Archive for April, 2013


April 20, 2013

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Photo by Genghis

WAITING GAME: Powercoating of other parts deferred.


The label is short, but says so much. My ’71 Super Glide Mabel is at Rosa’s Cycles, in Huntington, Long Island for the welding-up of a broken rear exhaust pipe flange. This wasn’t however, the only broken part to be fixed. Andrew Rosa also found a busted mount on her oil tank that he’s going to repair. As you know from my previous article Unattached,” I wanted several other pieces powdercoated black while Mabel’s at the shop, to match her black powdercoated primary cover and cam cover. I also wanted Mabel’s straight pipes to be rechromed. This is not to be at this time, but for a worthy reason.

As Andrew explained, “The coatings are going to have to wait until after November. The shop’s gotten really busy.” I’ve had a long association with Andrew, and want him and his shop to be as successful as possible. Andrew’s status as a master engine builder and ace mechanic of impeccable integrity in the biker subculture, cannot be overstated. Unlike “master bike builders” who concentrated on the merely cosmetic, the hordes of which couldn’t hope to have half of the engine building and mechanical knowledge that Andrew possesses, Andrew never parlayed his talents into lucrative TV shows, enabling ’em to sell $100 grand unrideable pieces of garish junk to gullible customers. That’s not his style. Andrew flies under the fame radar, dispensing Great Engines That Can to deserving customers.

I’m very glad for Andrew that his business has picked up so dramatically. His business hit a bit of a lull, but has shot through the proverbial roof recently. Nobody deserves a healthy and flourishing business more, than the man behind the “ROSABILT” label. While so-called “master builders” at the height of the economic boom were selling $100,00 customs to rich clients, Andrew Rosa refused to sacrifice his integrity for the almighty dollar. Andrew simply refused to be sucked into the money-driven madness. He once said to me…

“Can you imagine me spending a week making a custom fender for a customer? It’s ridiculous.”

Andrew knows what “keeping it real” means in the biker subculture, and he concentrated on the rudiments of what makes Harleys truly special: Those indomitable Rosabilt Motors that he’s become famous for. Andrew’s never been a fan of affectations and pretentiousness in the culture. Before recession hit, many shops gained money and glory, having their customizing advertised on their TV shows. Andrew refused to join the parade of “master builders” who capitalized on the groupies that they accrued via their television shows. Now that hard economic times wiped out most of these “master builders” and their TV shows, Andrew soldiers on, providing the Harley motor building genius that he always has. Rosa’s Cycles has endured through quality alone, in what matters in real-world motorcycles. The appellation of “Ace Mechanic” has appropriately been applied to Andrew over the years.

Andrew Rosa was a disciple of legendary Connecticut mechanic and motor builder, “Big Jim” McCauley. I first met Andrew 27 years ago, when he took over the service department of Harley-Davidson of New York in Queens, New York. When at New York Harley, Andrew rebuilt Mabel’s top end, and converted her from kickstart only, to electric start. His quality work and his heady integrity with respect to Harley repair and motor building, impressed me and won me over. When he parted company with Harley-Davidson of New York in the early ’90s to start his own shop, he brought plenty of Rosabilt Appreciators along for the ride, including yers truly. When he built Mabel’s stroker motor in 1993 in Kenny Baron’s (his right-hand man) home garage before they found shop space on Long Island, Kenny’s crowded garage was already full of customers’ bikes, waiting to have Rosamagic worked on ’em.

Andrew’s sterling rep among bikers as a motor building guru, is enhanced by his exploits as a champion drag racer, dominating his class with his 9 second Shovelhead. Nothing sells like performance, man—whatcha see is what ya get. I wonder how many Rosabilt Harleys are runnin’ around the east coast of this great nation of ours, right now. Gypsy Rider has one of ’em. Check out what Gypsy Rider has to say:

“My Rosabilt Lowrider. It’s an ’01 Lowrider that Andrew Rosa’s been massaging since I bought it. As of now it’s a 117 putting out 130 hp and 130 lbs. of torque. I’ve run low 11s with the bike but know that it can run 10. Hope to prove it this year at Atco. The bike sports Axtell barrels, CP pistons, Andrews cams and D & D pipes. The best part about Rosa’s is the enormous amount of data they have from a dyno for so long. None of this seat of the pants crap. I bring it in and just ask him to make it faster. Done. Period. Nobody…builds an engine as well as he does.”

Quite a testament from another Rosabilt biker. The depth of mechanical knowledge that Andrew has, coupled with the quality of Harley enhancement that his shop provides, gives real substance behind the Rosabilt name. None of this seat of the pants crap, or $2,000 one-off customs fenders from Andrew, man. All ya get is what matters. Later.




April 13, 2013

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Photo by Genghis

INCIDENTAL FINDING: I found a problem with Mabel’s rear pipe.

I ordered a new AGM battery for my Harley 74 online a week ago, from Latus Harley-Davidson, and I got great service from them. I ordered it on a saturday, and got the battery the following wednesday! Simple as can be, man, and easier than heading to the nearest local Harley agency!

Just an aside: I noticed when I lived in California briefly over 40 years ago, that bikers in the Golden State referred to Harley dealerships as Harley “agencies,” instead of the more ubiquitous “dealers” or “dealerships.” I found this term usage by bikers unique, but it also extended to car “agencies” (“Let’s get that F-150 ignition part at the Ford agency…“) as well. Must’ve been a California thing. I wonder if this is still true, 40 plus years later, or have the Golden Staters fallen victim to the homogenized term, “dealership?”

Bright and early this morning at 6:00 AM, I took Mabel’s (my ’71 Super Glide) new battery to Mabel’s outdoor parking lot (see picture) where she now resides 24/7, 365 days a year, and hooked up her new battery. Was great to hear Mabel’s explosive (Mabel go BOOM!) voice again, after her winter hibernation. Just one week ago, I found her old battery kaput, and here she was a mere week later, new battery in-house on Mabel’s motorcycle personage. She lives! Normalcy has been achieved! Ain’t the Internet wonderful?

Because of age-related changes in my joints, particularly my knees, kneeling down to do things on Mabel is no longer an option. For this reason, I keep a milk crate in the parking lot (in our Ford F-150, “Amy”) for sittin’ on while I work on the bike.

So there I am, sittin’ on this milk crate as the sun was comin’ up, tightening the battery hold-down strap on Mabel’s battery, and see, sittin’ on this milk crate brought Mabel’s rear exhaust manifold to eye level fer me. It just happened to work out that way, logistically. So I finish up with the battery, and happen to glance at Mabel’s rear exhaust pipe….and whadoo I see?

The rear exhaust pipe’s flange was broken.

I wonder how long I’ve ridden Mabel in this condition. Who knows? The pipe wasn’t goin’ anywhere, but it sure wasn’t bolted to the rear manifold anymore. It looks like only the pipe’s rear bracket was holding it in position. The pipe’s flange didn’t entirely break off from the manifold. The small diamond-shaped part (the part with the hole that the mounting Allen bolt engages) of the flange was still securely bolted to the rear manifold.

It was the rest of the flange and drag pipe, that was no longer attached to the manifold. Great. This would require welding, but I didn’t view this as the bummer it could be seen as. In fact, this gives me an excuse to get Mabel to Rosa’s Cyles in Huntington, Long Island, to get a bunch of parts powdercoated and rechromed! Yeah, man, opportunity knocks!

Andrew Rosa, as you might know, is the master motor builder who built Mabel’s Rosabilt (the “Rosabilt” label is legendary here on the east coast) stroker motor in 1993. Hey man, this mill is still goin’ strong 20 years later. Andrew’s shop is well-known from Snow’s Iron Horse days, when there were plenty of IH articles about Andrew and the bikes he’s worked on.

After Andrew repairs the exhaust flange, he’s going to rechrome both pipes. The finish on the pipes has gotten crappy lookin’, what with grease and oil stains that got roasted on ’em like a fine basting sauce, not to mention the stray plastic bag that got burned on a hot front pipe one day. Gotta get ’em lookin’ like new, man.

While Mabel’s at Rosa’s Cycles, I’m gonna have a bunch of parts powdercoated black. These will include the kicker cover, mid-peg rear brake pedal bracket (which on ’71 FXs, bolts to the kicker cover), rear brake pedal, and forward shifter control bracket. These parts will then match the cone cam cover and primary cover, which I had powdercoated black the last time Mabel was in Andrew’s shop. It bugged the hell outta me, that I didn’t have these other parts powdercoated black to match the cone and primary cover, the last time. 20/20 hindsight, monday morning quarterbacking, choose whatever platitude ya want, man, they apply as the truth.

These small cosmetic changes might seem picayune to some, but they mean something to me. It’s the little things on my Harley that give me the Biggest Pleasure, and I suspect that it’s the same with most bikers. These are Changes of Power, detectable and appreciated by other bikers. I want Mabel to reach a state of homeostasis, which she can only do when all of her black coated parts live in harmony with her silver parts. Equilibrium must be maintained! If ya have to ask….

Later, Gator.



April 10, 2013

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Photo courtesy of David Snow

MY OLD BUCKLE ON SNOW’S BELT: A powerful talisman?

“Genghis sent this to me at my tattoo shop—the ancient XLCH belt buckle he wore when he owned his 1968 XLCH, Sally The Bitch. He bought Sally new from Manhattan H-D and mentioned to me after I got Animal Mother (my 1969 Sportster XLCH) that he thought he’d long ago lost the buckle. It’s an object of power, a talisman against evil, a priceless memento from a true friend, and I wear it with pride. I rode the 60 miles home from the shop at midnight, freezing through the dark hills. But I was fortified, knowing that no deer could harm me, no owl could break my face, no drunk driver could touch me and Animal Mother now shared a link through the miles and years with Sally The Bitch. If I have to explain…..”



Okay, I’ll explain. There’s definitely something to this. These aren’t the mad ravings of a biker gone off his rocker, slipped off the deep end, or a Happy Meal short of a giveaway toy. Snow speaks the truth, man. Yeah, you read the right. This is the Gospel Truth. Some might categorize the belief in “objects of power” at the cruel and cynical end of the opinion spectrum, as a manifestation of the obsessive compulsive disorder. On the kinder and more amenable end of the opinion spectrum, people might merely allude to superstitious tendencies. No matter. Admit the truth, for the truth shall set you free.

Who among us hasn’t internally said to ourselves, “Riding doesn’t feel right today. It just doesn’t feel right. Mebbe I should just hang today…” I have, man. I’m a firm believer in following one’s intincts. I’ve been a firm adherent of the principle that instincts are a finely honed sixth sense, ever since my martial arts teaching days. One tenet I always stressed to my students was, to always follow their instincts in potentially adverse situations. The more this sixth sense is used, the more finely developed and tuned it becomes. There is no doubt that humans, because of their more highly involved intelligence, have a duller sense of instinct than animals. From internet sites:

“In 1974…scientists began to receive reports of snakes coming out of hibernation…this activity was followed by minor tremors. The snakes had sensed the oncoming danger. Hours before a tsunami, working elephants broke their chains…and ran for higher ground. Dogs can sense a natural disaster before it happens. Their senses are much more acute than ours. They might go outside, they might stay in an unususal place for a long time….The role of instincts in determining…behavior…varies from species to species. The more complex the neural system of an animal, the greater is the role of the cerebral cortex and social learning, and instincts play a lesser role….”

We homo sapiens may take pride in being the most developed of all animal species, but we have a long way to go to unlearning all that has for all intents and purposes, diminished our instinct sense. That tradeoff is the price we have to pay, for being more highly evolved than dogs, snakes and elephants. We may smugly and unsuspectingly sit at home watchin’ “Sons of Anarchy” on TV, while that earthquake measuring 9.9 on the Richter scale is gettin’ ready to demolish the house, but the dogs, snakes and elephants will have the last laugh, while they safely and serenely survive the disaster, from an undisclosed location.

A little about the buckle that I sent to David. When I picked up my Sportster XLCH, “Sally The Bitch” from Harley-Davidson of Manhattan in 1968, I spotted this neat XLCH belt buckle in a display case in this narrow, little dealership. I bought it and slapped it onto my belt, before kickin’ Sally over and taking her home to Queens. It was like it was meant to be, this buckle that emanted the power of the love that I had for my XLCH. Wearing it amounted to shouting to the world (“STTW!”), “Hey, I ride the baddest bike on the planet, man…,” for that’s how Sportster ‘CHs were perceived back then. Before they undeservedly became “half-a-Harleys” and “girls’ bikes” in lamebrains’ minds, XLCHs were feared and revered. They were the ones kicking asses and takin’ names.

I wore this buckle for eighteen years, while I rode Sally. Then it went awol somewhere in my apartment for the next 28 years. It wasn’t until I switched to my everlovin’ Shovel, Mabel, that I stopped wearing this buckle. I didn’t give the buckle much thought until Snow got his ’69 XLCH, “Animal Mother.” It was then that I looked for the buckle, and couldn’t find it. Then last week, I was rummaging around a dresser holding socks and t-shirts, that I found it nestled in a corner under some Ace bandages. Voila! I had to send it to David. It just seemed fated that he should have it, since he loves his XLCH so much, and appreciates her for what she is: An historically significant and righteous Harley-Davidson, the likes of which you can’t find in the model lineup of The Firm these days.

Patty said to me, “I’m suprised that you’d part with it.” I told Patty that the buckle now feels as if it belonged to Snow and Animal Mother, that my wardship of it has come to an end. It now belongs to, and on Snow. My guardianshp of the buckle has been transferred to it’s legitimate owner. That’s the way traditions in the Biker Subculture work. They pass from hand to hand, and mind to mind. There are many “Objects of Power” in the subculture. The motorcycles are the greatest, but lesser examples survive. like this XLCH buckle. It truly is talismanic. later.