Published on August 30th, 2010 | by Daniel Cousins
HARLEY-DAVIDSON 2010 LAUNCH
Boon goes where no young man has ever gone before… to ride Harleys
Photography: Lou Martin
It was a pretty average Tuesday until Borrie bellowed at me from his office, demanding my presence. Usually this occurs so he can yell at me about typos or make me go and drink beer, but it was to be for a different reason that day.
“I’m kind of house-bound at the moment,” he explained with a scowl. “Do you want to fly to Melbourne and ride Harleys along the Great Ocean Road for a few days?”
I’d never had a blat on a Harley before and I’d never ridden the Great Ocean Road, so I promptly shit myself with delight, but managed to play it cool. “Christing Sky Moose, do I have to?” I blurted out.
And then before I knew it, I was in Melbourne preparing to have big chunks of American motorcycle shoved between my legs.
Harley-Davidson is rolling out five new models for 2010, four of which we got to put our arses on and ride around some very fine and some very not-so-fine parts of Victoria. They were the Iron 883 Sportster, the XR1200X, the Dyna Wide Glide and the Fat Boy Lo. Missing from our two-day excursion was the Electra Glide Ultra – a whopping great tourer that, by the looks of it, would very happily see you across the country comfortably on one tank of fuel.
Iron 883 Sportster
I seemed to get stuck with the Sportster on all the transport sections, so the one thing that stood out for me is this bike is just too small! After about 20 minutes, I really felt like I was riding a motorised bowling ball down the Princes Highway as we made a beeline for Torquay.
The ride position was extremely cramped and I was revving the tits off it to keep up with the other bikes along highways, but there was still a whole lot to like about the new Sportster. I reckon for an ordinary sized-person, it would be OK – everything felt ‘right’, just too small.
Because of the high revs (no tacho, so I can’t give a figure) the engine vibrations became really intense after a while, and as we hauled arse back to Melbourne on day two, I started to get epic pins and needles in my feet. One bloke told me that the rubber-mounted engine was a monstrous improvement over the previous models, so I can only imagine how vibratey they would have been.
You’re lone wolfing it with only one seat – and no pillion ‘pegs – so don’t be riding the Iron around with a spare helmet expecting to pull roots, unless she’s well plastered and doesn’t mind sitting on hard plastic all the way home. It’s a shame, that, because it’s a good-looking, distinctive bike to have a perve on.
The only chance I got to punt it through corners was during the photo ops and it was light, easy to throw around, and had good clearance – just a simple-to-ride motorcycle. I’d be really interested in riding the 1200cc version which would hopefully have a bit more room and grunt.
One disc up the front does an adequate job of slowing you down but then, with only 883cc thudding along between your legs, it’s likely you weren’t going that fast to begin.
If I was a bit shorter and bit lighter and wanted to jump straight into the riding experience with a Harley, this would be the perfect bike. You’ll get enough change from $12,000 for your first beer after you’ve rolled out of the dealership and for what you’ve parted with, you’re getting a solid little bike. If Harley could somehow get this thing put on the LAMS list, it would be a winner with those learning to ride with the sole purpose of owning a Harley.
It was just too small for this lanky prick.
Dyna Wide Glide
This… this is what I had initially imagined Harley riding was all about. And when I finally unfolded myself from the Sportster and parked my arse regally on the old-school Wide Glide, I immediately felt like King Shit of Badarse Mountain.
I was roughly a billion times more comfortable after having stuffed myself onto the little 883, with a comfortable, extended reach to the ‘bars and my legs spread out in front of me. It was a sizeable steed and I was instantly addicted. This is why people buy Harleys – to be noticed. The laced wheels, the long front, the polished goodies… I’ll admit I had a little bit of a chub for this thing (minus the screen).
The Wide Glide would be a great foundation to make happy bling-time to as it’s such a simple looking bike. Nothing particularly screams “Oh I’m so sexy, touch me,” but nothing is mortally offensive either. Bung some ‘hangers and straight-through pipes on this bad boy and I would strap a swag on the front, my woman on the back and ride this thing until the wheels fell off it.
There’s 96 cubic inches of American V-Twin twixt your thighs and it’s all extremely easy to handle. The engine is perfect and even around town, the longer front end was no issue ‘cos of that beaut fuel-injection. Cornering was an interesting affair as the ground clearance is pretty ordinary – abysmal even. It was the worst out of the four we rode and I found myself touching something down during corners.
I knew it wasn’t the ‘pegs because they didn’t move at all, and I was told after the first photo shoot it was the frame. This had the awesome habit of lifting the back wheel and moving it a centimetre or two if the frame hit a bumpy hunk of road which only happened to me once, but it sure put the fear of God into me. I was hanging off it like a sportsbike after that in order to keep the bike as upright as I could.
Aesthetically, the bike spoke to me – in fact, it kicked me in the balls while I wasn’t looking and, when I turned around to punch on, it disarmed me with old 60s rock songs. It sung of times long gone where men didn’t wear pink shirts or get manicures, where blokes on bikes were just that… blokes on bikes. I wanted to ride it far, far away.
I normally have a raging hate-on for sissy bars, but found the one-piece wire number on the Wide Glide worked with the lines of the bike. The clean back end was lovely and the cool curves of the exhaust headers were easy on the eye. The simple instrument cluster consisting of a speedo, a clock and some shit-is-about-blow-up lights is mounted on the tank and was surprisingly vibe-free.
The Dyna Wide Glide was by far my favourite bike of the four Harleys I put some kilometres on during those two days. It’s not the biggest, or the best, or the fastest cruiser out there, but it’s something special and whenever Lou yelled at us to change bikes for the next photo, I tended to find myself gravitating towards this one.
And that says a lot to me…
If you’re mad on big Harley V-twins but also want to rip up the corners, the XR1200 family is where you’re going to come rooting around. This is not a cruiser… not even close. It’s a big, piss-off speed machine with giant brakes, fully-adjustable suspension, a stonking great engine and a serious lust for fun.
Even when it’s perched on its stand on the side of road, the XR1200X is like a giant NFL player – it’s built like a brick shithouse and wants to go you all the time. The all-black styling with red highlights is really aggressive and pressed all the right buttons for me. .
After riding around in cruising mode for a day and a bit, getting on the XR was a massive shock. It accelerated! And it braked! Oh, how it braked. Those giant Nissins grabbed harder than an Ethiopian having a sausso roll dangled in front of his face on two discs… yes, two whole discs! I nearly launched myself over the handlebars grabbing a handful after coming off the single-disc cruisers.
The 1200cc twin was grunty and torquey, except for just above idle which was really snatchy and nasty – a tiny bit of throttle had the bike jerking around retardedly. Other than that, though, it was a stunning engine with power wherever you needed it and when coupled with the flawlessly smooth five-speed gearbox saw happiness rife in my pants during bends.
There were no footboards or frames to worry about scraping whenever the XR was leant over and it tipped in beautifully. I liked the leverage the wide, low-rise ‘bars gave, adding to the ease of belting through corners. The new upside-down front end is fully adjustable (the only one of the four bikes we rode) and felt really solid through bends, increasing the size of my gonads threefold once I was used to how tall the bike felt.
Besides the pain in the arse that was the low-down throttle snatch, it was really hard to fault the XR1200X. This is a bike that does everything well. It’d be a breeze to commute on and blast through traffic with, you could ride it for eons comfortably thanks to its ergonomic design and, when it’s time to play, you’ll be able to mix it up with everyone else.
Fat Boy Lo
Before I’d even fired the Fat Boy Lo into existence, I was captivated. It is a fat porker of a bike and looks angry – very angry. Like the Silverwater Social Lawn Bowls Club when they’ve been told their green has already been booked kind of angry.
The ‘Lo’ tag comes from the fact that Harley has dropped 2.9 centimetres off both the front and rear springs to give it a “road-hugging stance”. This has butchered what little ground clearance there once was and I was scraping the footboards on pretty much every decent bend I hit. It was never a problem, though, as touching down on the Fat Boy is predictable and satisfying. With its 61-centimetre seat height, it is also officially Harley’s lowest bike.
My time on the Fat Boy was predominantly in some of the most appalling conditions I’ve ever ridden in. It had pissed down rain the night before so the roads were slippery and treacherous, and there was a thick fog blanketing our route which left us with what I estimate to have been about 10 metres of visibility. It was cold, I was tired, but I didn’t care ‘cos this bike was choice fun, bro.
Out the back, you’ve got the lines of a hard tail with the beaut surprise of having a functional suspension system stashed under the chassis. It looks great and it works well – not that you’ll ever be rounding up Gixxer riders, but it’s still nice to have back there. I lost the arse once in the Baltic weather we were enjoying, yet rode it out nicely and carried on my merry way.
Despite being so low, the Fat Boy was stupidly comfortable. You sort of sit in the bike rather than on it, and the half-moon floorboards which gave such an exquisite shower of sparks were perfectly positioned for my lengthy lower limbs. I could reach my legs out as far as they would go and my heels would just slip over the ends of the board, locking my foot neatly into place to support my legs. Again, I felt I could have ridden for days on this thing, and would happily do so.
Although rigidly mounted to the frame as opposed to the other cruisers which have rubber helping free everything up from vibes, the counterbalanced engine was lacking in rumble for the most part. It wasn’t as nice as the Wide Glide, but it worked well. And with 96 cubic inches smashing away under you, it has a pretty good go at destroying kilometres with ease until you get where you want to be.
The weight and low-slungedness of the Fat Boy didn’t detract from having a great time blasting through Victoria. Like the Wide Glide, this is a motorcycle with character and heart that I would spend days, weeks and lifetimes on.
I pulled this quote from the Harley presentation we were given before riding off into the sun… er… rise on fresh Seppo steeds: “Our goal is to expand our strength as one of the most personal, emotionally-connected brands in the world where every individual feels a unique bond with our company, brands and products.”
And it’s not hard to do.
As queer as it sounds, each Harley I spent time with had character. None of them will ever be the best at what they do but they go about it a little differently – a bit like your not-quite-there younger step-brother who you can’t help but love. Their idiosyncrasies and faults are what make them special, just as much as their strengths.
You can push them to their limits and have a blast scraping away the frames or ‘pegs, or you can go for a lazy Sunday ride with some mates for a beer and some grilled dead animal. Or you can sit back with it in the garage drinking piss and polishing it.
It’s all gunna be fun.