I finally took my well-worn '82 Harley Superglide to the local custom shop for a little rehab. I thought for many years that I would never ride it again. She's been stored since 2012 (I only know this because that's the last registration sticker on the plate) and I couldn't even remember the last time I had my helmet on. the old road warrior just sat under a cover in the garage collecting dust.
I guess it was time...
I bought that bike brand new in the summer of '83 from Harding Harley in Corning...a dealership now long gone...when I sort of 'outgrew' my '80 Roadster. I'd ridden the 'Baby Hog' to Florida and back twice and towed 20 kids around a roller rink floor with it (and that''s another story) but I'd always wanted a big-inch.
The FXE was a carryover so I scored a deal on it to get it off the dealer's floor. 6500 bucks for a brand-new bike seemed like a lot at the time but compared to current prices, it was practically theft. I could swing the financing without a cosigner so he made me a smokin' price.
Harding wanted it moved because everyone had to have the almost-customs that were selling like hotcakes to yuppies and Easy Rider wannabes back then. This one was as plain as dry toast and nobody was nibbling.
You see, somewhere along the line, HD realized that the people they'd turned away at the door for years actually had money and were willing to spend it to look 'edgy'. Guys that would have gotten the bum rush and a cold shoulder years ago turned up on the cover of the catalog. Tattoos appeared on middle-managers and college kids, stock brokers wore Harley paraphernalia to work and Willie G. Davidson smiled every time a dentist bought a shiny new Road King.
People who'd never ridden so much as a moped were showing up at the dealerships with enough credit score to wobble off into the sunset with a decked-out dresser or factory chopper. Half of them didn't or couldn't ride but hey...they owned a Hog and that was all the rage. If it said 'Harley' on it, it sold out. The fancier, the better.
It wasn't much but it was 80 cubic inches of all mine.
When I took it home, it was fire-engine red and the only accessories I could afford were an aftermarket aircleaner instead of the ham-can that Harley threw on it and a slick, baffle-less turnout for the exhaust to replace the giant sausage-shaped muffler that was legal but as ugly as an Edsel. The sound was awesome.
I managed to wring out a few bucks soon after for a sissy bar and what used to be called 'Frisco pegs but I couldn't spring for real forward controls so I turned the shift lever up a couple of splines and learned to kick gears and brakes with my heels. I threw away the factory turn signals and bought a tool bag and that was it.
I rode it everywhere for just days over a year until an Allen bolt head sheared off in the transmission and went between the gears. It cracked the case on the way through the teeth so off to the dealer we went. Harley...in typical Harley fashion...determined that the warranty had expired by less than a week so they were not going to fix it. I was too broke to foot a new four-speed so the head wrench at Harding...a guy I only remember as Doug...sort of pieced it back together and sealed up the spider-web cracks in the bottom of the transmission for the cost of labor. He said keep my fingers crossed and sent me on my way. I have to give him all the credit...it's still hanging together after 30+ years.
From there on out, it was just miles on top of miles. I got some throw-over saddle bags and used to load them with records to go to a DJ gig I had in Syracuse. A bunch of us would just head out after work some nights at 2am and ride to a place called The Roscoe Diner about 100 miles away just to have breakfast as the sun came up. I rode to New Jersey to go roller skating. I rode to New England with a monster known as Beast and got run out of town by the local PD in Montpelier Vermont. I made it as far south as Virginia and as far north as Montreal. I taught advanced MSF RiderCourses and used the FX to do demonstrations for the students. Somewhere along the way, I wound up with an '85 SuperGlide to go with the '82 but the payments got the best of me and so the original stayed and the '85 went. My ex and I rode away from our wedding on the Hog. The bike lasted longer than the marriage.
Over the years, it went from red to black and lost all the Harley decals. Leaded gas went away so the valve guides crapped out first. Two or three sets of rings wore out, the original Japanese carb vibrated itself to death, the rod bearings gave up after about 85,000 miles and the clutch finally started slipping at about 90,000. I never did put in a new primary chain although I wore out dozens of finals and a boatload of tires. But still the old thing ran.
I led MDA rides and Poker Runs with it when I was a Road Captain for ABATE...rode in the rain and snow trying to get home from someplace a thousand times...made it up the Cross-Bronx Expressway at 5 o'clock on a Wednesday with a broken motor mount (a miracle for which I promised I'd never sell her)...and most days, I just rode to work. So many miles and so many places along the way.
Decades later...what little chrome it had is shot and I never did spring for any on the heads and side covers. A fresh paint job would be good. The bottom of the turnout pipe is ground razor-sharp from dragging in right turns and there's a kid's sneaker sole melted on top. There's about a hundred things that need tinkering but somehow, they never seem to get done. The speedometer hasn't read right and I haven't seen anything but blurs in the mirrors since it was new. The left fork leg seal has leaked since 1987 and I just never get around to getting it fixed. I don't know why there's still anything in it. In true Shovelhead fashion, there's always an oil patch to mark my parking spots. A few things never change.
Maybe some year, I'll put her back to new(er). Paint, some snazzy chrome, forward controls, un-blued exhaust pipes, a fork seal...you know...all the stuff that never quite made it to the top of the list. Legally, at 37 years old, she's an antique now so it's actually more of a 'restoration' now than anything else.
But still...the old FXE starts when I hit the button once again. Another chapter...another life...more miles. I never would have believed it.