Have you ever thrown a leg over a vintage/classic motorcycle, started down the road and within one block your only thought was “what a piece of junk!” You know you have. I was wondering if the friend that loaned me the bike didn’t like me anymore or, did my girlfriend take out a life insurance policy on me. I was expecting a spiritual experience, a life transformation but instead here I was on a bike that is making me wonder if I’d make it to breakfast.
But…after two tanks of gas, breakfast and lunch I returned the motorcycle to the good friend that loaned it to me and told him that this day was a Zen experience. The bike I rode was a late ’60’s model, it clunked and thunked like hell but once you get used it…you get used to it. I was raised on British bikes and compared to those, the Sportster was as crude as a stone axe but there was something about the Sportster that I really enjoyed. It didn’t handle like a Brit bike, didn’t stop like Brit bike, and the bike vibrated so badly it would rattle the fillings out of your teeth, but once I settled into what the Sportster was about I became one with the bike. Well, not really one…but close.
The Sportster is commonly known as the “Girls Harley” or the “Baby Harley” but honestly, I think it is the most fun of The Motor Company’s bikes to ride. Would I ride across country? No. Would I ride to work everyday? Yes. Sunday rides? Oh yeah. Grocery store runs (throw on a saddle bags)?yep. Pick up Chinese take out? probably not. Wait a minute, I completely forgot that Jim Bronson rode his Sportster all around the country, so I guess it can be done!
Over the years I have ridden quite a few Sporty’s, from stone stock to chopped and even helped a friend build a cafe racer out of one and though family and friends will tell you I’m not a big Harley fan, I do like Sportsters…sort of. Two things here, I would dearly love to own an XLCR (the bastard stepchild of Harley world) and if I could afford one I’d buy it in a minute and just not tell anyone, and I currently own a Buell (powered by a modified Sportster motor). Sportster motors are fun.
I found a really nice 1971 Sportster on ebay this morning that is pretty much somewhat original. It is an XLCH model , the XL designates Sporster, the CH designates Competition Hot. This bike has upgraded wheels but the originals come with the bike, it has the Mikuni carb conversion (which actually does make the bike easier to start and ride..and by the way, this is a kick start only model) the original Tillotson carb does come with the bike. There’s some good story with this bike and I love the white seat. Whoever buys this bike…don’t change it! Please. The bike does run, it has about 40K miles on it, yes it looks it’s age but thetas part of the beauty of owning a Vintage motorcycle, you get to ride it and not worry about riding through a water puddle.
Click on the pics below for more pictures and info. This is a pretty cool bike for the casual rider or a platform for a very cool custom build. I wonder if the wood block under the kickstand comes with it?
A while back I applied for a job at a Harley dealer. The general manager, the owners wife and I were having a good interview until I said the only Harley I really wanted to own was an XLCR. If you put your money on me not getting the job, you win.
I remember when the XLCR showed up in 1977. It was Wille G Davidson’s first design job and I, being a Brit bike guy, was stoked! We all know that the AMF years were not Harley’s finest (mechanically) but we did get the XLCR and the original ‘Superglide’. Not too bad. But really, the bikes were junk. “Hardley Abelson”, “Hardley Driveable” and other names were applied that I can’t print here, but it was a good design time.
The XLCR was a modified Sportster…same lump of a motor, some slight chassis changes and some cool styling. But…according to the purists it wasn’t a Harley. It was the Redheaded stepchild. Thats why it only lasted a couple of years. But, I still want one. I got the next best thing…a Buell.
I found a really cool 1979 XLH Sportster on ebay this morning that a guy, who just like me wanted an XLR, built a better one. This is one sweet Harley Davidson. Good upgrades, a beautiful tank and tail section…all of it. Yeah, you’re going to have pay attention to it…there is an old adage about vintage British bike, “Ride it for one hour…Work on it for two”, well this bike is probably right in there as well. But I think it will be worth it.
Click on the pics below for more info and pictures
I love Sportsters. I love the free revving, the quick throttle…Sportsters are just plain fun. Thats what they were designed to be in 1957. Think about it, the Sportster has been around for nearly 70 years. It has evolved but at its heart, a Sporty is still a Sportster. My daily ride is a Sportster powered Buell…I love it! Well, the electrics kind of suck but a couple thousand dollars later and…nevermind, I love the motor.
Over the decades Harley Davidson has tried everything to increase their market…Italian singles (I still want a Sprint 350…what a great Cafe Racer platform!), off-road two strokes (I really did love the Baja 100…what a blast to ride!!), the little Hummer two stroke (post world war two) and the partnership with Porsche for the V-Rod. But, the basic design, the feel and the ride since God was a child (no blasphemy here…) is what makes a Harley Davidson a Harley Davidson. They know their market.
I found a super cool Sportster on ebay this morning. It needs some love but not much I hope. It’s a runner, looks great and would be a great ‘Sunday Go to Meetin’ ride. Honestly, this is just a very cool bike…I love LOVE the white seat!!!
Click on the pics below for a bit more info and the pics. Oh, and yeah I know the picture of Ann and Elvis aren’t on a Harley but you really can picture can’t you?
I don’t quite know where to start here…what an amazing collection of bikes and parts. I mean, really, if you are into old Harley Davidson’s either for your own use (now that requires a full psychiatric evaluation) or you own a motorcycle salvage business (which may also require professional counseling…my daughter is a licensed therapist her number is **&^%$U&% she can help she has been around this sickness long enough) or lastly you build custom Harley’s. I mean you get all these parts and complete bikes and the 20′ container they are stored in. It doesn’t get any easier.
Honestly, it’s a lot of money to buy this container but from what I have seen on the market lately, so far, it’s a hell of a deal.
Click on the pics below for more pictures and more info. This really is somebody’s idea of heaven!
…just in time for Christmas.
I don’t know about you but each year there is always someone on my Christmas gift list that deserves a lump of coal in their Christmas Stocking, usually it’s one of my kids. I found that lump of coal today on ebay.
Here’s the deal though, the person I think deserves it (not one of my kids, but I do think it would be hilarious to see my son in this) would really like it?! So why is it a lump of coal? Because any sane person would never be seen in public wearing it! On the other hand, all you have to do is go to the Sturgis Rally (or pick any of a hundred such rally’s) and it becomes a perfectly, socially acceptable piece of attire. This jacket really is a piece of classic American Motorcycling.
Let’s see…Harley Barbie’s, blow up dolls…I love the lifestyle.
Click on the pictures below and if you hurry you might just be able to get it under the Christmas tree.
It’s that time of year that I start searching for, working on and writing about ‘winter projects’. Here in Southern California winter is all about having to switch from shorts to long pants and maybe a long sleeve t-shirt. OK…I said that just to make all of you that live in colder climates a bit jealous but the truth is, it does get cold here for us motorcyclists and though we may not have heated basements to build bikes in, my journalistic hero Peter Egan has the best, but we do have to warm up the garage at night to work on bikes.
It’s no secret that I love the Harley Davidson XLCR, it really is one of the few Harley’s that I really do lust after…note here…Santa (wife) are you listening??? The XLCR was not one of ‘The Motor Company’s’ shining moments, at the time, but it has become quite a cult classic. XLCR models in beautiful condition are selling for upwards of five times their original selling price!!! Honestly, Harley dealers were selling them at ‘fire sale’ prices two years after they quit making them. A little less than 2000 of the CR models were made and as I have said before they went over like a fart in church. It’s too bad to because a number of the features that went into XLCR ended up helping make the standard Sportster a much better motorcycle.
Willie G. Davidson penned this bike from the ground up. He went after the BMW R90S and the Ducati SS. The XLCR was the quickest and fastest of the Sportsters. THe CR was 5hp up on the basic Sporty, it was under 500LB’s (which the BMW was not) and had a top speed over somewhere a bit north 110mph (which in itself was really not that big a deal at that time). Willie G. pulled some of the chassis design straight off Harley’s own flat track dominating XR750. But, to the faithful, it was not a real Harley. Yes, there were the AMF quality issues with the bike but all told, the XLCR was a good bike. Harley tried the Sportbike market again decades later with Buell but again pulled the plug. Harley knows their market.
Back to winter projects, I found an XLCR on ebay this morning, that if you’re brave enough, will be a great winter project. It’s pretty rough, it’s not a basket case but, it is rough. This is a bike that is going to need a lot of love and elbow grease. The seller is very honest about what has and hasn’t been done to/for the bike, what parts he has, the condition of said parts and what he wants to keep off the bike for his collection and what goes with it. Some of the stuff is good, some is questionable but all in all if you want a good winter project, this is pretty good choice. The bike is a runner so that in itself gives you a good starting point. With this XLCR you have a really have an easy choice to make…clean it all up (but leave it a little ratty), piece it back together and ride it. Or…go the full restoration route and invest a whole lot of money, that you will never get back if you want to sell it, and it will be a really cool motorcycle for a collection. And with a little work, it could end looking like this one…
Click on the pics below for a lot more info and more pictures.
1976 was a really tough time for ‘The Motor Company’, they had been bought up by AMF and quality control was pretty low on the priority list…bowling balls and pool tables were more important than motorcycles. I’m guessing that American Manufacturing and Foundry Company needed a tax write off? Everybody has heard this story many times so we won’t beat a dead horse here.
To be fair here though, many think that it was AMF that actually saved Harley Davidson from fading away as Indian did. Well, Indian didn’t ‘fade’, it limped. AMF Harley’s did have reliability problems but I think part of that was that AMF was trying to modernize the production process and as we all know, major changes don’t always come that easy.
In my humble opinion, the Sportster motor has always been Harley’s best. The BIG twins have the allure but the Sporty has Spunk! The Sportster was built to compete with the British twins and it did an ‘admirable’ job. It didn’t have the handling prowess of the brits but in a straight line…The Sportster was king. Americans loved drag racing and the Harley fit perfectly.
I found a really nice ’76 today on ebay that I think would be great just as it is or build it out. It is stock condition, even still has the gas tank sticker!? It has been completely serviced by the dealer and is ready to ride…push the button and ride off into the sunset…or the sunrise, whichever way you want to go. This is a really nice Ironhead Sportster that will give you a lot of miles of smiles. Just take good care of it.
Click on the pics below for more info and more pictures.
One last parting comment about the AMF years. As I said earlier, AMF was a bowling alley company, here’s proof. And thank goodness Willie G and a few friends bought the company back.
In 1957 Harley Davidson was not really in trouble compared to Indian. A few years before the Beatles arrived there was the original ‘British Invasion’. Soldiers had returned home from the war in Europe and were buying motorcycles. Triumph, BSA, Norton, AJS, Enfield, and others were all building light and fast motorcycles while Harley and Indian were still building big, heavy and slower bikes. Indian tried to compete with the Brit’s by building bikes powered by the Enfield twin and, Harley went to Italy looking for lightweights. None of that worked for the American builders.
Indian rode themselves into the sunset while Harley Davidson decided to go head on with the Brits with the technology and success they already had. “let’s take what we already know how to do just make it lighter and faster and give it a good name”. Enter the Sportster.
The 1957 Sportster had the new Overhead Valve Ironhead engine but was stuck into an older KH model chassis and truthfully, for all of Harley’s good intentions, it was not a sporty motorcycle and had no chance of competing with the motorbikes from across the pond. When dealers first saw it they were less than impressed and convinced Walter Davidson to build the KR race bike with the new Sportster engine, which he did, rather begrudgingly, and the Sportster is now the longest running, continuously made model in motorcycling history.
The Sportster was considered America’s first ‘Muscle Bike’. Over the years it was steadily changed, not necessarily improved, but changed. The 1958 model had the smaller 2 gallon ‘Peanut’ tank, bobbed fenders and straight pipes. This is what buyers wanted.
In 1972 AMF was building Harley Davidson’s and honestly, quality went right down the drain. That is not just my opinion but one widely held by everyone. In 1973 Cycle magazine did a six bike comparison and the Sportster came out dead last. Still, the Sporty continued to sell. It was even a TV star!
I am a fan of the Sportster. Yeah, I know, it’s called the ‘girls Harley’, or the ‘baby Harley’, or the ‘wanna be a Harley’ but I believe that the reason it stills sells well is because it works. The Sportster has gone from 883cc to 1000cc back to 883cc up to 1200cc’s and currently there are about a half dozen models of the Sporty at your local Harley dealer. In my humble opinion, the Sportster is Harley Davidson’s best motorcycle and I think Harley thinks the same way. Why? Because they are still building it more than fifty years later. Enough said.
I found a really nicely updated 1972 Sportster on ebay today. This one has been set up to look more like the XLR than the XLH it is. The owner has given the motor a good overhaul, nice new Borriani wheels, new seat and pillion pad, tires and sweet paint job. It is ready to ride home today. This would be a really fun bike to ride. It has the look it should and the upgrades it needs. Nice.
Click on the pics below for more info and pictures.
Ah, the world of Harley Davidson. Literally, the ‘world’ of Harley Davidson. After years of building big, heavy traveling and military bikes, Harley’s market was being bombarded by the lighter faster British speedsters during the 50’s and 60’s. To fight back, Harley brought us the Sportster. A great bike but still a slow heavy Harley by comparison. I love Sporty’s though…they just work, always have…and don’t start down the path of the ’girls’ Harley. The Brits just had the Motor Company beat in that category. At the same time, Harley Davidson was trying to win over the lightweight market with small bore two strokes like the Hummer and its kin. Those didn’t fare well in the market.
Next was the Japanese invasion, geez, Harley just couldn’t get a break now, could they. So the powers that be in Milwaukee decided to try again in the lightweight market, but this time they brought in the pros, the Europeans. The European manufacturers had been building and perfecting the small motorcycle for decades. In Harley Davidson’s mind…”Why reinvent the wheel?” So it was off to the continent the boys from Milwaukee went.
In 1960 Harley Davidson bought up a 50% interest in Aermacchi Motorcycles, in 1974 Harley had full control at the Italian factory in Varese then in 1978 sold it all to Cagiva and retreated back to Wisconsin to build what they knew best…big bikes for the American open road.
Harley Davidson starting bringing over the small bikes to a somewhat disinterested market but they kept working on it, especially when AMF took over. There were the Sprints (the horizontal 4 stroke singles) and the small 2 stokes from the Baja 100 to the 500cc MX. None of these, save maybe the little Baja, were what was needed to combat the lighter, faster and cheaper models from Honda and Yamaha. AMF Harley Davidson put together a very strong marketing campaign, hired some fast riders, but still the lightweight line never really got off the ground. The Sprint series was quite successful in the hands of riders like Mert Lawill in AMA Flat Track racing, but the two strokes never really caught on.
Today while doing my daily cruise through ebay looking for something I want but I know I don’t need, I came across the orphaned child from AMF Harley Davidson, a 2 stroke SX250. The SX is the enduro model; there was also an SS model which was street only. Here are some specs on the SX; first, in 1978 there were only 469 made (maybe because earlier models didn’t sell??), it weighed a svelte (?) 275lbs, put out an eye popping 20HP and would get you a traffic ticket on the freeway for going as fast as it could at 71.5mph (to make it look better, use the European standard…115 KPH!). In 1978 a new SX250 would set you back just $1130.00, about $200-300 more than its Japanese counterpart, but hey, it actually was a European motorcycle and they always cost more. But…this particular model from Harley / Aermacchi did have one thing that none of the Japanese ‘enduro’ models had and that was the special rear wheel. I’m not kidding, that rear wheel was worth the extra money alone, especially if you really did strip it down and ride off-road with it. The rear wheel was the same ‘quick change’ type that was used on European off road racers. It also came with a snail cam chain adjuster that gave you much more accurate wheel alignment than anything the foreign competitors had at the time. If you went out and bought all that, it would cost nearly twice as much as the base bike price difference. However, it was still slow. It may seem that I am being a little hard on Harley for these models and truthfully I am, but Harley should have learned the first time around that lightweight bikes is not what riders wanted From Harley.
Now, with all that said, I did find a neat little SX250 for sale on ebay that would be really fun to have. It’s the last year, 1978 when they slowed production down to only 469 units. Now, some may think it’s more valuable because they didn’t make many but the truth is they didn’t make many because nobody bought ’em. Don’t confuse that fact with’limited edition’ etc, etc…
This little SX is complete, I think, he didn’t take a picture of the muffler side of the bike so who knows what condition it is in. If the muffler is in good condition, everything else looks pretty good, it looks like both side covers are missing and the mirrors are’t original but that’s no big deal. The seller says it ran when it was parked and I would imagine that if it ran good back than it wouldn’t take much to have running nicely now. The graphics are missing on the tank but those are findable on the motorcycle restorers best friend, the internet. There a few good resources for parts and info for this model, not a lot but it is there. If you feel like showing up at a Harley ride on this little red headed stepchild of a Harley, I’ll bet you get as many people asking you about it as the guy who spent $20,000 just on chrome for his Fat Boy. Click on the pics below for more pictures and a little info. Could be a fun little bike.
It’s no secret, I have a very strong lust for Harley XLCR’s. It’s some sort of sickness. Why would anybody want a slow, heavy motorcycle that vibrates more than the twenty five cent ‘vibro-bed’ in a cheap motel, needs a lot of maintenance, leaks oil everywhere…(this is where I insert the joke..if you tell someone your Harley doesn’t leak, they tell you…because its out of oil!!!), has brakes that Fred Flintstone would think are crappy, and Harley Davidson could barely give away when it came out??!! Tell me why I love these bikes, please help me…do I need a twelve step program?? No, I just need an XLCR, because it has soul.
In the 1970’s and through the Eighties, there was the UJM, Universal Japanese Motorcycle, whether it was Yamaha, Honda, Kawasaki or Suzuki…they were all pretty much the same, paint jobs were different but the bikes of the time were very…well, Vanilla. I call them the Kawayamazukida’s of the motorcycling world. Sure you could buy a European bike for something that wasn’t Vanilla, but along with those came a higher purchase price, a level of unreliability and a much smaller dealer network if you did need service.
So, where does the Harley Davidson XLCR fit in? Compared to a UJM, it is a living being…it vibrates, it snorts, it’s temperamental, it will give you fits, it will leave it’s mark on the garage floor every night and it will put a smile on your face every time you ride it somewhere and yours is the only one in a sea of look alikes.
The XLCR was expensive, you could buy a Triumph, Ducati or Moto Guzzi, to which I think the XLCR was trying to aspire, for less money and you would get a much better motorcycle. That friends is why the XLCR didn’t sell. The Motor Company wanted to expand its market and Willie G decided that a Cafe Racer was going to help sales. Ok, he was a little off the mark, at the time, but now, XLCR’s command some pretty serious $$$$. The XLCR has a very strong cult following. So what if it is the same old 4 speed 1000cc Sportster (a lump of a motor) with a wooden suspension and lousy brakes, the styling was unique and it had the Harley soul.
I found a very nice 1978 model on ebay that is actually a really good value at this time. It’s super clean, it’s all original and…so far, under $10K. A clean XLCR can go for a lot more…if you want one, this is the buy. Click on the pics below and see if a ‘little left of center’ piece of american motorcycling history is in your future.