Published on January 29th, 2014 | by Boris
I viewed Harley’s debut of the Evolution motor as a dire personal insult.
But, it was 1984.
I drank a lot of rum in 1984, and I viewed most of the world and nearly all the people in it as a dire personal insult.
Still, this Evo business was a bridge too far.
What the bastard buggery was Milwaukee playing at?
Did it think this Harley-Davidson-riding business was some kind of feckless hobby open to all comers?
Did it not understand that Shovelhead owners were serious, psychotic and prone to bouts of senseless violence?
Had we not just endured several years of bestial mechanical swinery at the hands of American Machine and Foundry, who seemed to think that crazy tattooed people whose poo smelled of rum would always be cool about their Shovelheads spending more time in the back of a ute than a flea-ridden dog?
Could they not grasp that we were red-eyed fanatics?
Was it lost on them that people were being face-glassed in pubs because they were stupid enough to wear a Harley T-shirt without an actual motorcycle to back up their poor wardrobe choice?
This, after all, was not bloody America.
This was bloody Australia.
We took shit seriously here.
And my friends and I were taking shit very seriously the evening Grub showed up at the pub with his new Evo.
We had been grumbling and bitching about the ‘Blockhead’ ever since we’ discovered it was to replace the Shovelhead.
Given that I had spent the purchase price of mine several times over in the last two years just to keep it running, and lived on one-minute noddles, stale bread, bludged rum and sour hatred as a result of my Shovelhead-induced poverty, I was certainly not amused.
“That is not a real Harley!” I would declare to whoever was listening at the time.
“’Kenoath, it’s bloody not!” would come the response.
“Thing’s made outta aluminium!” someone else would add.
“They look like shit!” we would all agree and order more rum.
So naturally when Grub bought one, and brought it to the pub to show us, we all felt he had un-manned himself and would shortly be sucking drunks off in the public bar’s toilets.
We heard him pull up outside the big pub in Bass Hill where we used to drink, and which seemed to be alright about serving us rum-and-cokes until the cops arrived and threatened to shoot us if we did not, upon the instant, cease doing whatever it was we were doing at the time. The pub is now a Woolworths and that is probably for the best.
Anyway, we all trooped outside to see Grub’s new Evo, and we were all curious (but still full of contempt), because none of us had actually seen one in the flesh before.
He’d got it the day before, spent the previous evening smashing out the baffles with a length of steam-pipe and a hammer, so it sounded the business, and had arrogantly parked a meaningful distance away from our pack of well-used and grotty bikes – three greasy Shovels, an ironhead Sporty made from tears and despair, and a Triumph Bonneville that could only ever be push-started.
By contrast, Grub’s bike gleamed like a jewel under the car-park lights. It still gave off that new bike smell, which served to ratchet my hate up another few notches.
It was a black Softail with the golden wing decal on the tank, and Grub’s grin as he shut it down and levered himself off it was the sum of all our prejudices.
You could have bottled our contempt.
Not only was the engine an aesthetic insult to our deeply ingrained Shovelhead bigotry, but the faux-rigid frame was like salt on a seeping wound.
But Grub was too wrapped up in new-bike ownership to even notice the muttering, pointing and head-shaking.
“Whaddayaz reckon?” he chirped.
A brief but profound moment of silence followed his question.
“Salright…yeah,” Marcus drawled.
“Yeah,” Jabba nodded. “Sokay.”
He owned the ironhead, so it’s not like his opinion counted for a great deal.
I said nothing. I walked around it a few times, peered underneath it to grasp the whole Softail concept, then stood up, sipped on my rum and said: “Good on ya, mate. Wassit go like? Looks a bit plastic, aye?”
Of course it looked nothing of the kind.
It looked rather beaut, actually. Sure, for a bloke who’d come to see the Shovelhead donk as the final word on What A Man’s Motorcycle Engine Must Look Like, the all-new, alloy sandwich sitting on top of the V was visually jarring. But it kinda grew on you the longer you peered at it. And I also really liked the stance and profile of the bike and the way it carried off its new frame.
But I would stand butt-naked out on the highway with a sailor up me jail-style if I would admit that to Grub, or in front of any of my mates.
“Get fucked,” Grub grinned. “It bloody well flies.”
Behind his sparkling new bike, I could see my tired Shovel. It was running a slow-release, total-loss oil-system at the time (and most of the time), so I could also see that accumulating under its belly.
“Wanna rum?” I asked him.
“Does the Pope like boys?” he smiled.
We went inside and we drank a lot and we let Grub tell us all about his new Harley, and he let us tell him we didn’t think it was a real Harley, and that he was all kinds of female sex-organ for buying one.
Then we spent some time ringing around for a ute because Mark’s FX wouldn’t start, and a bit more time pushing Dean’s Bonny around the carpark until it fired.
It took me another two years before I handed my man-card in and started whistling at sailors.
It’s amazing what happens when you stop drinking rum and come to your senses.