Monday, May 25, 1998

Boomer Bikes

In the good old days, American males in black leather jackets tooled around on hefty Harley-Davidsons and roaring Nortons, Triumphs and BMWs. They ate meatloaf and mashed potatoes, drank whiskey from a bag and fornicated on the merry-go-round at the local picnic area.

Then, during the summer of love, some jackass convinced the Rolling Stones to use the Hells Angels as stage security at the ill-fated Altamont concert in California. The Hell's Angels terrorized the audience and knifed an innocent spectator to death as the Stones performed Sympathy for the Devil. It has been rumored that the poor bastard that wound up dead came to the concert on one of those little Honda 50-cc motorbikes that the Beach Boys sang about in 1964. The Hell’s Angels, in a brutal demonstration of savage nationalism, ended the summer of love on a violent note and defiled a whole genre of American-built motorcycles.

Regardless of what you believe, anyone associated with huge cruisers got a bad wrap. In response, everyone went out and bought those cute little Japanese bikes that appeared in Honda shops around the country. America was crawling with lightweight and mid-weight dirt bike-derivatives with names like Ninja. A revolution was born. The net effect was that dope-smoking country bands like the Eagles became popular, Harley-Davidson nearly went bankrupt and the European bikes all but disappeared.

That's changing now as America rediscovers its manliness: thick-tired, high-powered bikes with chrome engines, metal-flake teardrop gas tanks and high-rise handlebars.

The rebirth of the heavy cruiser is a direct response to the aging baby boom generation. As they've gotten older and wealthier, many boomers are indulging in things that were familiar when they were younger...or when their fathers were younger. They're rediscovering icons like the convertible sports car, dry martinis, vintage cigars, huge slabs of red meat and anything that pre-dates Don Henley. A big-ass bike is the next logical forbearance.

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