More choice, more attitude and more advancements
Cyril Klopper – American motorcycle manufacturer, Harley-Davidson, just introduced eight new motorcycles to its already substantial catalogue.
This is merely the start of the company’s ambitious plan to reach two million riders around the world and produce no less than 100 different models over the next 10 years.
It’s refreshing to see a manufacturer expanding outward during these trying times rather that withdrawing inward like General Motors recently chose to do.
Harley-Davidson categorise their range of bikes as either Street, Sportster, Touring, Trike and Softail. The eight new bikes form part of the latter category.
Riding the Street Bob
The first motorcycle the Harley-Davidson staff wheeled out was the Street Bob. It’s a bare-bones bike that needs – in the words of many a father-in-law-to-be – a serious attitude adjustment.
The mini ape-hanger handlebars rebel against convention and the black spoke wheels and chopped fenders speaks of a troubled childhood with many visits to the principal’s office.
The smooth-top tank holds 13.2 litres – just enough fuel to get you to a local motorcycle rally and back.
The digital speedometer is cleverly hidden in the handlebar riser. When the Street Bob is switched off it appears as if the bike has no instrumentation at all.
The Street Bob is unfortunately not for everyone. Tall riders will feel cramped by the ergonomics which are better suited to shorter lads or the ladies.
It is incidentally also the least expensive Softail Harley-Davidson has to offer, which is great news if you want the street cred Harley-Davidson is so good at providing without having to rob a bank.
Riding the Breakout
The next bike the Harley-Davidson staff wanted us to experience was the Breakout, and oh boy what an experience it was.
If the Street Bob needed an attitude adjustment then it only had to spend time with the Breakout because this bike had plenty of attitude.
The Breakout is modelled on a dragster with low-slung raked out 49 mm front forks. It’s a long bike with a squat stance which makes the already fat 18” rear tyre seem even fatter.
The large 21” front wheel seem miles away when you stretch out on this bike and at first you’ll assume that this bike won’t be able to turn, but it does.
In fact, the Breakout handles remarkably well. It was easily the favourite bike amongst the journalist present at the launch. It’s easy to understand why because this is a rider’s bike, not a poser.
Riding the Heritage Classic
Next up was an obligatory old-school offering. Resembling a Apartheid-era police bike more than anything else no-one was rushing to get on the Heritage Classic. That would soon change though.
Of all the bikes tested the Heritage Classic was by far the most comfortable. The detachable windscreen keeps the wind off you and the forward-control footboards really allow you to stretch your legs.
The Heritage Classic has the same mini ape-hangers as the Street Bob but they seem decidedly less bad boy here.
Those wanting to tour will appreciate the lockable, weatherproof saddle bags and the somewhat more substantial pillion seat for your partner.
A taller suspension setup allows you to load up with luggage and the cruise control function will make hitting the open road a pleasure.
Riding the Fat Bob
The Fat Bob was my absolute favourite to ride. It doesn’t have quite the same bad boy image as the Street Bob, the touring capability of the Heritage Classic or the ride-ability of the Breakout but oh boy is it fun!
This fun factor is hard to qualify. It’s partly due to the unique sound from the exhaust which differed substantially from the other Harleys on test.
The straight handlebars reminds one of a motard while the far-forward pegs are decidedly dragster. It is also the only Softail on test with two front brake discs which provides far better stopping power allowing you to brake much later before entering a turn.
The two most noticeable features have to be the fat front tyre and the wide LED headlight cluster. We also liked the 43 mm inverted cartridge style front forks.
The Fat Bob is something of a groundbreaking bike for the American motorcycle manufacturer and yet it also seems quintessentially Harley-Davidson. It’s not cheap, but it’s oh so good.
All the bikes tested are powered by the latest generation Milwaukee-Eight 107 powertrain while certain models such as the Breakout and Fat Bob are also available with the more powerful 114 engine.-Wheels24