Archive for May, 2015

“DON’T YOU WANT SOMEBODY TO LOVE?”

May 31, 2015

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Photo by Genghis

I HAVE SOMEBODY TO LOVE: My Harley 74, “Mabel.”

JOHN 13: 1-17


It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

The evening meal was in progress and the devil had already tempted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and that he was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, and he took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

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Jesus’ cleaning of his disciples’ feet, was a lesson in love, but also a lesson in humility. Jesus loved his disciples very much, and his humble act of cleaning their feet demonstrated this love. Think of this when you wash your bike. The act of washing one’s bike, is not a trivial or insignificant endeavor. It is an act of love, pure and simple. I just washed my Harley, Mabel, and no greater act of motorcycle love can demonstrate the reverence I hold for her, than the humble and seemingly mundane act, of cleaning her rear 16, front 21, and all else in between. When I see her rocker boxes gleaming, and her bottom end devoid of road grime, I know that I have communed with my bike in a very personal and spiritual way.

Like everything else that comes from living in The City, even simple acts such as washing my bike, are not as easy as when I lived in Queens. When I lived in Queens, I had access to a hoses from the building that my parents owned. Then, I had the choice of using a hose from the front of the building, allowing me to wash the bike on Northern Boulevard, or a hose from the back of the building, which I could snake into the parking lot of a KFC that abutted the building.

Photo by Genghis



MY HOUSE IN THE CITY: Nothing’s easy.

Now where I live, I have to park Mabel in between my building and the next building over, to wash her. Parking her directly in front of my building is prohibited by our apartment house’s management office, so I have to park her out of the way, in an park alcove down the block to implement my act of love and reverence towards Mabel. I don’t like to park her against the curb between cars, because I don’t have maneuvering room to clean, and can’t roll her forward to get to obscure areas of the rear 16 on the chain side.

Since there’s no hose available like there was in Queens, I have to carry buckets of water from my apartment. Now, don’t get me wrong, this is not torturous work. I’m merely pointing out that it is relatively harder to wash a motorcycle in The City. Those of ya living where you have your own property, you have it easier.

Photo by Genghis



MABEL PARKED DOWN THE BLOCK: Can you tell she’s clean?

True bikers know that there is something extremely spiritual about our relationships with our motorcycles, an undercurrent of profound connectedness that is lost on those outside the biker subculture. To those within, it is sometimes difficult to put into words, but it is there. There is this deep marriage between a biker and his bike that defies the terms that are at times, demanded by the outside world for clarity. Screw ’em. We know it, we feel it, and we believe in it.

There are only few essentials I feel I need in life, for life to be complete. This consists of my loving wife Patty, a roof over my head, food to eat, my Harley, my Vette and my photography. Everything else is negotiable. Many bikers lead quite an ascetic existence, monk-like in their dedication to their Harleys.

I believe that generally speaking, bikers are very basic people. We don’t get caught up in a lot of bullshit. Our existences and happiness depends on very little, compared to the average citizens out there. One of the ways that we express the simple truth of our lives, is by performing the loving act of washing our motorcycles. If you think that washing your bike is an act of triviality, then look to the lessons that Jesus imparted, by washing his disciples’ feet. Later.

FINITO

“PROM DRESS”

May 30, 2015

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Guest Article by DAVID SNOW

ANIMAL MOTHER: After a ten mile run.

Well, that prom dress slipped right off without a hitch, and, yes, it was all I could’ve hoped for! Animal Mother now has 50 miles on her as well as an oil change and all is well. The rides were in 1-5 mile increments, as I’d run back to the trailer and check the bike over and let her cool down. On the third run, a 3-miler, I noticed an exhaust leak on the front pipe. Soot was creeping out from under the clamp. I know I’d socked it down during assembly and when I tried to tighten it I found it was stripped. I removed the pipe, cleaned the soot off the pipe & head, and installed an exhaust clamp that came from a rusty pile of ’79 IH parts I was given a couple of years ago. I also tightened that rear hard line oil fitting and the leak is now just a seep, but I’ll keep on it. I’m still nervous, but cautiously proud. I know this is nothing compared to you fellas that restore complete bikes or successfully stroke an ironhead, but I’m an artfag and the last top end I did was over 30 years ago on my Shovelhead. I must say, the Shovel was a much easier project than Animal Mother, but this was doubtless due to my ignorance back then. I put the Shovel back together on my front porch and was rather cavalier about cleanliness— certainly nowhere near the manic paranoia I’ve endured regarding all of these pristine Ironhead parts I’ve had floating around the trailer. Also, securing the piston wristpin with a circlip on a Shovelhead is MUCH easier than sweating those ridiculous Spirolocks in place on an IH. I was peeved that there was really no substantive advice available about Spirolocks, but I get it now. There’s really nothing you can advise anyone beyond ‘just get in there, get lost, and find your way out.’ It did help to watch Youtube vids of people attempting it, especially the Tatro series.

What also helped were the little things. I had an abundance of blue shop towels and new red shop rags. Plenty of carb/choke cleaner spray to clean parts and fasteners. An endless tube of engine assembly lube. A can of silver engine paint. Lots of ice cold bottles of Miller. A good supply of stray nuts, bolts & washers. Sheets of 320 sandpaper. Lots of gas (92 premium non-enthanol) and oil (VR-1 50 weight) on hand. I had a propane torch which I didn’t need, but it was good to know it was there. I’d over-prepared and overcompensated, but I was never stymied or stalled during the assembly process.

I was really pleased that the bike functioned as if I’d just parked her yesterday. Doubtless it helped keeping her out of the elements and in a controlled environment in my living room. No carb issues (after sitting idle for months), no magneto/genny issues (ditto), no gas tank/fuel line issues, the list goes on. I barely crack the throttle on the S&S E and she’s gone like a cool breeze. With no tach or speedo, it’s impossible to precisely gauge rpms and such, but it’s not difficult to tell when you’re abusing an Ironhead. I’ll continue to be gentle up to 500 miles, and I doubt if I’ll get her on the freeway until after 1000 miles. I know I’m erring on the side of caution and I am well aware of how tough and forgiving a cast iron Harley is, but I have always been paranoid breaking in new Harleys and S&S stroker Harleys. I have always enjoyed great engine life with all my HDs, but this was my first experience with heat cycling. I remember the old saw from back in the day— if you want’em to go fast you break’em in fast— but I’ve always taken it easy.

So this first oil change was clean as a whistle. I plan on the next at 500 miles, then at 1000.

 

FINITO

“MAMA GRIZZLY”

May 27, 2015

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Guest Article by DAVID SNOW

MY BIKE: Animal Mother, like a mama grizzly.

Just completed five heat cycles of Animal Mother’s new top end this morning and so far, so good! I’ve been nervous as hell putting everything back together, and everything’s been great but still I cannot shake the fear that I did something wrong and she’s gonna explode into a million pieces. Tonite I plan on getting her out on those nice country roads around the trailer, and the weather has been unusually cool and mild for this time of the year, so it should be a great ride. I’m as trembly as high school punk unzipping his first prom dress…

None of this would be possible without the incredible resource of the XLForum’s Ironhead forum. If it wasn’t for the forum, I’d be at the mercy of an indie at best or just chucking the whole thing at worst. But thanks to those the forum, I kept the faith, took my time, didn’t freak and did the necessary homework. Just last nite, I crammed on all the heat cycle posts— pro and con—and figured it sure couldn’t hurt anything to be cautious. All the craziness about microwelding and overheating kept me shivering like a hound dog shitting peach pits, but I set up two box fans on Animal Mother as well as having her inside with the AC running. I followed Mick’s 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, procedure mainly because it was easy to remember while my head was spinning and Animal Mother was bellowing to life through those vintage Cycle Shacks! Man, what a freaking rush!

I must admit it was quite an ordeal kicking an XLCH that actually makes healthy compression! I’d pretty much forgotton my ritual anyway, and must’ve pumped about 30 fruitless kicks before I checked the pushrods. I’d deliberately set’em on the loose side and so tightened’em a little and ten kicks later she roared her appreciation like a mama grizzly coming out of hibernation. God, what a strong running beast. It’s a sheer act of will to just stand there for those few minutes of heat cycling, but I did my best, although I don’t think I made it to a full 5 minutes on the last one— let’s say 4:30 before my nerves got the best of me and I shut’er down

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I checked for leaks between each cycle and there was only a little oil seeping out of the rear hard line where it connects to the case between the magneto and pushrod. I didn’t remember loosening it during disassembly, but the front hard line was loose as well. That rear one’s hard to get to— I may have to loosen the mag and swivel it out of the way. Other than that, the rocker boxes, heads, and cylinders are tight, as well as being gorgeous in their new silver paint. No weird smoke, smells or noise, just that glorious ironhead thunder.

Last year I’d posted about the loss of compression and having to constantly adjust the pushrods. I kept riding well past the point of sensibility. She’d die at a light, something that she’d never done before and I could barely get one good compression stroke to fire her up again. I was living in denial, but it got so bad, I could push the kicker through with my hand. That’s when I tore her down and discovered that the top compression ring in both pistons was broken. I was a bitter pill to know she’d be facing serious downtime….

The cylinders were bored .060 over and NOS Harley pistons were used and, thanks to Dr. Dick’s advice, modern Hastings rings were used. Modern three-piece oil rings replaced the 45-year old Harley waffle irons. Animal Mother’s oil consumption had always been alarming but now I look forward to something better than the near total loss system I’ve enjoyed over the last 3 ½ years. I think I will finally have an accurate baseline for Ironhead performance— as opposed to a machine that was rebuilt over 30 years ago with a questionable past. As it is, I’m grateful I got as many miles out of her as I did! I really lucked out with this bike.

Now that I’m sure she’ll run, I can take care of such mundane matters as cosmetics. Sadly, she’s not in that groovy ’66 short frame that sits on a milk crate next to her, but I didn’t want there to be any more variables than I could help in getting her running. Like, if I ‘d swapped frames and couldn’t get her started, or she exploded, I would just know that it would have something to do with the frame swap. Silly and illogical, but I am superstitious…

My goal is to swap frames by the middle of the summer. Once she’s got enough miles and I get all the kool parts (I’m trying to give local XLCH guru Johnny Ramsey— he’s still got the ’62 he raced new— as much business as possible) and assemble a rolling chassis, I’m hoping for a painless procedure. Besides it’ll give me a good excuse for some nice long rides to Johnny’s place…

FINITO

“RIDING OUTLAW”

May 24, 2015

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OUTLAW HARLEY: Tim AKA 47STR8LEG’s Pan-Shovel.


“I remember when I first started riding my Honda 360 to the Harley Dealer. The machines in that building were so alien to the world of polite japbikes, they seemed like exotic dangerous beasts. You just wanted to make them sleeker, more animalistic, to get ’em down to their raw essence. When I got my first H-D, the stuff I took for granted on my jap machines was immediately tossed—turn signals, speedo, stock mirrors, stock mufflers—all of which added up to what’s commonly termed ‘illegal modifications’—especially when ya started drilling out the stock Keihin. You were riding an illegal motorcycle—and in the 1980s every young guy on a Harley was riding outlaw. An outlaw club was something else entirely, but the culture began with an outlaw machine. Cops didn’t care if you wore colors or not—a loud Harley was enough to introduce you to the local constabulary.”

DAVID SNOW

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Photo by Genghis


RIDING OUTLAW: Sally had an Alabama plate for 16 years.

Snow ain’t kidding, man!

I rode my ’68 Sportster “Sally The Bitch” with an Alabama registration and plate, for 16 years. Sally was registered under the name of Dewlipt Wong who lived in Andalusia, Alabama. Dewlipt, or Cousin Dewey as I referred to him every time I was stopped by New York cops, was a fictitious character.

I rode outlaw for 16 years on that bike.

Of course, there was nothing that the New York cops could do, because if they had bothered to check—and none of ’em ever did—with the DMV down in Alabama, they would have discovered that Sally really was registered to Cousin Dewey, thanks to a friendly probate judge in Andalusia. So, my hardcore XLCH was technically an illegal motorcycle—or not—depending on how picky ya wanna get.

Snow was also right about the things I stripped off of my Sportster, as soon as I got her in my grubby, young hands. The front fender, speedometer (along with the tach), two-piece buckhorn bars, stock risers, and mufflers, rear fender struts, all went. Gotta have straight pipes, man! Gotta be able to hear Sally’s deafening voice, as we blast through the tunnels of NYC, man!

People often misconceive what it means to “ride outlaw” on a motorcycle. As Snow pointed out, riding outlaw on Harley, simply means that one has changed the configuration of the machine, by stripping the unnecessary (and an accounting of what is necessary or not on the bike, is subjective) parts off of the bike, therefore makin’ her a lean and mean machine, capable of going from zero to sinister in about 4 seconds flat.

Ya see, that’s the facet of riding a stripped-down Harley, many don’t understand. What a biker essentially is doing by stripping parts off, is too change the very nature of the machine. What was once socially acceptable and seemingly benign, when that bike was fully dressed, becomes an fully-formed, evil and psychopathic machine, whose sole mission, as far as society is concerned—is to kill all of the men, women and children—who happen to stand in her fire-belching way. That’s just the way it is, man.

And, make no mistake about it. Biker culture does begin and end with the Outlaw Machines that bikers created, by the highly antisocial act of stripping-down their bikes. Symbolically, bikers stripped away all the respectability that The Firm conferred on the bike, when all those parts got taken off.

Logic dictates, and it should be no surprise that when a bunch of young bikers stripped their Harleys, that they ended up with the prototypical Outlaw Machines—and that this phenomenon would lead said young bikers to adopt antisocial attitudes toward society. Some of these young bikers might formalize their new found sinister and antisocial feelings toward The World—FTW, man—by forming a motorcycle club. Thus were born outlaw motorcycle clubs, an outgrowth of riding Outlaw Harleys.

As we discussed about in “NOT ABOUT THE BIKE ANYMORE,” this style of bike that is the Outlaw Machine began to wane in popularity, among bikers in outlaw clubs–which I find ironic. It is undeniable though, that this change among this newest generation of club members, is a definite trend. This is what Tim AKA 47STRLEG, thinks of this:


“Unfortunately it’s not about that in the 1% world that I’ve seen. Baggers galore. I do know a few 1%’ers and one in particular has been with the club since 1974. I never ask about the club and just let him speak when he feels like it. I will add first that he only talks about peripheral matters. He has said that he tries to ingrain in the newer members that it’s about the bikes and to try to keep that in perspective. All the other club stuff is secondary. It’s about riding together and being there for the other members whether to help a brother out with his bike or give him shelter when they’re on the road, etc. It’s not about gangster tough guy bullshit, that may come with the territory but the love for the machine and ride are first and foremost. I’m glad you’ve had that first ride G, it never gets old. Spent part of my day cleaning up the old Pan-Shovel. It’s been awhile and the old girl deserves it.”

TIM AKA 47STR8LEG

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I suppose that the concept of the Outlaw Harley will morph into an “old school” belief—but for we who grew up with the idea of the OutLaw Machine as being the backbone of the biker subculture—it will remain stolidly as the principle, that the culture is based on. It will always be about the bike, as far as I’m concerned. The Stripped-Down Harley will always represent to me, the core of the biker subculture. Younger bikers may think of the Outlaw Stripped-Down Harley as an old fashioned idea, but not me. How about you? Later.

FINITO

“NOT ABOUT THE BIKE ANYMORE”

May 23, 2015

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A MAJOR CLUB: Many are now riding baggers.


“I don’t think many outlaw clubs ride outlaw bikes anymore. It stopped being about the bikes 40 years ago. The only people that ride hardcore Harleys these days are loners for whom it always was and always will be about the bike.

DAVID SNOW

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I had my first ride of the year, and man, was it a welcome event! I had a new Harley AGM battery trickle-charging here in the house for a couple of months, waiting for the right time to put ‘er in. That time was this morning. That first time when I start Mabel (my 86 inch Rosabilt Harley Stroker) every year, is an emotional experience for me. It doesn’t matter how long I’ve been riding. Waking up Mabel this morning , was like the first time I started my Harley up in 1968, and headed out, seeking high speed over the highway’s pavement. The sights, sounds and sensations of racing over the blacktop is mesmerizing and addictive—which may explain why riding is still magical after all these years.

It was just magnificent, commanding my Shovel this morning. If you have to ask, then you will never understand. After my ride, I spent a few minutes just gazing at Mabel in her parking lot. Mabel in her 1971 way, has joined her Flathead, Sportster, Knucklhead and Panhead sisters as an Outlaw Harley. How did a 1971 “Night Train” Super Glide, become an Outlaw Harley? Simple. She was stripped-down. An Outlaw Harley is nothing but a Harley stripped-down to her essence. It’s not complicated. Just take the garbage off.

Photo by Genghis



OUTLAW HARLEY: Mabel’s a stripped-down Harley, no more, no less.

THE STRIPPED-DOWN HARLEY.

This is the Outlaw Style Harley. Just take your basic Harley-Davidson, and take all the extraneous equipment off. That’s it. What did you expect, an unrecognizable metamorphosis of the basic machine, done with a magic wand, and clicking of one’s heels? We’re still in Kanas, man. We’ll leave Oz to those who would like an inflated view of what an outlaw bike should be.

Nevertheless, this is consistent historically, with what hardcore bikers did in the ’30s, ’40s and ’60s. They took their Harley-Davidsons, and removed the saddlebags and windshields. They shortened or “bobbed” their rear fenders. Some removed the front fenders, some kept ’em. Some went to skinny 21 inch front wheels, some kept their 16s. Doesn’t matter, When the bags and windshields got trashcanned, the bike became a different kind of Harley Animal.

There wasn’t a lot of making of parts in the early days of transforming an overladen Harley into an Outlaw Harley, unless one had to make a bracket–but that’s a utilitarian move—not to be confused with the sneeringly supercilious attitude regarding “home made parts” elitists have today. Just scope out photos of bikers’ machines from the ’50s man, and you’ll see how righteous they were. And they weren’t different machines than they were, with bags and windshields on. Same machines, but with different attitudes. They didn’t depend on one-off frames, tanks or fenders to be special. They were born special. All that was needed was some off-loading of garbage.

All it took was some basic tools and a few minutes to convert a garbage wagon into an Outlaw Bike. Oh okay, ya might have needed a hacksaw to shorten the rear fender, but that was it. All of the self-aggrandizement that today’s “master builders” heap on themselves, their shops bursting with specialty tools like the English wheel and whatever else—was not necessary in the Pure Days in order to make a garbage wagon Harley, into an Outlaw Harley.

Photo by Genghis



NOT COMPLICATED: An outlaw bike is stripped to her essence.

This simple approach to ending up with an Outlaw Harley, was reflected in the vocabulary of the times. “Garbage wagon” or “Garbage barge” was what the Harleys that came off of the showroom floor, were called. One simply took all of the “garbage” off of the basic motorcycle, and there you had it, the Outlaw Harley in all of her stripped-down glory.

There are those today, who would have you believe that in order for a bike to be worthy of their attention, would have to be weighed down with a bunch of hand-made parts. In the words of Stephen King, these people have forgotten the face of their fathers. Symbolically, “our fathers” were those early bikers who took the “garbage” off of their Flatheads, Knuckleheads and Panheads to produce, what is beautiful in her simplicity, the Outlaw Harley.

The motive may have been to lighten the bike to make her faster and better handling. The motive may have been to make her sleeker looking, and more beautiful in the end. But if these symbolic ancestors of ours, heard the pabulum spewed by some today, that they “we built our bikes, they’re not stock,” they would have laughed at these elitist, self-important people for their ignorance of biker subculture history.

What’s interesting, is that clubs have in large part, reverted to saddlebags and windshields—as David Snow observed. I believe that generational differences may account for the current taste in club members’ bikes. The younger generation of bikers in clubs, did not grow up with the prejudices against garbage wagons as I and those in my generation did. Younger bikers don’t even use the term “garbage wagon” anymore. Now, a bike with bags and a windscreen is a “bagger.” Whatever they call it, I still can’t stand the idea.

The purest expression of an outlaw bike, is a stripped-down Harley.

This is something I’ve believed in, and will always believe in. There’s nothing as righteous as a stripped-down Harley. Later!

FINITO

“CLUB OR LONER?”

May 9, 2015

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Photo by Genghis

MARIO WANTED TO STEAL MY HARLEY: Was he joking or serious?.

A NOTE FROM KAREN PADGETT GOOD

“Hi Scott, I just finished reading ‘Chinese Angels’….This story brought back that clear memory of your talking to Mario and Flash in front of 77 East 3rd Street. The reason you caught my interest, was because the NYC club was exclusively Caucasian…..you were the first oriental biker I’d ever seen. They were talking to you like an equal, and that was impressive to me. I also remember you talking to John Forte (‘John John’ in the club) in front of Mom's. He lived in a little cave in the clubhouse."

KAREN PADGETT GOOD

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Karen’s an interesting person. At the time that she saw me talking to New York City Hell’s Angels Mario and Flash, Karen was one of the other New York City Hell’s Angel’s ol’ lady. Karen and I grew up in the same Queens neighborhood of Jackson Heights, and we both went to Newtown High School, although Karen was behind me at Newtown by about three years. I’d never met her in Queens. It seems improbable that our respective worlds—the first in our formative years in Jackson Heights, and the later one in which we lived in the East Village—would collide in front of the New York City Hell’s Angels clubhouse. But there you are. Sometimes, life is strange and wondrous at the same time.

77 EAST 3RD STREET: The stoop across the street from 77 East 3rd Street.

I’d met Mario some time before I met Karen in front of 77 East 3rd Street, and it was in the summer of 1969 when I met Mario for the first time. Mario’s real name was Henry Fenuta. In 1969, I was working as a motorcycle messenger for the Quick Trip Messenger Service on East 25th Street in The City. On the day I met Mario, my Harley Sportster (pictured) “Sally The Bitch” was parked outside the Quick Trip offices, while I was in the office doing paperwork. When I went outside, I saw this biker standing in front of my bike, staring at her intently. My antenna went up, and I sized the other biker up. About my size and weight, and wearing colors. His patch said, “ALIENS MC.”

I approached Mario warily, and said, “What’s up, man?” Mario said without a hint of guile, “I was thinkin’ of stealin’ yaw bike.” After a second of stunned silence, we both broke up laughing! Either this guy was pathologically honest all the time, or he had a wicked sense of humor. After gettin’ to know him after that, I decided it was the latter.

Mario and I rapped for a little while on that first day, and I learned that he also rode a Sportster. It was a neat little bike, with a bolt on hardtail. The frame and the tin were painted wrinkle black from rattle-cans, which is an unusual paint job. Mario told me that he would never have used his Harley as a motorcycle messenger. Our conversation then turned to clubs. He said…..

“Yeah, I belong to a motorcycle club called the Aliens. You ever think of prospecting for a club?”

I told him no, but that wasn’t entirely true. What young biker doesn’t at least give fleeting thought, to joining a motorcycle club? The sight, sound and feel of dozens of straight piped Harleys blasting regally down the road, is mesmerizing, especially from within. The sense of brotherhood is inviting. Yet, for me, there really was no option because of my personality.

Truth to tell, I’m not really much of a a people person, and I hate crowds. Solitude is my thing, always has been, always will be. I view a Harley-Davidson, as the Ultimate Solitude Machine. Hey man, you can only get one other person on at a time, and most of the time—you ride the machine alone.

Mario’s club, the Aliens, went on to become the New York City Chapter of the Hell’s Angels. It’s a durable club, still there at 77 East 3rd Street, even after 45 years. So much time, gone by. Karen also wrote me…..

“The last time I popped by the clubhouse was in 1999. A younger patch was the only one outside. He brought me up to date a bit. Flash was the only older guy still in the club.”

Karen introduced the Grateful Dead to Sandy Alexander, the then President of the New York City Hell’s Angels. It was based on this connection, that Sandy arranged that Dead benefit concert at the Anderson Theater that took place, the night my father passed away.

The call of clubs is tantalizing. There is great power in numbers, and tremendous emotional support. Almost every young biker who slings his leg over a Harley-Davidson wonders about the possibility of prospecting for a club. However, clubs aren’t for everyone. For loners like me, it goes against the grain. Just me and my bike man, we’re going the distance. Later.

FINITO