Common Tread

I am also not fond of fake things

Aug 29, 2016

Lance mentioned me in an article he wrote recently about “fake” parts on motorcycles.

I liked the article for two reasons. First, Lance knows how to raise my ire and trick me into writing an extra story for my quota. Secondly, it always makes me feel like a very fancy sir when others cite me in a story. (I suppose I’ll begrudgingly admit a third: It was a pretty good article.)

Lancy-pants concentrated on OEM fakery. I think he missed a few glaring examples, and he left me the whole aftermarket to complain about, which is rife with tchotchkes. (The OEMs generally are more restrained than the aftermarket. They’re bigger companies, by and large, and they also have shareholders to report to. By dint of those two facts alone, the OEMs don’t have nearly the latitude to create and peddle some of the truly bullshit fakery that’s consumed by the image-conscious.)

Oh, that’s right. I’m about to come off the rails with some very strong opinions. You may not like them; that is your right and privilege. I encourage you to make liberal use of the comments section. Know this: My one and guiding light is that within function lies form. Betraying an item’s function is, to me, a cardinal sin. It is certainly possible to make an item beautiful without hiding or obfuscating its intent.

Lance led with OEM items, and I’ll follow suit. The OEM item I’m about to name — perhaps the most egregious imitation in this article — actually started life as an aftermarket item that was available from several manufacturers, until Harley-Davidson purchased it and produced it for the masses. The item in question? The Softail frame. The Softail sacrifices rear suspension function for the sake of offering the appearance of a hardtail. Those bikes have very little travel, and most Softail riders will admit it affects the ride.

I mean, I guess it kind of looks a little bit like a hardtail. Harley-Davidson photo.

Why?! Why not let the suspension be on display, in all its functioning glory? Do Softail riders really look at a Dyna and shudder at the hideousness of the shocks? Is there something offensive about viewing a part as function-driven as a suspension component do its job? I will never understand this. I certainly will not punish my own ass in an effort to look like I have an old bike. My solution is easy: I just buy the old bike, and punish my ass with that. Much more authentic.

Lance also correctly identified my irritation with fake Trumpy carb covers. He said he can’t froth at the mouth on this too much, because they actually deliver fuel or some such bushwah. I think he’s daft. Fuel injection is cool. It works well. Why would a customer want it dressed up to look like a more antiquated piece of equipment? Make a good looking fuel injector and move on with life. For those who want to argue this point, go look at a Kawasaki W800. Looks just as good, and no deceitfulness was necessary. If you really, truly want a piece-of-shit carburetor, stop by my shop, I’ll sell you one cheap. You can duct tape it in place. (If you convert your new bike to actually use a carburetor, that’s actually super-cool to me, just so we’re clear on that.)

Hey, that's not a flathead... RevZilla photo.

Let’s beat up on Indian for a minute here. Lance doesn’t like the fake gas cap. I think that’s fair. But, um, what about the whole fake engine?! It’s not a side-valve, and never will be. Why hide the fact it’s a perfectly wonderful OHV engine? The ribs on the “heads”? The empty “valve covers”? The downward-facing exhaust ports that don’t actually exit in a downward direction if you look under the faux ribbed covers? They did an excellent job making a modern OHV engine look like a flattie. It’s a work of art. But it’s also a counterfeit. I mean, seriously, if you have Indian money and you want a bike that looks like a flathead, uh, why not just buy an actual Indian flathead? I know, crazy idea, right? Or why not just ride around on an OHV Indian, secure in the knowledge that technological riding advancements make riding, you know, better?

Kaw fins
Cooling fins have evolved into styling fins, it seems. Didn't those die out on Cadillacs? Kawasaki photo.

It’s not just Indian, though. Why in the holy name of God does the liquid-cooled Kawasaki Vulcan have fins cast into its jug? (This little piece of forgery has spanned at least two iterations of the engine that I can remember. I’m pretty sure there are others, too, like the Honda VTX.)

Tweek bar
Cool, a billet...oh. Never mind. Photo by Malcolm Lorente.
Or how about aluminum parts that are designed, cast, and polished to look like significant billet pieces, but are actually just cast crap? Recently, we had a Yamaha XSR in here that had the exact setup on the headlight ears. I wasn’t too miffed because hey, it’s just headlight ears, but the old Hondas often had a fork brace that was made the same way. I couldn’t figure out how they were broken on every one I saw until I removed one and saw how thin the metal was cast. I replaced mine with one I made out of steel. Cheap, shitty steel. Steel that lasted a long time and never cracked.

Now moving into the aftermarket, I must shine a light on EMD. Don’t get me wrong, they crank out some breathtaking parts that I would like to own. But who the hell wants fake Shovelhead rocker boxes to put on a poor old Evo? Perhaps their name (The WTF) is fitting. Seriously, why not just buy the thing that’s being imitated? You know, um, a Shovel.

Fake kicker
"Give it a kick, there, tenderfoot!" EMD photo.
That’s a bit esoteric, I recognize, so let’s get back to another item Lance mentioned that we can all snicker at together: EMD’s fake kicker. What the hell is this happy horseshit? It is literally a large, cumbersome, bolt-on switch for your electric starter. How the hell do you even use this? Jumping up and down seems like it would break something here in a hurry. Words fail me on this. If it makes you happy to have an electrical kicking switch, rock it, but recognize I have no idea what the hell makes you tick. Just put a damn kicker on your bike. Or, I have an even crazier idea: Be proud of your electric start. It works phenomenally well on almost all modern machines, and you will always leave the bar faster than I will.

The hits just keep on coming. I'ma give EMD a break for a sec. Let’s look next at “dummy” or “ghost” pipes. These are mufflers that usually come with aftermarket exhaust systems for the purpose of making a bike appear visually to have a pair of mufflers, but let’s call this what it is: dead weight.

Two-into-one exhausts work beautifully. Why hide ‘em? I’m most familiar with them on Harley touring machines, but one of our readers introduced me to the same item that is sold for VFRs. I will give credit where credit is due: at least that has the function of being able to store stuff. That redeeming quality helps, but at that point, why not just do like the BMW guys do and clamp up a welding rod tool tube? Why does the storage area have to look like a muffler?

Look, if you want any of this stuff on your bike, I don’t really, truly care. It’s your bike, it should make you happy when you ride it and when you sit and admire it. But these trinkets seem so utterly pretentious to me. The OEM stuff seems more forgivable. I like to think maybe buyers liked the whole bike and one of these stupid things came on it. Maybe they think it’s as weird as I do. But the aftermarket stuff? Who will be fooled? Only the people who wouldn’t have the foggiest idea in the first place. Why not just get the real deal? Isn’t that better?

Lance left open the possibility he might be made to like fake stuff. I offer no such quarter. It’s fake and I think it’s silly. I think the editorial staff has sufficiently beaten this horse dead — now it’s your turn. Again.