Archive for June, 2015

“ELDER STATESMAN”

June 27, 2015

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by DAVID SNOW

Photos by Snow

ANIMAL MOTHER: The before picture.

Can’t really say when it dawned on me that I was one of those Harley elder statesmen defined within the culture as a “greybeard,” but at age 57, it is undeniable. The reason I did deny it, is that I lack the wisdom necessary to be a genuine Milwaukee Gandalf. However, the world has shifted beneath me and whether I deserve it or not I AM that eccentric, cantankerous old coot that mainstream Harley consumers consider marginal at best and irrelevant at worst, riding a machine that nobody knows or cares about.

When you have to explain the significance of a real XLCH (as opposed to a post-’69 CH that has no real significance) to supposed Harley people whose eyes glaze over after a few seconds, who start tapping their phones, who don’t know what a magneto is, who don’t even know what a kickstarter is, you know you have outlived your own personal primetime. Usually most inquiries, when clearly headed into the predictable dead end of ignorance, are quickly concluded by me with…..

“Ah, it’s just an old Harley.”

This idea of being a greybeard, makes me think about first riding Harleys back in 1981 on my brand new ‘82 FXE. I was 24 and had been fascinated with Harleys even before I got my first Honda at age 19. I read HST & the available histories, read Roger Hull’s Road Rider and Lou Kimzey’s Easyriders and in general tried to inform and educate myself so I wouldn’t be just another stupid wannabe. Back then, the term referred a guy who dressed in Harley gear without actually owning a Harley which could be a risky proposition. Unlike today, you didn’t wear a Harley shirt unless you had a Harley. I saw HD tees ripped right off the backs of Honda riders. As long as you were honest and not presumptuous, most of the hardcore Harley guys didn’t care what you rode and would talk to anyone about their HDs, past and present.

To me, a greybeard was some gnarly longhair on a Knucklehead. In 1982, a Harley that was the same age as Animal Mother is now, 46 years old, would’ve been a 1936 Knuckle! Hard to believe that a ’69 CH is as remote from today’s Harley scene as a ’36 Knuckle was in ’82, but it makes some kind of sense— both happen to be Harley’s only all-iron OHV motors. Since I’d cared enough to educate myself on the subject, I knew the significance of a 1936 Knuckle, as did most Harley people of the era, again, unlike today. That culture is long gone, like the Horse Nations of the plains Indians. All that’s left are isolated bands, and a few diehard renegades still riding relics and living the old ways.

I’ve mentioned before that I first saw Animal Mother in a used car lot over ten years ago. I never had any first hand experience with a magneto CH, although the wife and I rode a 1969 XLH from Brooklyn to Laconia and back in the early ‘90s and couldn’t wait to get back on our Shovel. But when I saw that mag CH in the car lot I was captivated and thought of Barger, Rayborn, Riley, Payne, Neilson, Spider Summers, Danny Lyon’s “Brucie and his CH,” “Funny Sonny Packing With Zipco,” The World’s Fastest Motorcycle—- names and thoughts and associations that don’t occur with battery powered Ironheads, or any other Harley for that matter.

I well know that none of this has any meaning for any but a meager few and I also knew well enough ten years ago to be intimidated by a 1969 XLCH and passed on her until she popped up again my life a few years later. As I’ve said before, Animal Mother has been my most rewarding and satisfying motorcycling experience.

Photo by Snow


ANIMAL MOTHER: The after picture.

I feel fortunate to have found her. I was sitting at a light Thursday morning on Animal Mother, about a mile from the main gate of the local AFB. I was on my way to my mom’s to meet with the family and get ready for her funeral, so I guess I’m in a frame of mind to mourn the fact that all things must pass. Over the racket of the CH I heard what I thought was a siren and proceeded to swivel my head and then checked the rearview. An airman on a new FLH-style HD had pulled up staggered behind me and his radio was blaring. I turned to see the rider checking out Animal Mother and he started paddling up beside me, trying to shout over his radio.

I couldn’t hear much, but I did hear, “Is that a Harley?” The light changed and I left him in the dust, banging into third before he’d cleared the intersection dragging both feet. I rode the access road to mom’s and after a couple of minutes the airman flew down the adjacent freeway. I could still hear his radio and saw him turn his head, probably still wondering if that was a Harley. Whatever, it was definitely some kind of renegade riding a relic…

FINITO

“NYPD GIVES A THUMBS UP”

June 27, 2015

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GO AHEAD MAKE MY DAY: A cop gave us a thumbs up.

We were stopped at a red light in Times Square. My machine’s motor was burbling that distinctive idle, the one that makes my heart syncopate in time with it, that pitter patter of little combustion cycles. You know the one. The sound of her song through the straight pipes, is so organic, that you know that she’s a living, breathing being. Who says that machines don’t have souls, and aren’t afraid to express those souls through their exhaustive expulsions? I know that she doesn’t. Then I hear it. Someone from the sidewalk is shouting at me. I look over.

“Hey! Nice! Very nice!”

I look to our left, and I see two NYC cops staring at us. The one with a big smile on his face, is giving us a thumbs up. I wave back at ’em, and reciprocate with my own thumbs up, as I shout back, “Thanks!”

Photo by Genghis



THROW YOUR HANDS UP AND SHOUT: Was the cop diggin’ on my Harley?

If you’re thinking that the cop was showing appreciation for my ever-lovin’ Harley Stroker, Mabel, you’d be wrong. Truthfully, my Harley Shovel has never gotten that type of positive reaction from cops. Mabel has gotten such enthusiastic responses from bikers, some citizens, but no cops. No, what turned this cop on, was my ’72 Vette, Mary.

Photo by Genghis



ALL AMERICAN BEAUTY: Everyone loves Mary.

The last strong reaction I got from an NYC cop to my Harley 74, was on Avenue B in Alphabet City a few years ago, when I inadvertently passed an unmarked car with the beautiful racket from Mabel’s straight pipes, breaking the cop’s left eardrum. He’s got two ears, what’s the problem? Hey, how could anyone not love the sound of a straight piped Harley 74, huh? So I crossed the double solid yellow line to pass him, so what? On came the internal flashing lights in the unmarked, and to court I went for a misdemeanor count of reckless driving. That cost me $1500 in lawyers’ fees to get the case dismissed.

My ’72 Stingray Mary, on the other hand, is a Princess in people collective eyes and consciousness. It wasn’t always this way with Vettes of this age. Back in the ’60s, when I had a stunning ’64 Vette, I call “Unnamed Vette” (read about Unnamed Vette Here), riding around in her guaranteed at the very least, dirty looks from the local constabulary. Back then when I went blasting around in Unnamed Vette, she was a cop magnet, and believe me, they weren’t giving us any thumbs up.

Photo by Genghis



OUTLAW MACHINE: Cops don’t applaud my Harley 74.

These days, Mabel and I get as much negative attention from cops, as I did with Unnamed Vette. It’s just the opposite with Mary, my ’72 Vette. When I drive Mary, people turn in their car seats if we’re on the highway, and gesticulate wildly, giving us thumbs us. Cops, construction workers, kids on the street—you name ’em—they all get wry necks just swiveling around to see Mary blast by, the sound from her straight-through glass packs no longer antisocial like it was in the ’60s, but now representing a nostalgia for Chevy V-8s, the way they sounded 40 years ago—and the way they should sound.

The passage of time has rendered a Vette like Mary from an antisocial machine back in the day, to a nostalgic icon worthy of note and appreciation by polite society. I can’t tell you how often this happens to Mary and me. It happens every time I take her out. I also get, “Hey, what year?” yelled at us. I tell ya what. I dig it.

There is something so profoundly American about Mary and Vettes like her, that tugs at people subconsciously (me included), that makes ’em lose their minds and their composure. Men in their 60s and 70s swivel their necks like Linda Blair in “The Exorcist” just to get a good look, mouths agape. Hey man, doan hurt yourselves, okay?

Of course, that’ll never happen with old Harleys. A stripped-down old Harley, will always appear as an Outlaw Machine, ready to rape, pillage and plunder the citizens. Mabel will never be grin creator—except from others of our own kind. That’s okay. It is profoundly gratifying to ride in either of my machines, a true expression of my motorvatin’ soul as I wind ’em out on the blacktop. The trick to obtaining true motorvatin’ happiness, is not to expect it from the grins on other peoples’ face, s that machines may or may not cause, but the internal grin they generate inside of me. Later.

 

FINITO

“ANIMAL MOTHER UPDATE : ADDING FUEL TO THE FIRE”

June 19, 2015

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by DAVID SNOW

Photos by Snow

Not much to report, just installed that new straight petcock which allowed me to re-route the line down and behind the rear cylinder instead of the up-and-over-the-top of the rocker box forced by the 90 degree petcock. Doesn’t look like much, but it makes a huge diff not having that line hanging out in space.

Nothing better than an ice cold Corona and communing with an Ironhead for about 30 minutes. Feels good to make an improvement on her, however minor. She just keeps getting better and better.

It really unclutters the right side of the bike. Riding her daily, should be doing the 500 mile oil change in a day or two, from 50 wt. to 60. BTW— No more nightmares!

I don’t really mind gnarly looking pipes, although a new set of drags are the next item on the list. I can’t wait to back off throttle and hear that snarly, crackling exhaust. Part of the fun in riding a Harley. Probably not a real reserve— the petcock’s not sitting vertical. We shall see… I do like the filter screen, though.

 

FINITO

“MY GRANDPA THE BIKER”

June 14, 2015

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MEET MY GRANDFATHER: He rode a Knuckle.”

Meet my grandfather. He rode a Harley Knucklehead in the late 1930s, that he stripped-down for superior performance in acceleration and speed, braking power and handling, due to a proportionate decrease in weight. In his day, he would’ve called his Harley a “Bob-job.” His Harley not only became a better functional performer, she also looked righteous stripped-down. The aesthetic gain was undeniable. His Harley, when laden down with saddlebags and a windshield, looked stately but ungainly. The same Harley-Davidson when stripped down to her essence, had a change in character that was commensurate with her new, racy abilities. To Grandpa’s eyes, she looked downright dangerous, an Antisocial Machine that seemingly went against the grain of society. No doubt, The Man of the era, frowned upon such machines: Stripped-down, boisterous and rude. Wait a minute, though. This man wasn’t my biological grandfather.

He was my spiritual grandfather.

My spiritual grandfather, and bikers like him who were early adopters of the Strip-Down-Bikes-To-Make-Them-Faster belief, set the stage for bikers like us. We are descended from him, as surely as if we had his DNA within us, and his bloodlines coursing through our veins. Traditions don’t develop in a vacuum, nor did they begin with the Arlen Nesses of the 1960s, when purpose-built bikes began their ascendancy. No, it began with bikers like Grandpa, who took their Harley-Davidsons home from the dealerships, and started tearing superfluous parts off of ’em, rendering them into Machines of Character. Inspired by motorcycle racers on dirt tracks, bikers like Grandpa started an antisocial movement that is the crux of the Biker Subculture. They transformed their Sanitary Motorcycles that received tacit approval from police agencies, into something more sinister. Something not quite illegal, but as far as The Establishment was concern, machines that broke the Spirit of The Law—if not the letter of The Law. From the day that our Grandpas of the ’30s stripped-down their bikes, they, and we by familial linkage—became Marked Men in the eyes of Polite Society and The Law.

Photo by Genghis



NOT SO DIFFERENT: Mabel resembles Grandma.

You’ve met my Grandpa, now meet his bike, Eloise. Eloise was my bike’s Grandmother. While Grandma Eloise was a ’36 Harley Knucklehead and my bike, Mabel, is a ’71 Harley Shovelhead, the family resemblance is unmistakable. The aggressive low-stance is testimony to their familial relationship. The only big difference, is Mabel’s rear suspension. Otherwise, all the blood markers are there. Hell, they even sound alike, alike enough, that perhaps only the most finely tuned biker ears can tell them apart by sound alone. Their voices, that clipped cadence that is the sweetest music in the universe, tells of their bloodline connection. Both are stripped-down Harley–Davidsons, honest motorcycles that have been pared down to their animalistic essences. What Grandpa did with Eloise, was The Guide as to what I would do with Mabel.

There is a subtext to these family connections between Grandpa and me, and Eloise with her Granddaughter, Mabel. Like I said, traditions don’t develop in a vacuum. This is the most important point with regard to the biker subculture, that the real connection between our respective generations, is the transformation of these Harleys into Outlaw Machines. There was no magic in this transformation. There are no metal badges on Grandma Eloise and Granddaughter Mabel that scream, “Antisocial Machines.” There is simply the act of stripping away the components, that hid this Outlaw Character underneath, that waited patiently to be revealed to the world. Make no mistake about it, “The World” (as in FTW) recognizes this outlaw quality without badges and signs hung on the bikes. Polite Society and The World recognizes Outlaw Machines by the intuited intent of the bikes’ masters. The intent, was simply to render motorcycles compatible with how we see the world. Hey man, FTW and FTF! Later.

FINITO

“BLACK IS THE NEW METALFLAKE ORANGE”

June 10, 2015

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by DAVID SNOW

Photo by Snow


ANIMAL MOTHER: Devoid of drippings.

Supposed to get up to 95 today, so I got her out for an early morning dash for mocha. Took the 25 mile back road (nice and chilly), plus two miles of city traffic to the nearest Starbucks. Once in 4th I cannot get over how smoothly & easily the revs rise.

It’s now an act of will to resist twisting that throttle WFO. She wants to RUN! I snapped this pic after she’d been sitting for 20 minutes. Note the lack of drippings!

Ever since Animal Mother’s been up and running, I’ll have one or two bad dreams per week about effing up her rebuild. Last Night, I dreamt that I’d pulled her cylinder and broken rings dropped out. I was worried that they’d drop back into the case, but when I looked for’em, they were like spun out cassette tapes all over the cases. Whew! They didn’t fall in. But then I looked through the hole and there was the cylinder, which looked like an Evo cylinder, lodged down in the cases. I was thinking, okay,don’t panic, just move the rod out of the way and fish it out. Then I woke up— very relieved it was only a dream. Pretty frightening, especially the part about the metrosexual Evo cylinder…

Man, I know it’s sacrilegious, but when the time comes I’m may go with that Sunburst Orange metalflake that was on my ’74 CB5504!

When it’s right it’s right, though, with Animal Mother in black! I was ruined by Scott’s B&W shots of Sally, which is why that color shot he posted of Sally posted was so disturbing. I love that Honda metalflake orange so much, I think I’ll get an extra tank professionally painted and just hang it on the wall. It does look beautiful on the road though, varying with the intensity of the sun.

FINITO

“BEGGING TO BE CUT LOOSE”

June 8, 2015

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by DAVID SNOW

Photo by Snow

ANIMAL MOTHER: She wants to be let loose!

Just completed the first leg of today’s 100 miler, rolling into me mum’s driveway about 30 minutes ago.

I left the mountain. around 7:30 wearing a denim vest & t-shirt and the temps actually felt nippy in the shade. Had to get on the freeway for a couple of miles, but it was pretty deserted even for an early Sunday morning, and I was able to roll it on and cut the throttle without getting tailgated. Got caught at a couple of lights, which made me nervous, as it was already getting hot and humid. The motor is just pounding and strong, she’s just begging to be cut loose— as it is, the throttle is barley cracked before it hits cruising speeds. I’d ordered a complete James Gasket set

Gonna head out later this evening around 7 PM. It’ll probably still be hot, supposed to get up to 90 today, but I think Animal Mother’s up for it. Yeah— I can’t handle laying down metalflake orange, but it’s still on the list… altho, I’m really digging the black. Mosey, love that quote. If you read outside of the spinal tap context, it’s pretty heavy

Not sure on the length of the short one but just on looks alone it’s more stumpy looking than the longer one which also has kind of a little kink in it. Lookin for an 18 hoop & also, since those CH horseshoes are usually high priced, my second choice is a Moon type round oil tank. I ran a really pretty spun aluminum one on my Shovelchopper in the 80s and they used to be everywhere, but I can’t even find’em on Ebay. I think I got mine from Rivera or Jammer back in the day. The genuine Moon ones are pricey too.

Hell, I’ll probably just stick with the lunchbox. I meant to say above, RE: James Gaskets— I got the complete XL set as I plan on changing the primary fluid soon and it seemed a good deal to go ahead and get the complete set since separate purchases of head/rocker box/base gaskets was getting up there anyway. I was disappointed that there was no gasket for the primary inspection window! So I cut the cone timing cover gasket to fit but it doesn’t work worth a shit. It never bothered me before, but now I don’t want Animal Mother drooling like a drunken slob anymore.

Reckon I’ve got a little over 200 miles on her now. We made it home last night just fine but I was still a bit nervous. Temp was 91 even though it was 7 PM. After sitting all day in the heat & humidity, she started on the third kick. Most of the backroads were in shadow and it felt like the temp dropped at least 10 degrees in some of those shady spots. I’m still varying the RPMs rather than cruising and sure don’t enjoy stopping at red lights. I’m cautiously optimistic about her rebuild and am really pleased about the lack of oil consumption. A ride like this before her new top end would’ve taken at least a half quart, probably more considering the heat. As it was, she used nary a drop!

I can’t quite wrap my mind around that… What also helps is the o-ring I found in the James Gasket set that perfectly fit the dipstick cap. There was always a dribble all over the tank and now there is none! I checked the FSM and there didn’t seem to be an o-ring in the illustrations, but this fits and works great. Just for the hell of it, I kicked her over this morning to make sure she hadn’t been debilitated by the hot ride, and she fired on kick 3, just snarly and crackilng and raring to go.

I’ve been re-learning my warm weather kick ritual and think I’ve got it down. I just have to remember, the more humid it gets, the more sensitive she gets to excessive throttle. Got to say my confidence is building with every ride. Only now do I feel that I’ve actually earned the XLCH tattoo I’ve been contemplating. I feel that I’m really making her mine. I love my bike.

Now, I’m getting antsy about getting her into her short frame…

FINITO

“JUST ANOTHER BLACK HARLEY”

June 6, 2015

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by DAVID SNOW

Photo by Snow

ANIMAL MOTHER: She’s black and she’s bad!

Here she is, as promised, pics of Animal Mother in all her orange peeled glory! Still no short frame, I know, I’m lacking, but I delivered a shopping list to CH local legend Johnny Ramsey, so the hunt is on. I wanted to give JR first shot at some business and he’s sifting through his Ironhead stash for: short swingarm, 18” rear wheel, straight pipes, oil tank, and associated hardware. I want to use as much of Animal Mother as possible in her “Transition” to her new identity— front end, bars, tank & fender, shocks— those elements that could only be hers and could never be at home on any other bike. Probably gonna fab up a sidemount taillight.

So I’m completely in love with her silver jugs and redcaps which testify to her constant state of arousal— she’s always ready to go! I decided to go with the time honored black and chrome/silver look, mainly cause it’s cheap, easy and quick. I spent a manic couple of afternoons this week with a couple of cans of Krylon and two vinyl #1 stickers. The #1 is my favorite Harley logo from the days when an XL Ironhead was the World’s Fastest Motorcycle. I sprayed on the front porch so in addition to the orange peel, there may be a stray tick, chigger or pubic hair embedded in the paint. Hey, you can’t get that from the factory.

I replaced the brass HD handlebar clamp with that 70s aftermarket XLCH engraved chrome clamp. At certain times of the day the reflection off that flawless chrome is blinding. Also got rid of the brass kicker pedal in favor of the CH peg. I really want to get a new straight petcock and get rid of that 90 degree bend so the fuel line can be re-routed.

I’ve got about 150 miles on her now. I did the 100 mile oil change and will change again at the (estimated) 500 mile mark. I’d read the forum posts RE: retorque heads and momentarily confused the debate with simple tightening of he head bolts. The toque wrench wouldn’t reach all the bolts anyway. I had a socket on a cherished antique “PLVMB” breaker bar that perfectly fit the bolts on the pushrod side and socked’em all down by feel. Hope I didn’t screw up.

It’s getting hot now and I’m still babying her. I plan a 100 mile back road ride tomorrow with an early morning departure and late evening return to keep her out of the heat of the day. I rode by Jerry’s Triumph this week to show Jerry that I did indeed get Animal Mother back together and his efforts on her behalf were not in vain. He was working on a Hayabusa and had a Suzuki Bandit on the dyno (it made 96 horses screaming WFO). He dropped it all to drill out my snapped off front gas tank bolt and weld in the new one I’d brought. I’d zip-tied the front part of the tank for the ride over. “I bet I’m the only guy that brings you worn out junk to work on,” I said, but he assured me that wasn’t true…

FINITO