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Photos by Genghis

ON MY WORK COMPUTER: Mabel on Avenue A.

See that picture above? That’s a photo of Mabel, my ever-lovin’ ’71 Super Glide. I happen to have this photo as the desktop background on my computer at work (I work in an ophthalmologist’s office). One day, a tech from an ophthalmic equipment company was in my office. He saw the picture of Mabel and said….

“What is that, a Sportster?”

Turns out that this guy had just bought one of Harley’s Dyna Glide variants (there are so many, that I can’t keep track of ’em). Instead of entering a tediously detailed explanation, about what Mabel is, and the differences between a ’71 Super Glide and a Sportster, I just said….

“It’s just an old Harley.”

I don’t have the appetite for Biker Lites’ lack of knowledge regarding Harley history, which requires an extemporaneous lesson from me, about said history. I also don’t have enough patience for their not having enough self-respect to just shut up about the biker subculture, until they’re had a chance to research the subculture—a culture into which these Brando-Come-Latelys have presumably joined. Hey man, this goes to show that a Harley in the garage does not make you a biker, know what I mean?

If I have to explain, then you wouldn’t understand.

That old t-shirt saying says it all, doesn’t it? Aside from being a pain in the ass to have to explain to Biker Lites, what a Shovelhead is, it is a matter of self-respect, a matter of pride for someone new to the culture, not to reveal how clueless that person is, about the culture. Individual Harley motorcycles, have been the backbone of the culture, since at least the 1930s.

Real bikers have an ingrained knowledge of Harley models—most of whom know bikes back to the first OHV (the Knucklehead) in 1936—up to the present. Of course, some of us don’t formally recognize anything beyond 1984 when the last Shovel rolled off of The Firm’s assembly lines, but that’s a separate story. Bikers should at least know about the three classic Big Twins, the Knuckle, Pan and Shovel, as well as the Iron Head Sportsters. Okay, maybe the Blockhead (Evo), too. But to show total ignorance of a Shovel? Unforgivable, man.

THE REAL THING: My old ’68 Sportster.

Why? Why would somebody enthusiastically demonstrate their lack of a clue about a culture, when all it does is reveal that person’s ignorance of Biker Etiquette? Biker Etiquette says this:

Don’t show yourself to be frickin’ idiot, okay?

It’s simple, ya stugotz. Don’t show how stupid you are, and then maybe you’ll have a chance to develop into a Biker. It is incumbent on Brando-Come-Latelys to learn about the culture, without lookin’ like frickin’ morons. Bikers hate phonies, and clueless nerds.

There was another guy that came into my office, to install a new phone system a while ago. During the period when he made several visits to the office, he began asking me questions about Harleys, because he was considering buying a bike. Some months passed before I saw this guy again, when he came back to fix a phone problem we were having. At this time, he proudly showed me pictures he had on his cell phone, of a Japanese motorcycle he’d bought.

Some months passed after that visit, until he came to check one of the phones. I said, “So howzitoin’ with the bike?” He said in reply….

“Oh that. I sold the bike because I had an accident and fractured my collarbone. It’s okay now, but I’m not gonna ride anymore…it’s too dangerous…”

There’s not much to say about that, except to state what I believe: that a biker should go the distance with his bike, no matter what. A true biker will keep riding. Most Iron Horse readers knew that I had a bike wreck in the 1990s. I won’t say that I was unaffected by my wreck in ’94, when I broke my left leg in several places. Did I have some fear about gettin’ back on the bike, after I healed? Sure. That’s only human, man.

But at the same time, I knew I was committed. Committed to ride the rest of my life, and committed to my Harley 74, Mabel. My girl wasn’t going anywhere. David Snow said during my recuperation period….

“You know what they say Scott, that if ya wreck on a bike, ya gotta get rid of the bike and get a different bike.”

That wasn’t gonna happen, man. I admit to being superstitious to some degree, but that wasn’t going to make me trade Mabel away.

Both Mabel and I had to be repaired. Me, in Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City, where I had several surgeries, and Mabel at ROSA’S CYCLES out on The Island. Hey man, mebbe I wouldn’t end up as good as new, but I knew that Mabel would. My girl was gonna be as pristine, as before the wreck. But no way, no how, was I gonna get another bike. I love Mabel!

There is clearly a difference in philosophy between me, and the two techs who came to my office. That difference actually consists of a righteous commitment to riding and The Bike. That’s the essential difference between True Bikers and people who merely have a bike in their garages—a commitment to going the distance with motorcycles. To a True Biker, the heartbeat of the motorcycle, beats in unison with our hearts. There is a true symbiosis between man (or woman) and motorcycle.

How else to explain why True Bikers predominantly keep their old motorcycles, instead of trading in every few years for new bikes? True Bikers develop a real relationships with their motorcycles—as if our motorcycles are living entities. Hey man, forget “as if.” I know that our bikes live, and have souls.

Why do ya think I talk to Mabel? She’s alive, man, with feelings and tendencies. Outside the tight circle of the biker subculture, people don’t get it and don’t feel it. I feel it every time I start my Harley up. That Harley Heart beats in complete synchronization with my Human Heart. Outside the culture, it’s just another machine with a specified price tag on it. To me, Mabel is without price. Bread has nuthin’ to do with it.

OLD MOTORCYCLES RULE: My Harley is 44 years young!

That’s why bikers own old Harleys, refusing to trade in for that new shiny thing, put out by The Firm. Perhaps “own” is a misnomer. It’s more of a partnership between biker and bike, like a marriage—and every marriage involves a contract between the partners….

“I Genghis, take you, 1971 Harley-Davidson Super Glide, to be my lawfully wedded bike, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.”



5 Responses to ““WHAT IS THAT, A SPORTSTER?””

  1. Ron Burgandy Says:

    Old bikes don’t make anyone a biker, whatever the hell that is these days.
    In fact, it’s gotten, that there are so many rubs and phonies buying up shovelheads, that I know more guys who’ve been riding their entire life, on twin cams.

    In other words, don’t judge a book by it’s cover…..

  2. Raymond Jones Says:

    Thanks for the story; for putting thoughts and feelings I’ve had too, into words I can agree with.


      Hey Raymond, those are the sweetest words that a writer can hear, that a reader relates to his words. Thanks!

  3. None given Says:

    It’s a modern world …

    You should just start an evening Adult Education Course is “Biker Studies”, and charge them for imparting your wisdom.

    And cut some slack for other “scholars” who might have an equivalent wisdom of their own indigenous transportation sub-cultures; German Boxers … Ducatisti … Kaminari zoku.

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