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Old 12-07-2012, 10:54 PM   #1
canoli OP
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Harley Demo Day

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 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.


canoli screwed with this post 12-08-2012 at 12:49 AM
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Old 12-08-2012, 08:07 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by Jeathrow Bowdean View Post
I still don't see any dual sport bikes made by Harley Davidson. I guess I will have to wait for another 10 years !!!

From jeathrow Bowdean in Western Canada.
You'll be waiting much longer than that my friend ; )
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Old 12-08-2012, 12:54 PM   #3
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I just can't figure it out. The jap's built bikes that look like Harley's, and I think that it would only be fair if Harley would make an Adventure Dirt Bikes to pay them back. "Lets see, was it an eye for an eye or is it a bike for a bike. Never say never is what my Dad told me !!!!!

From Jeathrow Bowdean in Western Canada.PS: I'm sure that the 1200cc power plant would rock the dual sport world, but then again, what would I know about this stuff !!!
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Old 12-08-2012, 02:27 PM   #4
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Good review, thanks. I've been considering a Harley, almost bought a used Road King last spring. Also think that some of them look great and it's time to try one vs the Japanese adventure/standards I'm used to. Will have to look for one of those demo days before I spend the cash.
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Old 12-09-2012, 01:57 PM   #5
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I've got to say, the Triumph Bonneville is a very nice bike to ride. Up until a few years ago, all I'd ridden was dirt bikes and dual sports. When I got the itch to buy a street bike, a nice used (2006) Bonneville came up for sale at the local Triumph dealer. I was only about twenty yards away from the dealership and was pretty sure it was love. It was a great deal and the wife loves going for rides with me. It's seat is low enough that she can ride it if she decides she wants to some day.

3SuperSports screwed with this post 12-09-2012 at 02:05 PM
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Old 12-10-2012, 04:41 AM   #6
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The one thing I really noticed now that I think about it is that with the Harley everyone talked about the # of things that have to be changed to make the bike right. Starting with the exhaust, intake & seat, then moving onto handlebars, grips, foot peg locations...I mean it was like that for every Harley I sat on. The Bonnie... all I wanted to change the grips.
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Old 12-10-2012, 06:24 AM   #7
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It's funny how different people have different experiences with the same bikes. 2 years ago I decided to go bike shopping. Being a huge fan of the old "standard" bikes I decided that I NEEDED a Bonnie. I went to a local shop and test rode one. I came away very disappointed in how bland the bike felt. I wanted to have a love affair with this bike but it was so uninspiring to ride I just couldn't see myself owning one. A few days later my girlfriend says to me "Why don't you go look at a Harley?". I kind of chuckled at the idea but decided to go check one out anyway. The only HD that has ever interested me is the Sportster but I just couldn't imagine owning a Harley for various reasons. I went to the dealer and after a brief ride around the parking lot I knew that it was going to be my bike...I didn't even bother finishing the test ride. I can't explain it but the damn thing just puts a big ass grin on my face every time I ride it. I now own 2 of them.

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Old 01-03-2013, 06:02 PM   #8
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Great write up. I dont agree with everything, but its great to see your perspective.

I just traded a Bonnie for a Softail Slim. Small bike to big bike. So far, I am happy - although there are things I miss about the Bonnie, things I like and dislike about the Harley.

It should be an interesting year.

Thanks for putting this together, I enjoyed it very much.

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Old 01-04-2013, 01:28 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Zanotti View Post
Great write up. I dont agree with everything, buit its great to see your perspective.

I jus traded a Bonnie for a Softail Slim. Small bike to big bike. So far, I am happy - although there are things I miss about the Bonnie, things I like and dislike about the Harley.

It should be an interesting year.

Thanks for putting this together, I enjoyed it very much.

Thanks, glad you liked the write up. The thing is the more time I have to think about these two bikes ( Bonnie & Soft Tail Slim) the more blurry my memory gets and I forget all the stuff that didn't feel right. I'm sure that when I'm ready to pull the trigger in 3 years I'll need to do a demo ride again...then who knows... I might be able to find a used but well sorted Harley in my price range

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Old 03-28-2013, 08:02 PM   #10
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Great write up. In 2003 I did exactly what you did, tried out several Harleys with the same results. I looked like a monkey humping a football on the Sportster. The only ones that really tripped my trigger were the Fat Boy and the Road King, but I didn't have the 18-25K it would have cost.
I went to another dealer and found a new T100. It was love at first sight and 7.5K.
We had 10 great, trouble free years together. Almost all of my friends ride Harleys and they liked my bike, even though they treated me like the demented uncle who lives in the attic.
I just moved on to a 2012 Thunderbird Storm. I love it, but I will never forget that Bonneville
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Old 03-29-2013, 08:46 PM   #11
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Thanks for sharing this experience with us! I too have ridden many 2 wheelers but never a Harley. Keep thinking I will rent one for a day at some point, but perhaps a demo day would be just the ticket. cut my teeth on Japanese bikes but would still like to try a H/D!!!
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Old 03-29-2013, 10:25 PM   #12
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So it's been close to four months since those test rides and I still very much want the Bonnie, but there are days that I think about the Soft Tail Slim. Friends and co-workers have also convinced me that I need to test ride a Road King, and give the Switchback a try. 2 1/2 years is a long time to wait for another bike and a lot of new models will come out during that time...who knows..

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Old 03-30-2013, 03:39 PM   #13
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I bought an 03 R.King new in 02,never really wanted one till i got over 50,in the old days that's what u saw broke down on the side of the road,a Harley,i have had all kinds of Jap bikes for yrs.street bikes,trail,dirt,all i have done is put a good seat on the R.K.&rode it 65,000mi.comfy,like a recliner,have made many allday&nite trips.In the meantime i also ride an old KLR for forest roads etc&BMW f650GS for traveling&good mpg.I'm over 60 now,if i want a comfortable ride,i get on my Harley,been dependable also.
IBA#54495 Patriotism is supporting your country all the time,and your government when it deserves it.Mark Twain.
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