Kings of Chaos Behind the Scenes: the Bikes

 

Now that you’ve learned a little more info about the Kings of Chaos backstory and the world, let’s take a closer look at some of the badass bikes from the series.  When I developed the first idea for Crossroads, it was all based on my experience and knowledge of being a biker.  For me, riding out on the open road is almost a religious experience, so if I can share that wonder with people in any way, then it’s worth trying.  The machines that facilitate those experiences are just as awesome.  If you’re not a biker, you’ll just have to take my word for it and trust that I’m speaking gospel here.

First up: Will’s grandpa’s Indian – not inspired by anything directly, other than I wanted it to be a killer, classic bike.  The details were scarce for this machine in the book, frankly, because I didn’t want my ignorance to be displayed.  Let’s take a look at Crossroads, and get to know the background on this bike a little better.

So grandpa would roll up, drop his kick stand and lean back on his massive 1945 1,200cc Indian Chief.  He never liked to talk about being in World War II, but he went on and on about the thrill of riding the military issued Indians overseas.  To help with getting reacquainted with civilian life, the first thing my grandfather did when he returned from abroad was go straight from the boat to a dealership and buy an Indian motorcycle.  He kept the machine clean, but you could easily tell that it was ridden regularly.  Like he always said, “A clean bike is a sure sign you’re talking to a biker.  A sparkling bike is a sure sign that you’re not.”

My grandpa came home from the war looking for something to give him a similar rush that he experienced overseas.  That rush was found in the saddle of a motorcycle.  With his pension from the military and a modest lifestyle learned from The Great Depression, he was able to spend all of his time in the wind, so to speak.  Grandpa lived as a free spirit – he made sure that my dad was taken care of, usually at grandma’s expense, but then he lived his life the way he wanted to.  He loved his family, and loved the quiet, alone time he was granted on his motorcycle almost just as much.

Next: Will’s dad’s Harley – the inspiration for this bike was the same as above.  I’m not a Harley guy, and I didn’t want to make any critical mistakes when describing the machine, so I shied away from getting too specific.

My dad owned one vehicle for as long as I can remember – a 1948 Harley-Davidson Panhead.

The only other descriptions of the bike are sprinkled through the first half of the story as Will is fixing it up and installing some custom upgrades.  Coincidentally, after Crossroads was released, I came across this miniature replica that was perfect for what I had in mind as I chose the bike and wrote the story.

 

Once the Harley is out of the picture, we are introduced to Will’s Victory Kingpin Tour in Crossfire– directly inspired by my dad’s bike IRL, down to the paint scheme, engine size, and options. This bike is selected for Will without any input from him, which is a huge gamble that pays off nicely.  Here’s a quick excerpt from Will’s introduction to his new ride:

 

Worst case scenario is they try to push a Ninja on me and I make them take it back to the drawing board with precise instructions on what to return with.  Much to my surprise, when we walk outside and round the back corner of the building to the small staff parking lot, my eyes lock on a fully dressed cruiser.  Sometimes referred to as a “bagger,” this bike is decked out with a windshield, saddlebags, cruise control, and a trunk; all the bells and whistles you could ever ask for on a motorcycle.  I immediately recognize the unmistakable long, sweeping lines of the gas tank – a signature look for any Victory motorcycle.

“What you’re looking at is a gently used 2009 Victory Kingpin Tour,” Mr. Williams confirms.  “We don’t have the budget to let you pick something out from a dealer, but we’ve been keeping a very selective eye on the nearby auto auctions.  Go ahead and try it on.  See how it fits,” he encourages.

“Don’t mind if I do.”  I step next to the bike and swing my leg over the saddle before sliding down into the seat.  I can’t resist admiring the two-tone paint job; the deep burgundy contrasting beautifully with a light gray.  I stand the bike up off its kickstand with ease.  I can’t believe how balanced this machine is, and for the first time in my life, I’m speechless.

Mr. Williams must recognize the look of awe in my eyes, and coaxes me along to further explore the bike.  “Fire it up,” he eggs me on and I oblige.  The engine fires with no effort, pulsing out a very muted exhaust note.

“Well that’s not gonna do,” I muse to myself.  For the first time since I spotted this beauty, something finally missed the mark.  I see Mr. Williams’s expression shift from pleased with himself to curious about what the issue was.  “You know what they say – loud pipes save lives.  I’m gonna have to drill the baffles out of these pipes.”

Mr. Williams chuckles.  We are both well aware that I was sold on this bike the second I got the key, it just took me a few minutes to realize it.  Now that I’m already planning my first modifications, this thing has finally found its rightful home.

There are some bikes in the series that don’t belong to Will or his family, so we’ll branch off and take a look at Scott’s Honda Shadow, which is directly inspired by my own bike IRL.  Again, down to the paint scheme, engine size, and accessories.  Another brief section of Crossfire gives us some of the details.

 

It’s actually a damn good-looking bike – white wall tires that flow right into the black and cream paint scheme, six inch pullback handlebars, leather fringe dangling from the clutch and brake levers, soft leather saddle bags below the passenger seat, padded sissy bar for the passenger’s comfort, floorboards in the front and back instead of puny little pegs.  Somebody made a small investment in this bike to customize it just right – chrome accents in all the right spots without being over-the-top, and just all around tastefully put together.

I walk around the bike, nodding casually.  I smell a faint odor of gasoline, and see a stained trail down the side of the engine casing beneath the gas tank.  The gravel is clean under the frame though, which is a good sign and tells me it’s not a big leak and there’s no sign of oil dripping from anywhere.

“Four grand,” Big H blurts out without anybody asking, flashing his best used car salesman smile.  Too bad for him, his Indian corn teeth ruin any positive effect he’s going for.

“Four grand my ass,” is my blunt response.  “It’s leaking gasoline and it’s a Shadow, not a Harley.  You know you ain’t getting four grand for an import bike this old.”

“Exactly.  It’s a Shadow and not a Harley, which means it’s reliable.  The price is four grand.”

Pointing out the shortcomings of Harley Davidsons isn’t typically the popular approach, but he isn’t necessarily wrong.  While a Harley can be rebuilt and brought back to life from nearly any condition, they are a finicky animal.  “Big H, you know you ain’t gonna get four thousand dollars for this bike.  Two grand, and we’ll get it out of your way.”

I can see him bristle physically at my counter offer.  “Fire it up,” he says, tossing the key at me, but not necessarily to me.

“So help me, if I go up in flames because of this piece of shit I’m never coming back here,” I declare as I approach the machine.  Scott drifts around to the far side of the bike, seemingly to get a good angle in case the bike explodes and he needs to bail.  I slide in the key, open up the choke, reach across and hit the electric ignition, then jump back just in case.  The V-twin engine rumbles to life with a great sound emanating from the exhaust.  There’s a lope, and you can hear the programmed timing from the Honda factory to give it an intentional miss in the firing cycle.  That was done to try to replicate the signature Harley exhaust sound.  Harley wasn’t too keen on that, so they sued the shit out of Honda over it.  Needless to say, Honda had a redesigned engine the very next year.  I can’t really say that I care much about all that though.  As Big H mentioned, Hondas are reliable and this bike sounds great.

“The gaskets were a little dried out when I first got the bike, so when I put gas in it, some of it ran out here and there.  It seems the gaskets have come back around after soaking up some of the fluid.”

“Well you just said it, Big H.  There’s work to be done on this thing.  I’ll give you twenty-five hundred, but that’s it.”

Now let’s shift over to Jaws’ Kawasaki Vulcan.  This one is more of an homage.  The first bike that I ever owned was a 1981 Kawasaki KZ1000.  Once I got on that thing I was hooked.  It wasn’t necessarily my style of bike, but a Vulcan sure was.  So my first Kaw in real life morphed into a righteous Vulcan in the pages of Crossfire.  Let’s take a look:

 

A clean, midnight blue cruiser pulls onto the property and parks directly in front of Scott and me.  The rider drops the kickstand, kills the engine, and dismounts.  Jaws looks at us, presenting the bike like he’s a Price is Right model, and simply says, “Ehhh?”

“Hell yeah!” Scott blurts out.

“Nice, Jaws.  Where’d she come from?” I ask.  “Or do I even wanna know?”

“Don’t worry, it’s clean,” he assures me.  “This bike has been in the family since it was new, but it doesn’t see much action since dad got involved in his outdoor activities.  A bike isn’t really good for hauling things, ya know?  Anyway, remember when we talked to my dad last month?  Before we left I let him know that I had some use for it and needed the key.  A new battery and some air in the tires was all she needed, so here I am – ready to ride.”

“Hell yeah,” I echo Scott’s sentiment, nodding in appreciation of the clean machine.  “Tell us about her.”

“’95 Kawasaki Vulcan 1500.  Soft bags and straight pipes.  Everything else is from the showroom.”

“Damn nice, Jaws,” I offer.

“Damn nice,” Scott concurs.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I left out Miller’s Harley-Davidson. This bike wasn’t necessarily inspired by any thing in particular, other than basically just a nod to every typical Harley on the road that’s not a Sportster.

The interaction with the Harley salesman goes smoothly with Miller calling all the shots.  Without being familiar with Miller’s background with bikes, I expected to have to be an active participate with the negotiations, but he surprises the hell out of me.  He must’ve done some homework before he got here.  That part doesn’t surprise me.  Miller researches anything and everything that he might need to know something about.  Less than ten minutes go by with Miller chatting with the sales rep, and I see them wander off to grab a set of keys.  I’m wandering around the clothing area when I hear a bike fire up.  The engine revs a couple times, because c’mon, who can resist the sound of a Harley engine?  As I’m taking in the sound of the engine, I hear it engage in first gear and accelerate.  That’s when Miller scoots by the front of the shop on a massive Heritage Softail Classic.  He’s gone for fifteen-twenty minutes tops, then returns from his brief test drive.  While I check out the machine that caught his eye, he’s already completing paperwork with the salesman.  Before I even finish looking over the blue beast (the sales tag calls it Superior Blue – typical Harley mentality), Miller strolls back outside with the key and paperwork in his hand.

“Let’s roll,” he says casually, like he didn’t just drop fifteen grand on a motorcycle in the span of forty-five minutes.

Now that you know a little more about the badass bikes from the pages of my books, what do you ride?  Drop a pic in the comments below, or if you don’t ride, then tell me what your dream bike is!

Thank you, that is all.

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