Cheers to you Black Echo for saying what needs to
Having grown up in Southern Oregon I have been around Harleys since I was old enough to walk. We lived in a couple of "bedroom communities" for angels/gypsies and the like -in other words; their "old ladies" lived on our street and I can recall watching the bikes roll into our town for what seemed hours coming up hwy 99 from Cali. I remember going out to play the next day and hanging out with them as they worked at keeping their bikes together in the driveways around our neighborhood. They would talk with me and I would tinker on my bicycle the same as I saw them do. They never seemed scary to me as I viewed them as uncles -some even dated my aunt.
I resolved that someday I would be just as "cool"...
My first bike was a GT380 Suzuki -amazingly fast light to light -but a long way from the Harley I dreamed of owning someday. I eventually owned a whole slew of "Jap" bikes that got faster & faster as my sport riding skills improved. The old Harley riders would occasionally try me on the old highway and I actually felt bad for them and didn't always give it everything my rocket had. I even recall stopping the race a few times and going back to help them pick up the parts that fell off their bikes. I was recognized for my good sportsmanship and my yellow Dunstall Honda and they would even wave when we passed on the road -something that truly amazed my cafe-racing buddies. So I grew up in the "culture" of bikers and Harleys and was proud that while they gave me crap about my metric bikes they still respected my riding abilities. Harleys are/were expensive though and It wasn't until my 34th year that I was able to afford my first; A 1968 XLCH hardtail with a built motor -that's where the previous owner stopped in his "restoration". I thought that this was a great starting point anyway. I heard all the crap about sportsters being "girls bikes" and all but also knew that this one could accelerate faster and was by far lighter than any larger hog.
Ducatis and Buells were on my mind and I thought this is it, I'm finally a "REAL BIKER!!"
I set to work planning all the upgrades/improvements that I had done to so many metric bikes before.... What I was oblivious to up until that point was that in 1968 Harley Davidson had not yet been picked up by AMF and therefore had no modern technology such as ....I don't know, BRAKES, A kick starter that didn't turn you into a limping cripple anti-vibration motor mounts an electrical system (beyond the magneto) or any of the other "luxuries" that I had become so accustomed to. I was soon adopted by the old local bikers and they spent endless hours "helping" me keep this rattletrap running just enough to make it to the next run and fall apart/piss gasoline/leak oil/ spontaneously dismantle itself or simply refuse to start. They seemed to derive hours of entertainment from my frustration -kind of like an initiation period -I thought.
In two years of dumping money and time into the POS I rode maybe 150 miles- and that's a GENEROUS estimate. The price of the parts precluded any actual upgrades as most of the time I was just doing my best to keep it running. The most perplexing aspect of this "adventure" was the engineering: I bought manuals studied the web and picked the brains of every old biker I met and came to one irrevocable conclusion- HARLEY DAVIDSON IS INFERIOR IN EVERY POSSIBLE WAY. Japanese engineers understand what works, Some metals form workable surfaces when bolted together -others don't. Loudness is a LOSS of combustion that could (and should) be better applied to power. Vibration is our ENEMY! Fat Jack let me park the thing in his shop -close to the tools where another oil stain on the floor wasn't too badly thought of. He is a great guy and one of a dying breed -a real die-hard biker from the old school. We worked like crazy together to finally collect all the parts at swap-meets and such and assemble a rideable bike that I prayed might not leave me stranded again. It was pretty, loud and faster than most Harleys -still slow by my standards -but almost workable for putting around.
I still feared it though...
In all my years of riding I had never experienced
any bike as unreliable and poorly engineered. I
let it sit there in Jack's shop for over a month
without riding it. I knew what would happen if I took it out again & I just
wanted OUT! A lady came to the shop one day asking if
we could put back together an insurance wreck she had bought - a 2000
Yamaha V-Star. The bike was pretty lightly damaged and outside of the
bars being bent up & the rear tire being flat it was
brand new (only 700 miles!). When she saw my sport sitting there she commented
that she had always wanted one. I muttered something
about "me too" & walked away before pissing off Jack with a further derogatory
A week or so later the work was done on the V-Star and she came down to pick it up. I was astonished when she offered me a trade for the sport. In a fit of characteristic honesty I detailed all of the problems that I had struggled through since owning it and further advised her that I had no reason to believe that ANY of the work done on it qualified it as "fixed". She insisted that she wanted it and I got in my car and drove the two miles to my house to get the title. Upon arriving my wife asked why I was home so early in the day. I had shown her the V-star days before and I told her of the offer -before I could even finish talking she was heading into the house and to the safe. She returned with the title and simply asked "NOW can we ride??!?"
The Yamaha was a dream come true- It was all of the good & none of the bad. I would roll up & people would even comment "nice Harley". It was quiet, comfortable and best of all reliable as hell! I put 10,000 miles on it that year and then traded it for my current ride, a 1995 Suzuki RF600 sportbike. I love my "crotch rocket" & wouldnt trade it for ANY piece of crap Harley in this world. I might go back to a metric cruiser someday -but not yet ;)
So now that I've "bought the shirt" -so to speak,
Grew up with all the hype and personally debunked the myth In a way that these new off the rack HD riders would never have the balls to do- I have no reservations about speaking my opinions out loud: Nobody is as embarrassed as I that Harley Davidson motorcycles are American in origin. We could (and should) do so much better!
-just my two cents,