Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Sonny Barger Exclusive Interview

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Dead in Five Heartbeats, Three Days in the Desert

It’s been a couple of weeks now since principle filming wrapped on the set of Dead in Five Heartbeats, the movie based on the novel of the same name penned by the man himself, Sonny Barger (www.sonnybarger.com). I was lucky enough to spend a couple of days on set in the Phoenix area just prior to the last days of production. Who says working in the motorsicle bidness doesn’t have its perks!? Sure as hell isn’t me. Still can’t believe I get paid for this, but I’ll take it
Yours truly (lower left) and my extra pals. Jeff Black, the star of Dead in Five Heartbeats lurks in the back row (five from left)
My ticket to the “fantasy factory” that is a modern day movie set was the fact that our company, Tucker Rocky, had stepped up to the plate as the official apparel sponsor of the flick. We provided River Road (http://www.riverroadgear.com/) and Speed and Strength (http://www.ssgear.com/) clothing for the lead characters, as well as, some of the extras. While the story is based on a work of fiction, all the action and characterization is straight out of real life……..well, more to the point, straight out of Sonny’s life. That’s not to say it’s a film biography, because it’s not. What it means is pretty much everything you see on screen happened at some time, to someone, in some context. Think a mix of reality show, documentary and full on feature film and you’re getting warm.

Jeff Santo (son of a very famous Cub by the same last name, you can look it up) is the director and creative genius behind the scenes. On a set populated by more than its share of “real deal” bikers and club members, Jeff blends right in. And if you want to find out just how tough he is……..start up a conversation during filming. Yeah, don’t screw with him. That said, Jeff was warm and engaging, and when he had time he was more than generous tolerating my non-stop barrage of questions. He brings a respect for the material and a passion for film making that is truly infectious. You can’t help but be stoked.
Jeff Santo (center in blue) working with cast and crew

The team Jeff’s assembled is a mixed bag of industry pros and kids newly minted out of film school, a totally rag-tag army of enthusiasm, all in it for the love of the game. With the budget these guys have to work with, no one, and I mean no one, is getting rich. Did I mention these are some of the hardest working people I’ve ever met? Just try wrangling bulky lighting rigs in 110 degree Arizona heat for twelve hours and you get the idea. Now do it for weeks on end for very little dough. These people redefine dedicated.

Remember when I mentioned “part reality show”? There’s a reason for that. See, aside from the lead character Patch, played by Jeff Black (great guy and a dead ringer for a younger Sonny Barger) and appearances by David Dela Rocco (Boondock Saints!!), and Dan Haggerty, the rest of the cast are either first time actors, or actual club members…….talk about type casting. And the crazy thing is, it works, and it works well. These guys life the live, so they know what’s real and what’s not. Everything from making subtle changes to the dialog to correcting the way bikes would be parked at a clubhouse; these guys ensure that this movie oozes with authenticity. You think a real One Percenter is going to utter dialog that doesn’t ring true, ah yeah, not gonna happen.
Jeff's hard working crew resets lighting for filming another camera angle

As is the case on any movie set, locations change on a nearly daily basis. Day one of my time on set  we  found ourselves at an actual clubhouse, refitted with Infidelz paraphernalia (it’s amazing the level of detail involved, from the club support t-shirts, neon bar signs, and even motorcycle accessories adorned with Infidelz logos……very cool!). The next day we were in downtown Phoenix in a working class neighborhood filming at what looked like an abandoned deli/bar/restaurant that had the patio converted to represent the Infidelz Arizona clubhouse’s outdoor bar. And that’s when I got my big break.

As I stood on the periphery of the set, doing my best to stay well out of the way (not always easy in the organized chaos that is a working set), I got a tap on the shoulder. Figuring I was impeding the progress of some harried sound guy, or an overburdened gaffer, I spun around while stepping out of what would have been the path of my unknown victim, only to see Zorana Barger (better known as “Z”) holding an Infidelz cut in her hand……..”so do you want to be an extra today, one of our guys is a no-show?” “Say what!?” OK, this just got real.
Patch's Victory gets set up with a camera rig

“Ah, sure”, I think I muttered………….how could you say no to Z?? Simple answer, you don’t! And to be honest the thought of having even the smallest part in the production of this movie sounded pretty cool, something to talk shit about with my riding buds. I’d be forever on film………or digitized, (DI5H was shot in a very high tech 3-D, as well as, conventional HD) or whatever. Cool.  I threw on my jean cut; damn, I wish I could have had one of the badass leather jobs, at least I was a “full patch” member and not a prospect!

I nervously ambled out to the set where I was promptly instructed by Jeff Santo to go get mic’d up. Huh? Standing around trying to look tough, maybe I could do that……..but dialog, with real actors, on a real set, with real movie people??? All the fun of playing pretend biker was replaced by the cold fear of screwing up. Screwing up in Sonny’s movie, screwing up after Z asked me to help out. Oh man……….
My acting partner and scene stealer Chico (r), an actual club member, funny guy, and damn good actor

Turns out I had only a couple of lines, and I guess it went pretty well, God knows Jeff has more than enough takes and camera angles to choose from so anything I did to mess up those scenes can most likely be disguised by skillful editing. And who knows, maybe sanity will ultimately prevail and they’ll cut me out altogether………one thing I do know is, you’re going to have to wait until the flick comes out to see if yours truly made it up on the silver screen. Sorry, no spoiler alerts here.

As we wrapped for the day Amy ( Amy ran the entire wardrobe department for DI5H, was our main link to the production team, and is one of the hardest working people I have ever met) came up to me and asked what I was doing for dinner. Seems her and her husband were going out for a bite, and there was a chance we would hook up with Sonny and Z, did I want to tag along? A chance to meet the man himself, have some food and real conversation!?!? Oh hell yes…….I’m in.

We drove to the outskirts of Phoenix to a little family owned Amish restaurant (who knew, Amish in the desert!) where we met up with Mr. and Mrs. Barger. After nearly 25 years in the motorbike business I’ve had the opportunity to meet countless racers from Rossi to Spies (for a number of seasons I actually managed a top flight AMA Supersport team for Cycle Gear), industry bigwigs, famous builders, Hollywood luminaries, and the like, but this was on a whole other level. I was stoked beyond belief; Sonny Barger and me, having dinner, just talking. Very cool.
The legend, Sonny Barger and me

We talked for more than a couple of hours, covering a wide range of topics, and while I don’t want to get into specifics, it was after all a dinner, not a formal interview, I would like to share a few impressions of the man about which so much has been written and said (much of it unfortunately nothing but rumors, untruths and outright lies). 

First off, the man is a real rider, a real enthusiast. He digs motorcycles, and he knows his shit. He’s up on all the current machines, and has opinions about motorcycling that might just surprise a few folks.  Not a shocker when  you remember that he owned a repair shop in Oakland back in the day. He still rides whenever he can, and enjoys the hell out of it. For that matter, Z is quite an accomplished motorbike pilote herself.

 First and foremost, for Sonny  it’s about the bikes…..as it should be. As we talked I was also impressed by what a humble, thoughtful person he is. No big ego, no bravado, no “do you know who I am” BS, just a regular, down to earth authentic man. That said, there’s no doubt that you’re in the presence of a real leader, someone used to commanding, demanding  and ultimately getting respect. Of that fact, there is little doubt. And the man doesn’t miss a trick, while we were chatting he even noticed that my watch was still on Texas time……..impressive. He loves animals and is passionate about his horses, up at dawn every day to feed and water them. You can tell they’re much more than “pets” to Mr. Barger. Oh, and by the by, I’ll bet you’ve always mispronounced Sonny’s last name……….most of us have. Here’s the deal, Barger is pronounced, “Bar-grrr” with a hard “g” as in "Gerber"; not with a soft “g” as in "Germany". So now ya know……….say it right!

Lastly, Sonny is fully committed to Dead in Five Heartbeats, he has been involved in every detail from the outset and has been a valuable resource to Jeff and his crew (no wonder really, he did after all, write the book…….which if you haven’t read, you should, it’s damn good). And that feeling of being "all in" for the cause is reciprocated by the film crew, everyone wants to get this thing right for Sonny. The passion and respect that permeates this project is truly amazing. And for that reason alone, I think we’re in for a really special treat when the movie hits the big screen.

Stay tuned for Dead in Five Heartbeats updates…………

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Dead in Five Heartbeats, The Movie

Something very cool is happening in the Arizona desert fellow Chromies, and it's happening right the f#@k now; Sonny Barger's seminal biker tome "Dead in Five Heartbeats" is being crafted into a full length feature film! If you haven't read the book (available at http://www.sonnybarger.com/) you're truly missing out on a first rate action novel. Anyone that knows of Sonny's legend will find way more "fact" than "fiction" in "Dead in Five Heartbeats", as this is unquestionably one of the most authentic "club genre" books ever written. Get the book, it's the real deal, just like the man that wrote it. Screw Chuck Norris, Sonny kicked his ass before he could grow a beard.......so you're gonna read the book, right!?

Sharpfinger Films in conjunction with Sonny Barger productions are the driving force behind the flick, while Jeff Santo will be handling the director chores. As of now most of the principle filming is taking place in Arizona. In keeping with the films relentless pursuit of authenticity, wherever possible real club members and locations are being utilized. As for the cast, check out IMDB for details, but fans of the cult classic Boondock Saints are gonna be stoked, that's all I'm saying about that.

OK, gotta be honest here, I've got another reason to be stoked about "Dead", a couple of my companies brands are official product sponsors to the flick; namely River Road (http://www.riverroadgear.com/) and Speed and Strength (http://www.ssgear.com/). We'll be supplying clothing and footwear for key lead characters. So keep your eyes peeled for some really cool bikerwear, especially some outrageous "tactical style" vests, badass doesn't begin to describe them. Many thanks to Amy and her people, they are the hardest working crew in the wardrobe racket, you've been a blast to work with.

Jeff Santo, the legend Sonny Barger, Fritz Clapp
So you're reading the book, that's good, but as a hardcore biker and fellow Chromie, you want more, and you want it now. No problem, Sonny's crew's got you covered. All you have to do is go to http://www.youtube.com/ and type in "Dead in Five Heartbeats day one" and go from there, check the right side nav bar for additional daily updates (day four and six are really choice) as they're posting new stuff all the time.

Could it be that we'll finally have a flick that does justice to the outlaw biker way of life, that iconic aspect of American pop culture that we're all so passionate about? We'll know the answer to that question when we see the finished product, but you have to believe that with Sonny Barger behind it there's no way "Dead in Five Heartbeats" is just another "cheesy biker flick"......not a chance.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Steel Ponies 2012

A beautiful '36 HD, born the same year as my mother, sorry mom!

If, like me, you managed to find a way to miss the now world famous “Art of the Motorcycle” exhibit at the Guggenheim, or its various traveling incarnations, take heart fellow Chromies and culture vultures of all things two wheels, your historically significant motorcycle fix is on the way. Or more accurately it’s waiting for you at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art in Indianapolis, in the form of its Steel Ponies 2012 exhibition.
Well thought out displays make it easy to take it all in

While nowhere near the breadth and scope of the original “Art of the Motorcycle” offering (at least I got the book!) what makes Steel Ponies uniquely special is its focus on motorcycles and motorcyclists that were significant to the West and Western Native American culture. The creative and innovative manner by which the folks at the Eiteljorg chronicle the spread of the influence of these American made motorcycles throughout the West is truly inspiring. Obviously a great deal of thought and effort went into the assembling of the collection. It’s well worth the hour or so it would take to soak in all the machines on display. And I can guarantee you’ll see some bikes you’ve never viewed personally anywhere.
One of the oldest production motorcycles in the US, courtesy of the Smithsonian

From board track racing Harleys (how is it that machines from the teens and 20’s still look so purposeful, aggressive and just flat cool today?!) to one of Evel’s (you do know that the spelling of Mr. Knievel’s first name is by design, gotta stay at least arms length from true “evil” right???) original XR’s you’ll discover an amazing array of historically innovative machines. There’s even an Indian on loan from the Smithsonian Museum, not to mention bikes from some of the coolest, and yes, cheesiest biker movies ever put to celluloid.
Captain America.....or at least pretty damn close

As a native Californian I was especially stoked to find Arlen Ness featured in the section highlighting famous custom builders of the West. Arlen was, and is, an institution in the bay area, and one of the truly most genuine and humble people you’ll find in the industry. Ness was cool before folks knew the difference between OCC and ADD (one’s a condition, and one is a company that builds custom…….ah, hell, they’re both a disease). Good job.
Evel's XR, the man put the "X" in extreme!

So here’s the deal, if you’re in the area, get your butt down to the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, and do it fast, because like a great motorcycle, this exhibition isn’t going to hang around for long……….there’s open road to be ridden dammit.
Racing machines don't get any prettier

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Progressive Suspension Road King Make-Over

It's been a while since Paint Shaker (aka my trusty '06 FLHRCI) got the attention in the Asylum that it deserves, in other words had some costly bits and pieces lovingly attached in some hopefully meaningful attempt to make my beloved sled all the more tasty. Well fellow Chromies, fate has smiled on the old black beauty at last.

The Mighty Paint Shaker
With over 18,000 miles on the clock, it was time to give the Road King's suspension a serious rehab. It wasn't necessarily that the stock units were bad, , more like "degraded", you know, just not quite what they once were. Much like your old mattress, or job, you never know what an improvement a replacement is until you strap on a new one and take it for a spin. Shocks and forks are no different.

After talking with some of the lads at work I decided to give Progressive Suspension (http://www.progressivesuspension.com/) a try. I'd had had good luck with the brand in the past with some of my sport bikes, and figured it would be a low risk choice. What wasn't so low risk was my decision to go with the "lowered" shocks and forks. Contradictory as it sounds, I like to flog the big pig rather aggressively, and the thoughts of grinding its tender underbelly on the unforgiving Texas tarmac seemed, well, just a bit cruel. Not to mention that unweighting the rear suspension at an inopportune moment could ruin ones whole day.

Not to worry says Richard, a colleague, and a more than capable FLH pilot with just the same Progressive bits affixed to his rig that I was contemplating acquiring. We had ridden together (along with a gaggle of TR folks) on a three day trek to the hills of Arkansas and he seemed to have absolutely no issues hustling his Harley with velocity and gusto through fast sweepers and tight first gear 180's. "Don't worry", he said, "the suspension works so much better, you really won't notice the reduced ground clearance". Hmmm, I dunno.

Progressive's Monotube Fork Cartridge Kit
It's not like I needed the reduced seat height, even in my post AARP eligible demographic, I still manage to maintain a not-so-stumpy  6'2" frame. No, any reduction in chassis height would only satisfy the pursuit of cool, which Paint Shaker has in spades. Oh what the hell, let's do this......open the bomb bay doors!

We started off by chucking the stock rear units (OK, full disclosure, the crew from A Biker's Garage, http://www.abikersgarage.com/  in Roanoke Texas did all the heavy lifting in the technical department. Thanks Bob, Dave, and Trent) and installing a pair of Progressive 940 Ultra Touring Series shocks (MSRP $699.95). These bad boys drop the ride height one full inch, while retaining all the stock travel for a smooth ride. They're adjustable as well, coming from the factory in the "full soft" mode (who's gonna stick with that setting....I mean, really!?). We set them at the half way mark just to have a starting point.

The 940's are a snap to install
While still at the ass-end of the beast, a Touring Link Chassis Stabilizer (MSRP $199.99) was bolted up. The theory here is that this handy little device, which tucks up all snug-like, won't effect ground clearance, but will tame that nasty "flexi-flyer:" effect that most pre-2009 FLH Harley's tend to exhibit during spirited cornering. Imagine having a hinge somewhere right below your seat with an annoying ten year old tugging with all of his demonic might just as you apex a high speed sweeper........yeah, it sucks. Short of buying a new generation H-D long haul rig, the Progressive Touring Link is your best option.

Touring Link tames that unhinged feeling
Up front, we dropped in an ultra trick Monotube Fork Cartridge Kit (MSRP $399.95) which also lowers the front suspension the aforementioned inch. It's all about consistency don't ya know? In addition to slamming the front, the gas charged dampers and custom tuned fork springs are supposed to help prevent excessive fork compression under braking. We'll put that to the test later. In addition the sealed cartridge design is supposed to be an improvement over the Harley OE "open bath" unit. I'm not an engineer, so I'm gonna have to take Progressive's word on that. A few hours later, OK, most of the day actually, we were ready to hit the road and see just what the hell we accomplished (figure on spending between $250 to $450 on the install labor if you're not doing the work in your own garage).

The first thing I noticed was how much more "planted" the bike felt. It was stiffer, front and rear, but not harsh. To be honest, it kinda reminded me of the ride characteristics of some of my sport bikes. There was a feeling of enhanced control, lots of feedback coming back through the bars, very nice. After logging a few miles it was time for the first serious "test"; fork dive under braking. Here goes, a swift exit from the freeway, storm hell bent down to a four-way stop. Wait for it. wait for it. Now. A stout squeeze on the lever and the Performance Machine six piston calipers and full floating disks do their job, and so do the new Monotube forks. Amazing, dive was reduced significantly, maybe 30% to 40%. Not to mention the increased "feel" at the front wheel, OK, that was cool.

Touring Link installed on the Road King
But what about cornering performance? Well, given that the best twisty bits in north Texas happen to be in Arkansas that eval will just have to wait. Until then I had to make do with the local stuff, not exactly challenging, but enough to get a sense of how the shocks and forks work as a unit. Verdict? Way better fellow Chromies, way better. While I wasn't able to achieve velocities great enough to test the Touring Link, the bike tracked a true arc through even the tightest second gear corners. Bumps and pavement irregularities were handled with ease, the bike didn't deflect so much as it absorbed the undulations with confidence inspiring control. That's a very good thing considering the Texas has some of the worst roads I've ever seen (not to mention drivers so aggressive and utterly lacking in skill they could put a Bangkok cabbie to shame) with chuck holes so sharp and deep they could "taco" a rim faster than you can say "Red State". Anything that helps one avoid the aforementioned "issues" should be embraced with gusto.

As for the ground clearance issue. the jury is still out. On a couple of corners I ground a bit, nothing major, but we touched down nonetheless. To be fair, these roads are all fairly new to me, and chances are I may have sent sparks flying with the Road King in its former stock configuration. Only more miles and twists will tell. The bike obviously sits lower, you'll notice the first time you put the jiffy stand down after installing the suspension, it's the little things.

Paint Shaker's new stance...bueno
Overall I'm totally stoked, The bike handles better than it ever has, it's solid and dare I say "nimble". Front end dive under braking has all but been neutralized (if you haven't upgraded the stock binders for Performance Machine brakes, you'll only get half the effect) and the ride has firmed up significantly without becoming a hardtailed torture session. Is it worth the dough? That's hard to say, but if you put on serious miles, and want your rig to handle as well as it can, then the Progressive Suspension mods are money well spent.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Daytona Dreamin' 2012

Another spring, another Daytona Bikeweek, or was it? Yes, and well, no. To be fair your humble scribe was only able to take part in the first weekend's festivities, having to return to Texas to toil at the gig that keeps the Asylum Spawn in clothes and tuition. That's not to say this year's adventure wasn't chock full of memorable moments.........it wouldn't be Bikeweek if there weren't at least a couple of mind altering images seared into our frontal lobes.....right?

Take for instance the fact that for only the third time in history (a fact confirmed by a number of terminally annoyed bartenders and hotel staffers) Bikeweek and Spring Break converged in an unholy commingling of respective revelers. Bikers and co-eds all vying for cheap beer in the same place and the same time, oh the horror! Speaking of horror, can you imagine the following exchanges taking place on Main St?

Co-eds and Biker's?! Too much for our little friend

Two middle aged bikers (are there really any other kind?) spy a couple of cuties ambling along the avenue just up ahead, when one nudges the other and offers up, "....pretty hot, huh?" To which the other grizzled biker replies, "hey that looks like my......oh, crap....Buffy, is that you!?"

"Oh, hi daddy, hey Uncle Jim" Awkward. And you just know that happened, you know it! A lot.

On the other side of the demographic coin we have the leather clad, hard ass biker couple staggering out of Froggy's, obviously about three Jack and Cokes over their limit, when they stumble through a throng of kids just hanging out. Channeling the freewheeling vibe of their Woodstock youth, they decide to bum a couple of smokes off of the collegiate partiers. Tapping one of tomorrows taxpayers on the shoulder, the bright eyed kid whirls around and, uh oh............."mom!, dad!, oh my gawd, are you kidding me right now!?!?"
Worth every dollar!

Deeply disturbing moments aside...........a pretty routine Bikeweek. The weather was iffy (got much better after our exit, figures), rained some each day, putting a bit of a damper on the crowds at some venues. At times Main St. was actually walkable, kinda nice really. The good news? The iconic beer girls didn't dawn any rain gear......there is a God!

Can you say "project bike"?!

There was the usual mix of machines, as is a staple of Daytona. Lots of metric cruisers, low slung drag bikes, Harley's, sport bikes, and scooters. An eclectic mix to be sure, one you won't find at Sturgis, Laughlin, Street Vibrations, and Laconia. Oh, and there's those Boss Hoss V-8 freak machines. I think I've finally figured it out, those pathetic excuses for a motorcycle are the biking worlds equivalent to the lifted monster truck. Feel free to draw your own "Dr. Phil" inspired conclusions.

We spent some time with John Hamer and the good folks at Seminole Harley-Davidson. Attended a silent auction benefiting the Sam Swoope Charity Ride for Shriners Children's Hospital. Hat's off to the hundreds of riders that braved the rain, and bought some of the cool donated goodies. Great cause, even better people!

You know what else is cool about the Seminole crew? I'll tell ya, and this is totally on the down low, but it looks like Chrome Asylum is gonna get its very own XR-1200X to test, modify, and otherwise ride the hell out of. Think very long term test. More details as we decide to give 'em up........this is gonna be bitchin' fellow Chromies.

Splish, splash, James romps to a big win!

Mudfest, all in a days work for K-Dub

Went to the Supercross on Saturday night, chilled in the Dunlop suite, which was pretty handy considering it was pissing rain right up until the main. The track was pure soup, nasty and rutted, but that couldn't stop Answer's James Stewart (shameless plug, Answer is one of our exclusive brands) from engineering a flawless race and snagging the top spot on the podium, with MSR's (yup, another TR exclusive brand) K-Dub taking a well earned third.......damn good night!

But enough with the words, let's vidi some pics................

Street scene in front of world famous Froggy's

Sometimes the coolest cat is a dog

First real live Motor Maid I'd ever seen, trust me, she has more miles and is a better rider than you and me....don't doubt it
The hard working Progressive Suspension folks upgrade a very clean 95 Dyna

The reason we all make the Daytona trek, Main St.

Perfect ending to Bikeweek

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Harley's Mid-Year Offering, Where's The Baggers?

Not too long ago Harley announced it's mid-year new model intros; the Softail Slim and the Sportster Seventy-Two. While both machines will no doubt find their respective niche's, their introductions raise more than a few questions. Questions that we, the inmates at the Asylum just can't resist. But before we get all "60 Minutes" (remember back when we actually believed in "investigative journalism"? I don't either.) on the Motor Company, let's take a peek under the formed metal skirts of these sexy sleds and see if they're worth a dinner and a movie.

Get your motor runnin', head out on the......
With the Sportster Seventy-Two (XL-1200V for the Harleyistas out there) we've got a nifty little time machine that catapults us back to the era of .50 gas, mini skirts, and counter-culture idiocy. From it's 2.1 gallon peanut tank, to its "ape-hanger" bars the "72" is straight out of Easy Rider central casting. It has all the looks, with none of the wretched mechanicals of a 60's chopper. And we've got to say the Milwaukee crew has really nailed it. Especially tasty are the paint options; metal flake so bold and rich it could be frosting on a kids birthday cake, or a sick rat rod inspired murdered out flat black (uh, make that "Denim Black" if you please). Flip a coin, you can't lose.

Damn Sexy
A kicked out radical (for a factory born rig) chopper stance courtesy of extended forks coupled with a skinny laced front wheel help round out the flashback styling of this pint sized bar hopper. The old school white walls are just a bonus, as is the relatively low $11,199 MSRP. Oh sure, the 72 has its limitations, not the least of which is the 2.1 gallon peanut tank, perfect for those with an inflamed prostate, but useless for long haul runs. Forget the fact that its ergonomics are more suited to staging photo shoots with hot, temperamental, inked up strippers (not that's there's anything remotely wrong with that) than actual riding........this bike flat looks sick. And you know what? Sometimes that's just enough.....and this is one of those times.

Rounding out our dynamic duo is the FLS Softail Slim. Think of it as a Fat Boy that's done some hard time with Jillian Michaels (holy crap, talk about conflicted!) coming out on the other side lean and just slightly beaten down. The newest member of the Softail family sports a relatively narrow profile front and rear, gone are the beefy rear meats, made oh so "fashionable" by the likes of the hacks at OCC (three cheers for natural selection). Instead we find a fold away license plate frame and a "bobbed" rear fender.

A low carb version of a Fat Boy

One of the most unique features of the FLS is its gloss black "Hollywood" bar, think unholy alliance of a set of motocross and roto-tiller bars and you get the jist. Honestly, they pretty cool. According to the marketing flaks at HD the styling of the bars, the slim silhouette of the bike, and a healthy dose of "dechromification" (yeah, it's a word, just don't look it up) are all supposed to conjure up memories of "home built" customs from the 40's and 50's. Maybe so, but coming off the line with it's proven Twin Cam 103B motor, available optional anti-lock brakes, lustrous paint, and $15,499 MSRP, we're thinking the Softail Slim is just a tad more, ah, shall we say refined??

So we've got two new machines, cool. What's the big deal, what's the big drama? Simple Sally, no reason to build either one. Harsh? Maybe. But here's the dope, Softails, any Softail, just aren't selling. Doesn't matter what model, they're pretty much gathering dust on the showroom floor. Check out your local dealer, do a little cub reporting and get back to me on that sport. They ain't thrilled. Same with the Sporty chopper....aren't there already about six hundred Sportster models available now? Really needed six hundred and one! No doubt HD's crack (smoking) market research team has proven through judicious applications of geometric logic that these two models are just the ticket to sales success and bonuses for all.......and management bit. Sucka! The fact is, talk to any dealer and he'll tell you what's moving..........baggers, baggers, and baggers. Simple, end of story, thank you please drive through.

Hey Milwaukee, let's build some sick hot rodded baggers sporting some serious motors, stripped down sex appeal, and slammed to the deck. While we're at it, a CVO Road Glide completely murdered out......oh baby, dare to dream........

Monday, March 12, 2012

Milwaukee Mini's To Be Born In The USA

Sharp eyed fellow Chromies will remember waaaay back in 2011 (April 11 to be exact) that we reported on a plan by the Motor Company to build the Buell Blast's replacement in the land of curry and outsourced call-centers and import them to the US badged as "real" Harley's. Ah, sorry Sally, not so fast. What a difference nearly a year makes.

While enjoying beers and brats on Main St. in Daytona I had an opportunity to chat up some folks well connected at the highest levels of Harley-Davidson (these people know what they're talking about my brothers, so much so, that I'm not free to quote them by name) and they told me that the plan to import fully assembled motorcycles from India is dead, at least in the near term. Not gonna happen, not now, maybe not ever.

So why the 180? To recap, Harley needs to develop a bike that can take over the late and unlamented Blast's role as small displacement training machine for the Rider's Edge program. The specs state that the bike needs to be no more than 500cc, which puts HD in a rather tough spot given the fact that Milwaukee's most diminutive machine crashes the party at well over 800cc's.....uh oh. Couple that with the fact that while most of the Harley Faithful are willing to accept, however grudgingly, some level of foreign content in their beloved Hogs, the notion of a machine branded with the bar and shield being built entirely overseas like some, God forbid, Honda was simply too much to swallow.

The simple truth is, the "Made in America" component of the narrative that is Harley Davidson is still sacrosanct. It's the third rail of HD brand folklore, tamper with it at your extreme peril. No matter how tempting the additional margin dollars that a foreign built would undoubtedly fetch, the suits in Milwaukee aren't willing to risk sending their loyal customer base running for the exits, a sure way to tank profits. No bonus, no bueno.

So for now, it looks like we're likely to see a petite pig coming out of the Kansas City plant sometime next year. What it'll look like is still a mystery, but we're pretty sure it will be offered in two displacements; 650cc and 500cc (the latter so it conforms to Riders Edge requirements). The key here is that it will be US built, as real a Harley as any rolling off the lines today. That's the Motor Company's story, and they're gonna stick to it, until they don't.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Daytona Bound......But In A Good Way

It's that time of year fellow Chromies, the snow's still ass deep (where it still actually snows), rain is dumping in buckets, and the wind is blowing ice daggers..........is there a better excuse to flee south with about a half-million like minded crazy ass bikers for some brew, grub, and fun!? We'd say hell no too.
All we need is a V&H Widow system and a Fuel Pak!

And this year looks to be even better. And why you query? Well John Hamer and the good folks at Seminole Harley Davidson have offered to loan me a machine to test. Not just any bike mind you, HD's very trick, but under appreciated XR-1200X. I've dug this flat track inspired hot rod since it was introduced in the states a couple of years ago. It goes, stops, and handles like a proper sport bike (OK, I'll admit any decent 600 will walk away from it. So. Who cares?), but has the heartbeat of a Milwaukee V-Twin. It just doesn't get any better my friends. You think John is trying to woo me into buying one?? Stay tuned..........
Does that look like proper riding attire to you?

We won't forget Main Street Daytona, or the Speedway either.........we'll be taking plenty of pics; the good, the bad, and the "what the f*ck, weren't there any mirrors in your hotel room" kind of candid shots. So stay tuned, stay upright, and stay frosty my fellow Chromies...........

These Kicks Are No Bull!

In the interest of full disclosure Speed and Strength is a brand owned by Tucker Rocky with whom I toil as the new VP of Marketing, but so freaking what, these new “Run With The Bulls” kicks are the best motorbiking “sneakers” I’ve ever slid on my feet. And that’s saying something given that I’m not prone to sporting anything but boots when I take old Paint Shaker out for a spin, and for good reason. Let’s just say in my youth that “I had a bad experience”, or at least damn near. Maybe you can relate, you roll up to a light, go to put your foot down, and uh oh, the laces of your Air Jordan’s just caught a grip on your shift lever……..panic!! If you’re lucky, at the last possible moment you wrestle your foot free, stab it to the ground and safe both your machine and your ego. If not? At least you’ll find out how fast you can pick up your bike in a busy intersection.

The good news? You’ll never have to worry about any “oh crap” moments with the Run With The Bull kicks, their laces are recessed and covered at the top with a handy hook and loop closure which ensure those pesky laces never ruin your day. Actually once laced, you don’t have to bother again, just use the strap closure. Another cool thing about these shoes is that the padding on the instep is just enough that the shifter won’t jab the top of your foot (a real pain if you’re out riding for the day), yet flexible enough that you can walk for miles without a worry. Of course the soles are of the “non-slip” variety. And that’s the thing, Speed and Strength has managed to cobble a shoe that works as a shoe; comfort, looks, durability, while at the same time incorporating the features that a real rider’s gonna demand. Well done.
Take that Nike, Speed and Strength's got it going on for us riders

If you’re wondering what color choices you have, you don’t. Like any proper motorcycle should, especially those of the Harley-Davidson family, these kicks come in black only, with a bit of white trim. Personally I’m hoping they throw a murdered out version in 100% mat black, ah dare to dream!