|The Harley-Davidson Sportster is the featured class at this year's Dania Beach show.|
The Ninth Annual Dania Beach Vintage Motorcycle Show is Jan. 31, 2015 at Frost Park in Dania Beach, Fla. You get that great Florida weather, 300 vintage motorcycles competing in a variety of classes, motorcycle skill team, field games, vendors, antique bicycles, live music, food and swap meet.
Featured class this year is the Harley-Davidson Sportster. It's bound to be a controversial choice.
Created to battle the British invasion of post-war motorcycles, this American iron icon is always a great way to start an argument.
"If you want to know how much history you can pour onto two wheels, look no further than the Harley-Davidson Sportster. How many bikes can you name that outlasted Elvis, the Beatles, the Cold War, and TV's 'Law & Order'?" writes Mark Masker in "History of The Harley-Davidson Sportster: Pursuit of Xlence."
"No other Harley has as long or rich a story as the Sportster line. The bike's tale runs the gamut from racing to touring and everywhere in between."
Derived from the Harley-Davidson Model K in 1957 to compete with the British, the Sportster XL offered overhead valves, a unit motor, swing-arm rear suspension, telescopic front forks, and a transmission with a foot shift, on the right, just like the Brits.
Displacement steadily increased, to bring competitive speeds, and Harley kept building the Sportster, even as the competition from England dropped away. Harley competed with the new Japanese motorcycles by staying old fashioned. A five-speed transmission came in 1991 and belt drive in 1993, but not until 2004 would the Sportster get insulated motor mounts to curb vibration.
Fans of British style motorcycles always kind of liked the Sportster. Maybe that's why fans of other Harley-Davidsons often don't. But there was another reason as well.
"Harley-Davidson also debuted the Sportster Hugger in 1988 and changed the bike's image dramatically," Masker writes.
"All of you out there who hate the Sportster label of being a women's or beginner's machine have the Hugger to thank for that. Why? Because H-D aimed the Hugger at bringing women and beginning riders into the fold. Its lowered suspension brought the seat height down to 26 inches so that little people could sit on it with both feet touching the ground. For some reason, the Motor Company tripped over its own shoelaces by not advertising it toward women to draw them in and actually buy it. Still, the reputation has stuck despite the XL's rich heritage as an early super bike and race machine."
I asked Clare Frost — with Clive Taylor one of the organizers of the Dania Beach Vintage Motorcycle Show — why the Sportster was chosen as the featured class for the 2015 show.
"Well, as you know, a lot of our spectators are Harley folks and it seems when we put an American-made bike on the shirts they sell out. AND we are making it new and old Sportsters to show how they have been through the years. Also, I got a lesson on the K model Harleys, and even though they are not Sportsters, I think we are letting them into the theme area to show the history.
"BUT, next year, Clive says he is the boss and the theme will be pre-unit English and that his 1939 Triumph will be on the shirts!"
I think the Sportster is an inspired choice as it is a landmark Harley model that gets far less respect than it deserves. In fact, it gets a lot of grief! I would think this show would interest Sportster owners across the nation. Must be a lot of those.