Two things on my list of wants is a new leather jacket and some rugged boots. I’ve decided on a old school steel-toe engineer boot and a heavy classic motorcycle jacket. Sounds like two easy items to find yes?
It hasn’t been.
The Jacket: I just want a solid, classic style motorcycle jacket. Nothing fancy, but it has to be a real motorcycle jacket and not one of these Wilsons knock-off made to look like a motorcycle jacket jackets. This means the leather should be thick enough to protect the body from flying debris or when sliding over pavement. It should also stop no smaller than a 32 caliber bullet. Removable liner preferred but optional. Same with the waist belt. This is the type of coat that takes 3 years just to break it in. The kind of leather that says “fuck you” to a coat hook and stands on it own on the floor.
The Boots: The classic, rugged engineer boot. Steel toed, thick leather, and a proper sole. Nothing fancy, no extra buckles or trendy bike-bling, just a plain black boot. The leather should be thick enough to protect the ankle if one falls from a motorcycle or needs to wade through a puddle of angry badgers.
I had all day to search the town for these two items. I’ve got cash in my pocket to spend on top quality products made to last for years to come – the jacket for the rest of my life. I am ready to buy.
After a few stops with no luck I decide to head over to the Harley-Davidson store I’ve seen across town. If any place would have such things it would be a shop with a focus on riding.
I’ve never been much of a Harley fan, especially in the last ten years. It seems the only dudes I see on Harleys these days are businessmen out for a weekend zip about town – weather permitting of course. They seem to have become the trendy bike of the season. Something a middle-manager buys to impress his suburban neighbour. Until today I never realized how bad it had gotten.
The Harley used to be the bikers motorcycle. It was rugged, rebellious, loud and proud. You could lay the bike down going 40mph, dust yourself off, hammer the bits back in place and drive off. If you needed a part you could always raid “the ol’ lady’s” washing machine.
The Harley rider was a rough and tumble sort. His scraggy hair, beard and beer belly flying in the wind as he and his mates rode down the coastal highways looking for trouble. If they had the urge to clean their fingernails they used a switchblade. They winged beer bottles at bands they didn’t like or their friends head just for fun. They gave their middle finger to the police and told Honda riders they were shit and told them to buy American.
If anyplace in town is going to have the boot and jacket I want, it will be the Harley-Davidson shop.
I’ve never been to this place before and I have visions of standing in line behind an aging Gypsy Joker picking some new leather saddle bags. I picture having to figure a way to squeeze past the small group of Angels blocking the front door. Perhaps I’ll see some skanky bra-less biker chicks. I’m thinking the place will look like the set of Every Which Way but Loose…
It was more like Everybody Loves Raymond.
The parking lot was filled with minivans. All the shoppers were middle age professional types mostly in mated pairs (some with cute tidy offspring). They wouldn’t bust a beer bottle over their friends head because then they couldn’t recycle it. The only things missing were a kiddie play area and a Starbucks. The shop was clean and new and looked more like a Red Robin or Chili’s than a bike shop.
Sniff-sniff.. is that a hint of vanilla I smell in the air?
Ok. So the shopping experience wasn’t what I expected, they should at least have the stuff I’m looking for. Even with the trendy finishings and yuppie-ish customers it should at least have bike ready gear.
I’m greeted by a young woman who looked more in place behind a new VW bug than on a motorcycle.
Oh, hello Ms Harley shop worker. Yes you can help me. I’m looking for a steel-toe engineer boot. Huh? An engineer boot. E-N-G-I-N-E-E-R. Umm.. it’s a basic black boot. You know, the classic riding boot? No. That is nothing like an engineer boot. No, that'[s more like a motocross boot. It is kind of like this boot but without all the branding, metal bits and extra buckles. Yes. That’s pretty close. Do you have anything with less,. umm.. crap all over it and a steel-toe? Oh, that’s too bad.
Sigh. Poor girl doesn’t know what I’m talking about.
Not only did they not have the boot I was looking for but every boot they had was over branded, cheap and made in China. Not that I have anything against things made in other countries but Harley-Davidson guys were always very gung-ho, made in America types. I just thought it was kind of odd.
I head over to look at jackets. They had a couple of classic motorcycle styles and every single one was covered in eagles, stitching or pseudo bike gang logos and not one thick enough to protect you from road rash or a misplaced knife at a Stones concert. In fact I’d guess someone skilled in wielding Post-it notes could cut you through one of these jackets.
This isn’t a bike shop it’s a fucking fashion show. This isn’t a place where the nomadic rebellious stop, it’s the place where surburbianites hang out with their non-fat, decaf lattes. It’s where the husband finally agrees to getting dog clothes because he thinks the Harley logo will make his wifes Cock-a-poo look more macho.
Easy Rider has been replaced by Lazy Boy. The Harley image of the rebel rider is being printed in fucking China. You can buy Harley branded sweaters for your accessory dog.
Fuck you to the marketing crew at Harley Davidson for pussifing the Harley name.
Like I said above I’ve never been a big Harley fan, but going into this store made me sad.
Harley-Davidson… YOU SUCK.