I visit Utah a couple of times a year (my company is based there), and this time decided to follow through on something I’ve been promising myself for ages: I rented a Harley-Davidson for the weekend.
Because it’s getting toward Winter the local dealership Timpanogos Harley were offering a discounted rate of $99 per day for any of a range of 5 or 6 models. I was advised by a Harley fanatic friend to go for the new Street Glide, so that’s what I did.
I picked up the Street Glide last Saturday — a chilly but dry and bright morning. I had brought my own leather jacket, boots, and underlayers with me and the dealer loaned me a Hells Angel-style open helmet (later in the weekend I borrowed a full-face from a friend as the open one was a nightmare). After signing about 5 waivers absolving them of any and all liability I was led out to the parking lot where they took me round the bike and then insisted on watching me ride around the car park to prove I knew how to ride. That was a little intimidating but I went down the end, turned around and came back without falling off so they were happy. Knowing that it was my first time they offered me the use of their training course round the back, so I spent the first ten minutes practising cornering and generally getting used to the feel of the thing in safety. Very useful!
The weekend was just great. Quite cold but dry and with good visibility, and I rode around 300 miles, part freeway but as much as possible through winding mountain roads with stunning scenery.
Compared with a “regular” Japanese road bike like mine the Harley’s ride was very different. At cruising speeds the bike was immensely comfortable — I could have sat there all day watching the world fly past. Low speed in a straight line was also pretty easy; but when it came to low-speed car park manouevres things were a little hairier. I found the balance of the bike very different compared to mine. the bars and front wheel felt heavier and inclined to pull the bike to the side the more they turned. I found the best way to handle this was to lean forward so my body weight was more over the instrument panel (but keeping the weight off the bars). This made it easier to feel what the bike wanted to do and go with it without losing balance. Of course this is just a case of non-familiarity and I’m sure it would be fine once you get used to it.
Anyhow, I got through the weekend in one piece and without dropping it, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. While I’m not about to buy a Harley for the North Circular I can certainly see the attraction that gives them such a die-hard following.