In 1992, it was shiny red and brand new. In 1994, I exchanged the 2-gallon tank for a 3-gallon tank, still a shiny red. That is, the tank and fenders were, and they predominate in a non-rider's eyes. The engine was always black and chrome. The forks (which suspend the front wheel) were chromed or might as well have been. The pipes gleamed chrome as well. Red, black and chrome, to the eye it laughed the joy of being a motorcycle.
Miles and sunshine and ozone accumulated their effects, dulled the glow of the red but never the bark of the exhaust or the gallop of its ride.
And then one day - 20 December 1996 - we dodged a motorist and his pickup but not the road. The motorist darted partway into our lane, saw us, and darted back. We'd already dodged him but something in the road - a ragged hole, perhaps, or a patch of slickness - broke the traction needed to complete the maneuver. We went down, the bike and I. Unintentionally, I cushioned its fall with my left knee. It wasn't enough.
Healing us took a while, and separate processes. Crutches helped me get about for a while. At first my left leg just dangled and hurt; when the hurt subsided, I began exercises and began to put a little weight on the leg occasionally; more exercises and I began to walk two or three steps two or three times a day. On Valentine's Day, Lindy and I gave the crutches back to Goodwill, and by the end of March I walked without a limp.
Good timing. My Harley dealer and his mechanic had taken their time with my motorcycle, making sure everything it needed got done and got done well. Rough pavement had messed up the front fender and the gas tank, ripped off the gear-shift, horn, left mirror, and parts of the handle-grip and footpeg. They replaced them all. They replaced the rear fender to keep the bike all one color, a deep, shiny black. The mechanic tuned the engine, and since I wasn't hurrying him, tinkered as he pleased.
Mid-April, we reunited. It was like a new bike! Both the engine and the exhaust note had a new authority. It may very well pull more strongly and growl more proudly now than when it was new. Certainly I have a new appreciation for it and for riding, and for my Harley dealer and his mechanic as well. If you see us, feel free to wave - even masked in a full-face helmet, a delighted grin beams through.
Uh...well, if you see us, something strange has happened. An accident befell the Sportster. What was left of it went to parts to keep other Sportsters and derivatives riding. The "Loss" entry in the table of contents (left) will explain.