Culture – Bikers’ Words – HARLEY-DAVIDSON Occasions


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Meeting with three "Bikers" from different backgrounds: Philippe Vidal, Marc Opat and Jean-Yves Fabiano.

Meeting with three Bikers from different backgrounds: Philippe Vidal, Marc Opat and Jean-Yves Fabiano, as part of our Special Harley Davidson File.


Philippe Vidal presides over the destinies of the "Paris Sud-Est Chapter France" whose benchmark concession is that of Michel Borie in Ivry-sur-Seine. With 160 members (holders and associates), this chapter is not the oldest – ahead of a few months by the Sun South Coast Nice Chapter of the French Riviera – but it is doing quite well.

The chapter: first a business of friends

Philippe, along with five other affiliates, have been there since the beginning (1993), loyal to the post. The organization is structured as in all chapters with a "director", a "road-captain", an "assistant-director", a ladies’ manager, a webmaster and even a historian !

What exactly are they doing? "Rides. From that of a day going in the forest of Fontainebleau to a long weekend on the D-Day Landing beaches to week-long trips to another European country. In this case, priority is given to Harley events."specifies Philippe, hotelier in Paris in" the civil ".

Holding a permanence, every Saturday afternoon in the concession, the chapter does not claim any "initiation" or "obligation" but rather a furious passion to meet up with friends. At Borie, the atmosphere is quite biker. "We have people who ride. On average, 15,000 kilometers per year"underlines Philippe Vidal, 48 years old. As proof of this desire to" eat the kilometer ", this chapter moved 65 Harleys to the European meeting of Saint-Tropez, last June. The first stage, Paris-Montpellier (700 kilometers) has been carried out with full speed and speed.

Philippe Vidal is with his Harley like Obelix with the magic potion. Not only did he fall into it very small, but every time he asks for more. "My Electra has 140,000 kilometers and I ride it all the time. Of course, I kept my 4 legs when I was 18 – an F2 with 4 in 1 – but I am 100% Harley. My Harley way of life is, for example, preferring to buy a branded shirt rather than an Oxbow". In 2003, he made the Centennial Pilgrimage to Milwaukee:"There was a small parade with 10,000 motorcycles. They were the ones who said "little one", it was sheer madness! It started at 4 a.m. and lasted all day"says, still moved, Philippe.

The chapter’s trip lies elsewhere than in the bike itself. "For many, it’s like a valve. They come there, no one knows except the office what they do for a living, whether they have money or not. And they roll. They tell us that by coming with us, they found something they had been looking for for a long time. Where we are all dressed the same".

Marc Opat: under the sign of custom

A rider from the age of 18, Marc Opat, 40, started with an XT 500 and then another Yamaha, a 650 XS, "something that looked like a Triumph"which does not fail to reveal this purist, residing in a small village in the Oise. With finances rather limited, this turner-miller customizes his Yam a bit.

"Of course, as soon as I could, I bought a Harley but after seriously saving"explains this enthusiast of everything that comes from the United States. In 1990, here he bought a new 1340 Softail FXST:"We kept him originally for a year or two. And then, like everyone else, we started by putting on accessories. But it quickly becomes expensive and then your bike looks like everyone’s"says Marc with his Picard accent.

As a good craftsman who respects himself, Marc cuts, shapes and then assembles. "Of my original Softail, only the engine and fork tubes remain. The rest is homemade". Pot, wheel hubs, frame … Marc made" his "motorcycle that all friends envy. He doesn’t do that to show off:"At Harley, you have the pros who even advertise in magazines for their transformations and "show bikes" all over Germany and Italy. Me, I have done twice the Pecquencourt salon next to Douai, a special thing for choppers. But that’s all. From a certain point, it stinks of money. This is the arms race. The more you put in, the better. On my rear tire, I have a 200. But you guys have guys, they put 300s or even 350s. That doesn’t mean anything anymore".

In the street, people stop him and always ask him the same questions. That of knowing how much it cost: "I don’t know", Marc slips,"I never counted my hours and took the time I needed. On the cash side, when you make it yourself, it’s good. Then they ask how I did this or that. I tell them all the time that it has to be beautiful, well finished. And that the rest don’t matter much".

Does he ride a lot? "Not too much at the moment because we have a baby. We take the cars instead". Cars ? "Yes, I also have a 1968 Buick Le Saber and a 1974 Dodge Challenger. Two V8s". When you are told he loves anything from the States.

Jean-Yves Fabiano "drives slower"

At 45, Jean-Yves Fabiano wanted to have fun. This invariable owner of Kawasaki (650, Ninja, GPZ, GTR), who had started – like everyone else – on a Peugeot 103 then a Yamaha 125, was riding a 1200 ZZR … and "getting bored without knowing it"as he says, laughing.

In July, the wife of this Parisian, father of a family (three children) managed to drag him to a Harley dealership in the Hauts-de-Seine. A not entirely innocent step on the part of the eternal passenger badly installed behind and who had whispered in his ear that the next would be a Milwaukee machine.

"Switching to the Harley, for me, was a weird thing. Tell yourself that you are getting old"admits Jean-Yves. He pushes the door, the reception is nice. As always, he asks to try it right away. And there, Bingo."I found the sensations cool, he says. Be easy, feet first. In fact, you feel like you have something in your hands. When I left with the ZZR, I found it small although it is taller. Today I will not go back".

Seduced, he fell in love last July for a Softail De Luxe. The bill is still quite salty: "By purchasing it, I found everything very expensive. In addition, you have to put on accessories: a saddle, a windshield. The prices are a bit excessive but the quality is there. You want to buy".

On the driving side, Jean-Yves has changed his habits: "We drive less quickly, the tension is different and I realize that it is less tiring. From time to time, we think of the landscape and we have more our head in the handlebars. It’s easier to handle than my ZZR and then there are the radars. I got three points on the Softail this summer. With the ZZR, the license passed there"concludes this big wheeler biker who leaves the car to the children.

What amazes him the most is undoubtedly the image given off by his "puppy" as the other customers of the dealership tell him. Jean-Yves finds that the image of the biker changes into a Harley: "I don’t get accosted by people and I even got hit on by some girls, who accosted me while my wife was there! It’s crazy, everything is a pretext for discussion with this bike. With the Kawa, I had never seen that. And then, the other guys in Harley, you can smell more mature guys. This is truly a myth and it is flattering. At the limit, we are embarrassed".

Very new in this world, he takes the opportunity to try everything that moves. "When the bike goes for overhaul, they lend me stuff. I’ve tried VRod, a Fat and even a Buell. This one, it was super hard: super powerful, braking well but very uncomfortable, an image thing. Finally, mine is well suited to my size with a well distributed weight".

"The chapter? I haven’t tried it yet. There is a cool looking side with no apparent rivalries between the guys. I discover. We kind of felt like some were stuffed with cash with six bikes each. Actually it seems that guys, they never sell them their bikes".


Interview by Pierre SYLVESTRE – Photos DR

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