~Since 2004~
A site about memories, thoughts, photos, and unrepentant opinions about motorcycles and motorcycling after four decades of twisting the throttle.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Harley-Davidson Demo Day

The nearby H-D dealer was having a demo day today so I gathered up my helmet and gloves and stopped in to take a new '13 Electra-Glide for a spin.  My present lack of funds allows me the freedom to look without the pressure to buy.  It's actually kind of nice.  By the end of summer I'll need another machine, though, I'll be getting the withdrawal shakes by then.

My current thinking has been running towards a BMW R1200RT, a Gold Wing, or... >gasp<  an Electra-Glide.

So after signing the usual releases I lined up with the other dreamers to take our chosen mounts for a ride.  A very pretty yellow and black Electra-Glide was my choice.  The last time I rode a Harley was back in '06 when I took a Road Glide for a spin.  I was interested to see what changes seven years had wrought, I'd been assured there were many since then.

As I inched out of my parking spot and began waiting for the signal to commence being impressed, I discovered the tranny wouldn't find neutral stopped at idle.   And the tranny shifted like only a John Deere can with a loud "clonk!" at each change  of gears when stopped or rolling.  The shifter position was too far inboard and awkward even with my riding boots, and the at-idle engine vibration at stop lights is absurd, it was actually shaking my eyeballs.

The instruments, particularly the indicator lights for the blinkers are tiny and hard to see in bright light.  The bike was very smooth once rolling but lacked the low down grunt of my '06 1600 Nomad -- I found myself having to shift down to accelerate more than one should with a "Big Twin."  Rolling into a turn the bike seemed to want to rise up and tip as if the tire had a square shoulder (it didn't).  The classic, trademark H-D primary cover sticks out too far and when stopped kept wanting to burn my leg so I had to position my foot on the ground further forward than I would have liked.

The bike is very pretty, H-D's level of finish, especially paint, is as good as there is anywhere, walking through the dealership browsing bikes is a delight to the eye,  but if I were going to blow $25k on a new bike the Gold Wing wins hands down over the Harley in every respect but weight.  The BMW R1200RT is a different critter than either bike, I last rode one in '05 and need to get astride one again in the months to come.

The full H-D "lifestyle" was on display at the dealership today with everyone striving to show their individuality by dressing alike in H-D t-shirts, black vests with HOG patches, and two days worth of beard. I wore the H-D t-shirt Jac gave me so I'd fit in half way and there'd be less chance of being waylaid into what an H-D dealer once told me was "like joining an f----- cult." .  I think I shall continue to truly go my own way when it comes to my motorcycle "lifestyle."

All in all I still don't understand why people buy a Harley these days except that "It's a HARLEY,  man!!" and they have a greater need to belong to something than I do.  To each his own and I do believe that what people ride is a lot less important than the fact that they love to ride.

The most interesting person I talked to today was the very attractive young woman riding tailgunner for Harley on all the demo rides. She's a big time riding enthusiast, happy to talk bikes, recently rode an Aprilia Tuono and marveled at how much fun it was. She was having fun working her way through the demo fleet bikes, her regular job is selling H-D clothes for women.  Her personal bike is a Honda VFR800 which she said felt slow and heavy compared to the Tuono.   Ah to be young again >wink, wink, nudge, nudge< but I have riding gloves older than she is..much older.

And for all you H-D people who are ready to flame me, allow my friend Curt to express his opinion to me on your behalf from astride his Electra-Glide.


Trobairitz said...

I've never understood the cult that is Harley. My mom and brother both rode Harleys and my brother worked for Harley for over 18 years. One of the reasons I am so resistant to them I guess. (My one act of rebellion)

It used to be that people rode Harleys to be different from everyone else and now I sum it up as something I said to Brad as we watched a long line of Harleys ride by one day: "Look at all those non conformists, conforming together."

They all wear the uniform and dress the same. So much for non conforming.......

Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against Harleys or those who ride them.

They just aren't for me and I admit that I don't really understand the diehard obsessive mindset of some.

Unknown said...


It shouldn't matter what you ride, but rather that you do ride. The most irritating thing is the loudness of their screamin' eagle exhausts. They are too loud for me

Go for the RT !! then we can get a photo of both our bikes together in 2014

Riding the Wet Coast

Anonymous said...

I've read all your posts and hope you're riding again soon. I had the same experience w Harley. They were pretty but mediocre at best and I find the cult type attitude and dress to be ridiculous. I ride an 08 Nomad 1600 and have yet to ride a Harley that compares well.

Unknown said...

Nice post. I rather like the sound and look of many HDs, but I prefer the smaller ones (smaller being a relative term when it comes to HD), like the Sportster 48 or something similar. I'd like to check out a couple models from the new Softail lineup, too, like the Softail Slim or the Breakout.

Jac Brown said...


Before you give up entirely on H-D, check out some of the new bikes that are aimed at younger buyers. After all, you are just a youngster yourself.

I'm not saying that the Harley lifestyle is for me either, but I know they are working hard on things like handling and responsiveness, at least in certain models.

13 years ago, we had a young engineer working with us that had grown up in Milwaukee. After a couple years, he wanted to move back to friends and family, so took a brake job with Harley. A friend at work has stayed in touch and he is now the head of Vehicle Dynamics (handling) for H-D. He tells my friend that they have made some of the younger bikes a lot more fun to ride.

Unknown said...

The RT would be hard to beat!

Unknown said...

Doug, you made a statement that I've always lived by: "To each his own and I do believe that what people ride is a lot less important than the fact that they love to ride."

While I ride a Harley, I do not own a HD t-shirt, gloves, jacket or other accouterment. I ride a HD because I'm a big man and they just seem to fit my body better than any other bike I've found.

The key note here? Just go ride something. Great article. Thanks


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