise..

      Which is honestly true for bikes as well, but a specific reason for the appeal of HDs, and cruisers in general, is that going at 50s era speeds, is acceptable behavior when on a bike. Something that wouldn’t be the case in any new car, aside perhaps from electrics.

    • 0 avatar
      pragmatist

      This is also the issue among Jeep nuts. Every redesign is preceeded by panic storied that the solid front axle will go IFS.

      my ‘new’ Jeep is an 89, my old one a 47.

  • avatar
    markf

    Jack and I are probably around the same age, with a few years anyway. I’ve owned two RZ350 (both Yellow/Black of course) several Honda and have been searching for an Anniversary Interceptor or almost 7 years now, so I get where he is coming from. But, I loath HD and always will, they are the bikes of old men and women. Overpriced and under-engineered. A Victor or any Japanese cruiser bike is light year ahead. Just shows that with Harley you are buying a “lifestyle” and a brand not a motorcycle. Every single person riding a Harley right now has at least 1 piece of Harley branded clothing on.

    I think their popularity and the desire Detroit to build “retro” just shows the total lack originality and laziness in companies like HD and Ford/GM/Chrysler. You are telling me in 50 years the car companies couldn’t come up with anything new? I mean it is 2015 and people are buying warmed over Camaros, Chargers,Darts, Challengers (GTOs for a bit 10 years ago) etc While HD pumps out the same nonsense year in and year out.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      And people still wear jeans, 150 years after Levi’s started selling them to miners. Can’t come up with anything better to drink than centuries old wine and beer. And, worst of all, still don’t have the originality to come up with a more modern wheelshape than round…..

      • 0 avatar
        Drzhivago138

        The Mythbusters actually did reinvent the wheel once.

        /watch?v=QF7odK55gkI

        It would only work smoothly if all the roads were inverted catenaries, and all wheels were the same size, and you never had to turn.

        • 0 avatar
          VolandoBajo

          Shhh! Don’t tell Washington about the Mythbusters wheel. They will want to mandate it on the principle that without turning, accident rates will decline drastically. Just switch from a North-South to an East-West zipcar to get where you want to go.

    • 0 avatar
      bunkie

      Saying that Harleys are “under-engineered” is just ignorant. What you really mean is that the focus of Harley engineering doesn’t meet your ideals. As an example, the amount of engineering that went into making a truly functional springer front end is substantial. Harley engineers developed some new metallurgy to get the bushings to work properly. I’m not a Harley fan, for the most part, but I respect the amount of thought and effort that goes into their products.

      And, having owned some of those classic muscle cars (’69 Mach I, ’71 440 Challenger), I can tell you that, from a functional perspective, the new cars are so much better. The V6 Camaro is quicker than the Challenger, Modern Mustangs handle and brake better and I certainly don’t miss 12 miles per gallon either.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Harleys are like…….

    There’s a guy at my job who still drives the Iron Duke equipped Camaro I’m pretty sure he got in high school. I get the need for style and character standards and sport bikes don’t have…. but why does that have to mean going for a POS Harley? Why not something like a Ducati Monster?

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      I know very little about motorcycles. What makes a Harley a POS?

      To my amateur eye, a Ducati Monster still *looks* like a sport bike. I could see like a Honda Shadow being a sport bike alternative though.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        ajla – part of the dislike and contempt of Harley from other riders is the whole “lifestyle” attitude. The attitude that Harley riders are the only true hardcore motorcyclists out there.
        I put 10k in about 6 weeks one summer on a sport bike I had but the Harley guys who rode to the pub once a week acted like they were real bikers. I’ve never liked the “biker” attitude even though most are middle class dudes no different than I.
        Being Canadian my favourite Harley biker rant is the “Jap scrap” “foreign bike” rhetoric. When they have derided my bike I always ask, “Where was your bike made?”. The indignant answer is always “Milwaukee, USA.” ………. “Oh! Did you know that the USA is a foreign country? that means your bike is just as much an import as mine!”
        I always love all of the stuttering and stammering after my remark.

        • 0 avatar
          stuki

          10K in 6 weeks on a sportbike, in the permanent rain shower that is BC…. You, sir, are a hardcore biker, no matter what you ride. Even if your Canucky Ks are a bit on the truncated side, compared to our big old ‘Murican ones…

          • 0 avatar
            Lou_BC

            stuki – I had a plan of going all the way down to Phoenix Arizona on Highway 93 starting in Jasper Bc. That was around the time the USA did away with the nationally mandated 55 limit. Montana went back to “Reasonable and Prudent”. I spent multiple days exploring back roads there and even toured Yellowstone. I barely missed some really bad hailstorms so decided to head home. One can really eat up freeway at 125 mph.

        • 0 avatar
          Syke

          There’s a difference between RUBbies and real bikers. You’ll see it some day if you roll into to a bar in the conditions you’ve described and find out there’s a 1%er club having a few beers. They’ll look at the weather, look at you walking in, and probably buy you a beer. (Note: The above statement does not necessarily hold for Hells Angels. It will for for Outlaws and Pagans. Little matter of an attitude problem.)

          If the Harley is a new model, bright and clean, if the leathers are new and shiny, if every piece of clothing the guy is wearing has the H-D logo on it, odds are the guy is not a biker. He’s a RUBbie.

          On the other hand, if the Harley is a blockhead or older, the leathers show lots of road wear, and he doesn’t particularly care what his clothes say – and especially if its not sunny and warm outside – you’ve probably run into a biker.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      Why a Harley?

      Because they’re different from anything else on the road. Yeah, just like a Ducati (miss my 906 Paso, in blue no less), and a few other brands of bikes. They ride different, handle different, hell they smell different. If you want a cruiser, there’s nothing better out there.

      I work for a Honda/Yamaha/Can-Am dealer in Richmond, and I’ve probably had a representative of every cruiser those two makes build between my legs over the last eleven years . . . . . and none of them are worth crap compared to the Harley’s I’ve owned. The Japanese may make faster, more powerful machinery, but they’ve never caught on to what makes a Harley worth owning. It’s just . . . . . different. More comfortable if you actually want to go somewhere (say, Richmond to Daytona), rather than just show up at the local Quaker Steak & Lube on a Sunday afternoon.

      Ducati Monsters are wonderful – but they’re a different kind of bike. More frantic, wilder. Harley’s are laid back. They’re forgiving, be you somebody with little enough experience that you really belong on a twenty year old beater, or maybe you’ve stayed at the bar one or two beers too long. In either of those situations, that Monster might give me a lot of trouble. The Harley will probably get me home just fine.

  • avatar
    RRocket

    Jack,

    If you want something old looking and don’t want to spend $25K, buy a Kawasaki Drifter 800 and be done with it. Want something a bit more custom-y? The Honda Fury is shockingly good.

    Also, I’ve gone the opposite way as I got older. I moved from sportbikes to what I consider harder-core bikes: supermoto. To me, less was more.

  • avatar
    Slow_Joe_Crow

    Sorry H-D but I continue to be unimpressed. I imprinted on cafe racers as a kid and have never really felt an attraction to cruisers. This summer I went to a demo event and test rode one of the new and heavily hyped “Project Rushmore” Electra Glides and found it to be meh. It rode and handled better than the last Harley I rode but the new BMW R1200RT I rode next blew it away. Looking shiny and making the right noises is all well and good, but comfortable ergonomics, precise handling and effortless power trump that for me. Of the modern bikes I’ve ridden recently the BMW and its close competitor the Honda ST1300 are the ones I would buy first and a Triumph Street Triple or BMW R NineT next. The streetfighter style appeals to me far more than a cruiser.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      You and me both. I grew up reading about the rocker/mod riots in Brighton thru Time and Newsweek magazine. Spent a week in the summer of ’79 at Brighton, buying the rounds for the old rockers and listening to all those stories their families got bored with decades ago.

      My last cafe racer was my ’69 Bonnie. Had it for twenty years, sold it to clear out the last of my late wife’s medical bills. Right now is the first time I don’t have a caffed bike since something like 91. Was planning on picking up another Bonnie, but this 996 Super Hawk showed up . . . . . and I’ve wanted one of those since they were new.

      My studded leather and Davida hang in the closet waiting for that next Bonnie.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    Written by a guy who clearly doesn’t have a wife.

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      And, if he’s smart he’ll find himself a wife who can happily live such passions.

      My first wife, after eleven years of marriage, got on my ass about “growing up and getting rid of that (one) damned motorcycle”. I filed for divorce the following week. She was followed by a live in girlfriend (seven years) who dealt with the local M/C well, but kinda got frayed after the club went down in an altercation with the Allegheny Co. Pagans. The survivors of that club putting on a new patch and reforming was more than she could live with. I let her go, paid off her bills, and financed her moving back at AZ.

      Second wife? Wore the ladies patch in the M/C with pride, gave me in ’69 BSA A50R and the ’29 Indian (her dad’s). We had a nice collection of ten antique bikes when her health went. In return, I sold the collection off piece by piece to pay her medical bills. By the day she died, I was down to two Triumphs. One got sold shortly afterwards, the deer got the other one.

      Current wife is probably the best of the lot. Enthusiastic as all hell. Knows how to behave where we drop in at the Outlaw clubhouse back in my home town, and is respected by the brothers.

      Women and motorcycles are not mutually exclusive. The basic rule, however, is that when you have to decide between the woman and the bike, you keep the bike. There’s always another woman available.

      • 0 avatar
        bunkie

        On our second date, I sprang the motorcycle on my wife. We had met at an outdoor art fair in Washington Square Park. I offered her a ride home and she gamely accepted. She has been my riding companion ever since. She urged me to buy my last bike and loves riding as much as I do.

      • 0 avatar
        SonWon

        Lots of women, few good ones, I’m holding on to my wife and bike. ;)

      • 0 avatar
        VolandoBajo

        I once had to choose between an expensive woman with every attribute you’d want — brains, body, face, cool attitude, etc. — and a brand new XLCR.

        I figured I could always get an XLCR later, but the woman was a rare opportunity.

        Instead, it turned out that she was only happy when she had a live in BF and could also run wild with her GF’s a couple of nights a week.

        Love is blind, and they don’t give you a redtipped cane for self-defense.

        Even with all she had, I was completely wrong. I would have been better to have let her trifling @ss go down the road, and gone down to the dealers to pick up my cafe racer.

        A bike with problems can be fixed. A woman with problems is like a pair of concrete boots, inevitably dragging you down. Fortunately the woman I have been with, my wife, isn’t like that.

        I wish I had grabbed that XLCR when I had the chance, after I saw one set up with a better peg position and a dual seat.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      I do. It’s just someone else’s wife.

    • 0 avatar
      Slow_Joe_Crow

      Wrong, when we were first dating I bought my wife a Honda CM250C (she is very small) and got here riding. She still likes riding on the back of my old BMW and supports the idea of getting a new one when we have $$. Of my riding buddies back in 1990 I’m the only one with a wife and a motorcycle. The others old theirs and one is also divorced so he is sans wife and Sportster.

  • avatar
    Toad

    A used Honda Valkyrie might be a good way to scratch that big bore itch without having to become a “Harley Guy.”

    My corner of the world is full of middle aged guys who buy a Harley, then buy all the accessories, jacket, etc with the HD logos plastered everywhere; it has become the new mid life crisis stereotype. Bonus points for taking a bike week trip to Myrtle Beach or Daytona FL and coming back with drunken stories from Suck, Bang, Blow (yes, it is a real bar).

    The Valkyrie always seemed to do big iron in a cool, precise, Honda way. The opposed 6 engine is beautiful to look at, and has more than enough smoothly delivered power. The owners of these machines are a different breed, usually meticulous owners. There are plenty of exquisitely maintained, low mile examples on CL and Ebay.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      +1 for the Valk. That is one cool bike. I personally prefer the new one to the 1500, but the latter is more likely to scratch a Harley itch.

      How Jack the Porsche car, Honda bike guy could walk by a flat six Honda cruiser for anything else, I do not understand.

      I like Harleys. They’re like Rolex watches. Not as precise at the task of keeping time than a Japanese model for a fraction of the cost, but they do have a certain mechanical, metal, feel that I’m sure many buyers crave in the touch screen era. And they’re still air cooled, which may explain Jack’s fascination…. Or, maybe Jacks new girl just like Harley guys, middle aged or not…

      That being said, Harley’s are nice and all, but the new Valk is a full on riot! The new, 2016 Diavel on the way looks to be pretty sweet, but I’d still rather have that flat six burbler with it’s rhino like demeanor (and weight/dimensions).

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    Not gonna lie, I read Willie G and thought it was the guy from Geto Boys.

    But that was Willie D…

  • avatar
    Pch101

    “There are plenty of reasons why the automakers almost never do such a thing.”

    Retro usually fails; it’s a formula that has to be used sparingly. Spending a billion dollars just to produce a flop on purpose is a lot to ask, and there is no particular reason to ask.

    In contrast, Harley-Davidson’s R&D costs are fairly modest. The lower cost of engineering makes it less risky for it to serve niches than it would be for any car company.

  • avatar
    46and2

    I say go ahead Jack, get an HD. I’ve owned many different bikes including HD, jap cruisers, sport bikes and dirt bikes. HD does what they do very well.

    But know this, owning an HD is like being born-again into a religion. At first you become an eager follower absorbing all manner of proper dress, proper use of the accessory catalog, and learning HD’s fabled history. Then you start to notice that other followers don’t like when you think for yourself, have your own opinions about safety and other brands, or dress a little differently (full-face helmet). Your new uniform: leather jacket, leather boots, HD logo on every shirt, American flag shirts, patches, and stickers. You must not fraternize with bikers of other brands and even other HD bikes that don’t fit the cruiser style like V-Rods and Buell (even though they are HD, but somehow not because _____ and _____). In other words, you have to be “that guy” all the time. Oh, and only wave to other HD guys…be a dick to everyone else because they’re not true believers like you. Also, don’t forget your first upgrade which is loud, obnoxious open pipes, then a Screaming Eagle air cleaner, then the skeleton foot pegs from the “Official” HD accessory catalog to round out the cliche. And no smiling. Then one day you’ll wake-up and realize that this religion/lifestyle you’ve been living was designed in the marketing department on the 3rd floor in a flashy/retro building in Milwaukee and that you didn’t buy their product, you are the product. The religion of heavy pot metal and antiquated tech is a hard one to resist. Everyone should do it at least once.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      46and2 – wow! You really do understand Harley Davidson :)

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      You’ve accurately described Step One.

      There are other steps beyond that. That’s where the real bikers go. Unfortunately, most other motorcyclists don’t notice them, because they’re not out there trying to put a show on. They’re riding their motorcycles.

      I was lucky. I’d prospected my first M/C before I got my first Harley (’82 XLS). I didn’t have a chance to dress like a clown. The club wouldn’t have tolerated it.

      • 0 avatar
        46and2

        Syke…I hear you. Step 2 is the next step in the search for HD enlightenment. Like a Buddhist seeking enlightenment but who will never find it, the intrepid HD biker goes on the next step in the journey which is getting an HD that’s not fuel injected because those are for newbies and are somehow not “Authentic HD.” So he gets an Evo but soon realizes that to be a “real biker” you need a Pan or a Shovel Head. And so he goes out to find one, always $earching, never finding. Why? Because what he’s really looking for is acceptance; acceptance by a group that only accepts an extremely narrow interpretation of HD scripture. William Harley and Arthur Davidson never owned a leather jacket with a skull on it and wouldn’t have wore one if they did. And they sure as hell wouldn’t have joined any motorcycle gang.

        I was reading a motorcycle trade magazine in about 2009 and one of the stats really made an impression on me. It was a list of all motorcycle manufacturers and how many units they sold world-wide in the previous year. HD was number one with 250,000 units sold. At a distant number two was Honda at a measly 50,000 units sold. So if you want to be an “individual” and a “rebel”, get a tattoo and a Harley, because no one else is doing that.

        • 0 avatar
          Syke

          Afraid you didn’t get me. It’s not about The Show. It’s about Riding.

          I ride my Harley in a black leather jacket (because I like it, it’s comfortable, and I’ve had it for twenty years now), jeans (because its what I wear), a denim cutoff jacket over my leather with no patches on the back (because I don’t fly colors anymore) and one “Support your local Outlaws” patch over the right front pocket. No HD branded merchandise on my body.

          A couple of years I was at a late fall Outlaw party in northern VA when one of the brothers from Detroit came rolling in. Wearing a full face helmet, Aerostitch Roadcrafter riding suit (to those following, this is considered THE best riding gear by the take-your-BMW-around-the-world crowd), electric vest, and his colors worn over the Readcrafter. He wasn’t interested in biker chic, he was interested in being comfortable running from Detroit to Manassas.

          Step 2 is riding and living your life thru riding. Contrary to your expectations, there never was a required suit to ride a Harley – not in the low end hardcore clubs that I flew, and not in the 1%er clubs I’ve ridden with.

          By the way, they’re “clubs”, not “gangs”.

          • 0 avatar
            SonWon

            “they’re “clubs”, not “gangs”” plus one there although there is some illegal activity in some clubs and the authorities break the law sometimes in their efforts to obtain a conviction.

    • 0 avatar
      SonWon

      LOL, I hope not all Harley riders.

  • avatar
    SonWon

    How about a sister site called thetruthaboutmotorcycles.com?

    • 0 avatar
      Syke

      I wish . . .

    • 0 avatar
      aycaramba

      Oooh…thetruthaboutmotorcycles.com…I like that idea!

      I got my first bike just a few years ago and have found that it really did open up my world–more than I would have expected. I’ve been riding my CB750 (the last of the Nighthawks) since then and have generally been negative on HD for the reasons stated by others here. It’s a little odd because I’m pretty close to the HD mother ship, so the place is absolutely crawling with them around here.

      My wife took me on a little birthday trip to the HD museum in Milwaukee this past summer, and I did gain much appreciation for the company and its history. The highlight for me was bumping into Willie G. and letting him guide me around an exhibit dedicated to his career. I gotta say, he is a cool cat, and a genuinely nice guy. He’s their “brand ambassador” now (more of an honorary position than anything else, I think), and he did more to rehabilitate the HD brand in my mind than a lifetime of professionally produced ads could do.

      Still not sure if I’d buy a Harley to replace my beloved Nighthawk, but I’d certainly consider it now. Or maybe a new Bonnie, or that Yamaha XSR they just unveiled, or CB1100…

      Too many choices. Makes my head hurt. Guess I’ll just stick to 4 cylinders and 4 carbs. Makes life simpler.

    • 0 avatar
      VolandoBajo

      A sister called thetruthaboutmotorcycles? Better than a brother on a Honda, I have heard it said.

  • avatar
    46and2

    Clubs vs Gangs…I’m a motorcyclist, not a biker. My bad…clubs like thugs…got it.

    TheTruthAboutMotorcycles…brilliant idea. The truth is, the odds of getting creamed are supper high. Odds of getting disabled are even higher, no matter what you ride. Dude up the road just recently died when he lost control of his behemoth Electraglide. Who knew that an 800+ pound motorcycle wouldn’t want to go around a corner with finesse. He was a nice guy too. Dude shoulda bought a bike with adequate brakes, modern suspension, made with modern, light weight alloys and a riding position that puts the rider in control…not ready to give birth. RIP.

    • 0 avatar
      SonWon

      Sounds personal?

      • 0 avatar
        Syke

        Nah, just one of those guys who has a jag against Harley’s and their owners. You know, the reverse of what supposedly EVERY Harley rider feels about the rest of the motorcycling world.

        Funny that. I’ve always noticed that attitude amongst the beginner Harley owners – trying to make up for a lack of street cred. Once they’ve settled in and got a few years under their belts, they tend to accept anyone on a motorcycle as someone who’s riding what they want.

        If you think that attitude is bad and stupid, you should see the version that comes with the squids.

        • 0 avatar
          VolandoBajo

          Sounds like a lot of accumulated wisdom from years of experience, Syke.

          I have given some thought recently to getting back up on two wheels again, as I am not so much an old man as just a man who has lived a bit longer than many. I can still do a lot of things people twenty or thirty years younger can’t. Much of the credit for that goes to my almost twenty years younger wife, and our 21 year old son, both of whom give me lots of reasons to stay involved in life.

          Doubt I would ever learn to play golf, but I seriously think about getting a couple of bikes for my son and I, teaching him to ride, and traveling around a bit. We get along real well, and I would like to be out of a cage once more in my life, so for me that would be the best plan.

          My wife is on the fence…worried about us busting our asses, but wise enough to know that if she made a big stink it would just give us more incentive. So in the end, a lot of it will come down to whether or not my son and I decide to start shopping seriously.

          If we do, I am going to look you up first, both for recommendations based on the kind of traveling we might want to do, and for a chance to maybe find a couple of decent used bikes.

          My thoughts currently run along the line of the right Harleys would be nice, but I don’t want a shiny full-dresser, if I go that way. I loved my one off British domestic built Norton 600cc twin carb Dominator, and could see Norton being a good choice. BMW’s — I have mixed feelings. Their rep for reliability tends to make them a bit on the pricey side, and I am not afraid to have to wrench a bit, as long as I’m not stuck with something like the Berliner Nortons with the stamped instead of cast primary cases.

          I do not want a belt driven Harley, nor do I like the V-Rods even a little bit. Look like they must have a terrible low speed turning radius, and just look funny, somehow. I have a brother with two older Harleys, one a 1200cc Sportster he never rides anymore, since his
          father in law retired, which I have been trying to convince him he needs to get rid of cheap.

          Other sixties British iron also really do it for me. Bonnevilles, Lightning Rockets, even Royal Enfields. They seem to have more of that timeless classic feel.

          Although I like a good bit of speed, I do not get much out of Cows and other big displacement sport bikes that look and ride like what I call squidmobiles.

          If you happen to know of anything used like that that has been well-cared for, and that aren’t priced ridiculously, please keep us in mind.

          I have accomplished most of what I had hoped to accomplish as a father to my son. But motorcycles is the one glaring gap in his education and our mutual experience that I would like to fix, while I still have all my coordination, and most of my reflexes, strength and eyesight. I figure I’ve got at least ten to fifteen more good years, and the more I read about bikes from the point of view of serious riders like yourself, the more I feel like I should stop thinking and start acting.

          So please keep me in mind. I think you mentioned that your Bonnie met an unfortunate end, but don’t remember for sure. Is it still around, and if so, would you consider selling it?

          By the way, as a re-enactor, you would especially appreciate Tanglewood Ordinary, in case its there and you haven’t found it already. An ordinary was an 18th century term for a roadside inn that had lodging, food and drink for travelers. They don’t do the lodging part anymore, and they used to be BYOB, but the food is real. The place used to be a large lodge hall for the American Legion, Moose, or something like that in the early part of the last century, was vacant for some time, and became the restaurant in the mid-Eighties.

          Like you probably do also, I remember when Short Pump wasn’t much more than a sleepy intersection out in the country. I’ve always liked central VA, but life has taken me in a different direction. Though selling our place and moving back isn’t out of the question. My wife has liked it also, ever since I introduced it to her when I met her while living there. Her last port of call at that time was northern VA, and like many others, she fell in love with it, for all the good reasons that surround that area.

          I envy you living there. Got me thinking now about why I shouldn’t ditch our house and move back. My wife would be closer to her married daughter from a previous marriage, and just hearing you write about running those back roads at or near the limit makes me homesick for the place. That and remembering the restaurants and the friends from there. You may have started something.

          A PS on squid style riding. Many years ago on the west coast of FL, there was a bike shop that sold either Harleys or Triumphs, don’t remember which.

          One day a green rider came in and asked for a test ride. The shop had a sandy yard that was triangular in shape, with the exit at one corner, and the shop and showroom against the opposite fence.

          Said squid got on the bike in front of the showroom, twisted the wick hard and popped the clutch. Whereupon he ran straight into a palm tree next to the gate, that slanted away from him, climbed up it bike and all several feet, and had the thing flip over and land on top of him. RIP. They were much more cautious about demo rides after that. And I was very cautious from the start of my riding, about five years later, when I was old enough to live in my own place.

          It is clearly the noobs that are the greatest risk, both to themselves and to others.

      • 0 avatar
        46and2

        Like I said on my first post. I’ve owned HD. They do what they do very well. I would buy another one (if I won the lottery and could afford one). As a motorcyclist, I can be critical of other brands. Harley riders, are like religious fanatics. They’re like “Creationist” who believe the world was created in a literal seven days while telling you that dinosaur bones don’t exist.

        Try this. Find a Harley guy and tell him your Honda has more powerful brakes and they’re much more progressive through turns, thereby creating a safer, faster and more enjoyable braking maneuver.

        “No their not. At least my bikes ‘Merican made. My HD is 100% American iron, not some plastic/alloy. You wouldn’t understand.”

        HD is great at what they do but the tech is as evolved as a Massey Ferguson Tractor. A steep V-twin has horrible primary and secondary balance. Air cooling is great for lawnmowers and weed eaters. Iron is good for building farm implements and dumpsters. Harley suspension uses damping rods which is a pogo stick with a really stiff spring…good for nothing cheap junk. HD still uses 20W50 oil. Geezus! All of that adds up to one heavy, slow turning, slow stopping, slow going motor bike…which is what HD does very well. Like going back to a simpler time. That may sound negative but it also speaks to men of a certain age where slowing down and simpler times makes for an interesting proposition.

        Like dinosaur bones, better motorcycles don’t (and CAN’T!) exist.

        • 0 avatar
          VolandoBajo

          @42nd2 Your closed mind is easy to see for all but apparently you.

          And while I am would not classify myself as a Creationist, I find it interesting that there is a Creation museum in TX that has evidence of fossils that not only show the existence if dinosaurs (which they don’t deny) but there is a human footprint inside of a dinosaur footprint in a rock hard surface fossil.

          If dinosaurs lived and died millions of years before man, how do explain both of those footprints in what geologists admit is hardened lava?

          That is not enough evidence to make a me a Creationist but it is enough to make me understand that evolution, as it is presently presented, is a theory, not a scientific fact. And it has NO intermediate fossil forms to show the continuum of evolving life forms, and it has no explanation for both human and dinosaur footprints in the same hardened lava, in more than one place.

          And unlike so many of the “great evolutionary discoveries” that have since been exposed as either outright errors or frauds, no one has been able to show that the human/dinosaur foot fossil is anything other than a supposedly ancient contemporaneous set of prints, if you believe the dating methods that are used to “prove” the age of earth and its inhabitants.

          A lot of so-called received wisdom, that is wisdom that is taught by supposed experts rather than acquired by actual experimentation, is either wrong or at least self-contradictory. And when you accept that sort of thing at face value, whether it is about Harleys or Creationists’ position on dinosaurs, you are just showing that you take your “knowledge” from what you have heard or read, and not from what you have seen proven.

          Some of Harley’s engineering and design philosophies can be annoying, but the do have some really good engineers who have done some pretty innovative things to be able to come up with things like new springer front ends, soft tails, etc.

          To say that their quality and/or design are proven as inferior due to the use of 20/50 weight oil, is just a blind stab at something you completely fail to fully understand.

          If you are pushing a heavy air-cooled motorcycle in all kinds of weather, including perhaps deserts in midday, that kind of oil weight sounds like a pretty sound compromise to avoid excessive engine wear and breakdowns.

          I do wish that they were lighter, had a bit more torque and ponies, and a bit better styling (plus a lot less boutique fashion in their shops, but hey, it keeps the doors open), but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t solid bikes, well-suited to the purposes that they are designed for.

          It always saddens and annoys me to see a grown man look at the world with blinders on, blinders so hard that entire factual areas remain invisible to them.

          If you don’t like Harleys, or are put off by some of the owners Harley attracts, that is one thing. But to slander the bike and all of its riders because of the shallowness of some of them is just as shallow and ignorant.

          Try listening carefully to what Syke is saying. The man has paid his dues and has learned things the hard way: by testing their truth, and by keeping an open mind.

          Such an attitude from you would make you appear to be, and to also actually be, a much more wise and intelligent human being.

          Really. It’s obvious you aren’t an uneducated person by the way you can write. Don’t waste it by approaching things with a closed mind and a lot of prejudices based on what “some people” are like.

          It’s a big world, with a lot of bikes out there. And there are no membership requirements or personality tests for brand ownership. So yes, there is some truth to some of what you say, as long as it is qualified with “some”.

          But to write off an entire brand of motorcycle and its entire ridership is just the mark of a narrow-minded person.

          Or as Son Won said “sounds personal”. Did a Harley run over your cat or something? That might make your attitude understandable. Otherwise, it is just blind rejection of something, based on irrational judgments.

          ‘Nuf said. It’s up to you what kind of person you want to appear to be to the world, and what kind of people you seek to impress.

          Personally, I am entirely unimpressed by your assessment of both Harley engineering and your viewpoint of the entire population of Harley owners.

          You can take almost any criteria for defining a group, and there is a good chance you will find both some good and some bad in that group. Unless perhaps you are talking about terrorists or a few automotive lemons and/or their enthusiasts. Ricers, perhaps…but I wouldn’t even go that far, as those who are classified as ricers, those who like zippy Japanese cars, may have some dumb members, but I am sure that there are some fine mechanics and drivers in the group too.

          “There is so much good in the worst of us,
          And so much bad in the best of us,
          That it hardly becomes any of us,
          To put down the rest of us.”

          — Inscription on an antique dinner plate

          And that would include Harley riders, whether you care to admit it or not. The motorcycle scene is much more like how Syke describes it. Noobs and Rubes on one side, irritating to many, and often either reckless or arrogant, or both. And experienced riders and sincere beginners who are in it for the enjoyment it brings, and not as a way to pose and seek to impress others.

          Take a closer look and perhaps you will be able to see that too.

          As Yogi Berra said “you can see a lot just by looking”.

  • avatar
    WildcatMatt

    Electra Glide was my all-time favorite game on the C=64!


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