So while waiting for the audio techs at Bravo Canoli Productions to put the final touches on the latest Dumb & Dangerous movie I decided to spend a few hours at Desert Edge Honda/ Harley Davidson and test ride a few bikes. Being an American motorcycle enthusiast I am embarrassed to say that I have never before ridden a Harley. It is not like I have any bias towards them.. I honestly have just never had the chance. I like the idea of simple motorcycles that are “fix it with a hammer” easy to work on and that don't require a degree in micro electronics to change the oil. So why not try a Harley ...right?
First up was the Sportster 883 black edition (AKA the 883 Iron). I LOVE the look of this bike.
It is exactly what I had in mind when I headed out the door. After talking to “the man” and sighing a piece of paper I was led on a 20 min ride with a bunch of other folks on a bunch of other demo bikes. The route took us through town, out on highways and over various road surfaces (crappy pavement, train track crossings ...etc). By the second stoplight one of the “road marshals” asked how I liked it. I responded with a so so hand gesture and he yelled back that it was because it had such a small motor. Know I know that the V-twin generates power differently then my single cylinder thumper and to be honest I was not expecting too much, but I actually got a lot less then I thought was possible. The bike wheezed every time I tried to get up and move, the transmission sounded like it was made of granite and my mirrors were completely useless at anything over 60 kph due to the massive amount of vibration being generated by that “small” 883 cc motor. Additionally when we went over the rougher pavement I thought that something was seriously wrong with the bike. I felt every little pebble and ripple in the pavement. The “bad ass” Sportster was getting very unsettled by the road conditions and I quickly came to the realization that no matter how much I wanted to like this bike...it was just not going to happen.
When we arrived back at the shop I was told to give the 1200 “sporty” a go. This bike looked like something out of a remake of Easy Rider. Metal flake green paint, factory ape bars etc.. It was completely different then what I was looking for, but I wanted to give the bigger motor a try.
Long story short, the bike and I did not bond. Sure the motor was bigger, but the bike still shook like a broken washing machine, bounced all over the road when the surface was anything less then pristine and the engine sounded like it had a valve tap issue ( I was told that this noise is normal). Back at Desert Edge I asked one of the guys if Harley made a bike that didn't have shit suspension. Everyone laughed and the response I got was “Now you know why none of us ride Sportsters.” I was then led onto the Soft tail Slim.
I liked the classic lines of this bike and when I started it up the big 103ci sounded like a proper Harley. I would be lying if I told you that the noise it made didn’t put a big ass grin on my face. We rolled out and I began to get use to the floor boards and heel shifter. This bike is definitely more refined then the Sportster line. It did not get THAT upset with the poor pavement and the power just rolled on nice and smooth. I figure that with a couple of modifications (handle bars, seat, to start with) I could almost see myself buying one of these.
Since the temperatures were now well into the triple digits I decided to take a brake, grab something cold to drink and talk to some of the guys about their experiences with Harley. They all loved their bikes but none of them liked them the way they came from the factory (isn't this the case with us all?). We went inside to look around and as I was being shown a over modified version of the bike I was just on ( looked like a copper dragon had flaming diarrhea on top of a steam engine) I saw a lonely Triumph Bonneville sitting in the corner.
Now this was the one other bike besides the 883 Iron that I really wanted to ride. After talking with the owner of the shop I was granted permission to take it out on a demo (much to the dismay of the Harley Owners Group).
As soon as I sat on it I knew that Harley had no chance in my book. The Triumph fit me like a glove. All the controls were right where they should be and when I pushed the start button the engine purred to life. Not an obnoxious roar...but a low and sweet puurr. What a great noise.
Out on the road the Bonnie continued to impress. The seating position was spot on, the mirrors were useful at any speed and I can honestly say that the suspension was so good that I didn’t even notice the rough sections of pavement . The engine was quick and responsive and I flew by the rest of the pack without much effort. On the way back to the shop the group made a right but I went left. I wanted to be sure that this bike was really all that , and I tacked on a few extra KM's just to make sure.
When I retuned I felt like the son that disappointed an entire family. All the Harley guys were shaking their heads because the look on my face told the whole story. The best bike I had tried so far during the Harley demo day was a Triumph. After some good natured shit talking I was convinced to try the “Fat Bob” because everyone agreed that it was the best bike at the demo. At the first intersection when I could still see the shop I knew that this was the wrong bike for me. I mean I'm 5 ft 7 and 160 lbs, I should not be riding a “Fat” anything. My feet kept falling off the pegs, my arms felt like they were getting pulled out of the sockets... I cannot say anything bad about the bike other than it was WAY too big for me and the money it would take to modify it to my liking would be in the high thousands.
Thanks but no thanks.
Giving the news to the Harley Owners Group that I was in love with the Bonnie was tough, but trying to convince my bank account that I need another motorcycle is going to be even tougher. Special thanks should be given to the Alice Springs chapter of the Harley Owners Group & Desert Edge Motorcycles for putting on such a great event. I highly recommend everyone doing one of these demo days if you get a chance. Trying so many different bikes in one shot and talking to like minded individuals was a great experience. At least now I know that if I want a Harley, I need to look at other lines besides the Sportster.