THE AMERICAN HORSE
THE AMERICAN HORSE
Loud pipes…… make a lot of noise!
With the building of the Motorcycle it seems that the age of the horse came to a halt as early
settlers transferred their allegience to Harley Davidson. So it was for me when I first came to
America and my first motorcycle on these shores was indeed the mighty Harley and similar to
the horse very little had been done to the beast in terms of Darwin’s evolution of the species.
The “cult” surrounding the “Hucking Farley” has to be one of the most amazing con tricks of
all time. Why would anybody buy a machine like this, spend a fortune on clothing and after
market goodies and still have an evil handling, uncomfortable, ergonomic slum of a bike
reminiscent of the 50’s ??
NOW that’s good advertising!
Well I’m conned into the “cult” and introduced to a vast array of clothing and other stuff that
I had never encountered in all my years of motorcycling. First came the bike and after the
decision to join the club is made I’m off to a local dealership to purchase a really pretty FXR,
maybe one of the few Harley’s that did actually handle!
First impressions, other than the glitter factor of all the chrome, is that everything is big! …..
and there are lots of bits all over the bike including 6 footrests???? This one is in Purple and
has megaphone exhausts like my Uncle’s racing G50’s and 7R’s….. it is taken outside and the
beast is started to a deafening roar. When it has warmed up the exhaust has a pretty
orgasmic sound with the characteristic Harley, potato, potato rumble and during the test ride
the noise is a major selling point, particularly on the overrun …… so I guess the noise sold it!
Other impressions, nice color (Cobalt Blue = Purple…. and I’m a sucker for purple) it’s bloody
heavy, noisey, and the handle grips are huge even for my hands. Clutch is a bit like pulling on
a tug-o-war team, shifter makes a clunk on every change as though you were changing tracks
on a railroad and it steers like a pig.
Having bought the beast it’s now time to get into the Harley world of clothing! First up a helmet
and I buy a Bell 3/4 face in red/black, after all, Bell always made great helmets…..didn’t they?
……..maybe they did, but it appears that their factory has moved to Mexico and after 50 miles
of riding with this “thing” it’s making my head ache. Leather jacket, a must, and this I admit
was, and still is, a good real motorcycle garment. Chaps? what do I need these for I’m not
planning on doing a rodeo…… but they assure me it’s a must!…… and then the vest for summer
riding so that you can sew all the badges on the back and have all the “I’ve been everywhere
pins on the front”. The vest is not really a practical garment as in a normal riding position with
it zipped up it tends to get air under the shoulders and unless you are constantly pulling it
down it starts slapping you around at any speed over about 60. Tee shirts, all black, but today
I actually find 2 that are for this specific bike in Cobalt Blue. One is medium and the other 2XL
but they both fit the same! NB; all Harley clothing must be sized by selective fitting!
The awful Bell, chaps, and vest with “I’ve been everywhere pins”
Generally speaking its a lot of fun and every time I take it out I imagine myself on the
“London-Brighton Run”. The highway pegs are removed, as one of the most worthless pieces
of junk I have encountered. These pegs should be BANNED on all motorcycles as they are
downright dangerous and are not even comfortable. In a land of so many “petty” laws, and I
can quote a couple from Arizona, No helmet required, but you MUST have eye protection and
woe betide you if you are caught wearing the wrong colored lens!! These ridiculous highway
pegs are even more stupid than the fad for “forward controls”. Let’s look at “highway pegs”
for a moment….. located forward and often quite high up, to use them your legs are now
virtually straight and about handlebar width apart. Do you normally sit around in this posture?
I don’t so why would I want to ride like this? Also all the air and bugs and bees blow up the
legs of your trousers or fill up with air like the Michelin Man! Now from a road safety point of
view your feet are nowhere near your riding controls of rear brake and shifter…. ridiculous!..
Would you drive a car with one leg out of the driver’s window??? If we look at a “classic”
riding position which was always referred to as posture then your legs and lower body weight
are supported on the footrests which are traditionally about the center of the machine. Upper
body is supported by the seat and arms are comfortably bent and below the level of the heart.
With these ghastly forward controls/highway pegs and “apehanger bars” all your body weight
is going through your tailbone and your arms are way above your heart…… no wonder Harley
riders stop at every 50 miles or so and then lean on the bar if they can still stand.
The 1999 HD FXR2
…… and while on the subject of this ridiculous garb what is it with these “doo-rags”??? what
are they for? they certainly don’t offer any form of head protection and make a pretty poor
bandage to boot! The bike itself was fun, but the “image” and all else that surrounds the
marque is certainly not my idea of true motorcycling and dressing up like a tramp or pirate of
the caribbean to ride a $30,000 machine just can’t be right ……… but each to their own and if
your bike really has 35 keys then you keep them on a chain if you must!
TONY DOWN Motor Cycle Safety Foundation Instructor