Dawn of the Neo-Power-Touring-Cruiser
Victory Kingpin Deluxe vs. modified Harley-Davidson VRSCA V-Rod
Get the Flash Player to see this player.At our first 50-mile interval, we pulled over at an AM/PM and decided to top-off the gas tanks as long as we were at a station. As I looked over at Fonzie astride the V-Rod, he appeared to be searching for something. Looking around the bike, under the bike, fishing into the leg of his chaps. "Uh, I think I already know the answer to this question, but is there some sort of a problem"? "Dude, the key fell out of the switch and now I can't find it. It's not on the ground.
I thought it might have fallen into my chaps, since they put the ignition right beneath your thigh, but I don't think it's in there either...". "Well damn Fonzie, I'm not helping you search in your chaps. Aliens didn't beam it up. Did it fall into the pipes and get stuck"? A first glance yielded a "negative" response to this query, as did a second glance. By now, Fonzie was rolling in the grease beneath the bike trying to get a look up from the underside. "Yup, there it is". "Oh man, that thing is really in there, isn't it"?
The V-Rod key is one of those short, stubby barrel-shaped jobs that The Motor Company is so partial to. It doesn't give you much to work with when trying to poke and probe it and it's too thick to slip through most tolerances of the V-Rod's innards, except of course for the ones that got it there in the first place. Now that we had located the lil' rascal, the next step was to rescue it. Fingers? Fuggedaboudit! Fountain pen? Not long enough. Wire hanger? Nope, didn't think I'd need to bring my formalwear to the rally. "Hang in there Fonzie, lemme sniff around in the mini-mart, they've gotta have something we can use. Meanwhile, you just keep the patrons entertained by squirming around in the grease spot. I'll be right back"
I told EB not to remove the OEM key fob, but he thought it looked tacky. I suggested that having the fob would help to keep it from getting lost when off the bike, didn't think it would also help when on the bike. Harley Davidson ignition switches are almost as tricky as BMW turn signals, the V-Rod having perhaps the worst key location. Eventually, you will come to easily shut down the bike and swing your arm out to the steering lock in one singular motion - thank you for not putting the keyhole on the other side of the steering head. Thanks again, for even putting a steering lock on the bike at all, the Kingpin has no head locking mechanism. What Victory did provide, is the old school, line-up the holes and bring your own lock system for locking-down your rolling luggage. What's worse is that Victory placed the holes on the closed-in (left) side of the bike and you'll need the fingers of a child to get a lock in and out of there.
Inside the market, I instinctively head towards the automotive section, but son of a gun, they are fresh-out of magnetized screwdrivers. They had plenty of Icees though and where there are Icees there are really long straws! "Hey Fonzie, check it out, it's a highly flexible, elongated probing tools (no comments please --Sean) with real kung-fu chopstick action"! Newly equipped with our state of the art locksmith technology, it wasn't long before we had extracted the key and fired up the H-D. Having completed one of the most awkward bike swaps in MOronic history we were finally on the road again.
You can't set yourself much farther away from the pack stylistically than a V-Rod. There isn't anything out there that looks (or rides) remotely like it. Despite its eccentricities, the newest Porsche errr... Harley is one of my all-time favorite bikes.
I had seen one or two dolled up in touring trim at the Rock Store and other local scenes, and was curious as to just how worthy a travel companion this power cruiser could become.
Being the cooperative folks that they are, the H-D brass conjured up a "touring edition" V-Rod, resplendent in leather saddlebags, windscreen, Sundowner seat, and luggage rack. I am putting "touring edition" in quotes here because no such thing actually exists, but all things are possible, through the miracle of H-D's phonebook-sized parts catalog. Since the V-Rod has been dissected several times already on this site, I'll skip over the tech specs and focus on these touring modifications. While more practical locking hard bags are available, the Velcro-sealed leather versions with easy access outer pouches look far more attractive. Plenty of stowage for a weekend trip for one, or even two if you have a well-trained significant other. The mini-luggage rack augments the bags and depending upon how Spartan a traveler you are, can keep you supplied for a longer touring radius.
The windscreen does little for your face, but keeps the wind off your chest, consequently reducing stress on your arms. This is actually a significant addition, as the laid-back ergos of the V-Rod tend to rely upon the arms for support. With its chrome fittings and fingernail shape, this may also be the most visually appealing windscreen I've ever laid eyes on.
The V-Rod's screen is adjustable, unlike that of the Victory. Tools are required but one can get about 3" of range/angle by loosening and repositioning the articulated arms holding the screen to the handlebars.
The windscreen on the Victory is almost too big and not adjustable at all - but there's plenty of room for the screen chaps your momma got you for Christmas!
"For those of you not familiar with the local terrain, Santa Maria is probably the ultimate spot for a bike rally."
The Sundowner seat is the star of the show though. With all that power, the back support cups you just right, and unlike the stock stiletto, the pillion is viable for a passenger that you actually like. If I were king, I probably would make one last mod to the V-Rod. While I love the look of the solid disc wheels, a stiff crosswind does seem to push them around a bit and a set of wire-spoked or billet rims would make me less nervous going through blustery canyon passes such as those leading to the Central Coast wine regions. Which brings us to our destination... For those of you not familiar with the local terrain, Santa Maria is probably the ultimate spot for a bike rally.
Equidistant between Los Angeles and San Francisco, bordered by a majestic coastline, nestled between the scenic wine regions of Santa Ynez and Paso Robles, blessed with temperate and predictable weather, and if that isn't enough, Santa Maria also happens to be renowned for its rotisserie-style barbecue. MOrons, do I have your attention yet? While the promoters probably could have just rented a vacant lot amidst this bounty of natural riches and still sent everybody home happy, the event was actually very well-organized, and for those not Poker Running through the countryside, there was plenty to do and see at the main fairgrounds. Over 150 vendors plied their wares, while the three Budweiser Cup bike shows displayed the handiwork of many local builders and a few out-of-towners as well. The Globe of Death is always good for a cringe or two and Monte Perlin defied the laws of gravity (and sanity) for our vicarious entertainment
several times each day.
"As captivating as the scantily clad female form can be, I have to say that the flat track races were even more impressive."
A very convincing Santana tribute band, known as Carravannserrai, headlined the live music acts. The rumor was that if you intoned their name three times that the dead would come back to life.
Nobody could pronounce it correctly even once though, so aside from a few fellas who seemingly spent a little too much time at the Jack Daniels Saloon, the event remained happily zombie-free.
There was a fashion show and bikini contest, which is always a sure-fired crowd pleaser. Fonzie and I conducted a thorough search of the crawlspace beneath the dressing room trailer for peepholes. Alas, all we found was a bunch of arms-crossed security guards waiting to greet us as we emerged. My lobbying campaign to obtain a seat on next year's judging panel is already underway though, and if you could find it in your heart to call or email the folks at HorsePower Promotions on my behalf, I promise to perform my duties diligently and enthusiastically on behalf of MO's readership!
"With his foot extended expertly around the curves and the throttle of his Honda XR 50 twisted wide open down the straights, this mighty mite never blinked while slugging it out with opponents more than twice his size."
As captivating as the scantily clad female form can be, I have to say that the flat track races were even more impressive. Watching these guys (and one very impressive young gal) go elbow to elbow around the short oval, expertly sliding their rear tire sideways across the hard-packed dirt at the ragged edge of traction, just never ceased to amaze me. There was an entire class of old Indian Arrow 250s, won by Todd Eagen. Other vintage rides included a Triumph 500, an H-D 1200, a Bultaco 360 and a BSA 350 all of which were accorded spins around the track worthy of their glory years.
As for the races, I loved watching the GI Joe-sized tyro, five year old Brandon Weisz, take the Youth A class title on Sunday. With his foot extended expertly around the curves and the throttle of his Honda XR 50 twisted wide open down the straights, this mighty mite never blinked while slugging it out with opponents more than twice his size. I've already got early money on him to win Moto GP in 2025. That is unless he has to face Kayla Ritchie. Once the green flag dropped, the only thing that gave away Kayla's gender was the long blond ponytail flowing out from beneath her helmet and flying in the faces of the boys she left eating her dust. Ten year old Kayla showed no quarter to her male opponents en route to the Youth 80 title, swapping paint and forcing a much bigger rider to crash out trying to take away her line.
The most impressive performance I witnessed though was that of Kayla's dad, Danny Ritchie, in Saturday's Pro 600 race. A nine-rider field started the race, and not a one of them was about to concede the holeshot. Going into turn one, several riders went down, including Ritchie. As he lay helpless on his side, he was speared directly in the back by the front tire of another bike which then endoed, launching its rider high into the sky above Danny.
From where I was sitting, it looked ugly all the way around. The rider who was catapulted got up alright, but Ritchie lay motionless for a long time while the ambulance came out onto the track and paramedics attended to him. The mood in the stands got somber, as we all understood the potentially devastating implications of a spinal injury. Eventually Danny began to move, and then sat up to huge applause.
He had to be helped to his feet by the paramedics, but rather than hobbling towards the ambulance, he strode towards his bike instead. This guy still wanted to race! And race he did, guiding his Yamaha 600 to victory over eight other able-bodied riders, just minutes after being run over and immobilized. I'm here to testify, "That Danny Ritchie is one tough SOB"! Now I'm not the type to go around kissing up on racers and celebs, just because I have a press badge. I figure they get their derrieres polished enough as it is. But in this case, I felt compelled to make my way down to the paddock and tell Ritchie in person what everyone who left the stands that day was thinking, "Dude, you are gonna be one sore fella in the morning. But today, you were "The Man" and I just wanted to shake your hand and tell you so".
I suppose that if I did have to pick a nit regarding the Motorcycle Madness event, it would be the tepid nightlife offered by the local Santa Maria pubs and clubs. Fonzie and I went sniffing around town, searching for the parking lot with the most bikes out front. I'm guessing that most of the attendees must have been locals and just rode home when the fairgrounds closed Saturday night. After making a complete pass along the main drag, we settled on Maverick's Saloon. There were probably only a dozen or so bikes there and we had passed right by it once already, thinking that couldn't possibly be the biggest thing going on. We were wrong... it was. Frankly, I've had wilder times on a Tuesday night at the library, but I suppose sometimes less is more, particularly when it comes to drunken foolishness.
Once I had given up all hope of finding a suitable Betty at the Maverick Saloon sausage party, I tipped my hat to the Bass-man and headed back to the event grounds, where I found the real party happening. With more acres to camp in than a RV park, those camping at the two-day event had free reign to camp anywhere in the fairgrounds. Some trailered their bike - in true RUB fashion - with space shuttle sized vehicles. Others, like myself, pitched a tent 18" from their bike and called it home. Besides, it's the safest place to be, when you would rather party with bikers than drive around town "looking" for a party that isn't going to happen. Out with the Maverick Saloon and in with a random batch of folks with a bonfire and bottle to share with their newest neighbor! "There is so much to do at this event, that there's hardly enough time to sleep, or drink."
However, 7:00am Sunday is no time to be "sleeping" on the ground amongst 50 other Harleys rumbling to life (unless you like that sort of thing). The morning starts with a blessing of the bikes and church sermon. Bikers arise! All types of riders attended the ceremony.
About 9:00am, when the next wave of bikes spark-up to head on out for the poker run, you best be awake or you'll be blasted again with the roar of bikes on a mission to snag that bottle of Firestone Cab. There is so much to do at this event, that there's hardly enough time to sleep, or drink. Bike blessings, church service, dirt track racing, poker-runs, local tri-tip and wine tasting, balls of steel and vendors galore, Jack Daniels girls, bikini contests, custom bike competitions, and a handful of bands in between all that... I think next year is going to be even bigger. So do the vets I partied with on Saturday night, shout-outs to the Rough Riders of Southern California. (isn't Rough Rider a particularly "Butch" brand of prophylactic? --Sean)
I have to give a hand to Motorcycle Madness though. It may never reach the enormity of a Daytona or Sturgis, but I feel safe in saying that "Santa Maria" can now be officially added to the rally-goers vocabulary. If you didn't make it this time around, mark your calendars for next year. With 10,000 first-year attendees sure to spread the word about what a good time was had by all, I expect nothing but bigger and better things to come. Returning to L.A., I had time to reflect on the Neo-Tourers. For years now, H-D has churned out the same models unchanged except for perhaps a few details, while the Japanese have focused on cloning them.