Rodger Dodger Bobber
It is once again my favorite time of year. The first chilly mornings have appeared, the trees are starting to announce the coming of fall with their leafy fireworks of orange, red, yellow, Summer Love has proven yet again to be transient – dying – or fatal, and the new school year is looming in the weeks ahead. But for me, this has always been the time of excitement for the new year of motorcycles – and in some years – cars too. September always marks the knell of the new year in the business, and it is time to let the new ponies out of the stable.
2016 – is a model year marked by a New Black and Bold New Graphics. Meaning – in a snarky and sarcastic jab – everything that was old last year – has returned; but with a new set of stickers and maybe a different color option. From the sport bike side of things – we are used to new technical and performance upgrades nearly yearly – sure, they get their new stickers too; but the body cladding and technology is more progressive annually in the import sport section than in Harley Davidson. Indeed, the H-D mothership – has a weighted concerted interest in keeping appearances and styling traditional – one that reiterates their brand, history, heritage and iconography.
The one 'new' model of the year – is the Softail Slim S dressed in a World War II motif in the new Olive Gold Denim shade. Brandished with an 'Army' star from the days of the bike bombing around Europe in the second world war – it secures its origins to the first days of customizing bikes. Besides the all blacked out trim for the motor and accessory trim – the bike gets the larger 110 Screaming Eagle motor. At a price point of 18,899 – that motor is normally only found on the CVO line of bikes – that start at a significantly higher base price (and in my opinion are laden with entirely too much chrome) Congratulations to Harley Davidson for bringing back a true 'Bobber', with the power to back it up.
The original Bobbers were born out of the 'Hot-Rod' ideology that, if it doesn't make you go faster, make the bike lighter, make the engine perform hotter – it was left off. Most bikers returning from the war were looking for the thrill and escape of the road rather than being tied to a desk job, after risking your life in combat – a corner desk with no window is nearly a prison term. So the parts started coming off the bikes.
The first 'custom' trend was to remove the hinged section of the rear fender that was traditionally on the bigger Harley-Davidsons. While this gave you access to the rear tire for maintenance – it was dead weight. In the above example of a custom build from James Roper-Caldbeck of Copenhagen, Denmark - you can still see the original hinge points on where the fender extension has been removed.
Many fender ends were scrapped altogether, some found themselves rotated forward and used as an abbreviated fender – thus the beginnings of the Iconic 'Duck-tail' fender – that H-D still uses to this day as a styling jump point. The front fenders were eliminated nearly entirely, though some did find their way to being transposed to the rear of the bike, as well.
Another Example from James:
Find more of his work at his blog from his shop.
Chrome – while decorative – was HEAVY, and in Hot-Rod culture; pounds count. Many parts and accessories became milled, drilled, slotted and sectioned to remove the excess weight ( this is the birthplace of the first open primary drives ). Gas tanks – were also swapped out. Gas is HEAVY, almost a fat 6 pounds per gallon – and with a typical load of 5 gallons – that was midsection bloat that was not helping your power to weight ratio. The smaller 2 gallon tank from the Hummer model – started to appear as a popular replacement for serious speed freaks, adrenaline junkies and gear heads. That smaller tank profile is still available today on the Sportster model '48'. (Review to come - watch for updates)
True to the less is more form of the ride – The Softail Slim S is a single seat bike. The solo seat – keeps the weight down, and signals – that if you ride on back – you ain't doing it in comfort, and you ain't doing it for long. For the passenger – you will have to add the pegs and appropriate pad – but it ruins the lines and intentions of this bike in my opinion. If she wants to ride – have her get her own; I don't like passengers on my rides – few have the patience to sit in rhythm and time with the road for hours on end. Besides, when I was selling bikes – girls were more than excited to have their own set of handlebars – I was glad to help them discover a world out from behind someone's helmet.
The Stats – The ride is rolling with a 6 speed transmission, Anti-Lock Brakes, a 110 Cubic Inch Motor, black laced wire wheels and splashed in the WWII era, complete with antique Cat's Eye styled dash. Chiming in at less than 19K, with upgraded performance, deep iconic style and nary a bit of chrome – I think Harley Davidson has a winner with this ride. I wish them the best of success in brisk sales.
So All Hail - Hail Rock & Roll, there could be a rumble in Brighton Tonight.
Stock photos courtesy of H-D factory website.
To get your motor running, visit your local dealer ! Ride Safe, Ride Often.