The Long Road to Redemption


From:             "A. Toma"
To:                  Black Echo
Subject:         A true story about redemption
Sent:              Thu, 08 Jan 2004

First off, I LOVE your site!!  I was beginning to think that I was alone!

Part 1: Decent into madness

I finally had the cash to get a bike when I was 21 (two weeks before my 22nd B-day). I had read all there was, talked to people, and it was clear: Get a Harley (little did I know, eh? Young and foolish.). I had always been into cars and hotrods, built a few death trap street racers out of old Detroit iron, run demolition derbies, etc.  I was no mechanical fool.

It was a new, 0 miles HD Sportster XL883. I had got the smaller one with plans of big bore kit , hot rodding it, etc.  The first thing to go wrong was the paint faded with the first long days of Summer.  The dealer response?  "You didn't use Harley-Davidson(tm) wax."

Then in order to keep my (worthless) warranty I had to have the stealership do the oil change. $120 for oil, filter and primary oil change (I'll get back to the supposed primary oil change.)  The front head started leaking between rocker box and head.  Stealership response, "It is just the oil breather."

I didn't know that it breathed through the rocker box.

MY riding season that year was cut short due to an unrelated incident, but not before I managed to do over 4000 kilometers on that expensive oil change.  Spring rolls around, and over winter I had the bike painted (XR750 orange if you must know)When the tank was taken off to be sent for painting I discovered very fine grit in the tank.  The fuel strainer was almost plugged too. Great, now I have got that shit getting into my motor. Time to do the oil change and Oh! No oil in primary? To top it off, those morons at the stealership used Red-never-coming-apart-again Loctite on damn near everything. More cursing and swearing. MY cost for an oil change: less than $40 WITH OIL FILTER AND PRIMARY OIL.  Maybe now I'll get some riding time in but wouldn't you know it, the oil light starts flickering. WTF? I have less than 5000 kilometers on this Goddamned thing. I cut open old oil filter: it's full of sand sized metal chunks. I check the oil bucket: same thing.  Any way, I finally replaced the oil sending unit and went through another friggin' oil change.

Now the Sportster doesn't like to stay in 3rd gear and when it does it is really scary sounding. The front head oil leak is getting worse too. I also noticed that rear tail light vibrated loose and cracked.  I replaced that. The so-called self-canceling signal lights don't work either. I usually have to reach around and smack a rear blinker for it to come on (I never did find the loose connection). It was about then that I started noticing that a lot of cars were almost running me over at stop lights. Why?  I looked into it and finallyy found out that the brake light switch on the front brake was defective and staying on ALL THE TIME.  Well, I fixed that by removing the switch and using the rear brake switch to turn on stop lamp. Also, I had various parts drop off to by this time (refelectors, brake lever, mirrors etc.).

When asked how I liked my "hog" I told people it was a piece of shit and I was getting rid of the Goddamn piece if shit. This was met by horror and insults from people. WTF? I want to ride not stare at it! The big Summer trip up to go drag racing was now upon me. 600 miles in one day. By the time I got in that night I had lost the headlight, 2 signal lights and another Goddamn tailight lens. The front head was now pouring oil out like an Exxon tanker. A H.O.G member asked me why my bike was so oily. I told him it was an oil leaking piece of shit and the fucking Motor Company really should send a truck, pick it up and give me a refund on my purchase price. More insults and horrified looks. Anyways, I also got my ass kicked all weekend long at the drag strip from cars to fucking 125c.c dirt bikes.

Now I was pissed.

When I got home, I went to a Triumph dealer.

Also, by the end of the riding season I was buying 1157 bulbs in bulk as the bike would not go 100 kilometers without a bulb breaking. Broke another taillight lens too, go figure.

Part 2: A major revelation

Biking didn't have to be a fight against man and machine. It was possible to have comfort, handling, brakes, PERFORMANCE, all the good stuff. Or rather, all the things my piece of shit Harley didn't have. I again did a mini tear down in winter (15,000 kilometers on the bike now) and what I found was SHOCKING! The front head was leaking as a result of:

1) A missing rubber umbrella seal inside (hot oil getting on weakened sealing surface).


2) The bolts (4) that hold the rocker box to head could not be tightened down due to poor machining on the head.

I had only 1 bolt that was actually sealing anything. The bolts too had to be replaced. One was bent and the other two had almost no threads on them. I started to wonder too, what else is like this? Do I run the risk of the tranny seizing up because of inferior machining and assembly?  3rd gear now had to be held in place for a second so it wouldn't pop out as it had started doing with startling frequency. Also, I was getting more and more paranoid too. I had been getting in the habit of cutting open oil filters and the metal chunks were there EVERY TIME! They were all problems I had NEVER encountered before be it a Caterpillar bulldozer or an old car we were putting into a demolition derby. And this piece of shit two wheeled tractor was NEW! As the bike was being prepared to get traded off, I noticed that the shifter peg was cracked. $75 to replace it, and that one broke too!! There was a huge piece of slag in it so I took it back to the stealership I got it from and was again put down, called stupid and told I didn't know what I was doing. I very loudly and rudely told the jack-ass behind the the counter, "First off, I have been to trade school for heavy duty mechanics! Secondly, what kind of place you running here anyways? You sell me inferior junk that breaks because of an obvious flaw and now there is no warranty on the part? This is ridiculous!! I am not leaving until I get a replacement!" Luckily the owner was selling a new $30,000 rolling tractor to some dumb yuppie and they could quite easily hear me. At the end of the day I got my new part, free of charge. Like it would have been at ANY OTHER PLACE!

Part 3: Redemption

It was April 2000 and the Harley was history. In its place a new shiny red Triumph ThunderBird Sport. I spent the Summer baiting Harley idiots into impromptu street races and winning every time. With almost the same c.c as the old 883 (the Triumph was 885 c.c.'s), it was no slouch.  I returned to the drag strip after a very comfortable 6000 mile day (unlike the hell it was on the Sportster!) and mopped the floor with every Harley at the races that year.  One question remains to this day: HOW THE HELL DID MY HEAD GET SO FAR UP MY ASS AS TO BUY A HARLEY IN THE FIRST PLACE????  It is something I have to live with to this day. Needless to say I try and spread the anti-Harley gospel where ever I go.

The final word?  MOTORCYCLES DON'T HAVE TO BE LIKE THAT!!!! They can be FUN!!!



Uncle Ernie

PS the red Triumph was totaled little more than a year later by the classic left turn guy ("Sorry, didn't see ya!) I walked away but had to replace the red 99 with a white and orange 2000 TBS.