My Motorcycles

Bikes I currently own:
    None. :-(
Bikes I used to own: Bikes I have borrowed: Back to Toby's home page

1997 Harley-Davidson Bad Boy

The Story:
A friend purchased this bike from someone that he knew in Roanoke Rapids. He had never ridden a street bike before. After two rides and one close call, he called me to see if I would come pick up the bike and store it in my garage for a while, just to keep him away from it. So I said I would.

I got a ride up on a Sunday to meet him at his home, and from there drove to Roanoke Rapids, where the bike was parked in the lobby of his office(!). Things started badly. The seller was supposed to drop a temporary tag through the mailslot, but had not. The bike was wearing a dealer plate. No big deal. Then, we get it outside, but we don't have a 1/2" wrench to turn the mirrors around (they were folded in to clear the doorframe). After some grunting and twisting, I managed to hold the nut and use the mirror stem as a wrench. Cool.

We fire the bike up. It's REALLY loud, due to the open drag pipes on it. It idles well, so I climb on. Anything less than full choke and it dies trying to pull out of the parking lot. Add to that the front tire has all of about 10 pounds of air, and what you get is me nursing this bike around four different gas stations to find one that has air, and I have to repair the air hose on that one to fill the tire.

As the bike warms up, it settles down and we are on our way. We arrive in Red Oak after about an hour. As I park the bike in front of his house, I notice that the front running lights are not working. I make a quick light check, and find that the left blinker does not work either. I find out that my brake light is out too. After taking the lenses off of half the signal lights, we find that most of the bulbs have one or both filaments broken. One bulb has even separated from the base, and was floating around in the turn signal! After some rearranging, I get a brake light (but no running light), and two rear turn signals that won't blink but will light up. Good enough.

It's during this stop that I realize that I don't have my driver's license. It must have fallen out of my wallet somewhere. Great.

We are now headed home. I'm out in front with my ride following in their car. About 45 miles from home, the motor backfires and dies. I reach down and fumble for the fuel petcock, and flip it. I let out the clutch, but the motor won't fire. I ease off to the side of the road and get off. The petcock is in the "on" position, which means the bike was on reserve the whole time, so the tank is completely dry. My ride leaves me a phone and heads off to Clayton, about 15 miles away, in search of a gas can.

In the meantime, a deputy sheriff pulls up. I have no license, no registration, EXPIRED dealer plates of unknown origin, broken turn-signals, and no keys for this motorcycle. The only thing I have to attempt to prove who I am is my friend, and his number is in the car on the way to Clayton. I start talking fast, to keep him from asking questions. Amazingly, he offers to use the gas can in his trunk to get me gas at a station back the other way about a mile. I whip out the cell phone and page the chase car, trying to signal them to come back. After a couple tries, I get a signal and send the cell number. I give the cop a couple bucks, he shows me the gas can (to prove that he's not going to take my money), and he leaves to fill the can.

In the meantime, the chase car returns. She got few miles up the road before she realized that she left her pocketbook at her mothers house, 30 minutes on the OTHER side of home. Not only did she not have any money, she has no license either. I suggest to her that she pull up close behind the bike to keep the cop from seeing that the plate is expired.

The officer returns. We fill the tank of the bike, and he even has wet hand wipes to let us clean up with. Just as he's getting in his car to leave, he asks me to crank the bike up so that he can hear it. He "loves the sound". I'm sure that as soon as he hears my obnoxious pipes, he'll write me a citation, discovering I have no papers, and I will spend the night in jail with the bike in impound. Committed, I crank the bike up. He smiles, gets in the car, and pulls away.

We are back on the road now, but somewhat later in the day. The sun sets, and I did not have the foresight to bring my clear visor to switch to. I can't ride with the shield up, since the bugs are pretty thick. So it's getting dark, but because of my visor, it's even darker. Now I discover that the headlight is pointed nearly at the ground, and I have no tools to adjust it. So I flip on the high beam which helps a little.

About ten minutes from home, it starts to rain. I am wearing my Aerostich jacket, but not the pants, so my legs are soaked from the knee down. The light is swallowed by the wet road, so I start sticking my thumb in the air and flipping the headlight to try to get the car behind me to turn on her high beams so that I can use them to see. She doesn't get the picture. After nearly losing the road at least once, I pull off and explain to her what I want her to do. I turn my mirrors outward, and she follows me the rest of the way home with her high beams on.

I made it, but I think I used all my luck (good and bad) for the week.

My thoughts on Harley-Davidsons:
I used to think nothing of Harley-Davidsons. Big, old designs, slow, prone to malfunctions, ridden by lawyers and dentists out for the weekend. Harley riders hardly ever wave, even to each other.

Some of my attitudes have changed. The bike's design is old, but maybe not outdated. The Bad Boy's springer front end had zero fork dive from braking. It comes by that property by simple physics. The dry sump oil system makes oil changes a snap (no tools required). All of the fasteners used on the bike are graded SAE fasteners, as opposed to the metric fasteners on Japanese bikes that are rarely graded. The components are excellent quality.

This bike WILL turn you into an unfriendly person. I found myself puttering up the road next to the golf course, waiting for the person on the green to get set for their putt. At that moment, I would crack the throttle wide open, sending shotgun blasts of exhaust noise out to break their concentration. It always worked and made me smile. Loud pipes do not save lives, but they can be both fun and annoying.

Sadly, today's market overprices these machines. Yes, it is a great bike, but for the same price, I could have a new cruiser AND sportbike, and maybe more depending on what models I bought. $18,000 no, but maybe $12,000. The speculators trade them, while the true enthusiast is left without.

And as far as HD's direction lately...their new designs look more like Japanese bikes than the Japanese do. The Twin-Cam "beta" motor with the counterbalancer may have been the most requested thing on the surveys, but it takes away the raw, uncivilized feel of the machine and turns it into another boring smooth ride. I want a smooth ride on my sportbikes, not my cruisers.

I would never have thought I was much for tradition, but it belongs here.