I refuse to be a Harley basher. At least in the out and out nasty sense. After all, I have owned quite a few over the years. I had always loved the look, the sound and the stance. However, even up into the early 80′s, a Harley was an oil leaking liability mounted mostly by old saddle tramps. Still, I was drawn to them and I quite honestly always respected the old saddle tramps!
The very first motorcycle I was ever on was a 1968 Triumph Bonneville. A neighbor took me for a ride and scarred the hell out of me. I loved the fear factor and I became hooked on bikes! I eventually grew up riding motocross bikes back in PA. , but I knew I’d be a natural for the street too!
When Poison was able to actually make some money, I decided that after I got some basic transportation that I’d look into a motorcycle. One day, I bought a used Honda Rebel and rode it back home on the freeway. I was terrified! Besides poor power, the thing was just too damn small! Plus, I simply I felt like a twerp! It was a mistake. What was I thinking? I did some soul searching and thought about what I had really wanted… a Harley! “But, what were they like these days?” I had wondered.
I finally stumbled into a Harley shop, the friendly sales person informed me that new Evolution motor was a huge improvement over the Pan heads, Knuckle heads and certainly anything AMF had gotten their hands on. He was right! Over the ensuing years I purchased a few Harleys, modified them and rode the hell out of them. I never really had any major problems. There were very few of us in the music biz riding Harleys back then. In fact, their were mainly saddle tramps back then and that was fine by me. I rode with friends, made friends and became part of the HOG club. I went to the Sturgis Rally in 1989, slept in a tent, grew a beard for awhile and immersed myself into the scene. I was a Harley guy!
Somewhere along the line and a few years later, things changed. I always call touring, “Life’s Suspend Animation”. You leave and when you return, places have changed, people have moved, gotten married, died, dogs have run away, parents have gotten older, malls have been erected and people sometimes forget about you. Life has pretty much moved on without you. This is what the sacrifice of touring is about. It’s a great way to make a living and you can make good money out there, but you pay in other ways. Literally, I went on tour one year and when I came back the Harley scene had seemingly changed… for the worst in my humble opinion. I had always modified everything in my life. I can never leave anything alone, but the mods people were starting to do made their bikes look like fucking Christmas tree ornaments! It had become snobby in some ways, disconnected in other ways and overall lost it’s honesty. We had been the sole riders of American iron and it had been reduced to bolt on mayhem and touchy feely suburban twats. I was appalled! Worse yet, these people tried to make me feel like I was behind on this hip trend! Was Harley Davidson becoming the Ed Hardy T-Shirts of the motorcycling world?
One thing I had done during the entire time I was a Harely Cultist, was to blow off every other motorcycle made. I still had that little affection for the Triumph I had cut my teeth on, I didn’t talk about that, ’cause dammit, I was an American rider! Sport bikes were for assholes, BMW riders were weird, Jap bikes were rice, Brit bikes were for old guys who couldn’t let it go and the Goldwing crowd were super old farts who should give it up! This was my and most of the other riders ideals. Blinders my friends, blinders. I wanted to be loud and proud! Stock exhaust? “Fuck you! Straight pipes!” “Move outta my way! I have a loud American bike and you should move your Jap car and let me pass!” Ahh, the attitude.
I was introduced one day to a Chiropractor at a restaurant who had apparently spent the greater part of his earnings on his new Harley recently. He was enthusiastically and quite arrogantly, going on and on about a Baker transmission, special pipes he had made bent and heat coated, a specially ground cam, etc, etc. Some guy in the next booth apparently tired of hearing the banter finally blurts in a low tone, “Yeah, and on a good day it might do a hundred!” The Chiropractor was speechless, just turning away and looking back at me. I was speechless as it wasn’t even my bike we were talking about. The guy continued… “Sorry, you can do all you want to that bike and I’ll still go twice as fast, stop three times as quick and spend a third than you on my Hayabusa!” “What the hell was a Hayabusa!”, I thought!
“Never mind the track. The track is for punks. We are Road People. We are Cafe Racers.” - Hunter S. Thompson
I don’t own a Suzuki Hayabusa or any other shrouded sport bike today, but I do have respect for the engineering and the ridiculous speeds that they can option. Why would you want to go that fast? So you can ride to the track and actually compete, I suppose. Try that on a Harley Night Train or whatever. Now, granted, that isn’t the idea of a Harley. However, why spend stupid money on performance parts for that bike then? Defies logic. Just my two cents, of course. Of course, I don’t race either. Not on a track, anyway.
So, whats wrong with paying stupid money for a Harley, modding the damn thing, riding around acting like you are a chosen minion of God, being super loud and hating every other bike on the market!, (ok, not all Harley riders hate other bikes, just most of ‘em) and dressing in clothes with American Eagle patches made in Pakistan. The answer is: Nothing. There is not a damn thing wrong with it. I just am not a participant. Just can’t do it. This is the best America can do, folks? I guess. I have always been about quality. If the Japanese make a great car, good on ‘em. If the Swiss make a great watch, I’m in! If the Brits make a great motorcycle, I’m also in. In a big way! But hang on, I’ll get to that in a moment.
As a side bar I must mention that I am an American manufacturer of custom drums. “Rockett Drum Works”. I pride myself on being American and using American made parts and shells. Why? Americans can still make some of the best drums in the world and an American company is who I’d go to for drums if I didn’t make my own. The Japanese simply are not better at it than we are. The Swiss are better at making watches. The Italians still design and make the best clothes. Let’s not forget the Germans… Most of what they make is well done. Anyway, you get the idea. Go to who is great at what they do. Doesn’t mean everything else sucks. I am just talking about the pride of quality here, not the pride of where it was made. That is what is important to me, personally.
So, what’s my beef then? It’s the attitude when people become so cultish that one puts blinders on. It’s not healthy and you end up bypassing some really great things in life. You end bypassing some amazing bikes made by the Italians, the British, the Germans and yes, the Japanese. All bikes have their place if they are putting a smile on someone’s face even when they act up and don’t want to run. Bikes are like children, you can’t imagine life the same way after you’ve had one!
I say ride on my brothers and sisters. Whatever it is that moves you. One day I may own another Harley. Maybe a really big bagger? For now me and those finicky old Brit bikes with all of that soul will do me just fine. When I need my speed, I still have my Ducati Hyper!
- Rikki (Owner of 8 motorcycles)