Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Learning about Harleys and getting flamed by Trolls

Yasuo! My Dad was a greek Cypriot, and Mum was English, he loved Indians, and she loved bikes and boys. What a match!

They were together until the end, some 53 odd years of marriage and migration from the UK to Australia as '10 Pound Poms', raising 3 boys and 2 girls.
It is fair to say that I grew up in a motorcycling family, which is my point, and families, especially large ones, with a European/Middles -Eastern heritage seem to act more like a community, but this is something which I did not have.

As migrants, my parents left all family behind, and we grew up with our siblings as our tight knit community. No Grandma, Grandpa, Uncles or Aunties, just the 7 of us and a number of animals that we acquired along the way.

And motorbikes. Lots of different ones. It was an excellent childhood to have had, I remember it fondly and often like to sit with my eyes closed and try to remember exactly how that felt. That Mum & Dad feeling; warm and safe, surrounded by love, and motorcycles.

Social Media & Motorcycles

Jump forward 30 odd years and Social Media has taken over the word Community. Facebook. Ugh, Facebook, damn I am sick of it’s ubiquitous presence. But I persist with it, mostly now just to spread the word, shout into the void as it were, about my drawings and motorcycle related designs. LIKE ME ON FACEBOOK NOW OR DIE A THOUSAND PAINFUL DEATHS!

But other Communities have sprung up that still appeal, like the instant gratitude I get from sharing pics of my bike adventures on Instagram, at the instant feedback on my drawings, and getting flamed by Trolls on Google Plus.

If you don’t know, Google Plus (written like so Google+) is Google’s answer to Facebook. Late last year if memory serves me correctly, they introduced Collections. Which is basically a way that individual users can Follow other users who share things of common interest.

So I started a Motorcycle ‘Collection’ on the day it launched and within weeks I had tens of thousands of Followers of that Collection. Nowadays with 100,000+ Followers, I post a picture and within minutes there are hundreds of Plus Ones, Google’s equivalent to Facebook’s Likes. And sometimes I make mistakes. Don’t we all? They are my new family, or community if you will.

But alas, they can and will, turn on you.

This picture all by itself lead me into an abyss filled with mercenary know-all Harley fans who just couldn’t stop telling me how WRONG I was. It was quite funny, now I think about it. These are the trolls I speak of.

So the thing is, I am still learning, and most of all, I am still learning about the Harley Davidson brand, which is why this post came about. Because for whatever unknown I never really gave them much consideration. I’m not a Harley kinda guy I told myself, I even found it ironic when I bought my Buell XB 12X Ulysses, with a Harley Sportster 1200cc V Twin, that I never really bothered with Harley’s even then.

Some of my best mates have them, and they take them out now and then, and I gotta admit, I slowly started to see the appeal, slowly but surely, I started to like some of them. When I like something, I can become quite obsessive, like sponge I absorb every piece of information I can, and become the ‘Community’ expert on said topic.

This has never been harder or more troublesome than becoming known for sharing images of bikes on Twitter and of course Google+. So I kept asking questions, kept bugging anyone who would listen, kept reading about Harleys and kept scouring the internet for images of different Harley’s and tried to identify them.

And this is what I have come to learn. I am something of a factual, straight talking kind of person, no bullshit kinda guy. I hate bigots and liars, but I love words and a good bit of storytelling.

So this following information is what I know to be fact, have researched and checked and rechecked and can say hand on heart is correct.

Harley Davidson History

Harley’s were first made available to the public in 1903 by a guy named William S. Harley. (source Wikipedia)

The Skull logo you often see adorning said motorcycles is most commonly called a Willy. Hopefully now you can work out why.

Harley Davidson Engine Types

There are nine most commonly known engine types; and they were released chronologically like so:
  • 1911 - 1929: F-Head 
  • 1909 - 1911: V-Twin 
  • 1929 - 1973: Flathead 
  • 1936 - 1947: Knucklehead 
  • 1948 - 1965: Panhead 
  • 1966 - 1983: Shovelhead 
  • 1984 - 1999: Evolution 
  • 1999 - Present: Twin Cams. Of which there are 88 ci, 96 ci, 103 ci and 110 ci versions. Ci means Cubic Inch, and CC means Cubic Centimeters. 

Here is an easier to digest and remember, visual version of those nine engine types.


Can you see how some of the names actually correlate to the words used?

In fact, if you dig a little more on the internet you can find a more thorough version of that information with more specifics on more engine types and their displacement. See image below.

Between 1999 and roughly now, the Twin Cam engine featured what is commonly called the Twin Cam 88, a 1340cc and 1450cc.

Unleash the Kraken

Then in 2002 all hell broke loose. They introduced the sinful, fun loving, sport oriented V-Rod with a new V Twin with the cylinders separated 60 degrees apart, not 45, for more space for mounting fuel injectors and the air box. The engine on this beast displaced 1130cc and later on they increased that to 1250cc.

 So there is a lot to learn and know, right?

 Fast forward to 2007 and they released another new engine or two, the Twin Cam 96, which is very similar to the 88 but, go figure, it displaces 96 cubic inches or 1584cc. Then things got even more complicated with even more, newer models.

 The Sportster has an 883cc and 1200cc air cooled V-Twin, the Dyna a 103 ci Twin Cam engine, the Touring models Road King, and Electra Glide had a 103 ci Twin Cam engine, and the V-Rod came along and fucked everything up with its sports oriented styling and 1250cc liquid-cooled V-Twin, and as previously mentioned, the purists went into melt down.

Of course there are other variations too, such as the very cool Street Tracker styled XR 1200 in the header image which utilises the Sportster 1200cc Twin Cam engine.

Modern Harley Engines

Bring it up to 2015, and they released a cheaper, hipster inspired and targeted 500cc and 750cc ‘Street’ model. I haven’t even really touched on the MODELS yet for crying out loud, it just gets more complicated and I can’t keep this much info in my head.

So I wrote this post, so I could come back here frequently and fact check myself before I get lynched by the mob. Here are just a few common abbreviations and models with different frames.

Harley Davidson Frame Types

The Harley Softail is known for its ST (Softail) frame, but sometimes they are simply S, like in the FLS Softail Slim. Touring frames with fork-mounted frames are known as H frames, and Touring frames with frame-mounted fairings are known as T frames.

Dynas are D frames (at least that makes sense) Rockers are C frame and rubber-mounted FX frames are R frames (designed by Erik Buell which are easily picked out by the triangle looking frame tubes.

V-Rods are a behemoth unto themselves, anything with VRSC is basically, a V-Rod.

Phew, I’m exhausted.

More Harley Davidson Abbreviations to Remember

These letters are what define Harley makes, the first letters in part, and then they can be further confused with the following bastard abbreviations just to throw you even more. Here are some common modern day ones I have discovered.
  • SS: Springer Softail 
  • SC: Springer Classic 
  • WG: Wide Glide 
  • FB: Fatboy 
  • SE: Screaming Eagle 
  • D: Deuce 

But that is the guts of it. Mostly.

The Custom Scene

To make matters substantially more confusing, you have to take into consideration the custom scene. Builders of custom Harleys do crazy (and awesome) things, and this is what my Community of Motorcycle infatuated freaks have taught me. Correction, flamed me for, charred me to a crisp until I was left chip-like, and hung out to dry.

You can take a Shovelhead's heads (from 1966 onwards), on a different bottom end, say an older Panhead, confusing everyone. It ain’t a Shovelhead anymore, because they were only made from 1966 onwards.

Get it? I thought so.

Just to recap:

1948 - 1965: Panhead
1966 - 1983: Shovelhead

But it looks like a Shovelhead right?? But sweet baby cheesus forbid, by god or gun, if you tell an American that this bike is a 62 Shovelhead, then you will be flogged, stoned and stuck on a cross and forced to walk the streets in the nude screaming the chronological order of all Harley engines until you get it right.

Or just completely taken the piss out of online. Whatever...

Handlebar Field Guide

You can then also delve into other mods such as handlebars, of which there are many, and by hook or by crook you better not fuck those up either. The mob. They are gonna get you.

Here is a handy visual reference guide for those too.

So now when someone says to you, 'nice apes', you know what they mean.


This post or information is by no means completely comprehensive, and I am quite sure that I have made mistakes, no doubt once shared I will get fried into a charred speck of dust and blown to the weeds. Can’t wait. Until then, just fucking ride. PS: I'd like to acknowledge the following references for helping me find this information for you: the Internet. [mc4wp_form]