September 2000 Column
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"Lateral Thinking for the Indian Lover"
Home / Features / Chops
 Indian Choppers Corner
  Part Seven: Frame-building with Dr Frankenstein
   By Tim Pickering
Last month I declared "Enough of philosophy, its time to get technical".   Well, I'm going to renege on that promise ever so slightly.  I’ll still tell you how the frame-welding turned out, but first I have a couple of bones to pick with some recent trends in motorcycling. 

This digression back to more-abstract notions regarding our hobby was triggered by my better half's recent return from overseas, bearing the latest offerings in motorcycle journalism from the airport newstands - The Horse, Hot Bike, Classic Bike, and Australia's Two Wheels. 

"Retro Custom"?

I don't know whether to be pleased or perturbed, but it appears there may be a new style of bike-building now infiltrating itself into the yuppie billet-barge Evo magazines.  A style called "Retro Custom".  Evidence of this can be seen in the July 2000 issue of Hot Bike, which has a feature bike they call a "Retro-modern classic".  Basically this is an Evo motor fitted with fake rocker covers to make it look like a knucklehead or panhead, in a stripped and blackpainted Softail chassis, to result in a facsimile of a '40s-'50s era bobber.

Well, as I say, I have mixed feelings about this.  On the one hand, it shows that at least some of the creators of the plastic maggots that pass for Harley customs these days do recognise true class and know from whence it originated. 

On the other hand … what kind of sick, depraved mind was it came up with the idea of fake "Knuckle" rocker covers for Evo's?   What will be their next move?  "Knucklehead" rocker covers for Yamaha Road Stars?  Like, is that really going to fool the motorcycling public?

It’s hard to explain why I feel so outraged about this.  After all, I’m already on record as a strong supporter of old engines fitted with non-standard parts to make them perform more like new engines.  I firmly believe that “improving the breed” is a noble and worthy cause for the old crocks that we like to ride.   Why should I then get so upset about someone fitting a new engine with non-standard parts to make it look more like an old engine?

Rather than try to explain, perhaps I should just refer you again to Bob Kelley’s Feb 2000 VI article, which spoke of the allure of bikes “not corrupted by pretentiousness and deceit”.

Anyway, in this day-and-age of dealer support for the earlier Harley big twins, there's really no excuse for this kind of thing.   If someone wants a cool bike, why not get a real or repro knuckle/pan engine and a replica wishbone frame, and do the job properly? 

Or better still, get in behind the Warpath Scout project with chequebook at the ready. 

Which leads me to my next point.

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Click on pictures for full size

A “Retro Custom” – a Softail Evo disguised to look like a ‘40s – ‘50s bobber. 
Who was it that said “Imitation strengthens the authenticity of the original”?

Friends don’t let friends ride an Evo with fake “Knuckle” rocker covers.

Tim's Chopper Columns so far: 

Part 1 "Why Indians"

Part 2 "Why Not Choppers"

Part 3 "Form vs Function"

Part 4 "Chief Likes & Dislikes"

Part 5 "Chopper Chiefs from Mild to Wild"

Part 6: "Birth of a Frankenstein Chief"

"A simple life"

I'd like to quote to you the following passage, and see if it touches any chords within your psyche.  For now, the motorbike in question will be referred to simply as BRAND X.

"Honesty: a much used and even more abused word.  But honest is the only way to describe BRAND X's latest foray into the history of motorcycling.  BRAND X is a simple, plain and honest motorcycle.  What you see is what you get: a bare-bones motorcycle.

But what a motorcycle.  Amid a sea of plastic fantastic sports bikes which promise a race-replica experience from machinery which bears little more relationship to the pukka racebikes than a common name and cruisers which try too hard to replicate a certain V-twin from Milwaukee, the BRAND X charts its own course, using its own star to sail by.

To climb aboard the BRAND X for one more used to Japanese offerings is to climb back in time.  Where many manufacturers change engines more often than riders change bikes, to see the time-honoured V-twin heads poking out from under the tank is like a reassurance that there is a continuity, a history in the bike before the wheels have even turned.  The engine is a direct link back to the BRAND X of all those years ago.  The same V-twin rumble, the same shake at idle.  BRAND X riders will recognise - and appreciate - the feeling.  But only long-standing BRAND X fans will appreciate the vast improvements this model represents.

I am romantic enough to imagine that owning a BRAND X could be a true motorcycling experience, and realistic enough to know that, as with any relationship, there will be some blips on the radar along the way.  It comes back to honesty.  And that is a quality the BRAND X has in spades.  What you make of it is up to you."


September update on the Warpath "Indian for the People" project here!

Tim's comment on the Warpath idea here!

So … what bike is BRAND X?

Hands up those of you who thought this silvery-tongued soliloquy, written in the style of VI's very own Bob Kelley, is part of a promotional press kit for the VI WARPATH project?

Well, it’s not.  So somnolate a little, Lyle, I'm aware of the need to not overpublicize things just yet.

In actual fact, this quote is from an August 2000 Two Wheels roadtest entitled "A Simple Life", and the mystery motorcycle BRAND X is the new Moto Guzzi Jackal. 

But the fact is - it could very well have been a blurb for the Warpath Scout.  I think this passage does a good job of capturing the kind of sentiments that lie behind the Warpath project.

And I'm greatly encouraged by the fact that a major factory like Moto Guzzi thinks there’s still a place in the world for a stripped-down, no-nonsense, bereft-of-bullshit, big-inch Vee-twin that goes CHUGGA CHUGGA CHUGGA.

A pity they have the cylinders facing the wrong way, that’s all.  But if this bike sells, then our faith in the Warpath concept could be vindicated.

Leading a simple life aboard Moto Guzzi’s no-bullshit back-to-their-roots “Jackal” model.
 Now that I've got that off my chest, I'll return you to our regular programming.
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