Written by Wes DeBow
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you already know Harley-Davidson recently released what some, including myself, would argue is their most stylish production sportster to date, the 72. What you may not know is the inspiration behind the bike. Once again, H-D successfully defied conventional wisdom by dipping back into history, ultimately wowing the masses and causing bike builders around the globe to do a double take.
Harley-Davidson has recaptured an era of freedom and creativity with the design of the 72. The new build also pays homage to a culture that shaped a timeless style that many are continually trying to create in garages across the globe. Although the name 72 might seem like an obvious reference to a year on the calendar, it actually identifies itself with old Route 72. This road is better known as Whittier Blvd. in East Los Angeles, the birthplace of choppers, customs, and cruising and a cultural hub for Mexican Americans and self-proclaimed Chicanos.
Coinciding with the introduction of the 72, is a film by Alfredo de Villa titled Harlistas: An American Journey. It’s a unique documentary celebrating Latino motorcycling culture. Harley-Davidson is the common denominator in a story that explores the family bonds forged through riding motorcycles and the inexplicable sensation of doing so.
I recently had the opportunity to spend some time with part of the H-D crew in East L.A. to get a better understanding of the Hispanic influence that went into the styling of the 72. We started the weekend off at the Glendale H-D dealership, where we caught “Glendale fever” from the staff and owner/originator of the Love Ride (the largest one-day motorcycle fund raising event in the world), Oliver Shokouh. Oliver’s shop, love of motorcycles, and commitment to give back is legit. He shared his personal collection of classic Harley-Davidsons and a little bit of his vision to continue raising millions of dollars to benefit veterans’ causes. If you can make it, the next Love Ride will take place just before Halloween on October 29th.
Our next day was filled with more enlightenment and adventure. A visit to La Plaza de Cultura y Artes told the story of Los Angeles, a tale of the struggles and triumphs involved in shaping the City of Angels. A tour of the Boyle Heights murals from the Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles peeled back another layer of a diverse and complex community that expressed itself on the housing project walls to bring some hope and color to a bleak existence with a questionable future. We took a ride down Whittier Blvd., had a flight of Paqui tequila to compliment an incredible lunch at Cities Restaurant and spent some time with world-renowned guitar maker Tomas Delgado at the legendary Candelas Guitars.
Having grown up in Southern California myself, the part of the trip that hit close to home was going to Mister Cartoon’s studio, a space very few people are invited into. He came up from nothing and took the world by storm with his art and style. He’s about to do it again with a new line of car and motorcycle care products called Sanctiond. Cartoon spoke candidly with us about his background and blew us away by providing transportation to a Dodgers’ baseball game in a parade of candy colored low riders with his fellow members of the Lifestyle Car Club, a privilege normally earned not given. I was truly honored. It took two hours to go three miles and we did it in true L.A. style. The Dodgers won the game with a walk-off homer in the 10th, capping a seemingly Hollywood-scripted evening.
The final day was spent at Fiesta Broadway, the world’s largest Cinco de Mayo celebration where half a million people descend on the streets of L.A. for all things Latino. There were plenty of murals, mariachi, Tijuana dogs, and family fun for the celebration. Harley-Davidson was also in attendence with their entire line-up to help support the community and inspire future Harlistas to grab life by the handlebars. Leonard Garcia, one of my favorite UFC fighters, popped up at the Harley-Davidson booth and was kind enough to pose forehead to forehead with me in a pre-fight staredown. Win or lose, Leonard has never had a boring fight. He is a warrior with the heart of a lion.
I came away from the weekend with an even greater appreciation for the Latino influence on the world around me and for Harley-Davidson’s 72. It is truly a bike that looks good from any angle. Metal flake, peanut tank, white walls, pin stripes, ape-hangers, glistening chrome, it’s all there. The 72 is more than just a frame thrown on a couple wheels. It's cultural roots are strategically infused throughout its sturdy frame, telling a story that leaves you wanting nothing more than some pavement and a horizon.