The perfect bike customization for me
I’ve almost always owned motorcycles and my fi rst was made by Sears. I bent my forks about 30 degrees doing jumps. Then, I moved up to the big time – a Hodaka Super Rat dirt bike. Man she was loud. Neighbors would run out of their houses when they heard me coming down the road and shake their fi sts at me. Then college came (Auburn University post graduate work; Missouri State University, B.S. in Wildlife Management; University of Missouri, M.S. in Forest Management) and for a long period, I was bikeless – a dozen years in the corporate world working for Fortune 100, 50 and 5 companies, and no time for a motorcycle. I actually did buy one, a Yamaha Virago. I found her in the lemon lot at Fort Rucker. A soldier was shipping out to Germany and I bought her sight unseen for $500. She still runs and is in my garage, but I never really had time to ride her. She’s a 1985 model with 12,928 miles and brand new tires.
In 2000, I started my own business in forest and wildlife management (www. forestrywildlifeintegration. com). I’m still going strong. I have regenerated over 1.25 million acres and planted over a billion trees in my career, and now I’m mostly managing game and nongame wildlife species. After about 15 years running my own company, and serving on several boards, I felt that I could make the time necessary to once again feel the tremendous peace and enjoyment only found riding a motorcycle.
I was approaching 60 years of age at the time. So my search began, starting with the internet and mainly looking at Craigslist (all major cities within about 500 miles of home) and eBay. I probably looked at a couple thousand motorcycles over a fairly short time span, all online. The first time I saw a Honda Valkyrie, I was pretty much hooked, and the last thousand or so I looked at were all Valkyries. I looked at a Rune locally, but did not like the futuristic artsy look.But the Standard and Tourer Valkyrie models really struck a chord with me. I also researched the history of the Valkyrie and production runs, worldwide distribution, etc., and joined Valkyrie Riders Cruiser Club (VRCC), Valkyrie Owners Club (VOC) and GWRRA.
Sometimes the sweetest rides are not even advertised. I wanted a later model Tourer, all Black and Chrome, well treated, never down, garage kept, one owner, with low miles. Other than that I was flexible. I put a message out on VRCC about what I was looking for, and a fella from Grand Junction, Colorado, emailed me that he had the perfect match. He sent some pictures, and I bought her over the phone for full asking price, which included a Drop-Tail trailer. Fortunately for me, he turned out to be a wonderful, honest Christian man who also owned a Valkyrie trike. His loss was my gain. We still communicate almost monthly and trade pictures of our Valkyries. I will be heading out to western Colorado this fall for an elk hunt, and will finally get to meet my friend.
So, meet Heathen. She’s a reflection of my life and life style, not for everybody, but perfect for me. She’s a 2003 Tourer. Now, some of you in the know will immediately correct me, there is no such thing as a 2003 Tourer because Honda did not make any Tourers in ’03 (nor Interstates for that matter), only Standards. And, that is true. But add a Honda windshield and HondaLine Tourer saddlebags, and presto, you have a Tourer. So you can easily make a Tourer out of a Standard, and you can easily make an IS out of either. Some folks even “SuperValk” their bikes.
The Valkyrie has a beautiful 1520 cc liquid-cooled, horizontally opposed sixcylinder boxer engine that is “out there” for everyone to see, all chromed up. The bore and stroke is 71 mm x 64 mm, compression ratio 9.8:1 with SOHC; two-valves per cylinder. There are six 28 mm diaphragm-type CV carburetors with a solid-state digital ignition and five-speed transmission. The most notable engine differences, compared to the Gold Wing, are the camshaft and change to six individual carburetors, one for each cylinder. These changes dramatically increase both power and torque, and also provide a very unique throaty sound. Honda Valkyries were made in the plant in Marysville, Ohio, which is clearly in the United States (last time I looked), which distinguishes it from many other brands. “Made in the USA,” is stamped on the engine.
I started adding my own touches to my Valkyrie almost immediately. First, I added four Dragon hides. Dragon is one of the nicknames for these bikes. The other most popular is Phat Ghurl. The Dragon hides are actually cayman hides from Klein Karoo (backstraps, full crowns, cognac, saddle fi nish, grade 1). Then a mirror upgrade and I chose Image Motorcycle Products Eagle Talons, plus a couple more Eagle Talon foot pegs for sparklers hanging from my handlebars. Image Motorcycle Products makes very high quality custom products, but expect 8-12 months to receive your order.
Next, I added my eight custom knives with custom leather sheaths. Can you find them all – two elk handle Damascus fi ghters on the front, either side of my gauges; two more Damascus Bowies with bull moose jaw handles on the sides; two more elk jaw 440-C stainless steel behind the seat; and two moose jaw/caribou tibia fi ghters with Damascus caper blades in the back for my flag stands. I fly the American and MIA flags for Patriot Guard and American Legion functions.
Next, I concentrated on my seat. I looked at various custom seat builders for almost 1 1/2 years before fi nally fi nding the guy that could do the job that I wanted. I asked Wayne Hagler, with Heather’s Leathers, to make my custom seat, side saddlebags, front tool pouch and floorboard fringe. Wayne is a true leather artist and easy to work with. There was a slight issue with my tool pouch and he fi xed it at his own expense. His staff and support folks are great. I am hard to please but he exceeded my expectations. Your seat actually makes your bike, in my opinion, at least with a highly customized one like mine, and I could not have found a better custom seat maker than Wayne Hagler. I hand stitched the leather “feathers” out of Indian hair bone pipe. I made a set of custom truck stacks for my exhaust, and added a number of small leather accessories over time. I added a Cobra light bar, aftermarket spotlights, bullet storage chambers, clock/ temp gauges, and purple LED light strips to my engine. You really have to spend some time looking closely at my “Heathen” in order to see all the customization that I have done. Some are hard to spot at fi rst glance.
So there you go; hope you like her. I also have a ’99 highly customized bobber-style Valkyrie that I will introduce in my next article. My “Heathen” is a real h e a d turner. I often get stopped while riding and have to pull over and spend some time with interested folks, and I don’t mind. I came out of a local restaurant recently only to fi nd eight Harley-Davidson guys standing around Heathen drooling all over themselves. One guy said, “Yea, full custom job, that motor is out of a Corvette.” I must admit that I was somewhat disappointed when Honda came out with the new Valkyrie in ’14. The engine was essentially hidden with all the plastic, a “crotch rocket” looking affair. I was hoping they would recognize that Indian is eating Harley’s lunch with their old-style look and maybe they would come out with a “new” version of the old ’99-’03 Valkyrie. These older Valks are actually selling for about the same as the newer ones that are still in showrooms. Perhaps they will some day. Until then, I’ll ride my “Heathen,” and at almost 9-feet long, and 900 pounds, she’s all I can handle.
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