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Spare Parts: Have a seat

By Ernie Copper

If my bikes were dogs, most of them would be rescue dogs. Loveable and up to the challenge, but not the best-in-show type. They have outdated engines, not yet considered classics for the most part, or a ding and dent here and there; that sort of thing. Some are special to me mostly because of the people who owned them before me, like my father-in-law and my childhood next-door neighbor. Very few purebred bikes have passed through my hands and many of the ones that were became that way under my guiding hand. They grew into the role.

While I wasn’t looking, my Harley has become special to me because of how long I’ve owned it and the times and miles we’ve shared. She wasn’t brand new when I bought her, but she was close. She’s 23 this year and I hadn’t thought about it until Shadow and I were talking one day, but it’s the last bike I bought from a dealership. In fact, it’s the only bike I ever bought at a dealership. It’s very likely the last bike I even sat on at a dealership.

Deep down, I think I know why. Because sitting on a bike is how it all starts. It’s the first tangible step in the path to a new bike. The wondering, the financial plan, the liquidation of other assets once deemed necessary. Nothing leads to all of that like sitting on a new bike.

And so, it came to pass that I sat on a new Harley a few weeks ago at a car show. While I was perched upon it, winding down an imaginary twisty mountain road, the first people to walk by told me how good I looked on it. I’m a sucker for that. I once bought an old Ironhead Sportster from an individual seller because two kids gave me a thumbs up as I rode past them on my test ride. Peer pressure and a big ego will do that to you. In fairness, it was a sweet little Sporty and I don’t think the kids even knew the seller. He didn’t know where I was going to ride it; how could he plant two little kids to act like I was cool? Hmm.

The car show where I sat on the new bike was full of specials and gimmicks to get you to take a test ride in cars. Ford was giving away a $50 gift card just for giving them your email and taking a test ride. Every manufacturer had cheap-o giveaway bags. Not so with the bikes. For there to have been any less pressure on me to buy the bike, I’d have had to been taking a nap! No “register to win” gimmick or anything. Outside of the passersby telling me how good I looked on it, the only real pressure was coming from myself. That was true even when I bought my ’95.

Back then some of the pressure was also from wondering what it would be like to pull away from a parking place without leaving a puddle behind me from the various recesses of my ’80 FLT Shovelhead, tranny or enclosed oil bath chain guard. We all like to say it doesn’t matter when we’re riding a leaker, but deep down inside, it matters.

The new bike really did feel good to sit on. The improved balance and forks on the 114” Fat Bob felt kind of racy compared to my trusty steed, which is yet unnamed. I wasn’t crazy about the denim paint treatment in any color or the square headlight, but maybe in a few years there will be some more traditional-finish choices that I could mix with aftermarket options.

I fell hard for an Indian a few years ago so that’s still on my mind too. It’s kind of like that old saying, you don’t miss steak if all you ever ate was hamburger. Still, what good is a bike you can ride to anywhere and back if you have no cash left to take the trip? And what would become of my near-nauseating appreciation of most things old made of any combination of wood, steel and leather?

These are questions only I can answer.

I’ve concluded buying a bike isn’t really like buying a car at all. For most, including me, a new bike isn’t a necessity. Many of the choices are based on preference as opposed to need and for some reason, the sales staff is pleasantly different. My bike has been paid for a long, long time and I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that makes a difference too. Lately my biggest choices have been if I was going to run whitewalls or black walls the next time I need tires. That’s an expense I can justify either way.

I’ll just sit tight on what I have for now and we’ll see what fun the summer brings. Still, If I got one or two of the dirt bikes ready to sell when the weather breaks… Shadow, you’re an instigator.

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