December 7, 2007

First Person:


By Al Carlos Hernandez

It is the time of the year when family men spend several G’s buying presents for everybody and their mamas, only to be rewarded with a joke tie or a dime bottle of mega Pharmacy cologne.

Friends and family always get me Oakland Raiders or Harley Davidson gear, I have a great collection of hats, t- shirts gloves, a clock, a calendar, a prized possession is a Black and Orange HD Shirt from Israel written in Hebrew, but what I really wanted is a pair of Ape Hangers for my bagger.

For the Chopper challenged, let me explain, Ape hangers are high handle bars that extend up shoulder length or higher, higher than the shoulder is said to be illegal, and can blow dry your underarm hair straight on blistering hot summer days.

A bagger is a larger V Twin engine motorcycle, with saddle bags on the side. Here is the rub, most bikers don’t put ape hanger handlebars on baggers because folklore has it that only the old dudes ride baggers because of it’s comfort, and yes they have been known to schlep an old bag or two around town.

The whole quandary is no doubt visceral, I remember back to one Christmas growing up in the inner city. I had a tall 26 inch fat tired bike with a huge saddle, I weighed 83 pounds soaking wet.

I used to have to drag the bike up the stairs and store it on the fire escape, or try to corral it like a cow rustler as it rolled for daylight careening out of control down the steep stairs.

The bike could have been a metaphor for my life during the 70’s while in the entertainment business in San Francisco.

Anyway, Dad gave us each a small allowance to buy each of the five siblings a little present, although my intentions were noble, my altruism came crashing down like my bike down the stairs on a rainy day once I went to the bicycle store and saw my first set of chrome Ape hanger handlebars.

I made a deal with each of my siblings and told them that they did not have to buy me a present because what I really wanted to do was to buy the ape hanger handlebars for my bike, and if I did so they wouldn’t get a present for me because I would be broke but really happy.

Bought the bars, my brother and I put them on, the seat of the black bicycle was about 20 inches off the ground the handlebars were a good 24 inches high, red sparkle hand grips, a skinny ten speed tire in the front, a fat old school balloon tire in the back, I was the proud owner of the first inner city chopped bicycle.

My wife is rational in saying leave the motorcycle alone; anytime you customize it you can’t trade it in for full value, and or could ruin the warranty.

She does have a point, I am of the mindset that everything is for sale everyday; she doesn’t let me forget the day I sold my Porsche Carrera sunglasses off of my face.

Out on a cruise engaging in some wind therapy as the hot pipes rumbled and the crisp brisk air lacquered my face, I knew I preferred the low, wide, old school feel of the bike, and I could still whip the corners and give the rice rocketeers a run for their money.

It came to me that it wasn’t the ape hanger handlebars that I wanted after all, maybe I wanted to go back to a simpler time, when dreams came true and when all things were possible and having the coolest bike made you the coolest dude.

A time when gas wasn’t almost 4 bucks a gallon, when a mans’ handshake was his bond, when brothers rode together and could carry tools and fix each others bikes, when biking was all about the ride and not of the cutest boutique brand named riding gear, and CPA posers on 60,000 production “Choppers” who are incapable of doing a decent burnout, or ride home with a broken clutch lever, or would consider leaving the house without the cell phone or a AAA card.

What I want for Christmas is not Ape Hanger handlebars after all, what I really wanted is to go on a long run with my dearly departed brothers again.

Yeah, I ride a bagger, but I own a street fighter too, because for me in the end, it’s all about the ride.

Al Carlos Hernandez writes from Hollywood.

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