Saturday, October 2, 2010

Review: Harley Motorcycles at Bikes, Blues, and Barbecue.

In the last two days, I had the opportunity to ride six different models of Harley Davidson.  They were Sportster Forty 8, Sportster 883 Low, Fat Bob, Fat Boy Classic, V-Rod Muscle, and one other soft-tail of some sort.  I was also able to ride a Can-Am Spyder, a three wheeled vehicle built more like a snow mobile than a motorcycle.

I was looking for a motorcycle to consider buying when my 1995 Honda Nighthawk 750 kicks the bucket.  This is not likely to happen soon, it just passed the 30,000 mile mark and runs presumably like the day it was made, definitely like the day I got it, that is before I switched it over to synthetic lubricants.

The biggest difference I noticed was between my bike and the others when I switched back which I did after riding two Harleys in a row in each case.  My bike weighs probably 200-300 lbs less than the average Harley and maneuvers much better.  It also vibrates a whole lot less, in fact, the first time I started it up after riding the first two Harleys, I had to rev the engine to see if it was actually on.

Which leads me to my first point.

Harleys vibrate.  With the exception of the V-Rod, Harleys use an air cooled 45 degree offset v-twin.  With their sheer size and power and natural imbalance, they vibrate a lot, especially Sportsters without counterbalances.  The Classic was probably the best beside the V-Rod, but let me explain the V-Rod. 

The V-Rod is not your traditional Harley by a long shot.  It was designed with help from Porshe, and differs in many significant ways.  First, it is offset by 60 degrees which makes it a bit bigger even though the displacement is significantly smaller.  Adding to that factor is water cooling.  It is also counter balanced making it much smoother than the other machines even though the engine is hard mounted instead of rubber mounted like the others.  It makes a sound unlike any I have come across.  Able to rev to 9k, it easily beats any of the other Harleys whose rev limiters kicked in with out much notice around 6k or so.

All the Harleys are big.  They all maneuver significantly slower than my bike.  Several I was able to drag the foot pegs on the ground without trying, and the 883 Low was so easy that I was able to drag pegs on both sides in successive left and right swerves.  That was without leaving my lane and at 50 mph or more.  Probably the best one of the standard machines would have been the one I didn't get to ride, but did get to sit on, the Sportster 1200X with its dirt bike styling (but not functionality) and sport bike peg position.  It's handlebar position was way better too, like some street-fighter conversions I've seen with dirt bars.

Of all the bikes I tried, with a change of handlebars, the V-Rod would be the one I would go with.  It is the most powerful, the best technology, probably the longest lasting, and the best technology.  What can I say, I'm an engineer.

The Spyder was a different bird altogether.  I didn't like it much.  It rides like a four-wheeler on pavement which is to say it's way too sensitive and it seems could toss you if you get a bee stuck in your helmet and twitch too hard.  The electronic shifting sucked.  They tell you not to let off the gas when you shift.  They didn't say why, but it turns out that the machine does it for you which isn't cool.  Fortunately it does have a manual option, so there's that.  I wouldn't ride one unless I lost my left leg.  You still need your right leg because that's the only option for a brake, though I think that could be remedied with a little imagination.  For someone only trained on two-wheelers, the Spyder can be a problem.  A lady in front of me almost ran off the road trying to countersteer like you would a motorcycle. 

The three wheeled configureation is naturally more stable than a standard trike configuration which leaves much to be desired in handling, and as I have said before, one of my favorite cars is the Aptera 2e with the same configuration, but it's a car, it has a steering wheel and not handlebars.  I think the handlebars are what causes the problem.

I hope some real life experience could help someone, if you have any questions, I avidly answer comments.

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