God is that thing ever slow, and real hard work to push along at anything like a half decent pace. It has a charm, pretty much purely around it’s torquey, old fashioned long stroke engine, and is ideal for a leisurely cruise around the ‘B’ roads at between fifty and seventy, but anything more than that and it’s stressed and flustered. If you want to go a good distance in any hurry whatsoever……. forget it.
Took it for a short spin yesterday, and found it’s leaking oil from the back of the rocker-box………. A drip-drip leak. It looks to be a pain to fix too, if just tightening it down doesn’t work, which I suspect it won’t. Have to take the rocker box, complete with rockers off, and it is made of a three-part sandwich. Looks like a right lash-up of a design, but I’ll reserve judgement until I’ve got the spanners out, and had a good look at it. Actually, it's not that big a deal, ............more to do with me having trouble doing anything these days which involves the least bit of effort.
It’s like new…….. just under 9,000 miles. No excuse for it really, and prolly just because it has a bit of a mild thrashing the day before. There’s a fair bit of detail that is nothing short of cheap ‘n’ nasty on this Sportster, which is inexcusable from the oldest bike manufacturer in the world, and from one who sell their bikes on ‘Hand Built Craftsmanship’.
Hand Built Craftsmanship, my ass!
These things rust like anchors if you show them rain, and I know……… I’ve had two of them. The design is archaic, and the accuracy of manufacture, if the swinging arm is anything to go by, is poor………. When you do up the back wheel spindle, you pinch the swinging arm tube. I wouldn't expect that on a Chinese made moped. The handling is a joke, and the performance, for 1200cc is truly laughable, although I grant you that cruisers aren't meant to be thrown around.......... HOWEVER Harley do market this bike on it's handling and 'sportiness'.
So why have I bought another one, having found all this with the last, back in 1990 or so? Well, that’s kinda hard to explain.
Harleys make two types of basic bike…… the lighter, “smaller” Sportsters, and the bigger Big Twins…….. Sportsters aren’t considered to be ‘real’ Harleys by the ‘elite’. They are, of course, and a better engine in many ways, but it’s all a part of the Harley Bullshit. Sportsters are marked down as kinda ‘loss leaders’ to get you hooked on the Harley Thing, and then you sell your soul to be a ‘Real’ Harley Man and buy a Big Twin, which are extortionate prices……… up to over £20,000 a time. That’s a whole lotta money for something that’s not even really well made, not to a level that the price would lead you to expect.
(It’s a Man Thang, hunny!) :o)
Yup, it’s real easy to be dragged into it all,…….. like I said, I’ve been around the block way more times than is ever good for a chap, but even I get drawn into buying another one, after swearing “Never Again!”
Strains of Born To Be Wild kinda echo through the barking exhaust note, as you feed her a big handful of beef outta the corner, and point the tiny Sportster headlight down a long straight.
Booooorn to be wiiiiild……………………………. Get outta my fuckin’ way! (Because, like, I don’t have enough steam to overtake ya, man!) :o)
Now, should there be any good ol’ Harley boys out there sharpening their knives, let me just add a bit more insult to injury to help you get up a head of steam. ( :o)…… for God’s sake lighten up chaps! )
There are two distinct types of Harley rider. There’s the Real Thing, and there’s The Rest. Of The Rest, a whole lot (But not all) are wannabes of the highest order. Most emulate the Real Thing. They have pulled out the fat wallets of the Forty-something’s, and have bought the Real Thing’s genuinely bad-ass reputation……….. largely that of the genuine back-patch bike clubs. (Hells Angels, Reapers, Satan’s slaves, Chopper club etc.) They emulate the back-patch dress code, lifestyle, and look real mean ‘n’ moody, and yes, some do look the part…… big and beefy, but that’s not quite the same thing as hard.
Hard is when you fall, break bones, nearly lose your life, but still climb back on a bike as soon as you can. Sometimes several times, if there's enough of you left working to still be able to ride somehow.
Hard is definitely not just getting your wallet out because you fancy the lifestyle and image. I saw a t-shirt slogan the other day, which sums it up nicely, ..........
No matter what you might think of The Real Thing, these bikers and their ilk are genuinely tough, love bikes, have been around them all their lives, ...........and most importantly, ............can ride them. I can ride better than most (Note:- I didn’t say better than anybody), and I’ve caught and passed very nimble sports bikes on the Harley, on twisty ‘B’ roads where it's skill and not performance that shows up the difference. Believe me, that should be impossible to do on a Harley, ................and yes, they certainly were trying to get away from me.
The wannabes swagger around in similar attire, to the Real Thing, albeit pretty much brand spanking new, and over the top sometimes, and certainly revel in the Bad Boy image. The time served riders amongst them are pretty much obvious, but they seem to be in a relative minority from those I’ve seen. Talking the talk is easy these days, but walking the walk is another thing altogether. Harley Davidson themselves promote the whole lifestyle thing to go with their bikes……… they sell everything from Harley cute ‘n’ dinky little ornaments that wifey will approve of, to…….. hell,……… I dunno……… I’ll bet you can even get Genuine Harley Davidson Soap-On-A-Rope, to save losing it………. y’know, ………..for when you slip in the shower, boys, …………as you do. :o)
Harley delicately market the Hard Man, Hard Riding, Prime U.S. Male Bad Boy image, but at the same time distance themselves from those who really are tough and hard riding. Those who built that image they make millions by selling.
An example………I know a bloke here in Taunton……. Old School Biker……… Hard as bleddy nails, BSA tattooed on his earlobes and who’s been riding since he could walk. I used to see him a lot on the way to work, and used to call in and have a good old natter. Mad as a coot, and rode a road going CBR kneeler. That’s a pure racing sidecar outfit registered for the road…….. you need balls to ride that on the road! About two foot high……. Bit like a three-wheeled skateboard, with a big engine. Anyway, he ran out of fuel near a certain Harley Davidson main dealer, and pushed the kneeler along with his foot, as is the practice with these things, into their forecourt to get a few pints of fuel to get to a garage down the road.
Would they help the guy, a real dirt-under-the-fingernails biker?
Nope, they wouldn’t.
Said they didn’t have any juice.
Bollocks they didn’t.
He was just too rough looking, and they weren’t going to make any money out of him. (Although he wasn’t asking for the fuel for free)
NO dealer, big or small would’ve turned him away like that at one time. See what I mean?
Harley do seminars for industry on marketing, and so they should. What they pull off is nothing short of miraculous, it really is. Even I’ve gotten pulled into the “Things are different on a Harley” thing, and it’s true, things are different…… it’s an old fashioned bike, but that’s no excuse for not making it as good as it should be. As good as you portray it too. That’s dishonest in my book.
Do you want to know what the other neat trick is? You will find it real hard, and I mean really, really hard, to find anyone who rides, and certainly sells them, to tell you one single thing that isn’t good about these bikes. Nothings perfect, but evidently Harleys are (Sir). And when someone like me does point out what's not so good, well, blimey! It's as if I rub shit on the bald head of their fathers. :o) Unbelievable really.
Now, it’s not all bad. A Harley is the only old fashioned bike still made in any real volume, and that certainly is their charm. It's the reason I blow hot and cold over the bleddy thing on almost a daily basis. It's an antedote to the blandness of super-eficient modern bikes, and you prolly wouldn't understand that if you'd never ridden anything else but the modern bikes.
I hate the way biking has changed. There was a time when you had to be the Real Thing to ride a big bike, and especially to be any age worth the name and still doing it, because few took it up in their (comparatively) old age; those over forty had worked their way up over many years. Being an Old Biker was a kinda badge of office in itself, because you couldn’t get there without putting the time in. A respect went with it. If you were full of shit, you stood out like a sore thumb.
The weenies and bean counters have changed it all, and our government in this country have played a big part too, in cutting off the traditional life-blood of motorcycling with endless legislation designed to make it a shard as it can be to stick with biking if you’re young. The constant renewal of our numbers by youngsters is gone. It’s an Old man’s game now.
Relatively tasteless too.
A lot of biking has the same flavour as all the Bullshit and PC that prevails all around us these days. Bland and with no spirit. There’s no refuge from it any more.
It’s all bollocks, ……….and I bleddy hate it!
Bollocks is everywhere! (And, yes, I know that should be ‘are everywhere’!)
Still, there’s no changing any of it, and me being an Angry Young Man won’t do it either. (sigh), so, if you’re reading this, and have got mad at what I’ve said……… , then just read it again and get what I mean here, ok? If you're still all bristling and fierce, then, good, because it was aimed at a bullshitting limp prick like you! (And we all know a limp prick’s no use to anyone, don’t we?)