Gone to the Dogs

I well remember the first Harley Davidson catalogue I collected. It is still in the huge pile of them in my study, dated 1990. Back then HD had a mysterious cachet, they were sold from Alvins in Edinburgh, a romantic, rambling old pile of a building which sold Suzukis and Ducatis and old American cars, and up the back were just a few shiny new Harleys. It took a while for them to seep into my soul, but in 1996 I bought myself a plain black ElectraGlide Standard, and I enjoyed every mile of it for the next 8 years. Well almost every mile. Let me explain.

During my tenure of that ĎGlide, I watched HD grow bigger and bigger in the UK, as more and more weekend executive cowboys bought into the dream. I felt a twinge of unease, hell Iím middle aged myself, but I managed to stay cool enough, no stoopid bandanas and badges for me, I just loved the bike. A plain black Harley has integrity. But by last year the image had all but overwhelmed the ride, to the point where I felt uncomfortable on my own bike, so when someone made me a great offer, I sold it with mixed emotions, and bought a Honda.

Yesterday I was nosing round the new, slick, corporate HD dealers in a flashier part of Edinburgh, with cheesy spoken HD soundtrack, and a £20,000 "custom" Softail in the window with flamed tank (my, how original!) All the staff bar one that I remembered had gone, and polite middle aged customers in suits were parking their company BMWs and Saabs outside, and coming to in to be midweek Broís for half an hour. Jeez, someone even gave me a Hoggie handshake! Not good, not right, the image was beginning to disintegrate before my eyes. There is a fine line between cool and ridicule, and that line seemed helluva close.

Then I spotted it. Amongst the clothes stands is now a dogís section. Yes, you read that right. A feckin dogís section! Genyoowhine HD Apparel for mans best friend. A little denim cap, with HD logos, and ear cut-outs for your "Hog Dog" to wear with pride, along with HD collars and HD doggies T-shirts.

JESUS H SUFFERING CHRIST! That was it, the proverbial last straw, any last vestige of credibility snuffed out, my 15 year relationship with HD ended in a snap, right there and then. Bang, gone, done. Goodbye. I returned the 2005 catalogue to the rack, I sure wonít need it now, and I left the shop. Iíll never be back. Never.

To add insult to injury, the same day I realise that www.motobykzís has finally closed its doors. Poor old Mike Howell, he poured his heart soul and bank balance into that project, and now itís just a few disembodied .html lines to say sorry weíre closed. SHIT. Mike, I enjoyed writing for you buddy, and I enjoyed those nights in the pub too, and Iíll wear my old Motobykz staffer shirt with pride.

Itís a cruel old world. A genuinely good effort like Motobykz goes bust, while a grand old name Like Harley Davidson is reduced to selling dog hats to overpaid muppets with secret handshakes. The worldís gone to the dogs mate.

John R Hunter

March 2005