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Blue Dog Diaries: Place your bets

By Terry Roorda

Harley-Davidson’s 110th Anniversary celebration is now officially underway, folks. The limited-edition anniversary models have been revealed and shipped to the showrooms and the traveling big-top Harley party machine is fired up and once again commencing to crisscross six continents spreading the joys of Harley-Davidson—even stopping off at the Vatican for a papal bike blessing, of all things.More pertinently for those of us who aren’t in the market for a new bike and don’t have the resources to go party-hopping all over creation, the official kickoff of the 110th Anniversary festivities also marks the unofficial kickoff of the now-traditional orgy of Wild Speculation—that part of the general proceedings that we can all participate in without ever leaving our continent (or our chair, for that matter).So let’s get the guessing started. The first subject of our wild speculation is concerned with what major watershed engineering development The Motor Company has up its sleeve for 2014. It’s a given that nothing earth-shaking ever occurs for the anniversary years when Milwaukee has cleared their desk of distractions so they can focus entirely on the extravaganza at hand. It’s also a given, however, that when the party’s over, the balloons lay flaccid and forlorn on the dance floor, the champagne’s gone flat, and no one remembers where they parked, some seriously significant development will suddenly appear to usher the 2014 model year in with a bang.

After the 95th anniversary, for example, Milwaukee launched the Twin Cam 88 motor. After the 100th they rolled out an entirely new and rubber-mounted Sportster chassis, utterly modernizing and revitalizing that platform. And then after the 105th celebration, they did the same and more to the Touring platform, designing an entirely new machine from the tires to the operator ergonomics, including a whole new chassis and exhaust system. And they also got back into the Trike business with the Tri Glide.

That’s huge news, all of it, and so the challenge for all you eager speculators is to predict what similarly paradigm-shifting surprise they’re fixing to drop next year. There are a few rough and ready possibilities we’ve heard floated by the phenomenally unreliable rumor mill, starting with:
1.) For 2014 the Touring models—or at least some of them—will be equipped with Harley’s recently patented water-cooled head technology. This is a development that no less an authority than our own Kip Woodring was absolutely convinced would appear in 2013. No cigar.
2.) The 2014 Softail platform will get a thorough makeover, finally incorporating the trick features they brought to the CVO Convertible—things like electronic throttle with cruise control, and ultra-practical detachable luggage.
3.) Something—anything—innovative having to do with the VRSC platform, like a touring version. We’ve been hearing that rumor for so long that the smart money left the table a long time ago.
4.) Another long shot here, but another prediction that won’t go away, i.e., a new middleweight displacement platform to serve as a gateway drug to entice entry level buyers and get them started in style down the road to ruin.

The second and more pressing of our wildly speculative subjects is this: What musical act will be signed to headline the big anniversary party finale in Milwaukee next Labor Day weekend. This exercise has proven somewhat incendiary, as we know, when in the run-up to the 100th the headliner remained shrouded in secrecy, and everybody got into the speculation game—and nobody won. Nobody saw Elton coming and the guy practically faced a lynch mob.

To play it safe, and also to raise some additional ducats at the 105th celebration, the Mystery Guest idea was dispensed with and replaced with a hyped signing of Bruce Springsteen in mid January. A surefire crowd pleaser, you’d think, but remarkably there were people walking out on the show and grumbling about The Boss being “a liberal.”

You can’t please everyone, and that’s where things stand as the 110th approaches and the big-name acts get bandied about again by the speculators, starting as usual with the Rolling Stones. Only problem there is that they’re British, and Jagger’s bisexual, so they’re too much like Elton to quiet the haters.

So how about The Who? Everybody loves The Who, and while it’s true that they, too, are British, at least they’re straight. The only real drawback I see is that they’re Mods, not Rockers. Next…
OK, how about Neil Young? Yes, it’s true that he’s a Canuck, but that’s practically a ‘Merkin, and besides, he wrote “Unknown Legend,” arguably the most beloved Harley anthem of all time. Only downside here is that many of my generation believe Neil to be God, which might ruffle some feathers at the Vatican deal.

My personal suspicion is that Milwaukee will opt for an act a little more contemporary and in tune with the demographic they’re currently courting. I’m thinking maybe the Black Eyed Peas, since they were big enough for the Super Bowl and have both a white woman and minorities, which is exactly the target demographic of Harley’s Outreach Program. The only problem is that they have a white woman and minorities. Cue the haters.

So many bands to consider and so many thorny reasons to eliminate them from contention, it seems. But I think I have the answer. From where I sit there’s only one act that can fill this bill and it’s the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Think about it: They’re tattooed, American, Harley-riding mega-stars whose “Dani California” serves as the theme music for Sons of Anarchy—which Harley-Davidson is affiliated with as part of their latest promotional campaign.

Win, win, win and win. That’s where my money’s riding—though I’ve still got a side bet on Fat Boy Slim, for obvious reasons.

It’s all right here in the diaries.

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