Old School or New School Motorcycles? Where Do You Stand? Part I

//Old School or New School Motorcycles? Where Do You Stand? Part I

Old School or New School Motorcycles? Where Do You Stand? Part I

Editor’s note: Finally. The definitive discussion about the merits and myths of motorcycle bragging rights. OK, let’s get real. This two-part blog post is not going to bring these two opposing foes to any kind of accord. This isn’t the United Nations by any stretch of the imagination. But it promises to be fun and, and the very least, it enables our two protagonists to let off some steam. Patrick Garvin will present today’s “New” bike argument. Tomorrow’s “Old” bike counterpoint will be offered up by Kody Wisner. Gentlemen: Start your blog posts!

New school rules; old school drools (By Patrick Garvin)

The debate’s been raging since the dawn of time, whether it’s a dad shooting baskets on the driveway court with his son, or arguing with your buddies about who’s better — Slash or Hendrix.

Old school or new school; which side of the fence are you on? Even as I write this I can see some of you puffing your chests out and saying “There’s no school like the old school.” But when the rubber meets the road and it comes down to actually riding your bike across the state, I see you “old school” guys rollin’ down the road on a Street Glide.

As we continue to explore this debate, all I’m asking you to do is look at this as a one-shot deal: You have to pick one. You don’t get to have the best of both worlds. Now, let’s break this thing down into some categories so we can see the overall scope of things.

Motor/Fuel Delivery: Today’s motors are far superior to the old power plants of yesteryear, and I don’t care about the configuration of the motor.  Today’s Twin Cam and Evo (and, no, Evo motors aren’t old school — yet) easily make more power in stock configuration than an old Shovel or Panhead. And don’t even try it in the aftermarket department. A 124-inch Evo or Twin Cam will bring on the pain when it comes to asphalt tearing power and arm-stretching torque.

Now let’s turn to mileage. I dare say a Twin Cam motor will last twice as many miles as a Shovelhead. And as far as efficiency and ease of tuning are concerned, the fuel-injected motors in today’s bike are light years ahead of the old carbs. Case in point:  Let’s say you take a trip from your house at 1,000 feet elevation to Sturgis where you’re tooling around at 5,000 feet or so. Your trusty carb is going to have to be dismantled on the side of the road while you guess what jet you should use (assuming you have extra jets with you). On the other hand, your fuel-injected ride can be adjusted in a bunch of ways by simply touching a button.  Better yet, if it’s running a closed-loop system, it’ll automatically adjust for you.

Brakes: Now let’s say you actually get one of these old school bikes up to speed. At some point, you’re going to have to stop it. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have a set of four-piston calipers biting steel rotors than rely on those wing-and-a-prayer antiques known as drum brakes.

Frame/Suspension: First of all suspension has come a long way in the last 40-plus years, mainly because they actually have them on bikes now. Yeah, that hardtail looks super cool in the bar parking lot, but after 250 hard miles of secondary twisty highways, I bet that old bike don’t seem so cool. And you can keep that Springer. I’ll keep my fluid filled front fork set up as I blast through corners, not to mention the weight savings over the Springer.

So let’s keep it real. Before you go boasting about how “old school” you are, sit back and think about it for a bit. When it comes time to go ripping through the corners with your buddies or to take that road trip, which set of keys are you really going to reach for?

Don’t forget to read Kody Wisner’s response tomorrow.  Same time, same blog!

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  1. transporte de motos March 1, 2015 at 4:03 am

    Examining the new motor design you can see how it had gotten the Shovelhead nick name having pushrod pipes that gave the impression of a shovel handle attaching to the head.
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  2. COL Chris Wicker June 20, 2010 at 10:58 pm

    Old school. There will always be someone faster than you, or flashier, or with more rake. Each of us selects what fits our bodies and our lifestyle. After we find the fundemental design that matches us, it will stick with us the rest of our lives. Chasing the latest technology is at best merely fine tuning what we already know and love, and at worst is a case of ‘keeping up with the Jones’. Even my brother’s Suzuki 1988 GSXR is now ‘old school’ at last week’s bike rally.

  3. […] Patrick Garvin said in his blog post yesterday (“New School Rules; Old School Drools”), we’re going to look at this as if we couldn’t have more than one bike. Luckily, that […]

  4. Rob Creel June 18, 2010 at 8:36 am

    Ok, so you made your point on the the old school/new school thing. I do think fuel injected is the way to go and shaft drive definitely has its advantages.
    But you gotta admit old school styling still rules over new school. Maybe I’m alone still diggin’ the wishbone frame to straight leg but you still see fatbob tanks and white walls. Even metric cruisers use old school style.
    Myself I like the new with the old.

  5. Monty June 18, 2010 at 8:09 am

    If all you care about is efficiency and effectiveness then it’s hardly surprising that 50 years of development, not just within the motorcycle industry but elsewhere (materials, manufacturing techniques, FEA, CFD, etc.), will result in functionally better motorcycles. But then if all we cared about was functionality then we’d probably do a whole lot of things differently, motorcycling would only be a minor part of that!!
    But i have a few points:
    1. If i was going to go “ripping through the corners”, i wouldn’t ride Harleys anyway, i’d be one of those idiots on a Japanese crotch-rocket, pretending the public highway was my personal race-track. Or maybe a Ducati. But i grew out of that kind of stupidity years ago, when i realised that i wasn’t actually immortal and that i could actually end up alongside some of my friends in the cemetery!
    2. The Evo was not a brand new engine design, it was simply an upgrade to the Shovelhead, the next – and as it turned out final – “evolution” of the design that started out with the Knuckle in 1936. See how S&S have taken a middle ground here with their Shovel motors, which utilise some of the detail changes made on the Evos (particularly in the area of oiling, rocker box construction, etc). So the Evo motor is kind of in an in between place, as you said not quite old-skool … yet. And as you say, big cube Evo motors (124 ci and more) can really crease up the tarmac! The TC, however, is a complete new design just dipping in the Evo parts bin a few times; it’s been designed to be functionally better, sure, but it has also been designed to be cheaper to manufacture and also to meet new noise and emissions legislation, and that entails some compromises that i for one am not happy with. So if i were building a “new-skool” bike (and that actually might be my next project as it happens) then i’ll be going with an Evo motor, and you can forget the TC – if somebody gave me one i’d just sell it.
    3. EFI is great until it goes wrong – at least i CAN strip my carb down at the side of the road and fix it if i need to – if EFI goes wrong you’re pretty much guaranteed a ride on a breakdown truck, which isn’t my idea of fun.
    4. Disc brakes are “new-skool” and drum brakes are old? Gimme a brake (sorry!). Some bikes had discs on in the ’60s, and they’re an easy upgrade for a drum-braked bike (my ’60 FL bobber has HD discs and Lockheed callipers off of a Triumph).
    5. Rigid frames are a compromise one chooses to make, or not – and i don’t think swing arms are particularly “new-skool”, having come out in ’58 on BTs and earlier on the K/X series. If you only care about handling I’d say the best handling bike HD ever made was the FXR, and they came out in ’82 and haven’t been in production for years!

  6. BOB June 18, 2010 at 5:51 am

    the fool who wrote this doesn’t have any idea what it is to ride and live the life of a 1% biker . I love the bikers I’ve built over the years ALL have been hardtails and I’ve been riding for 40+ years. I’m a certified harley tech., and work on twincams ,evos shovels, pans, knuckles,and I still prefer the older motors , funny thing is all the motors I’ve built for myself are still working . I’ve sold my old stuff to friends most have told me that just cylinders ,pistons and rings have been changed in most .I still have my panhead (65) ,bought in 71′ ,it’s now .050 over, not bad for 45+yrs old ,I own a shovelhead hardtail, and am building 2 more as i write this they’ll be finished by jan. 11′, And I plan to ride till I die ,cause I’m now RETIRED!! and 11′ I will be traveling till I drop dead .If you see a crazy old dude on a hardtail shovelhead next year on the highway it probably me, THX for the ear —AZ BOB

  7. Mike Reaves June 18, 2010 at 1:55 am

    Definitely ‘Old School’…. I ride with no windshield; love the taste of bugs in the summer & enjoy my beard frozen in the winter !!!

  8. v. chuck "papastork" Bice June 17, 2010 at 11:53 pm

    uh… how about my Vic? I rode a hardtail chopped Honda 750 for years, then finally moved on to a chopped ‘shovel for years…. and then an old school springered sporty….. and now: well, I have a 2000 Victory V92sc, and I’d take it (along with the keys) over just about any bike I have ever ridden. So I guess I’m a new school sort of biker with old school tendancies……

  9. brian weir June 17, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    Well I like new stuff but my disablity pension doesn’t, so my 1989 well kept is pretty good for smoothness and just getting out there and riding, after 5 years of not being able to do it at all, and i can fix it. I dream of a newer Road King but a lottery ticket will have to be a winner.

  10. Roger Poulin June 17, 2010 at 3:48 pm

    Great topic!

    Coming from the old school, I remember the first big trip I took on my 1972 Harley Super Glide (FX) which I purchased new for $2250. Running 14,000 miles over the summer of 73, I traveled round trip from CT to CA and lots of points in between. Over the mountains and along the coasts, the old Bendix carb never gave me much problem except for some power loss at higher elevations. Kick starting that bike was a science of its own, but it usually fired up pretty quickly on a couple kicks on all but the coldest of mountain mornings.

    The things I remember most about maintenance however was having to adjust the chain nearly every day during that cross country ride and changing the points & plugs frequently. Fortunately a pair of Chevy six cylinder points worked just fine to keep the old shovel running tip top. Oil & filter changes every 3K along the way meant trips to the Harley shop for the old PreLux oil…as directed by the owner’s manual. Lots of nut & bolt tightening every thousand miles kept you in touch with your machine for any potential problems.

    Although you can’t beat the sound or feel of a Shovelhead, I vote for the newer technology today. Riding everything from BMW’s, Harley EVO’s, Twin Cams to Honda Valkyries, you cannot beat shaft or belt drives, closed loop fuel injection, anti-lock brakes, cruise control, adjustable windscreens, heated seats & grips and for God’s sake…a radio for long distance riding. When you can smoke a good cigar at 70 MPH in a rain storm, keep it lit and not feel the frame wiggling and wavering around, you know you’ve found the right machine.

    Rigid frames, Panheads or Knuckleheads are great for around town (with a big police solo seat on springs or a shock), but make sure you’ve packed your tool kit for the longer rides. if you are looking to log some big miles on a daily basis and want to still be able to walk at the end of the day, go for the technology…every time. You can call me an Old Schooler who likes technology. Ride Safe.


  11. Charlie Crump June 17, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    If you had a choice would you take a 57 Chevy Bel Air in mint condition or a new Chevy? We all know the answer! It’s the same thing with the older Harley’s!

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