06 December 2017

Cuba: Riding the Revolution




Roderick Eime infiltrates a Cuban secret society, the 'Harlistas'.


There's nothing new about motorcycle touring vacations, but sometimes there's an attraction that makes a destination irresistible.

Here in Cuba, Ernesto Guevara March, 52, is not only a child of the revolution, he is the son of the famous 'Che' Guevara whose iconised portrait adorns everything from T-Shirts, postage stamps and fridge magnets to tenement walls and government buildings.


Like the child of any famous public figure, Ernesto seeks to find his own identity and that has been through motorcycles, Harley-Davidsons specifically. Again, it's a coincidence hard to ignore given his father's famous pilgrimage across South America on a Norton in 1952 that became the cult classic film, 'Motorcycle Diaries'.

It was an opportunity too good to miss, so I tracked down Ernesto who operates La Poderosa Tours out of Havana with his Greek-born wife, Maria Elena, and signed up for a sampler of his touring program that takes riders through some of the spectacular scenery of Cuba. Anyone who has seen the film or read the book will know instantly the significance of 'La Poderosa'.

Havana thrives on nostalgia with everything from centuries-old Spanish colonial architecture, mid-20th Century US-inspired excess and harsh Soviet-era blandness. Remnants of these bygone times populate the alleys and boulevards of Havana in the form of hundreds of 1940-50s-era US cars from Chevrolet, Ford and Chrysler mixed in with such Soviet curiosities as Lada and Moskvich. The old Harley-Davidsons are there too, but much harder to find.

Unlike the garish Fairlane, Thunderbird and Dodge taxis that throng the streets, The Cuban 'Harlistas' are an underground cult whose cherished machines only come out for special occasions. The devotees meet at such 'hole-in-the-wall' establishments as Chacon 162 in the historic quarter of Old Havana where an old Panhead hangs from the ceiling. Its name is derived from the Cuban equivalent of 'Route 66'.



The fleet of 14 bikes used by La Poderosa Tours are modern H-D models such as ElectraGlides, StreetGlides and Dynas brought in through a convoluted method via Panama. It's all above board but as anyone will tell you, anything in Cuba is complicated.

Tours are typically a week or longer to such historic locations as Trinidad da Cuba in the country's south-east where the 500-year-old UNESCO World Heritage city remains surprisingly well preserved.

A full report will appear in Australian Road Rider Magazine

For details about joining a La Poderosa 'Harlista' Tour, contact Robyn Smith at Movidas Journeys +612 9700 1327 www.movidas.com.au

Main pic: Max Cucchi / Backroad Diaries Publishing

27 September 2017

Amazing barn find GTHO Phase III for auction



Gosford Classic Car Museum is hosting its very first public auction on Saturday 28th October, with VIP guests including Australia’s wealthiest heading to the Coast to view some of the nation’s most prized vehicles. Supported by Pickles, Australia’s number one auction and valuation specialist, the Museum will have up to 70 classic cars on sale, ranging from $50,000 AUD into the millions.

Headlining the auction are four show-stopping vehicles:
  • 1971 Ford Falcon GTHO Phase III – fewer than 100 models remain in the world
  • 1988 Porsche 959 – the world’s fastest street-legal production car when first introduced
  • 1968 Lamborghini Miura – Italy’s finest sports car
  • 1966 Aston Martin DB6 – the longest production run up to that date of any Aston Martin model
Gosford Classic Car Museum is home to the largest collection of cars in the Southern Hemisphere and was founded by Tony Denny in 2016, who – a car collector himself – decided to turn his hobby into a passion project.


In support of a very important cause, the Museum will also auction off its unique Formula Vee, with all proceeds going to NSW Kids in Need, which supports six child-focussed charities in the region. The previous owner was a racer who sadly passed away from cancer last year.

Tony Denny, Founder and Owner of Gosford Classic Car Museum said: “We’re thrilled to open our doors to the world for one night only, in what is one of Australia’s largest car auction this year. Selling off 70 of our classic cars is no easy feat; however, it is essential we make room for the exciting new collections that we have waiting in the wings. We can’t wait to see familiar and new faces on auction night!”



General admission tickets to the event can be purchased from Eventbrite for $25, with VIP options available as well. The catered affair is expecting up to 1500 guests.

Steve Allen, National Manager of Prestige Vehicles at Pickles added: “We are excited to collaborate with Gosford Classic Car Museum to bring to life Australia’s most iconic classic car auction to date. With the amount of quality and exotic collections going under the hammer, we foresee it being a great event.”

For bidders unable to attend, an online bidding facility – Pickles Live – allows bids to be placed worldwide in real time. All vehicles can also be viewed prior to auction in person by appointment or online.

For full details on the auction, visit https://classiccars.pickles.com.au/

23 September 2017

Web Spin: 2018 Harley-Davidson Street Bob Softail




So what's all the fuss about Harley-Davidson's new Softail range? And what happened to Dyna?

Even though I’ve owned a Harley for nearly two years and rode my first one a year before that, I still consider myself a Harley novice. However, I have been making up for lost time, swotting up on the copious history of this venerable make and riding as many of the models as I can.

Now, with the release of the new 2018 models last month, tongues were definitely wagging at the news of the dropping of H-D’s Dyna models, merging them instead with Softails into a single line. So, what does that mean?

To investigate, I headed out to Harley-Heaven in Western Sydney to meet new dealer principal, Craig Smith. Smith has been with the brand for more than a decade, servicing dealerships around the country for H-D head office prior to his new role in the big seat in Blacktown, replacing the affable John Buchanan, now back home in New Zealand.

Harley-Heaven Western Sydney
Harley-Heaven in Western Sydney

On a record hot September Saturday, dozens of diehard H.O.G. members and freelance riders are gathered for the semi-regular ‘shop ride’ at the smart new dealership where there’s comfy couches, a kick-butt coffee machine and lots of shiny chrome and matt eye candy.

David, Craig (dealer principal) and Joe at H-H 

Craig ushers me out to the rear where his demo bikes are parked and introduces me to a spanking new Street Bob, complete with the all-new four-valve-per-cylinder Milwaukee-Eight 107ci V-twin with dual counterbalancers. It’s the entry-level bike for the new Milwaukee-Eight range, stripped down and raw, ‘bobber’ style. The mini ‘ape’ bars are a bit unfamiliar to me initially, but they certainly work with the aesthetics.

2017 model Street Bob with exposed shocks.

“The old Dynas had the familiar twin rear shocks but now the suspension is a single coil and shock under the seat and the tubular frame is now 65 per cent stiffer than the old style Softail and has half as many component parts,” Craig tells me, “There are fewer welds and no more rubber engine mounts. Instead the engine is solid mounted, increasing frame stiffness.”

There is lots more technical stuff to ponder, but the proof as they say, is in the pudding, so let’s ride.

Close to fifty Harleys roar out onto Sunnyholt Road with me trying to look the part as the massive formation heads toward the Hawkesbury in a rowdy phalanx of Milwaukee muscle.

Smoko near Pitt Town.

Even though I am circumspect to begin with, the easy-riding nature of the new Street Bob soon has me confidently sweeping through the tight bends and accelerating smoothly out of the apexes like I know what I’m doing. The feeling is deceptively light and nimble and I find I can actually lay the bike over a little without scraping the pegs. Vibration is minimal and the power comes on smoothly right through the rev range.

Harley’s clever advertising copywriters are calling this “new school technology, skip school attitude.”

As with any radical change, there will be those who resist. Will Dyna make a comeback down the line? I doubt it. Harley-Davidson is knuckling down with a renewed R&D force that has promised 100 new models in the next 10 years which means there will inevitably be some ‘out with the old’.

Whether you’re an old hand or a dreamer, nothing should stop you getting into your nearest Harley-Davidson dealership to make up your own mind.

2018 Street Bob profile. No more visible shocks.
Rear suspension is neatly tucked under the rider seat.

Test Bike:

Harley-Davidson Softail Street Bob (2018)
Milwaukee-Eight 107ci V-twin (1,745 cc)
Priced from $23,495AUD

Test bike supplied by Harley-Heaven Western Sydney
70 Sunnyholt Road,
Blacktown, New South Wales 2148