First Bike Last Bike

Writen By: Buck Lovell
Photos By: Lovell Photography

Many motorcycle riders, myself included, wish they still possesed the first motorcycle they ever owned. Jay Ternes is not one of those wishful thinking riders. He, in fact still owns and rides the very his first motorcycle he ever purchased. Its a1977 Harley-Davidson XLH  which he bought in early 1977 from a Harley-Davidson dealer in Iola, Kansas. It was the first year of electric-start for the Harley-Davidson Sportster (XLH), and the last year for kick start (XLCH). As sold in the year 1977, Harley-Davidson Sportsters were equipped with either kick start, or electric start. Jay says the original shiny red paint job was like an irresistible magnet for him.

After spending three years at a teaching college in Emporia Kansas, Jay graduated with a teaching degree. He then landed a job teaching at a local school. His first paycheck was used to purchase the motorcycle you see here. He has owned it ever since. Jay happily rode that motorcycle around in stone stock condition for more than 4 years, something most of us wouldn’t or couldn’t do. I know I would have been bolting on new pipes or some damn thing. I’ve never been able to leave a new motorcycle unmolested for long.

Jay allowed Franks Harley-Davidson, a long gone Harley-Davidson dealership then operating in Spearfish South Dakota to custom the Sportster with a Black paint job over layed with orange flames. The motorcycle stayed that way until Jay retired, at which time Jay had the bike painted completely black, and chromed everything else that could be plated with the shiny stuff. The Dakota V-Twin crew, Randy and son Nick performed the makeover to Jays specs. Dakota V-Twin also used a whole bucket of Hot Toppers to add icing to the cake. Every visible bolt head or nut has a Hot Topper on it. I gave up trying to count’em all. The Ironhead Sportster was the motorcycle of choices for many late 1970’s customizers. It was inexpensive, lightweight, and handled well. It didn’t take a boatload of cash to get an Ironhead running like a hardcore pavement burner.

Many Harley-Davidson enthusiasts and Big-Twin snobs think of the venerable Ironhead Sportster as nothing more that a boat anchor. This is because as with any thoroughbred, the Ironhead requires a little extra maintenance and expertise to stay in peak operating condition. Keeping any Ironhead maintained properly includes constant checking of all the hardware to make sure something hasn’t vibrated loose. For guys like Jay, it’s worth the extra effort. In fact, Ironhead owners consider it an honor to be able to own and ride a piece of history. This motorcycle turns heads wherever it goes, and not just the heads of motorcycle riders. This is a handsome machines and attracts admirers across the board. That super buffed glossy black paint, and abundance of chrome says “Chopper” like nothing else ever will. Thanks Jay for letting us photograph your pride and joy two wheeler. I hope you and her have many more years of riding pleasure ahead of you.

 

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