I’m not sure when it became a hot-button topic, but somewhere along the lines the act of loyalty and the devotion that carries with it has turned into a sort of uncool commodity. Back in the day, being loyal was a good thing. A righteous thing. A quality one actually looked for when hiring an employee, choosing friends or picking a mate. It was a valued personality trait and stood as synonymous with the word biker. Brotherhood, honor, and loyalty: character traits citizens should take a look at integrating into their lifestyle, in my opinion, because it seems to me the general populace is sorely lacking in this area, even for bikers. And something needs to be done.
In a recent sales blurb from a local Harley-Davidson dealership the tagline challenged customers to “Ditch your ex, find your next” as an encouragement to shop the newest line of shiny models that fill out the 2017 line. And while that kind of verbiage might work to send some buy-ready riders scurrying straight to the showroom floor, it had quite the opposite effect for me: the loyal, devoted girl who actually loves her motorcycle in a way most folks save for marriage. The Beast has been good to me over these last five years, though we did have a little trouble with his health early on which necessitated a heart (motor) transplant. Since then he’s been true and steady. There are over 60,000 miles on the ol’ ticker now and yes, I worry about him as he nears the century mark and wonder if the newer machines have the longevity of the older generations when 60,000 were just considered break-in miles. Will anyone ever look back on the Twin Cams and wax nostalgic like we do over the Ironheads? Personally, I was so enamored with my Ironhead Sporty that I just never thought I could love anything more, until I spent some time with the Shovelhead. But it finally came down to a matter of my own well-being and the wear and tear that came with riding and kicking an antique to life took its toll on me physically. A push-button bike became a necessity and I came to appreciate the comfort of the Softail suspension that my 1995 Heritage lovingly provided. And then my faithful FLSTN was taken suddenly after 150,000 blissful miles. The hunt for a new mate, while still mourning the loss of my sweet Softail, consumed me for months as I wrestled with guilt. My heart still belonged to the Heritage but he was gone, passing on to the great beyond by way of an insurance adjuster. And then I met my beautiful Beast. The two-piece frame meant cornering like I’d never experienced. With air-suspension comfort and a rubber-mounted engine that made my happy tush question why it took me so long to realize that this kind of luxury is the way to go, I finally got over the doggedly devoted commitment I had for the Evo. It was a process, but I’ve learned to trust the Beast even more than I ever did any of my previous motorcycle relationships and we’ve become closer than I’d ever imagined, but I’ve discovered that most riders aren’t that loyal to their machines. A friend has recently traded in his faithful FLSTC for a newer, but used, bike that he introduces as his “pretty girl” without a hint of remorse for the geriatric lady he unceremoniously left behind at the dealership simply because she was “fading.” The engine was sound and reliable, but things were just starting to look a little worn so he decided that a new woman was in order. Time was we used to invest in a fresh coat of paint or a bit of detailing, maybe some bling to brighten up an old girl, but these days that kind of logic seems rare.
Even with an extended warranty and a stash fund for failing parts, I find myself worrying about what happens if there’s a catastrophic malady and the Beast needs major surgery. A salesman in Wyoming almost had me convinced that my three-year-old motorcycle was better off replaced with a newer model since the lifter clatter was an indication that there was engine wear. Rather than considering time off the road, he reasoned, a signature on a five-year commitment would get me a sexy new guy and in the wind within an hour. I felt like I was cheating on the Beast just for listening to the spiel, but I’ve come to realize this is the way of the world. People don’t seem to grasp the idea of loyalty. Things don’t go the way you’d like? Walk away. Unhappy with your mate? Find a new one. There is no more “working things out,” no negotiating, no compromise. There’s no more facing the situation head on, together, and figuring out a way to fix the problem. It isn’t always about money, or power or “new.” Sometimes it’s about standing up for what’s right. It’s about listening to that front cylinder clatter and realizing that something needs fixed before you’re sitting on the side of the road wondering why your beloved let you down. It’s about taking the time to make it right, to pay attention and to care. You get back what you put into this life so hey, why not try a little effort? And loyalty.