This is something I’ve been meaning to do for a helluva long time now but, like all good intentions, “meaning to do” typically gives way to the far more oft used colloquialism “fuck it, I’ll do it tomorrow.”
Since there’s a tropical storm rolling in and there’s shit else to do at the moment, I figured I’d go ahead and get this little confession out of the way.
Since I was eighteen, I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted in the way of a motorcycle. Simplicity was the goal; an engine, a frame, two wheels. Ape hangers, forwards, and of course, loud assed pipes.
My first bike was a Yamaha V-Star 650. I’d never even considered Harley because I always speculated their prices were too high. A good friend of mine had already owned a 650 for several years and it had proved a reliable steed for him, so why the fuck not. Not long after rolling off the showroom floor, the bike underwent an extensive process commonly known as “lowering resale value.” I cut the turn signals off the bike the very night I bought it. Shortly after that, I threw away all the bull shit reflectors glued to it. The back fender was cut down, the bike was disassembled and rattle-canned flat black, a set of Nash “gimp hangers” crowned the forks, and a home-spun side mount license plate rig was fabbed up and slapped on the side. Pipes and a little carb work made it my pride and joy for a while.
The sad reality of the matter is that I am a fickle, fickle whore of a man who loses interest in his machines when he realizes he can’t make them any more offensive to the general riding community. A couple of bikes later found me on a similarly cut Sportster; a bike at the time I felt was the quintessential embodiment of telling the general riding community to eat shit and choke on it. Flat black paint, sparto repop tail light, narrow glide apes from Burly, Biltwell struts, ammo-can tool box, peanut tank, drag pipes, and a smattering of other minor modifications- tits!
After about a year and a half of motoring around town on her, I began to realize two things. Firstly, a hard-tail Sporty is not an ideal two-up machine; especially when one’s smokin’ hot wife typically only rides with him out of guilt. Indeed, my wife was not keen on having a rear fender grind against her tailbone every time I rode over a pebble.
Secondly, at nearly thirty years of age, I discovered getting old sucks. I felt like a beat-to-shit sailor (interpret it however you’d like) after a mere hundred mile ride.
This left me with two options- either put the shocks back on the bike or else find something new to fuck with.
Anyone in their right mind would have searched the catalogs and popped some progressives on the mother fucker, but not ho-assed Hungus, no SIR. Trade that shit in on something new, I thought. And find yourself something the wife won’t mind climbing aboard while you’re at it.
So after ten years of firm resolve and five years of riding stripped down freedom machines, I bought something I vowed I would NEVER touch. A goddamned bagger with a windshield and faring.
The dealership had a stable of ex-police motorcycles which were retailing for roughly the price of a brand new Sportster. Each one had a bored out 103” cop motor with (depending upon who you ask) police cams, compression release heads, an oil cooler, and an auxiliary engine fan for motorvating in hell (also known as south Texas in any month that’s not called February).
So a deal was struck and I signed on the line. Curiously enough, the dealership did not appreciate the modifications I’d made to my old bike. I pointed out the fact the factory seemed to be “lowering the resale value” on their new dark customs but were still charging the same prices and should therefore give me about twenty thousand dollars for my trade. This argument was naturally ill received; and I rode out figuratively “upside down” on my almost new FLHTP.
About a week later, I suffered an identity crisis during which I came to terms with the fact I’d sold out and bought a bagger. Too late for that shit, I was now forty million dollars upside down. HOORAY!
Which pretty much brings us up to date and sets up the real purpose of this entry: justifying my purchase of everything I stand against in the way of a motorcycle. Honestly, if you have something better to do, you can probably go ahead and stop reading this. This is designed to convince myself I’ve found a worthy endeavor more than anything else; and there’s no point in reading this unless you too have sold out and traded in your garage built suicide machine for a bloated road barge. Seriously, you’ve been warned against further reading. There’s not even a fucking climax to this entry. It’s just a rolling internal monologue about my current plight which deserves about as much sympathy as an SS death-camp guard.
So I traded my outlaw bike for a garbage wagon. Perhaps, but the FLHTP is not your typical garbage wagon. While it’s true the bike has a faring and a windshield like its electra glide brethren, it is utterly devoid of all of the extraneous bullshit that typically fills the faring (i.e. cruise control, heated seats, margarita machine, etc.). It is further devoid of useless shit like air dams and heat shields.
What the FLHTP DOES have is a hopped up mill. Does it pull like a stripped down XL1200? No. But it DOES pull better than a bloated bone-stock FLHTCU. The fucker rolls off the assembly line with a heavy duty clutch, bored out jugs, and mystery cams. A stock garbage wagon will cost you ten grand more and comes equipped with a third of the aforementioned assets. Throw in an external oil cooler and the engine fan and POW- you’ve got yerself a very streetable hot-rod big block.
Tuned-up and turned out: the H-D 103" Cop Motor
Additionally, legend prevails that the police bikes are largely assembled by hand to ensure quality. Like most legends, that notion is likely bullshit; but I LIKE the idea some foul-mouthed alcoholic blue collar union card-carrying motherfucker in Pennsylvania turned some wrenches by hand on my ‘sickle before he split the factory for an ice-cold Pabst. My conception of the FLTHP’s assembly is something remnant of a Springsteen song; thus I will make no efforts to either prove or disprove that conception. My version of the truth works just fine for me.
Now before we go further, I realize one can saunter into a dealership and buy himself a CVO barge with a 110 inch mill for an obscene amount of money; but what the fuck? The police bikes allegedly offer comparable output for a third of the price. Sure they’re ugly and full of holes, but so am I.
I also realize, were I a qualified mechanic or the owner of a goose that shat gold, I could build a ground up barn-burner for half the price of the FLHTP. The truth of the matter is that I am neither a qualified mechanic, nor do I own a gold bullion-shitting water fowl. I know how to cut shit off. I also know that when you turn things to the right, they typically tighten. That’s it. That’s pretty much where my mechanical prowess ends. Hence, factory hot rod engines work best for me.
So back to the FLHTP. Despite an obvious lack of the typical garbage wagon accouterments, there are some items that probably need to go. Take the fender bumpers, for example. Useless. That little strip of rubber is not going to stop a nine hundred pound motorcycle from caving in its front fender when it collides with another mass. The excessive amount of rails on the bike also detract from what I traditionally look for in a ‘cycle; nevertheless I can appreciate the utility of bag guards and a crash bar. Judging by the gouges on either side of my faring, it’s safe to say these bars probably serve a purpose in the world of law enforcement.
Speaking of utility, much as I abhor the aesthetics of a windshield and faring, they certainly facilitate prolonged ninety-five mile per hour cruising; headwind be damned- and who DOESN'T enjoy riding ninety-five into a headwind?
The turn signals on this bike are fucking hideous; but they appear to be a necessary evil if I want to maintain the obnoxious passing lamps up front. Again, a purely utilitarian feature. I’m tempted to leave them because when you’re running ninety down a back woods two lane at two in the morning, the added light helps you see the elk in dazzling clarity just before it decapitates you on impact.
The most frustrating thing about the FLHTP is that I have absolutely no fucking clue what to do with it. Stretched bags are tits on a boarhog for my riding style. I’ve managed to file my floorboards and kickstand down to razors in a matter of months and I’d undoubtedly grind holes in stretched saddle bags on my first turn.
I’ve always enjoyed a low-slung outlaw stance, but I don’t see it as an option for this bike. The way I see it, the only way to freak out the squares on a garbage wagon is to ride it like a banshee. Unlike the majority of its fat-assed civilian counter parts, the FLHTP has the wherewithal to accommodate this goal; and lowering its stance would drastically fuck up its cornering capabilities.
Rattle-canning the FLHTP is out. When the motor company starts turning out flat black touring bikes (the street glide), you know it’s time to move on to a new method of lowering your bike’s resale value. Five years ago, you’d have to be a fucking degenerate to buy a brand new bike and spray paint it flat black. Even my meth-head drag-racing metric mechanic was amazed at this. I’d always explain the utilitarian principles behind this technique to the naysayers with a smug sense of satisfaction that I’d successfully mind fucked them. Now a flat black bike has become a fashion statement; and you’ve actually got suckers paying the motor company extra money for paint jobs that would cost them about five bucks if they did it in their friend’s garage.
Million dollar billet rims are out. They’ve always been out for me. Fuck million dollar billet. And fuck billet, for that matter.
So what to do? Shit if I know.
I’ve already outfitted the bike with a two into one Thunderheader and an Arlen Ness Big Sucker intake. The Thunderheader is ceramic coated in black and is tastefully wrapped in heat-bleached bone-white header wrap for a sophisticated touch of "go fuck yourself." Running the traditional drag pipes would have resulted in lost torque; bot exactly an option when you're riding a half-ton motorbike.
I ditched the air-sprung police seat in favor of a dished-out second hand factory number. I popped a pawn shop amp in one of my bags and hooked it up to some scalped speakers I picked up for twenty bucks from the dealer (some guy was upgrading the sound system on his brand new garbage wagon before taking delivery of it- hooray for the spoils of excess!). There’s definitely something to be said for blasting through traffic as the Rezillos wail about someone getting their head kicked in.
I’ve started a sticker collection on the hard bags promoting independent parts companies, eateries, clothiers, and shops. I consider the hard bags rolling billboards for companies whose shit I’d be buying if I wasn’t currently riding a bagger. I may not be able to pop some struts or gimps on the bastard but I can certainly promote the companies who provided me such kick-ass accouterments in the past.
As far as the paint goes, I think I’m gonna keep the black and white scheme. I’d like to pop the KDMC skull and bolts on the tank and maybe gloss black the sides of the fenders and faring for a bit of depth.
Still on the fence as far as the chicken lights and turn signals go. I’d like to swap the tins out altogether which would pretty much solve the problem, but that would probably run me some money I don’t have.
But who really gives a shit at that. I think this discourse has fulfilled its purpose: convincing me I have a worthwhile challenge in lowering the resale value of my current ‘sickle. If you’ve made it this far into reading this piece, I’m not going to apologize. I told you it was a waste of time three pages ago.
Save yourself the trouble of justifying a bagger and simply buy a used sporty or a dyna wide glide. I'll be the fat bald asshole lane-splitting on a thundering turned-out pack mule with the Sex Pistols blaring; all the while telling himself riding a garbage wagon isn't so bad.