As you may be aware, Harley Davidson are asking people, nay, begging people to go along and test ride one of their extensive bike range. It's all over the bike press, and Sunday papers at the moment. So, I succumbed on April 21st.
What! Bill on a Harley? Hmmm, errr... yes.
I've always had opinions about Harleys and maybe made some assumptions that may, or may not have been correct. So, I went for the test ride so at least I could comment with some authority from now on.
First of all it was sunny afternoon - it's only April, but it's like Summer here right now. Glorious.
I suggested that if I was going over to the Dark Side, then three mates should join me as well. Having some otjher riders along, and my daughter on the back of me made it great fun. A great afternoon out. We were taking the piss a bit. We kept chanting "Wild Hogs" and going "Grrrr..... to each other. (Out of earshot of the Dealership of course!) Dave only had his one piece race leathers to wear, but Mark & I selected jeans and leather jackets, plus open face helmets and shades - to look the part!
Our slight detour to miss the traffic took us past the school where Mark's kids go. It's was 3:20pm and the kids were just about to come out. Dave's orange XR1200 had loud pipes on it, and we were feeling mean. As we passed, I growled, menacingly, at one of the Mums waiting to cross the road. Nicole was shocked, "what on earth did you do that for?" she asked. I laughed, and admitted it was Mark's wife CJ!
We only had an hour, but managed to do 55 miles on country roads. Not bad, seeing as we were stuck in slow moving city traffic for the first 12-15 minutes, and again for 5 mins or so, on our approach back to the dealership.
We didn't really care which models we rode; they've all more or less got the same 1940s engine anyway haven't they? No? Anyway, I got the V-Rod - the "quick one" - the water-cooled bastard child that purists say isn't a proper Harley.
We didn't take any of the big, full dress tourers as that option was never going to float our boat.
First impressions - the bikes were much smaller and lighter than they looked - quite tiny actually - surprising. Although pushing a hefty 280 kg or more, they felt much lighter due to low slung weight distribution. I was slightly concerned about the feet-forward cruiser position on my V-Rod because I'd never ridden anything like this before - and I had a pillion on the back, and it was busy city traffic, and this bike costs over 12 Grand! However, apart from putting my feet in the wrong place a few times, and leaving melted boot rubber on the chrome exhaust, the forward pegs were OK. It was incredibly easy to ride.
The V-Rod is supposedly the performance machine. It was quite nippy, but I still wouldn't call it massively fast. Smooth, quiet and reasonably powerful - but not the instant brutal surge of my FZ-1. To be honest - I didn't think it was all that torquey either - I think my Yam pulls just as strongly or more so, even from low revs. (this could be a false impression - the figures suggest the V-Rod is nearly as powerful as the Yam, and the torque should be higher)
Anyway - HDs aren't really about absolute perfomance. From the off, we all had really massive grins on our faces. Mark Halliday later commented that he hadn't had so much fun hooning around at 55mph since he was 16, with all his mates, on 50cc FS1-Es.
30mph, 40mph, and our test ride cruise speed of 50-60mph most of the time, felt quite quick. The open face helmets some of use wore, and naked, unfaired riding position made high speeds irrelevant . All 4 HDs had adequate performance for our country lane test ride. We took them up to about 80mph for a short blast on the A50, but most of the ride was spent at fairly sedate speeds.
We stopped for a quick photo-shoot and a gossip about half way round our circuit. My daughter said the pillion perch wasn't very comfortable, compared to the soft seat and better suspension of my Fazer (costing just half the price of the Harley).
By the end of the hour (about 1hour 10mins actually - after a second fuel stop), Nicole said that was about enough for one session. The seating and suspension was quite solid, even though better than the XR1200 that Dave rode. All bikes seemed to gobble fuel as well - mine went from 3/4 full to fuel-light-on, almost empty, during the ride. We stopped to put fuel in the XR and my V-Rod, but I couldn't find where to put fuel into "The Fast One". I guessed correctly that the filler cap was under the seat - but couldn't find the key to release the seat. It turns out you just pull the seat up - there is no seat lock.
By the time we took the bikes back, the initial novelty and big grins had worn off a bit, and I don't think any of us would actually go and buy one. However, we all had a great of fun, and that's what it's all about isn't it?
My Fazer 1000 felt so much taughter, faster, more comfortable, and just all round more capable, on the ride back home. Seconded by Nicole on the back. So I won't be trading it in for touring purposes. I noticed Mark & Paul lingering longer than might be considered normal in the HD showroom though :)
In actual fact, I'm not converted, but the trip out was very very enjoyable, and I'd recommend the experience to anyone. Get yourself booked on a Judgement Day, before it's too late.
Click here or contact your local dealership to make your own mind up.
They are doing it again at venues around the country, click here http://judgementdays.harley-davidson.co.uk/