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Stay true: Ian's '47

Respect a bike's past, however much it strays from 'correct'.

On Wednesday last week, in between soaking rides on the new Low Rider (see previous post) I headed down to Ian's place near Lincoln to shoot his '47 Knucklehead for a piece in GKM.

I've featured one of Ian's Knucks before, and he is a like-minded aficionado of the 'Japanese look' when it comes to old Harleys: bikes that retain their crustiness, age and patina, but are rebuilt where they need to be to create a reliable regular – if not daily – rider.

This bike grabbed me as soon as I saw it up for sale on US Ebay; and it came as no surprise that the owner/seller was Ian. He imported the bike as a non-runner from the States and rebuilt the top end and gearbox (with the assistance of Rich at Skull Chopa), then with judicious selection and blending of the right parts, got it looking the way it does here.

I put a photo of the bike on the GKM Facebook page and it stirred up a couple of interesting responses, including criticism of the seat and the pipes. For me, the seat and the pipes are the point! Some people, perhaps with no appreciation of or empathy for a bike's history, think any old motorcycle should be returned to 'stock'. But I agree with Ian's view: the bike as it arrived in his garage was a snapshot of the owner's tastes back in the day when some seemingly insurmountable technical problem at the time meant it was consigned to the shed under a dust cover. The funky aftermarket seat, the non-H-D parts, the little bodges and personalised additions... they are what make bikes like this a fascinating time capsule. A rare and pure glimpse of how a regularly ridden and owner-maintained Knuck might have looked in the sixties or seventies. Messing with it would have been sacrilege.

And that's how the Japanese see this kind of bike: it carries with it the well-earned dents, crust and 'soul' of its long history.

Feature coming soon.

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