The Way-Back Machine

Steve Lita American Iron Magazine Editor

Steve Lita, American Iron Magazine Editor

RIDE TO WORK by Steve Lita, Editor

…some of Harley’s bike styles are similar to its forebears of almost 30 years ago…

While considering images for this month’s cover, Creative Director Tricia found a dynamic shot of the custom Sportster featured on page 40 coming straight at the camera. We loved the shot and actually mocked up a proposed cover with it. As a matter of fact, since that shot didn’t make cover, we bring it to you on the table of contents (page 8). And the conversation ensued that “we just don’t use camera angles like that” on the cover of American Iron Magazine. All in all I’d say we came up with a killer alternative cover shot nonetheless.

Later that same day I was perusing some vintage issues from our archives, looking for data on an Evo-powered Dyna, and bang! There it was. The cover of the January 1990 issue of AIM featured a bearded “gentleman” wearing a denim vest festooned with assorted HOG member patches riding a sled-puller Harley on a dirt track, and he was coming straight at the camera! I had to laugh and immediately told Trish about it. I guess we had used that camera angle before.

But another fact was quickly evident: “Look at the guy,” Trish said, “This looks like it could have been taken just yesterday.” Again, we laughed. The clothing style of the rider and lack of protective gear lent itself to the same image of riders we often see on the road today. Granted, some of Harley’s bike styles are similar to its forebears of almost 30 years ago as well. But this guy was wearing no gear in a competitive “racing” environment. Sent chills up my spine.

I’m not going to preach and tell you what to wear when you ride, but I would hope that all American Iron readers take necessary precautions and wear whatever you feel proper for riding the mean streets out there (and they certainly are mean at times). While you’re at it, please check out Cris Sommer Simmons’ Guest Column on page 24 for some of her observations on the same topic.

As I mentioned earlier, that guy on the January 1990 cover was on a bike competing in a motorsport. It was essentially a tractor puller, but with only two wheels. Having been to my share of tractor pulls over the years I’ve seen some massive engine explosions. I mean catastrophic engine failures that produce fire, spraying hot oil and fragments of engine block in all directions like shrapnel. That guy back in 1990 must have had nerves of steel, and the event producer must not have had liability insurance. Because I’m sure do-gooder policy makers have mandated increased safety regulations for today’s motorsports events. In sportsman-level drag racing, amateur racers wear full-leather suits and full-face helmets, even in the heat of summer.

Do they even run motorcycle tractor pulls these days? Is it still a thing? I’d love to see it sometime, just to check that one off the list. A quick search of the Internet only brought me to some motorcycle-engine-powered-tractor tractor pulls, and some trike-pulling rigs as well. But neither of those pose the risk of toppling over on your side like a two-wheel-pullin’ bike would.

By the way, the cover price of that 1990 January issue was just $2.95. Does anyone remember what a gallon of gas cost back then?

Welcome Back
So now I go from tractor pulls to this: I’d like to take this opportunity to give you some great news! With this issue of American Iron Magazine, we welcome back the missives of Mr. Sam Whitehead. Straight off his assignment as an undercover arborist who infiltrated a rowdy band of outlaw lumberjacks keen on perpetuating the deforestation of the South American rainforest, he returns to our midst. We share with you his dissertation on the Dyna that is the envy of all who admire Bling. This opus is not some mindless prose of a distant dramatist. Nay, ’tis the composition of a true novelist of all matters of unusual motorcycle. That’s not meant as a slight on our varied array of talented creative writers, but we’re just elated to hear Sam’s bellowing laugh waft across the office and know that the keyboard attached to his desktop is in for the sound thrashing it so righteously deserves. We hope you enjoy.