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How I fell in love... with a motorcycle parts 3 & 4

    • 266 posts
    November 21, 2016 5:09 PM EST

    part 3 & 4 WAIT ~ the other four letter word

    On a Shovelhead, one can be bold, brash, fearless for sure; but one had better be patient. In the time line of breakdowns ('09 failed generator, '10 loose jugs, '12 low side, '13 the stator, '13 blown head gasket, '15 battery cover, '16 final recovery from the low side), the bike had to be set aside or strapped on the tabletop at the shop. Diagnosis was only the beginning of solving the presenting problem. Once that was identified the parts had to be located and acquired; skilled craftsmen had to be discovered and schedules had to be aligned. That could take months; the work, weeks, days, hours; but in all cases it meant we had to wait. Precious riding weather in Vermont's short biking season passed by. Leaving me to suffer a bench warmer's sorrow as I watched lucky riders who would roll by my farm on those long days. I've decided there is no zen in waiting.

    I would justify this time taking pictures of various stages of tear down, I would learn more and appreciate still more the fabrication and mechanics of the machine. I would research topics, shops and specialties for the project at hand. We met some outstanding people in unlikely places and were often rescued by the all knowing Google.
    original decals sourced by a caring friend's vigilant attention to parts no.
    Parts and accessories came from around the nation and our state to remake the glory of this vintage ride. I will include a few here... but the effort exceeded our contemporary culture's instant/disposable norms. The shops were often small and cluttered with salvaged parts from decades of living the motorcycling scene. A question "there" would lead to a name "here" or a shop "yonderway". It became a journey all its own, with places, people and adventures unique to themselves.

    the last year to offer a kick start

    the wrenching-wizard pondering the next move; or puzzling for a misplaced tool

    part 4 old skool

    The un-puzzled pieces in various conditions of disfunction lead to my feelings of overwhelming ignorance. I thusly arranged to interview the Shovelhead's wrenching-wizard. We met up and lounged on a comfortable patio with a down slope view of his modest shop. We didn't cover many details about Shovelheads. He did validate my one-word observation of the strong allegiance of this HD engine's followers: Nostalgia. The model era of the trademark bikes was '66 to '84; the time of civil discord that tore America apart. They were the motorcycles that Vietnam vets came home to; the bikes that would get them away from public disdain and their own embattled reckoning. The rides that were, and still remain, easy to chop and customize to personal taste. It was the last model that allowed owners to get into the gritty works of daily care and keeping and get lost in an intimate relationship with the order of operations. A simple yet powerful V-twin engine with the classic sound of Harley fame. It had become an American symbol; and perhaps the sport's turning point from motorcycle enthusiasts to bad-boy bikers.
    Dealers were loosing capacity to service them through parts or repair departments. The older bikers in sales and service were aging out and the younger staff lacked that vocational knowledge of the way a Shovelhead worked. I witnessed this experience first hand. The local franchises couldn't even source a replacement clutch handle for the '84 lo. Thankfully, the internet saved us in our searching, even the original decals were located in Oregon in a google search. Thankfully, a network of vintage shops, web sites, artisans, enthusiasts and mechanics were found. Piece by piece, the job of rehabing his beloved bike was accomplished. New paint and upholstery was delegated to a shop 155 miles away, at Vintage Steele. Exact detailing on the refurbished tanks and new fenders (made of lighter metal, they had to be built up to fit the '84 frame before painting) was recreated with perfection. The leather work was stitched with scrupulous attention to the original stamped on pattern only on a stronger cut of cowhide.

    our Shovelhead wizard wrench on his '74 Glide
    By amazing luck our wizard wrench was only 3 miles away making it easy to lurk in his shop, snapping pictures and pretending to understand what he was saying about the bike. I sat perched on a corner stool and listened intently as I fathomed the precision of the work at hand. I would ponder the dream that in another life I could have enjoyed a vocation with motorcycles; but it is a man's world in most ways with not a lot of room for women 35 years ago.

    In our pseudo interview, he did allude to a trend in HD corporate practices. The Shovelhead's open works made it accessible to maintain but prone to aberrations in function. It's an engine series that has been retired; the motorcycle engineers evolving newer engines and rider ergonomics to keep the less mechanically inclined of the market buying into the motorcycle mystique. But with those creature comforts, Harley Davidson has proprioritized parts, maintenance and service. A local, private practice wrench or shop can no longer order case loads of HD oils, lubes or common parts. Only dealerships can order in bulk and benefit from that wholesale price break. Now a self-employed biker-fixer has to pay retail and pass that expense onto the customer. For many on tight budgets, that will send them to the franchises and at the mercy of said service crew. He fears this will change the MC community, pricing out the average person and put too many wanna-be's and posers on the roads. The Shovelhead is the last of the good ol' days; affectionately known as "Old Skool" with an aristocracy of its own breed.

    better than new, good as old

    The wrench tweaked a few more small gizmos and gadgets. The fuel off/on pet cock, some tattered cables and levers from the 2012 low side and put it all together with no box of left over mystery parts, either. When all was done and reassembled, the look was tremendous. It was then I realized how much the few patches of scuffed chrome and paint vexed my outlaw bikerman. It was ready for its road test and the wizard wrench was gonna have that honor. When he started her up, the sound of our people filled the air. With a simple nod, he trolled his ragged driveway to the main road below. The video I collected was sent in the click of a button to the anxious bikerman 79 miles away, and my fingers were crossed in hopes of a longrun for my final ride.

    peace ~ Resa

    coming soon
    part 5 my final ride & epilogue