I’ve been going to Sturgis for many a year now, and 16 years ago I saw the damnedest thing at the outlaw drags. Some young dude showed up on a silver spaceship that said “Harley-Davidson” on the side of it, like he was going to race it or something. His vehicle looked like a motorcycle. It had two wheels, a frame, and a motor. But it wasn’t no Harley I’d ever seen before. It looked too…modern. Nothing that has the MoCo’s name on it should have a radiator. At least, that’s my opinion.
Anyway, this younger cat pulls his ride up to race, gets the “go” signal, and just flies down the straight. I mean, real bat-outta-hell shit. We were all weirded out but not as much as the dude he left eating dust and fumes behind him. None of us had seen a scoot like this. What the hell kind of bike was this thing?
Turns out the motorcycle was one of the five new prototype V-Rods Harley had given the magazines to test ride. This guy had ridden the thing out from LA to Sturgis that year. His magazine had its own AHDRA racing team, and he thought it’d be cool to show up with the V-Rod to the drags and really let ’er rip. He spanked the hell out of the competition until this other guy got a holeshot on him. But, man, what a sight to see! Can’t imagine Harley was too happy to see their super-secret new bike getting shown off all in public like that, but I sure was. V-Rods aren’t my thing (I love my Shovel), but that was a real treat.
The thing is, change is always gonna happen whether you want it to or not. When we all saw that new V-Rod, lots of folks were running off at the mouth: “What’s the world coming to?” “Harley sold out!” “It’s a damn Jap bike!” The world didn’t end though. Here we are, 16 years later. I still ride my Shovelhead. Harley didn’t stop making Twin Cams all of a sudden, and the V-Rod sure didn’t take over the custom-bike industry. Yeah, the Street 500 and 750 are the Revolution’s kids, but so what? You’ve got to bring in new blood.
Speaking of, women riders were a different thing back then too. Fewer of them had their own bikes; most rode fender monkey on the back. Now, lots of ladies have moved to the front of the seat on their own bikes. They spend their own money on parts, gear, bikes, and everything else that goes with motorcycling. My old lady even picked up an Evo Fat Boy that she wrenches on. There’s no way I’m letting her work on my Shovel though; that’s my baby. Just don’t tell her I said that.