I bought my first Harley-Davidson way back in 1977. It was a 1976 Bicentennial Edition Sportster that had lost an argument with a car in a parking lot. The frame was cracked and it needed some paint and polish but, it was all there and just needed some TLC. The owner had lost his interest in riding after they had re-built his leg with pins and plates and sold me his once proud possession for a mere 1300.00.
I have been on a Harley ever since. I was always loyal to the machine and those who shared my love of the lifestyle. I guess I just don't fit in with the new breed of enthusiasts who were coaxed into owning a Harley because they were sound financial investments. When did dealers start selling bikes as accessories to a clothing line? I musta been too busy riding to notice.
To be honest, I have had very little contact with "The Factory" these past twenty-one years. My bikes were always bought from private owners and the parts were either bought from "Mom and Pop" shops or through mail order catalogs simply because custom parts were never available at dealerships. I'll admit that I always made it a point to hit the local H-D Dealer when I found myself in a strange town to pick up a few tee shirts but other than that, I was never one to stand and drool over plastic and logo enhanced accessories.
On one occasion back in '88 I did hit the now defunct local dealer with every intention of buying a brand new Heritage. I had two paychecks and a bonus check in my wallet which gave me about 300.00 more than I needed to buy the bike right there on the spot. Unfortunately, the third time I interrupted the guy behind the counter (who had been telling his buddies about a bachelor party he had been to the night before) he shot me a look that woulda' made a Gorilla nervous and asked me if I was in a hurry. I told him that I wasn't but, I had come to buy a Harley but had no intention of begging him to take my money. As I was going through the door all I heard was him calling, "Sir! Sir! Which one?"
I found a Super Glide for sale in the classifieds and bought it instead. (And had more than 300.00 left over too!) I haven't been back to a dealership since. Not even for a tee shirt.
Was I bein' a jerk? Probably. I'm allowed to be. I stuck with H-D through the times when NOBODY wanted one. I defended em, praised em, worked around the manufacturing flaws and defects. I promoted them, advertised them on my clothing with patches and tee shirts and even had their logo cut into my flesh, twice! I figured, like most bikers who have been as loyal as I have been for this long, that I deserve better from the factory that I always stayed loyal to.
I have owned a lot of Harleys over the years. The newest one was that '76 Sporty and the oldest was a 1958 Sporster. I've had a lotta fun and a few aggravations ridin all of em but to me there was only one bike I could ever ride down the road and that was a Harley. I've got nothing against a guy on a Honda, or even the Honda itself. I just happen to be a Harley fanatic. Nuthin' wrong with that is there? I mean there are Chevy people and there are Ford people. Some people like Death Metal and some like Country and Western. I can live with all of em. It makes it more interesting. Stereotypes are what almost killed Harley back in the days before everyone with a Gold Card started ridin' em. Hell, when Honda first targeted the American buying public their ad campaign simply said, "You meet the nicest people on a Honda" because everyone associated motorcycles with black leather jackets and pillaged back road towns. Now it seems that "Bad Boy" biker image has become fashionable. Doctors and Lawyers dress up in their "Authentic" leathers and head out on Sunday afternoon like they were headed off to a "Wild One's" costume contest!
When all the H-D Mania started back in the mid-eighties I thought it would really be the best thing to happen to the Harley riding community since they slapped together the first flat head but as it turns out, I was wrong. Dead wrong. The prices went through the roof, waiting lists grew longer and companies like S&S found themselves the targets of Corporate Lawyers. I knew the dream was over when Harley sued S&S on the grounds that the "Harley" sound was as much a "copywritten" domain as that eagle and shield was. To be honest, I'm a little nervous about even using the term, "HARLEY-DAVIDSON" here because I didn't seek legal advice first!
What used to be a poor man's lifestyle has been absorbed into the rich man's investment portfolio. I would love to own a brand new Harley. At 38 years old, all of a sudden the idea of an electric start and a warranty sounds good to me. The price of a new one though turns me completely off. I mean, COME ON! It's a Motorcycle! I can buy a pick-up truck for what a new Harley costs. So why don't I, you ask? Simple.
I'M STUPID, MAN! I have this psychotic loyalty to a motor. I'm in love with the sound of a Harley! I can't get enough of lookin' at low slung frames and drag bars! I'm addicted!
The thing is this…I'll slam my family and turn around and defend em to the death. I earned the right to do that. Just like I earned the right to sit here and complain about the factory. I paid my dues every time I hauled one into a shop to fix another factory flaw, or sat under a bridge tryin' to figure out which electrical component I hadn't replaced that said "AMF" somewhere on it. I earned the right to bitch. I also think I've earned the right to ride. I didn't wake up last spring and "invest" in a lifestyle. I'm one of the morons who kept it alive when everyone else was buying Kawasaki 900's.~Sorry Big John!~