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Spare Parts: Cheating the wind, or cheating the rider?

By Ernie Copper

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My first exposure to the word, or even concept, of a “fairing” was in the 70’s when Dad added a Bates bar-mounted fairing to a Honda CB350 Twin. Helping to install that fairing also exposed me to other words like nacelle, or its not-so-sexy synonym, headlight bucket. Aside from an early lesson in soldering to relocate the turn signals, this rudimentary fairing did increase the comfort of the ride.

It was about this time the word Windjammer entered our lives. Craig Vetter, the father of the Windjammer series of frame-mounted fairings, was making a big splash in the mid to late 70’s and Dad just had to have one of the revolutionary frame-mounted fairings to call his own. More soldering and wiring led to the installation of the Windjammer II to Dad’s Honda Four and another upgrade to our riding comfort. It even featured a storage compartment on each side, with snap-on, snap-off vinyl lids that were suitable for gloves, maps and sunglasses.

This summer I got to meet the inventor of the Windjammer fairing, Craig Vetter, at the AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days rally. He was one of the featured speakers at the event and shared the background of how his passion for design work and the motorcycle market met at just the right time to insure his product’s initial success. He was also holding the Vetter Fuel Economy Challenge—a test bed for other unique design concepts relative to fuel economy with a real-world streetability component. Faired bikes, it turns out, have no value-added components as theft deterrents, as Vetter’s entire trailer toting his streamlined bike was stolen after leaving vintage days. Not to fear—he got it back.

Windjammer products never found overwhelming acceptance or popularity in the Harley world, but the frame-mounted fairing on my 1980 FLT Tour Glide had a familiar feel to me with its odd frame-mounted attachment. Sure the feeling of seeing your forks turn and your fairing remain stationary was odd, but on the road a frame-mounted fairing can’t be beat.

The full-sized windshield on my Heritage has become normal to me, and I’ve never really seriously considered swapping over to one of the many aftermarket batwing-style fairings available today. The same can’t be said of my friend Richard. After years of plotting, shopping and considering, he finally bought a new two-piece batwing-style fairing to replace his metric cruiser’s full-sized windshield.

I was enlisted to provide a color-matching two-tone paint job and assist in installing the fairing, while Richard installed his new four-speaker sound system inside the hollows of this two-piece windcheater.

The fiberglass fairing required only a light scuff before it was ready for primer, multiple color coats and topcoats, followed by pinstriping and a proper rubout. The results, I must say, closely resemble a factory job. Rich had a local glass company cut out a shorty, tinted windshield and it installed without as much as a spider crack from over-tightening the stainless fasteners.

The unit mounted via stainless steel hose clamps, presumably sized for your specific application. Today, this passes for “custom mounting hardware” for your application but in fairness it is very efficient, cheap and results in a rock-solid mounting method. Since the clamps are easiest to install with only the exterior of the fairing attached, over tightening can result in distortion significant enough to keep the predrilled holes of the fairing’s inside half from lining up.

Once the whole works was together, we loaded up our wives and went for a shakedown run, during which nothing fell off, nothing shook violently and nothing cracked. Success.

My personal taste is to be semi-protected by a windshield when riding a touring or cruiser-sized bike. It just feels right to me. I confess to taking the shield off a couple times a year, but I soon get over the urge, usually after an hour or two. I can be a purist when it comes to smaller-cc (650 and lower) vintage bikes. Bikes of this size seem more interactive to ride and the wind seems like another indicator as to how things are going when riding these bikes. It also seems like part of the expected experience on these bikes—like chain oil on your pant leg.

There are lots of ways to enjoy riding; faired or unfaired, behind the glass or out in the open. Even if you aren’t the next Craig Vetter, and aren’t taping foam board to your Fat Boy to squeeze out an extra half mile per gallon, a fairing can provide protection from the elements, a place to mount a sound system and a canvas to help individualize your bike, and pound for pound a fairing will change your ride more than any bolt-on accessory I can think of. So you aren’t getting cheated at all.

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