14 January 2018

Web Spin: Harley-Davidson 2018 Low Rider Softail

With the majority of H-D models now falling into the Softail range, it follows that most buyers will be making their choice from the nine offered within this newly redesigned category.

You’ll recall we tested the Street Bob last September and we’ve ridden the Fat Boy and Breakout since then and can report that each one has its own character and appeal - or not.

Our Milwaukee-Eight 107ci Low Rider test bike came from Harley Heaven Western Sydney and I could see a glint in the eye of dealer principal, Craig Smith, when he handed me the keys.

“The boys have fitted a Screamin’ Eagle Stage 1 kit with race tuner, Street Cannon mufflers and an extreme flow air cleaner,” said Craig, “so you’ll notice a little extra sparkle in this one.”

He wasn’t kidding. Not that a Stage 1 will blow you away exactly, but you will notice the (around) 10 per cent extra power and torque coming in early and staying there as you accelerate through the rev range. The ‘oomph’ kicks in quicker and the twin pipes have the orchestra playing with extra ‘forte’. My apologies to the neighbours.

This bike also came in the factory ‘Vivid Black’ scheme which harks back to knee-high sports socks and horseshoe moustaches thanks to the retro tank livery. There’s lashings of chrome too, all around the twin tank dials and front fork arrangement. This much chrome can have its downside though when the bright sun reflects off it. Get Craig to throw in some H-D polarised sunglasses with this one.

2018 H-D Low Rider (H-D supplied)
Out on the road, I found myself on the pace quickly within our riding group of mixed abilities. We took the familiar route through the Royal National Park and back through Appin and Wallacia, so there’s plenty of tight corners and some lovely sweepers. Some might feel the riding position unfamiliar and perhaps not suited to brisk riding through the twisty bits but - remember I’m still an H-D novice - I don’t think I would have gone any faster or slower on any others from the Softail range.

The rear monoshock can be easily adjusted to suit your own style and comfort, as with any bike in the Softail range.

Low Rider comes in close to the Softail range entry-level and will suit regular sized guys and gals (up to about 180cm) as well as those keen on further customisation. And when you’re trying out your new Softail, be sure to test them all. It’s a very personal choice and if the Low Rider is not for you, there are eight others (and counting) to choose from.

At home and in good company. Test bike in Picton. (RE)

Test Bike:

MY18 Harley-Davidson Low Rider
107ci Milwaukee-Eight engine (1,745 cc) with optional Stage 1 Screamin’ Eagle performance kit.
Priced from $24,250
Stage 1 kit fitted: poa

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

13 January 2018

Cuban Harleys, Mi Amor

Not just a book about motorcycles
Cuba: Exotic. In transition. Thrilling.

Cuba from the perspective of a small, unique subculture. 50 portraits of people who have resisted the embargo for a long time and have kept their Harley-Davidson motorcycles neat and tidy.

In 1967, the Government ordered all Police Harleys be buried in a hole in a prison in Santiago de Cuba for ideological reasons. Then, in the 70s and 80s, spare parts were nowhere to be found, so Cuban Harlistas cannibalized parts from Russian cars and adapted them according to their needs – pistons from Ladas and valves from Kamas, while exhaust pipes were made from old transformers.

A Harley was only worth a tip, nobody wanted these big and expensive bikes. Especially not in the “Periodio Especial” following the fall of the Socialist bloc, when an economic crisis almost drove the country to its knees, famine ruled and gas was unaffordable.

Against all odds, “Harlistas” defended their ancient machines which served them so well. In time, the American bikes regained their public reputation as means of transportation as well as a status symbol. The owner exudes not only self confidence but also exclusivity, a fact not to be underestimated in the macho country that is Cuba.

Ernesto Guevara-March
They tell readers about their bikes, but most of all about their country

These 50 portraits taken by Italian photographer Max Cucchi, were produced over a ten-year span and illustrate these beautiful motorcycles in archetypical Cuban settings. However, what these images also reveal are the owners in their private environment: In the living room, on the field, in the center of Havana, and of course, in their garages.

They tell us about their machines, but most of all about their country - about the problems, the difficulties which they have to face every day. You will get to know a lot about Cuba and about the people who live there, about their perseverance, their slyness, their passion and their tenacity.

Those who still want to get to know the “old” Cuba have come to the right place. Cuban Harleys, Mi Amor, is an entertaining history lesson. With this book and its beautiful images, readers are transported via the American Harley Davidson iron hogs, which page by page show the Cuban reality, (English, Spanish and German) which above all tell us one thing: What Cuba is really like.

Cuban Harleys, Mi Amor. 
Backroad Diaries Publishers. 172 pages, Trilingual: English, Spanish, German, hardcover, 35 Dollar. ISBN: 9783981602340. Available: www.backroad-diaries.de, Amazon.

Website: www.backroad-diaries.de

Facebook: backroad-diaries und Cuban Harleys, Mi Amor.

Contakt: cuba@backroad-diaries.de, Publisher direct: (+49) 151 – 19660291

27 December 2017

Take me back to Bonneville

Roderick Eime

The term ‘iconic’ has been bandied about so much, it has little meaning left. But when it did mean something, it referred to brands like Triumph. And to achieve ‘iconic’ status you need to earn it.

It may have been a rough road, but Triumph Motorcycles weathered two World Wars, a Great Depression and the biggest threat of all, Asian competition. It built personality, prestige and an irresistible desirability through associations with such masculine style icon pillars as Steve McQueen, Marlon Brando, Bob Dylan, James Dean and even Elvis Presley. Now if that pedigree team of superstar riders doesn’t make a boy want to get on a bike, I don’t know poo from clay.

Like James Bond and Aston Martin, Ayrton Senna and TAG Heuer, the male brand bonding between Steve McQueen and Triumph Motorcycles in particular was a match made in heaven. In fact, so enamoured with the brand was McQueen, that he even had Germans riding them in his 1963 WWII classic, ‘The Great Escape’. You didn’t know that? Look closely.

Triumph didn’t seem to mind this historical faux pas either. They even celebrated it with a limited edition Triumph Bonneville, released in 2011.

Triumph Revival

One of the oldest brands in motorcycle history, the first Triumph motorcycle went on sale in 1902 and continued until 1983 when, like so many established yet complacent European brands, they were overtaken by the rush of Japanese machines like Honda, Suzuki and Kawasaki.

Reborn in 1985 through the acquisition of the brand by John Bloor (now an OBE), and despite numerous global subsidiary operations, the company remains 100 percent UK-owned. By all accounts, Triumph is riding high with its superbly crafted, retro-styled machines that channel both the extensive history of the marque and the trademark styling of their ‘60s classics, particularly the big twin Bonneville. The full range of Triumph machines however, includes everything from touring, adventure, naked, sports and cruiser.

Aussie riders embrace new Bonnies

The big new Bonneville T120 sold almost 300 units in 2016 from an April start. About the same as the Ducati Scrambler and Honda CB500 did for the full 12 months. 2017 has seen it take off, leaving both those rivals for dead and selling close to 100 units by end of March, helping Triumph to the #5 spot on the list of ‘Australian Road sales by brand’.

Like a tenacious prizefighter’s ‘old one, two’, Triumph are following up this success with the T100, a new entry point for riders wanting to be one with their own ‘Bonnie’. Powered by the soothing and percussive 900cc parallel twin, the T100 and its evil twin, the T100 Black, bear an immediate heartwarming resemblance to the original 1959 model that began this stalwart heritage.

The Street Cup is Triumph's other ‘16 release that employs the same 900cc Bonneville engine in an immaculate ‘cafe racer’ chassis complete with all the stylish accoutrements like bullet seat, tiny ‘flyscreen’ windshield and bold paintwork to match its ‘racer’ silhouette. The bike pays homage to the incredible 1969 feat of Welshman, Malcolm Uphill who rode a Bonneville to win the Isle of Man Production TT race while recording the first 100mph lap for that class.

The modern Bonnevilles deliver plenty of satisfying, silky smooth acceleration in an easy-to-manage, neutral-handling package that is a breeze around town and just as exciting on the open road. The milder-mannered T100 is a little easier to manage than the T120 which, by comparison is the big, bare-chested 1200cc brute of a brother. Similarly, the 900cc Street Cup, just feels fast in an ‘old school’ understated manner without the grotesque modern and luminous fairings that seem to typify today’s struggling sport bikes .

‘Brutal Beauty’ Bobber Bonnie a surprise hit

To take the retrospective to a whole new level, the single seat ‘bobber’ version of the Bonneville has proven another massive hit with riders seeking both street cred and a thoroughly enjoyable ride on a machine not stapled together with rusty chicken wire, proving a modern ‘Cafe Racer’ doesn’t have to be some stunt bike from a Mad Max sequel.

Maybe it was the ‘hot rod’ exhaust tuning or low down power from the re-tuned high torque 1200cc engine it shares with the T120 but, released in late 2016, it became the fastest selling motorcycle in Triumph’s 115-year history and kept the marque swimming in the early months of 2017 as many big names floundered in a sudden sales slump.

And, wait for it, 2018 sees the ‘darker, meaner, stronger’ Bonneville Bobber Black in showrooms with an even more aggressive, lightweight package.

Style never goes out of fashion

If ever there was a demonstration of “what was old is new again”, it’s the enduring affection motorcycle lovers - old and new - have for a brand that respects both classic heritage and current technology, combining both in a package that delights equally riding purists and design geeks.

Model Spotlight: Bonneville T100 and T100 Black

Inspired by the legendary ’59 Bonneville and styled to incorporate more of the signature design, silhouette and character of the original, the T100 and T100 Black each have their own distinctive character, enhanced by the premium finishes and familiar touches of a that classic, original motorcycle.

Sharing the instantly recognisable Bonneville lines and many of the key features of the T120, the new T100 and T100 Black both reflect the same timeless beauty. From the sculpted form of the 14.5 litre fuel tank, to the intricately detailed Bonneville engine plate and feature-rich twin clocks, the new T100 incorporates new standards for quality and finish.

The Bonneville T100 features the classically inspired detailing and stunning chrome finishes you’d expect on such a bike. Gleaming brushed aluminium covers, classic bolt-on Triumph badges unique to these two models are teamed with deep chrome mirrors, mudguard stays, handlebars and headlight bezel.

Contributing to the classic Bonneville profile on the T100 is the detailed comfort and pillion seats, finished in contrast piping with deeper foam for extra comfort.

Apart from the key components of the new T100, the T100 Black goes dark and sophisticated with fully black components including wheel rims, a twin-skin, matt peashooter exhaust and blacked-out engine covers for an unmistakable look.

Model Spotlight: Street Cup

With a name inspired by the club racing scene, the Street Cup is designed to deliver all the attitude, personality, presence and style of a contemporary custom cafe racer for today’s riders.

Sharing the same styling principles as the Street Twin, the new Street Cup has the unmissable Bonneville silhouette combined with clean lines, minimal bodywork and modern finishes. Cast wheels, an elegant fuel tank with a locking fuel cap, black sculpted engine covers with the Triumph makers mark triangle and Bonneville engine badge, this exciting bike is rounded off with an elegant single throttle body with aluminium finisher and distinctive finned head and header clamps.

To match its ‘street racer’ attitude the Street Cup packs more sports-focused ergonomics without compromising rider comfort. Compared to the Street Twin the rider is seated slightly higher and further back and the ‘Ace’ style handlebars are positioned lower and slightly forward to improve physical turn in.

Key Specs (all models)

Engine Type: Liquid cooled, 8 valve, SOHC, 270° crank angle parallel twin
Capacity: 900cc
Bore/Stroke: 84.6mm x 80mm
Compression Ratio: 10.55:1
Maximum Power: 55 PS / 54 HP (40.5kW) @ 5900 rpm
Maximum Torque: 80Nm @ 3230 rpm


Originally published in OUTThere Magazine Dec/Jan 2018