The Long Leather Dealie

Out here in California, I see these long, braided leather things hanging off handlebars. I’ve always wondered what they were. I thought they were just some sort of silly decoration, but I had no idea what, if anything, they were supposed to signify. I’ve scoffed at them as just some sort of over the top decoration.

Yesterday, I learned that tey are actually called a getback whip. In old-school biker culture, the biker getback whip served two purposes. First, the braided leather was dyed in the colors of the motorcycle club to which the bearer belonged. Second, the whip served as an emergency weapon. In the old days, the end of the whip close to the fringe was wrapped around a piece of rebar.

In many jurisdictions now, including California, putting a piece of rebar in the end would constitute making a sap, the manufacture or possession of which would be illegal. So, you can’t really obtain one from any retail source that has the rebar in it. It is still used by motorcycle clubs, however, to fly the club’s colors, and the whip–minus rebar–is perfectly legal everywhere.

The thing is, even though adding the rebar and making a flail or sap out of it would be illegal, it’s held onto the clutch or brake cable by a big, heavy, quick-release clip made out of brass or iron. So, if you swing it by the leather-wrapped end above the fringe, it makes a nasty–and perfectly legal–flail anyway. That quick-release catch is heavy.

When I thought it was simply some stupid leather thong put on for looks, I thought it was stupid. Now that I know it’s a weapon, I really like it.

In fact, I purchased one this evening directly from the manufacturer, who happens to live locally. I didn’t get it in any club colors, but dark blue and black to match the color of my bike.

I don’t care for leather fringe or accouterments that have no purpose. But, I have nothing against weapons at all. Quite the reverse, in fact.

Our first two-up ride

Tonight, we went and got a helmet for Chris, and when we got home, we took our first two-up ride. It wasn’t a very long one, only about 40 minutes, but it was fun. We did both some city driving, as well as a stretch on the freeway.

Chris liked it, and likes her new helmet. She’s already talking about making little trips on the bike.

Also, when we went to Escondido Cycle Center, she saw a little Suzuki Boulevard. She could flat-foot it, and pick it up easily. so, now she’s musing about a bike of her own.

Rocket, Again

So, now that I’ve got the Sporty tricked out, Triumph wants my attention again, apparently. they’ve just announced a brand new touring version of the Rocket III for 2008.

There’s a first test ride report here.

They’ve redesigned the suspension, frame, gas tank, changed the tires, moved the gauges to a tank console, and upped the torque to 154 lb.-ft., at about 500 RPM lower. And the price is under $17k.

Right now, my plan is to keep the Sporty for another year. Maybe I’ll take another look at trading up when the 2009’s come out, and see what kind of deal on left-over 2008 I can work. When that time comes, I might just take another look at the Rocket.

New Mods Complete

Well, it cost me almost $3,000 for parts and labor, but I’ve added all the mods I wanted to add for the Sporty. Here she is:

I added all the new stuff in one fell swoop. First, I did a complete Stage I engine upgrade. I added the Screamin’ Eagle high-flow air cleaner and performance slip-on mufflers. And, because the bike is fuel injected, also had to add the download for the ECM module to alter the engine performance parameters to compensate for the free-breathing exhaust system. While I was doing that, I did some cosmetic work, too, changing the air cleaner and timer cover to the “Swingback” style chrome parts from Harley.

It makes a nice change from the stock covers, and adds a bit of personality. I actually found the air cleaner cover in the clearance bin at the local dealer. Since the already had to pull the air cleaner to replace it, there was no labor charge to put the new air cleaner cover on.

The next thing was the addition of a new tachometer.

It’s the 2.5″ mini-tach. it seems like it would be hard to read at that size, but actually, it isn’t. the tach was actually the cause of a little trouble during the install this week. The dealer quoted me 1 hour of labor for the install, because most tachometers have a simple Y connector that hooks up to the coil and a power outlet immediately adjacent to it. This tach was different. So they had to pull the tank and seat off the bike, and figure out how to install it. It took six hours to install it, which meant the dealer had to eat five hours of labor.

Not my problem. Although, it did mean that I had to do without the bike for another day.

The next mod was the running light module that converts the rear turn signal to running lights/brake lights/turn signals. I think it makes the bike much more visible by adding the extra lights in the back.

Finally, there’s the bags.

They are made by LeatherPros. Though they look like leather bags, they are actually hard bags with a leather outer cover.

The inner side of the saddlebags, i.e., the side that sits next to the bike, are molded to fit precisely around the shock absorbers, belt guard, etc. The outer sides and top are covered with pretty thick leather, and the insides are unlined. Instead of removable bag liners, the saddlebags come with a pair of keyed Masterlocks, and shoulder straps that hook onto the outside rings. There are two levers inside each bag that you turn to release the clamps that hold the bags onto the bike. Just twist the levers, and the bags pop right off, leaving behind only the two mounting pegs on the bike rails. So, when you get to where you’re going, you just snap the shoulder straps on the two rings on the front and back of the bags, twist the levers, and carry the bags inside.

The trunk locks to the luggage rack on the back through a set of padded clamps that are tightened with a locking strap arrangement on the inside of the trunk. The trunk has an integral lock built in.

That’s a lot of mods, but it’s also probably the last mods I’ll ever do to this bike. It’s now set up just the way I always wanted it.

Oh, and just to add to the cost, I was pushing 5,000 miles, so I had to get the regular service done, too. But, I’m good until 10k now. At which time I’ll not only need the service, but probably a new rear tire.

Time to start saving pennies again.

So far, I’ve only ridden it home from the dealer, but the throttle response seems a lot stronger. Also, the pipes make a much deeper, bass rumble, and the “sewing-machine” sound is completely gone.

I can’t wait to get it out on the road and give it a good road test.

Remember Your Keys

When I got back to the office from lunch today, I left the keys in the Sporty. I saw the lights were still on about an hour later. after work, I hopped on, hit the starter…and it wouldn’t start.

I ended up having to push my bike out of the parking lot to an access road that went down a hill, then getting it going down the hill and releasing the clutch.

Vroom! She started right up. I guess she charged fine during the 45-minute ride home. But I’ll try to remember to have the keys in my hand when I get off the bike.

No Need to Rename the Blog

I just got back from the Harley dealership, after ordering a set of LeatherPros bags and trunk, a tachometer, auxiliary running light kit, Stage I Air Cleaner, Screamin’ Eagle performance slip-ons, and an EFI remap.

I’m keeping he bike, obviously. Financially, it makes better sense just to keep the bike, and pay her off at the low monthly payment I have now. And if I’m gonna keep her, then I’m gonna fix her up the way I want her.

I also got to thinking that, back when I was a kid, a 1200cc bike was a monster. A bigger touring bike would be more comfortable for 2-up riding, but, really, I’m not gonna do a whole lot of that. If I do, it’ll be weekend trips, not long cross-country deals. So why burden myself with an extra payment that I simply don’t need?

I’ve already got a great bike, and there’s no reason at all not to be satisfied with her for a few years. So, I’m gonna pay the Harley Tax and do just that.

Call Me Mr. Indecisive

Well, you know, I’m so conflicted on this it’s not even funny. A week ago I was dead set to buy the Rocket. Today, I’m thinking that I could just get saddlebags, Stage 1, and maybe a 55-tooth rear sprocket for lower RPM highway cruising, and just keep the Sporty for another year or two. I could do all the stuff on my Harley Wish List, and keep my payment down below $250 month (although I pay $300, just to stay ahead a bit), give me better highway performance and gas mileage–although the sprocket would cut the low-end performance a bit–and it’d probably be a great all-round bike. Toss on the big tour bag on the luggage rack, and the Sporty would probably be just fine for two up touring, if a bit cramped.

‘Cause I’m also looking at the maintenance costs, too. That big ‘ol 240 Metzler rear tire on the Rocket costs about $250, and it has to be replaced every 6000-8000 miles. I’d go through at least two sets a year, plus one of the 170 Metzler’s on the front, which aren’t any cheaper. And, on top of that, carrying over the negative equity on the Sporty, would make the payment just shy of $350 a month. Looked at that way, the ongoing costs are steeper than keeping the Sporty.

Financially, keeping the Sporty is probably the wisest choice, by a long shot.

Hmmm. Now that I’ve talked it out all day at the HD Forums, I’m moving back into the Sportster camp.


Why can’t I just have every bike want?

Sporty Bagger

What will I do if I can’t pick up that Rocket next month? Well, Obviously, I’ll just keep the Sportster. While I’d obviously like a bigger bike, what can’t be done, can’t be done.

But, on the other hand, what can be done…will be. I mean, at the end of the day, if this was 1973, a 1200cc bike would be about the biggest I could even buy, right? The 1200 only seems small in relation to today’s massive cruisers.

So, If I keep the Sportster, then, instead of spending that free cash on a new bike, I’m gonna spend it on the Sporty. I’m gonna ride over to the Harley dealer and order these, these, and this. Yes, I’m talking about the color matched hard bags, bag liners, and tour pak. Heck, I might even get the Fleetliner fairing for the thing, too.

I will then call my bike The Mini-Glide.

Unhappy Reader

Well, it seems my posts about the Rocket aren’t making some people happy. I got the following email from a reader.

HD knows their target market and guys like you and I are the bullseye.

Its not about riding a perfectly built bike, it never has been.

Its about riding something special that few people ever get to own. Riding a legend.

A Triumph has no cachet, no status. And for an extra 1400.00, I’d get the Harley.

Hmmm. Well, if we’re talking about bikes that few people get to own, I’d think the Triumph fits the bill a lot better than the Harley. I see a lot of Harley’s driving around. Triumphs…not so much. Indeed, I think there are less than 20 people in all of San Diego who own a Rocket.

But putting that aside, I’m not someone who’s really all that into riding something for the status. I don’t like the Japanese bikes because I think I’d look less cool riding one, I just don’t like the styling. Don’t like the sporty look of the BMW either, although they make great bikes. And I think the Victory bikes are…too much…over the top. Especially the Vision. it looks like an escape pod from the Starship Enterprise.

I want the bike to be reliable, which from all indications, the Triumph are, now. And I want to like the way the bike looks, which makes thr art-deco styling of the Rocket attractive to me. Whether anyone else approves of my choice is a matter of complete indifference to me.

Apparently, that answer didn’t satisfy the reader, though, who responded:

If you are not concerned about anyone’s opinion, why do you have a blog about your bike ? Why do you solicit other people’s thoughts and opinions?

I have a blog about my bike because I like to write, and past experience indicates that people enjoy my writing. I don’t actually solicit opinions, although I certainly allow their expression. But even if I did solicit opinions, I’m not sure what your point would be. The fact that I may be interested in other opinions doesn’t imply that I seek the approval of the commenters.

When you own a HD big twin, you are just perceived differently, that’s all. I was teased like crazy when I had my sporty, and I hated it. And I grew to dislike the bike. I made the same mistake you did, and bought too small a bike to start.

There’s nothing like a Harley. Anything else just isn’t one. You won’t be happy with a Triumph bud.

Hmmm. Two things.

First, this assumes I care how I’m perceived by others. Look, I’m 44 years old. It’s a little late to be concerned about peer pressure. If you’re my age, and you’re still concerned about how all the other kids in the playground respond to your choices, or you are one of the other kids in the playground making fun of somebody else’s ride choice, then you just need to grow up.

I’m not thinking about replacing the Sporty because I dislike it, or because the other kids think it’s stupid. I’m doing it because it just isn’t as well suited to the things I do with it regularly as other bikes would be. If I could keep it, and get another bike, I would. But, I can’t afford two bikes, so I gotta go with a bike that does more, if I can get it.

Second, If I’d bought a Road King to begin with, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. I’d be pickled tink with it. But that’s not what I did, and now that I’m thinking about a switch, the RK just isn’t my first choice anymore, now that I know about other options.

I’m really drawn to the Rocket. It has the power to ride two-up effortlessly, it has much more power than any Harley–or any other cruiser, for that matter–and it’s signifigantly cheaper than the RK, especially the particular Rocket I’m looking at.

I think I’ll be very happy with it. But, if I’m wrong, you can tell me “I told you so,” to your heart’s content.

Will I become a RAT?

That’s the question. I’ve pretty much decided to buy that new 2006 Rocket Classic. But, I can’t buy it until next month, when I can put some cash into the deal.

Chris is talking about taking a two-up trip out to Yuma, and some other places over the winter, when it’s cool enough to ride in the desert during the day. If so, that’s a lot of highway driving, and I’d rather do it on a big cruiser, rather than the Sporty. It’d be both a lot more comfortable, and provide us with a lot more luggage space. Comparatively, that is.

As I figure it, the dealer is willing to clip $1,500 of the price of the Rocket, and toss out all the dealer prep charges. Then they’ll give me $7,000 for the Sporty. I’m willing to toss in $3,000 in cash. That would eat up $4,500 of the $7,000 in negative equity I have on the Sportster. So, I’d have to roll over the extra $2,500 hundred in negative equity onto the Rocket, which would give me a monthly payment of about $350, which is $50 per month more than I’m currently paying on the Sportster.

That’s what I’d like to do, at least. The thing is, I won’t have that $3,000 until the middle of October, so I can’t do the deal until then. The guys at the dealership told me that they’ll keep the paperwork ready if I come back next month.

It’s getting cooler, so the riding season for this year is coming to a close. So, will that 2006 still be there next month? After all it’s a 2006, and it’s been there for two years. On the other hand, the salespeople are trying to push it out the door. So, it’s an open question as to whether someone will buy the bike in the next three weeks.

I’m not gonna go back and look at it any more. But, next month, when I go in, ready to make the deal, if it’s there, I’m gonna do the deal. If it’s not…well, then I guess it wasn’t meant to be.

All I can do is keep my fingers crossed.

Rain, Rain, Go Away…

Every morning when I get up, I check to see the day’s forecast. If there’s no rain, I’m riding the Sporty to work. I’ve come to depend on them to give me the straight scoop about the weather, but, today, they let me down. The original forecast for today was partly to mostly cloudy, with a high of 71. Looked good to me, so I got on my bike and went off to work.

So, I’m about 15 minutes from work, when it began pouring rain.

Fortunately, it was cool, so I was dressed out, wearing chaps, an MA-1 flight jacket, my orange Icon Mil-Spec vest, and my full-face helmet. So, at least I stayed mostly dry. except for my crotch, of course, where the chaps don’t cover. When I got to work, it looked like I had peed my pants.

Traction for the bike was mostly good, except for one scary moment when I was turning on base. They have these concrete chicanes set up, on the road that leads to my office–an anti-terrorism measure I guess. So, when you turn on the road, you have to cross over to the other side of the road to go around the first chicane. When the rear tire hit the paint strip, it slipped. Gave me a scary second, there.

what wasn’t so good was the brakes. man, as soon as the rotors on the Sportster get wet, they lose about 50% of their grabbiness. I came up to a stop light,hit the front and rear brakes and…nothing happened. So I squeezed and stomped a bit more…and more…and more…and finally the bike slowed. Just in time, too, since I was getting concerned about the tailgate of the truck I was approaching.

Fortunately, the rain cleared off in the late morning, so everything was dry on the way home.

The thing is, as soon as I got to my office, I pulled up, to see the forecast again. Now, it told me there would be rain until about 10:00AM.

Would’ve been nice to have an accurate forecast 45 minutes earlier.

Wanna Buy a Sportster?

Actually, you probably don’t. In fact, I doubt anyone will.

But I put a sales ad on Craig’s List and, with an asking price of $12,500. With all the extras on the bike, you never know, someone might bite.

The thing is, the more I know about the Rocket, the more I want one. And that 2006 R3 Classic is just sitting in the showroom, with an unbelievable price on it. Actually, they still have the old full-price sticker on it, but in going back and going over the deal again yesterday, I now know what they’re actually willing to take for it.

The rocket I’m looking at looks exactly like the one in the picture. Same year, same model, same color scheme. Oh, I’d dress it up a bit. Get Rivco engine guards, some bags, and maybe a windshield. But this is how it looks in the showroom. Already has floorboards, heel & toe shifters, and the big brake pedal, with a really relaxed riding position.

Unfortunately, with what I owe on a new Sporty, I am too upside down on my loan to take the trade-in loss, and pick this baby up.

I could still do it. My credit is really good, so I am already approved for the loan, but I would really be buying two bikes instead of one if I did that. Which is only worth the money, of course, if you are actually buying two bikes.

So, I’m putting the Sporty up for sale, but, like I said, it’s difficult to see how anyone will bite at 12.5k. Although, I can do a financing deal through the local Harley dealership, which might attract someone who doesn’t have the cash to buy it outright.

But, if I can get out from under the Sportster, I can go ahead and get the Rocket for a really good price.

I don’t know what I’ll call this blog if I do that, though.