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How not to customize a motorcycle

February 11, 2010

How not to customize a motorcycle


Among all the gleaming new motorcycles and customs displayed at the New York International Motorcycle show held at Manhattan’s Jacob Javits Center recently, one aging Harley-Davidson caught our eye. Not because it was a cut above the rest, rather, its overall appearance and condition left it more a cut below. Maybe even several cuts below.

And then there was the fact that when we spotted it during the media preview, two uniformed New York State Police officers were pushing it across the floor toward the door, looking for all the world like they were impounding it. And, of course, its vanity license plate didn’t help. It spelled out “H8 LAW.”

It turned out the officers weren’t carting away the Harley, they were just setting up their booth, and the bike was a part of it. The Harley is basically a two-wheeled moving violation, used to illustrate the kinds of things that raise flags with the police and could be unsafe. Everything from its straight exhaust pipes to its tires worn below 2/32- inch of tread was illegal. The vertically mounted license plate, however, is perfectly legal in the state of New York – even if the message on this one might draw a bit of undue attention.

The police brought this Harley to the show as an educational tool, and it’s an effective one. United States motorcycle fatalities have increased 47 percent during the past five years, and riders are 37 percent more likely to die in a crash than occupants of a passenger car. Maintaining your bike and making sure all safety equipment is within compliance of the laws of your state is a good place to start.

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