Saturday, December 23, 2017


On September 29th - almost three months ago, I was rear-ended by a moron riding a 2002 Honda VTX1800. The impact on my right saddle bag and exhaust was strong enough to shatter my right saddle bag, lid and shove my exhaust forward about a quarter inch, breaking its mounting point. It also propelled me into my son riding his new 2016 Sportster Roadster. His bike had a little more than 3,000 miles on it, my (almost to the day) one-year old 2017 had about 21,000 miles on it (yes, his 2016 was newer than my 2017). The impact of my front wheel/fender/crash bar/fairing/turn signal (they all had damage) was enough to put him into a slide which high-sided him when it instantaneously corrected. He went left, the Sportster went down on its right side. I managed to keep my bike upright, but dropped it as soon as I stopped (maybe not quite stopped) because I saw my son go down and things like kick stands don't seem too important in those few seconds of not knowing if he was hurt or not.

He was fine. He had minor road rash, but otherwise no injuries. I was fine, too, no injuries at all. The other guy was not fine, he had non-life-threatening injuries (busted shoulder? collarbone? something like that). At the time I had some empathy for him, but now, almost three months later with every new headache and delay - some his fault due to not only his negligence, but also his minimal insurance coverage, and some not his direct responsibility except that he caused it all in the first place - the more time that has passed and with every new twist... I hope it still hurts. I hope it cost him his bike. I hope he never rides again - for his safety as well as ours.

But I digress. Since my son and I both have full coverage that greatly exceeds the state mandatory minimums, we were covered. The estimate on my bike was right about $10,000. The estimate on my son's bike was almost $7,000. Both bikes could have been fixed and looking good for less because not every little thing had to be restored to new condition. The money saved on, say, a minor scratch on the fork tube (replacement = hundreds of dollars, a back Sharpie costs much less) could be used for something else. Our local dealer won't do that, but the independents will; my friend owned a shop that could do both bikes the way we wanted them done. However, my son’s insurance company decided that $6,900 was too much to spend on an $11,500 bike and, after fighting them for two or three weeks, they totaled it. They ended up paying the shop more than $1,000 in estimate and storage fees and took the bike away. It was not cost-neutral for my son, but in retrospect, it wasn’t the worst outcome.

Because my bike cost almost three times as much, it was not totaled. The insurance company had a $9,978 check made out to me and the shop about a month after the wreck. Then we ordered parts, the first were the custom rear fender, saddle bags and one lid, painted to match, from Bad Dad. The lead-time on those parts, because we were having them do the paint, was about a month. Other parts would be ordered as needed because the lead-time was shorter, but the new two-into-one exhaust and front fender were supposed to have been on order as well. Just about a month later, I got word that the owner had committed suicide. No one, at least no one I knew, saw it coming. It’s sad. While not among his closest friends, Dennis was my friend and it saddens me that he would choose a permanent solution to a temporary problem. But it also left me in a very precarious position and the end result, while not absolute yet, looks like I will have lost more than half that nearly $10,000 check.

It also meant that I would have to finish acquiring parts and complete the build myself. I needed a front fender, exhaust and some minor body work done on the outer fairing. Then both the fairing and front fender had to be painted. I also had to get my garage squared away - it has been a very long time since I have done anything remotely resembling major work in there. It was a long overdue project that is now done. In the end, putting my bike together cost me about 15 hours of labor, much of that is longer than normal due to a learning curve for certain tasks I was not familiar with - others I have done before, but they are just time consuming. It also cost me around $2,500 out of pocket to cover what was not ordered, but already paid for. I had to wait a couple of weeks for the paint to get in before the painter could shoot the outer fairing and front fender. And during the two-day reassembly process, I was frustrated to the point of trading her in more than once - of just saying, “fuck this!”

But she ultimately came together beautifully. There are only a couple of things I’d like to revisit, but they are not critical and, more importantly, they are not preventing me from riding this gorgeous Street Glide (very) Special. The name of the shop was (because it no longer “is,” it died with Dennis) V Dawg Cycles. Dennis was in business for more than seven years and worked on all of my bikes at one point or another. This one was going to be different, this one was going to be a V Dawg build. I guess in a way, it still is. It is, in a way, a tribute to a man I had a lot of respect for, even if the end was more than a little off-putting. Suicide is generally a tough thing for those left to deal with and in this case, it left me with that and a large sum of money that disappeared into thin air.

I haven’t ridden much or far since finishing her up yesterday, but I can say that it was just like old-times, but better. She runs better, looks way better and now, there is not another Street Glide anywhere that is just like this one. We ride Harleys and other similar bikes for a lot of reasons, among them is that they are an extension of our creativity, our individuality, and, in part, of our identities. A Harley commercial a few years ago finished with, “What you ride says a lot about who you are.” Who I am is not easy to nail down - just like this build. It was messy. It was complicated. It was frustrating. And it still all came together. Just like me.


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