History Does Not Repeat

Steve Lita American Iron Magazine Editor

Steve Lita, American Iron Magazine Editor

Ride to Work

It’s called history for a reason. It’s in the past—done, gone, hope you enjoyed it. We often remember things having been better when we were younger. Some people call it “The good old days.” Perhaps life wasn’t as complicated as it seems now, and responsibilities weren’t as heavy. It was a time before the instant gratification of having the world at your fingertips electronically. For example, we used to carry cash, or even a plastic credit card, back before the current trend of paying for something without using hard currency. All it takes now is the swipe of an app, the beep of a laser code reader, and zoom, you’re out of the drive-thru lane barely touching your brakes.

Remember when riding you had to carry change to make a phone call or use a paper map to find your way? I recently took a quick trip to New York City for a business meeting. That morning, I was thinking ahead and figured I would fully charge my handy cellphone before I departed. Only one problem—I left the phone plugged into the charger when I left. So there I was, in the big city without any means of looking up the address of where I was supposed to go, and an immediate feeling of being lost. Just then I thought, “Wait a minute! I can do this.” I remember how to find my way around and communicate from before the days of smart phones. Believe it or not, they still have phone booths in NYC. I’ve been told it’s because the city doesn’t want to lose the revenue from advertisements posted on the sides. It didn’t take long to find one, and it actually worked. I was amazed. I inserted old-fashioned coins, cleaned the receiver with a handkerchief, and called the party I was supposed to meet. Disaster averted.

This dose of nostalgia is brought to you courtesy of my return from 2017 Daytona Bike Week. I drove the company truck down, so I had plenty of time to ponder. Heck, I remember going to Daytona Bike Week for nine consecutive years before even coming to work here at this publishing company, and I’ve been here for 14 years. And while I remember having a great time back in the day, I contend that current events are better than ever.

Nothing irks me more than when I hear someone spout, “I’ll never go back to that event now. It’s not as good as back when I used to go.” And while everyone is entitled to his opinion, I’d say Bike Week is still well worth the overnight, straight-through, bonzai-run I do to get there.

Think about it: motorcycles that are considered historical now, were more common back then. So, these days, it’s more exciting to see a bike from a specific gone-by time period. Young people, those who have never attended Bike Week or only attended in recent years, bring a whole new vibe to the party. There are so many aspects of motorcycling going on in and around Daytona during that week; I’d defy anyone to be bored. If you’re into off-road riding, there are events for you. Into custom bikes? There are plenty to be seen. Into racing? They have that, too. And as for the old classics that were more common back in the day, you don’t have to look hard to find them. The success of the inaugural Sons of Speed Daytona event was proof of that. The stands were packed! (See page 66.)

So, I say don’t let your memories fade. It’s nice to remember how good it was. But also use them to make it better the next time around.

Thompson Vintage Motorcycle Classic
Speaking of old bikes, and following in the footsteps of Buzz’s column (page 14), I’d like to add another must-see event that’s on my calendar this year: the Thompson Vintage Motorcycle Classic. It’ll be held in the quiet northeast corner of Connecticut at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park on June 25. The event will host a field of historic (pre-1990) motorcycles in a bike show, a massive swap meet, and a vintage motorcycle track day on Thompson’s 1.7-mile road course. The fan-favorite Parade Of Classics will happen at noon, with the vintage track day starting immediately thereafter. For more information, call 860/923-2280 or visit ThompsonSpeedway.com. Hope to see you there.



Billy Lane Pulled It Off

Shifting Gears with Buzz Kanter


SHIFTING GEARS, by Buzz Kanter, Publisher

In spite of long odds Las Vegas bookies would never take, in spite of the worst Mother Nature could throw at him, in spite of countless people saying it can’t be done, in spite of struggling to get century-old racing motorcycles to even run, Billy Lane pulled it off. The first-ever Sons of Speed races in March gave a full grandstand and tens of thousands of online followers a view of motorcycle history in the making. Photos, videos, and messages from the usually low-tech New Smyrna Speedway blew up the Internet and most platforms of social media.

To everyone’s surprise and delight, Sons of Speed was a handful of guys (and a couple of very fast gals) pushing spindly old race bikes harder than they have been ridden in almost a hundred years. As one of the racers, I can tell you firsthand, it was so much more than that. If all you want to know is the winners: young Brittney Olsen captured a hard-fought first, Matt Harris a close second, Shelly Rossmeyer-Pepe third, and I managed to hold on to fourth place in the final race. If you are curious about what the event was like from a racer’s perspective, read part one of Sons of Speed starting on page 66.

We at American Iron Magazine feel fortunate to have been a small part of the inaugural Sons of Speed, an amazing event that is sure to rapidly grow in size and popularity. If you missed the first Sons of Speed races, you have two more opportunities to check out the action this year. We will be racing these old motorcycles at the Full Throttle property during the Sturgis Rally in August, and then it’s back to New Smyrna Speedway for Biketoberfest.

I know it is still a long way away, but you might want to make a note. In October, we are adding a show to the Sons of Speed parking lot for handcrafted custom and competition bikes, as well as a few select hot rods, called the Old Speed Show. More details to follow here in AIM and at www.OldSpeedShow.com.

Great Events Coming Soon
I can’t be the only one looking for interesting, motorcycle-friendly events and destinations to ride to. While there is no way I could share (or even know) about them all, here are a few in the next month or so:

Rolling Thunder in Washington, DC Sunday, May 28. Held every Memorial Day, this is a great event to honor our brave men and women in uniform. We cover this event every year in the magazine.

Greenwich Concours in Greenwich, Connecticut, June 3-4. This is a high-quality two-day show for exceptional classic and antique cars and motor-cycles. American Iron Magazine is a sponsor this year, so I will be there, and we expect some great old American street and race motorcycles on display.

Race of Gentlemen in Wildwood, New Jersey, June 9-11. This is a flashback event for classic two- and four-wheeled beach drag racers—lots of old-time fun and some great vintage race bikes and racers on the sand and in the parking lots.
Laconia Rally in and around Laconia, New Hampshire, June 10-18. One of the Big Three motorcycle rallies, Laconia is must-attend for all serious motorcycle enthusiasts.

USCRA FIM Vintage Motorcycle Road Race, New Hampshire Speedway, June 10-11. If you love classic motorcycle road racing, you need to check out this USCRA event tied in with the Laconia rally. If my schedule allows, I plan to race my 1937 Indian Sport Scout in the tank shifter class.

Ride safe, ride smart, have fun.


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Bill Dodge ‘Blings’ Out an Indian Scout

Bill Dodge 2016 Indian Scout custom

For the 2016 Indian Scout he customized Bill Dodge only kept the Scout’s engine, instruments, frame, gas tank, and some of the wiring harnesses.

By Greg Williams / Photos By Pam Proctor

When Indian announced its 2016 custom-build program called Project Scout, Jason Foster of Mission City Indian in Boerne, Texas, got involved. Jason needed a little assistance, though, and for that he approached Bill Dodge of Blings Cycles.

“He asked for my help,” Bill says from his Daytona Beach, Florida, shop. “I thought Jason wanted me to make a couple of pieces, but the next thing I knew the Scout was in my shop.”

This Indian is Bill’s first experience with the machines rolling out of the company’s Spirit Lake, Iowa, production facility. Bill’s been around the custom motorcycle industry for quite a few years. He was shop foreman at West Coast Choppers, and in 2005 he opened Blings Cycles in New Jersey. The shop moved to Kentucky, and soon after, Bill finally landed in Daytona Beach, a location that puts him at the epicenter of Daytona Bike Week events.

“Since the late 1980s I’ve been modifying Harley-Davidsons,” he tells us. “From Knuckleheads to Evos, I build everything.” Of his particular style, he adds, “I just like to make things different.”

And that’s how he approached the brand-new 2016 Indian Scout. For this build, Jason’s only stipulation was the motorcycle had to have mid-controls. That was it. Everything else was up to Bill’s imagination.

“I wanted something that looked like a racer, but not a flat tracker,” Bill explains. “And people kept telling me Indian Scouts were cumbersome at low speeds, so I wanted it to handle better than stock.”

In order to make that happen, the Scout was immediately taken apart. A pickup truck full of Indian pieces was sent back to Jason, as Bill kept only the Scout’s engine, instruments, frame, gas tank, and some of the wiring harnesses.

Bill Dodge triple trees and GSX-R1000 front end on custom Indian Scout

Dodge grafted a Suzuki GSX-R1000 front end to the Scout’s frame and machined his own aluminum triple trees to fit the neck and the GSXR tubes.

Bill started by grafting a Suzuki GSX-R1000 front end to the Scout’s frame. As Bill produces his own aluminum triple trees, he machined a set to fit the neck and the GSXR tubes. Meanwhile, he added a frame-mounted steering damper to the lower tree for extra stability. The rake remained unchanged, but Bill shortened the overall length of the bike by 1/2″ in the trees. The stock instrument cluster was cut away and welded into a set of Bill’s risers, and these clamp down a ProTaper handlebar. Bill made the grips, and the clutch lever was sourced from a Honda CR500 dirt bike. A custom bracket holds the fly-by-wire throttle control, and the front brake lever and master cylinder came from an ATV. A Hella headlight complemented the de-cluttered style of the front end.

To give the Scout an aggressive stance, Bill opted for his Blings Cycles R9 wheels, 21″ up front and 18″ at the rear. The swingarm was not shortened, but it was shaved of a few brackets, however, in order to help clean up the lines before a pair of Fox shocks were bolted into place. All brake rotors are matching Blings Cycles R9 items, but the dual front calipers are stock Suzuki, and the rear is a product from Indian.

In order to provide Jason with the mid-controls he desired, Bill worked with a local machinist to CNC a unique primary cover on the left side, and a right-side engine cover incorporates what Bill calls Blings Cycles Slash Controls and footpegs in one piece. He hopes to soon have these components in regular production.

Dispensing with Indian’s belt final drive, Bill machined down the stock front pulley. He then opened up a 25-tooth Harley-Davidson Shovelhead sprocket, and pressed the two together before permanently welding them up. That rear sprocket is from Blings Cycles, too.

While Bill is proud of his wheels and the use of his triple trees to mount the GSX-R fork, it’s the tail section that is his favorite part of the build. “I just step back and eyeball the bike, and in my opinion the Scout needed more style in the rear; it has cool lines, but they get lost, so I think my tail section helps reveal them and radically changes the bike,” he says.

Working with sheets of aluminum, a wooden hammer, and leather metal-forming shot bag, Bill hand-shaped the tail section. He also made the seat pan from aluminum and had Duane Ballard stitch a custom leather cover. The pan connects to the tail section before it all gets bolted to the rear subframe with four fasteners.

Duane Ballard seat on custom Scout by Bill Dodge

Talented leather craftsman Duane Ballard stitched up this great looking seat for the Indian Scout Bill Dodge customized.

Speaking of the frame, Bill says nothing was changed on the Indian cast aluminum chassis. “Those pieces are coated from the factory in something that doesn’t like to come off,” he adds. He tried a high-quality chemical stripper; it only made the coating soft without removing it. Sandblasting wouldn’t touch it, either. Bill resorted to hand-sanding every nook and cranny to reveal the aluminum and had it all made shiny by Perfect Polishing Inc. in Daytona Beach.

The 69″ Indian Scout engine is stock, but changes include an air cleaner from Cory Ness and a Dynojet Power Commander. The exhaust is a custom piece of work. Bill cut and welded together stainless pipes to make the two headers and the collector that moves gases through a heavily modified SuperTrapp canister. The aluminum can was shortened about 8″, and the internals have been dissected and replaced to give the Indian a distinctive sound.

The paint on the Scout’s tank, swingarm, and tail section is a classic deep black with contrasting White Diamond Pearl applied by Chad Chambers of Chad Chambers Customs in Daytona Beach. The gold leaf Indian script is also Chad’s work.

To get the Scout to run cleanly after the air and exhaust modifications, Bill enlisted tuning wizard Zach Johnson of Kendall Johnson Customs. “I’d ridden the bike around a little bit, kind of pampering it before I decided to really get on it,” Bill says of the finished Scout. “When I did, it put down a 60′ strip of rubber in first gear. When I shifted into second, it put down another small strip before going right into a wheelie.”

Bill is more than happy that he was involved with Jason’s Scout from start to finish. Although it didn’t clinch a title in the Project Scout program, it did earn first place in Modified Custom of the US championship round of the J&P Cycles Ultimate Builder Custom Bike Competition at the 2016 Progressive International Motorcycle Show—pretty good for the first Indian Bill has ever laid hands on. – AIM

This story was originally featured in American Iron Magazine Issue # 347 along with a plenty of other great stories like a father and son who race against each other on supercharged street bikes, Billy Lane’s feature on the 1915 Harley board tracker he built for Buzz to race on, and a review of Harley’s 2017 Road King Special. To order a back issue of this or any other issue of American Iron Magazine, visit Greaserag.com.
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Sacrificial Motorcycling

Steve Lita American Iron Magazine Editor

Steve Lita, American Iron Magazine Editor

Ride to Work

…making the decision to do without

I get lots of e-mails here at American Iron Magazine. Some come from readers, some from vendors and OEMs, and way too many from people who don’t have anything better to do than send out spam. But one just crossed my computer monitor that made me think. Seems a motorcycle manufacturer (a European brand that shall remain nameless, though here’s a hint: they’re known for making lots of red bikes) is promoting a new sales campaign based on the premise that you can now own a brand-new motorcycle for less than the cost of a good cup of coffee per day.

By the way, I love how they qualify what type of coffee (a “good” cup of coffee, not that cheap gas station stuff). It’s true, and they have the figures to back it up. A footnote at the end provides the supporting data. US News & World Report research shows that the average cost of a cappuccino in the US is $3.51. (I want that research dude’s job, traveling around buying cups of “good” coffee all day.) This is cappuccino we’re talking about here—after all, the company is Italian (hint #2). So with a payment plan of just $99 per month (after paying a specific down payment and $750 freight and setup fee), owning one of its motorcycles costs less than the $105.30 you would have spent on all that frothy, tasty, caffeine-laced goodness in a cup.

Sounds like a deal, right? Now comes the hard part: making the decision to do without one thing in order to have another. It happens all the time, you need to give up one thing you like, in order to get the thing you think you’ll like more. This is not the same as, say, ordering in a restaurant. “Can I have the loaded baked potato side dish instead of the creamed spinach (yuck)?” And that’s not meant to offend you creamed spinach fans out there. Giving up something you don’t like to get the one you do is a no-brainer. The sacrifice bunt in baseball is talked about often, and it benefits the team with the potential of scoring a run. The only person that doesn’t like it is the actual bunter.

So I extrapolated this idea into motorcycling, and, no, I’m not shopping for a new European bike today. But I have experienced similar tough decisions before. I see a rare, used motorcycle part on eBay, and I subsequently convince myself that I have to have it on my bike. So I immediately go to my parts sales auctions and lower the price to make them more attractive to other buyers. It’s fire-sale time. Yes, I’ll take the loss on this, to get the cash I need for that.
It’s a tradeoff. You can’t have it all—unless you’re independently wealthy and throw money around like it’s water (which reminds me of a meme I saw online: “Water is the most essential element of life, because without water, you can’t make coffee”). But even in that case, if you have both things, and it didn’t hurt to get them, then you might not value either as much as the person who gave up something valuable to get something of more value.

As riders we might give up time with family and friends to go riding, but as a result of that decision, we also have riding family and friends. So that might be a win-win situation, depending on your family. I know Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) coaches who have given up a lot of weekend riding time in order to teach new riders how to ride safely. Both are fun, and the latter is a bit of a noble cause. We give up the comfort of a warm, dry car to ride a motorcycle in the rain in order to get to a bike rally, where we’ll inevitably have a raucous time. We give up our hearing temporarily to see a Kid Rock concert at The Chip in Sturgis. I can’t really sip my morning coffee (there it is again) on the days I ride my bike to work. And I give up hauling anything larger than what can fit on my bike. Saddlebags do have their limitations.

It’s said that a man should give up three month’s salary to buy an engagement ring. I guess those guys are going without food, beer, gas, an apartment, and car insurance for a while. And they say money can’t buy you love.

Next up is deciding what to give up. Better think about this. All that shimmers is not gold. Once you have time to think about it and perform the necessary research, maybe the item you desired wasn’t a must-have after all. As for me, I’ll keep taking my regular coffee (none of that decaf stuff) with cream, no sugar. Thank you.


What Do We Ride?

Shifting Gears with Buzz Kanter


SHIFTING GEARS, by Buzz Kanter, Publisher

A car moves the body, but a motorcycle moves the soul

Do you consider your motorcycle more a form of transportation or a personal statement? I’m convinced that for most of us it’s a bit of both. Though it’s likely more of a statement, because, let’s face it, most riders in America put in more miles each year in a car or truck than on two wheels. They are cheaper to buy, easier to maintain, and work better in all sorts of weather and road conditions. But as the old saying goes, “A car moves the body, but a motorcycle moves the soul.”

Ask a dozen people why they buy and ride motorcycles, and you will likely get dozens of different answers. Mostly, we ride motorcycles because it’s fun, exciting, and different. Motorcycle riders are different. My generation was inspired by Easy Rider, Rebel Without a Cause, The Wild One, Then Came Bronson, or CHiPS. No matter what inspired us to ride, that first one was enough to get us to come back for more.

So what do we ride? Many like factory stock motorcycles the way the design team intended them. Others like to tinker and bolt on parts to personalize their bikes to match changing tastes or style. And others go for radical modifications—big-wheel baggers, stripped-down bobbers, long-fork choppers, or swoopy café racers. And let’s not forget the antique bike crowd, always searching out original parts or the next project bike. Each motorcycle has its appeal to someone.

We are all a family united by our love of riding and motorcycles. And like most families, we are a widely diverse group. Some lucky ones trade up to new Harleys or Indians every year or two. Others are waiting for those 2- or 3-year-old trade-ins so they, too, can trade up to something newer. And some ride what we can afford while dreaming about riding something newer one day.

As our motorcycle riding family ages, my question is what are we doing to encourage the next generation of riders? What are you doing to share the passion with a neighbor and to let others, young or old, experience some saddle time? If we do not encourage and mentor new riders, what’s going to happen to our motorcycles? Please send us your suggestions on how we can grow the sport of motorcycling to Letters@AmericanIronMag.com.

American Iron Special Issues
Over the years we have created some great special newsstand issues focusing on specific topics. This includes our American Glory issues that celebrated Harley’s 110th anniversary, 100th, and even 95th. Last year we published American Iron Salute, celebrating brave men and women in uniform.

The No. 1 best-selling motorcycle issue of 2016, it sold out in most stores, so we release another one later this year. On May 16th we are publishing the first issue of American Iron Power, which will be all about high-performance options and motorcycles. Look for it in the same stores that sell American Iron Magazine. Most of our magazines (even the older ones) are available to purchase at Greaserag.com.

Motorcycle Kickstart Classic
Love the look, sound, and passion of classic motorcycles? Our next Kickstart Classic ride will be in the Carolinas May 18-21, starting at Wheels Through Time museum in Maggie Valley, North Carolina, and ending at the AMCA meet in Denton, North Carolina. Preregistration is highly recommended at AIMag.com or call Rosemary at 203/425-8777 ext. 114.

Ride safe, ride smart, have fun.


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S&S 89″ EVO Stroker Build Part One

S&S 89" EVO Stroker Build

(Step 1) Here’s the right half of our 1998 EVO-powered Road King’s crankcases. Note the area that the crew at S&S machined out of the inner face of the crankcase. This was done so the new stroker flywheel assembly has the room it needs.

By Chris Maida/ Photos Courtesy of S&S Cycle

Though it doesn’t say so in the headline, this two-issue engine build is part of our ongoing series on rebuilding a 1998 Road King from front to back. The reason for this series is simple: some of our readers prefer a motorcycle without all the electronics of a modern bike, which means they’re looking to buy and rebuild one of the Evo-powered Harleys of the late 1990s. To that end, we’ve been slowly rebuilding and upgrading a 1998 Road King over the last several months. In this two-part series, we’re going to rework the bike’s engine.

Though a stock or worked 80″ Evolution is a good engine, we wanted to kick it up a few notches while still keeping the engine dependable. In fact, this engine was just that: a worked but tired 80″ with a hot cam, SE heads, and a S&S billet oil pump. The bike’s owner requested more cubic inches so he would have no problem keeping up with his Twin Cam-powered buddies. Having used S&S Cycle parts in my high-performance bikes for over 40 years, S&S was my go-to company for an 89″ stroker kit with a matched set of supporting performance components. When making a major modification like a stroker kit, the engine’s other performance components need to complement the upgrade, so that you end up with a strong running and trouble-free engine. Let’s talk about those flywheels first.

S&S 89" EVO Stroker Build

(Step 5) Once the new connecting rod bearings have been fitted to the new S&S crankpin, the flywheels, connecting rods, crankpin and all the bearings and their cages are assembled.

The flywheel kit we stuffed into our stock H-D crankcases is one of S&S’s 89″ Stock Bore Stroker Kits for 1984-99 Carbureted Big Twins (#32-2230/$1,134.95). What all that means is we reused the stock H-D cylinders, but we swapped out the stock 4-1/4″ stroke flywheels for a set of S&S 4-5/8″ stroker flywheels. Increasing the engine’s stroke, which is how far the pistons move up and down in the cylinders, increases the engine’s displacement. With these 4-5/8″ stroke flywheels, the pistons move 3/16″ farther up and 3/16″ farther down the cylinder’s bore, which increases the engine’s total size by about 9 cubic inches! In any engine that will result in a nice power boost! And though this setup requires some minor crankcase and cylinder modifications (mods that can easily be done with hand tools), just swapping out the flywheels for longer stroke versions is an economical way to increase the displacement of your engine. This flywheel kit also comes with a set of S&S heavy duty connecting rods, as well as S&S sprocket and pinion shafts, all assembled, balanced, trued, and ready to be installed into a set of cases. Since the pistons will be moving deeper and higher in the cylinders, special pistons, which must be ordered separately, are required but we’ll talk about those in the next issue.

As for the cam we decided to roll with, an S&S 561 (#33-5076/$189.95) was a perfect match for what the owner wanted from his new motor. This cam fits 1984-99 Big Twins and is designed for 88″-96″ engines with a 9.5:1-10.5:1 compression ratio. We wanted the 561 because it produces strong power right in the 3000-5500 rpm range. This is a Road King, not a racing bike. With the cam kicking in at 3000 rpm, the owner can cruise all day long below 3000, which is where cruising is done, without gobbling fuel. But when he wants to pass a truck, get on a highway, etc., a simple twist of the wrist brings the cam in with the resulting boost in power. The 561 requires hydraulic tappets and valve spring spacing, which we’ll also cover in the next issue when we install them.

S&S 89" EVO Stroker Build

(Step 10) The stock left case is then positioned onto the flywheel assembly, so the outer Timken bearing can be pressed onto the shaft. The bearing endplay is then checked using a special fixture and a new shaft seal installed.

As for who would build our engine, we went right to the source: S&S Cycle! The S&S Service & Speed Center will install any product S&S sells onto your engine, as well as rebuild all S&S engines and other products (carbs, etc.). However, they’ll also rebuild 1966 and later Harley Big Twin engines, and 1948-99 H-D Big Twin and 1957-85 Sportster flywheel assemblies, and a whole lot more. We shipped the S&S Service & Speed Center the engine components they requested and what we got back was an engine ready to be bolted into the frame. The accompanying photos and captions show many of the steps S&S takes to install one of its stroker kits into a set of stock Harley-Davidson crankcases. In the next issue, we’ll show you how the top end was overhauled and assembled. – AIM

S&S 89" EVO Stroker Build

(Step 14) Both stock crankcase mating surfaces are coated with ThreeBond 1104 sealant before they’re bolted together.



S&S Cycle Inc.

Like what you see? The full article with all 22 steps, Tips & Tricks, and tools needed, is in American Iron Magazine Issue # 343! To order a back issue of this or any other issue of American Iron Magazine, visit Greaserag.com.
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To subscribe to the PRINT edition, click here. To receive DIGITAL DELIVERY, click here.
S&S 89" EVO Stroker Build

(Step 20) The new S&S steel breather gear (note the slotted evacuation hole) gets coated with assembly lube. The engine is then rotated to bring the timing mark on the pinion gear into position.

American Iron News Harley Offers Rebates To Sell 2016 Motorcycles

Reuters is reporting that “Harley-Davidson has taken the rare step of offering rebates on its 2016 motorcycles to U.S. dealers as an incentive for them to shift a backlog that has restricted sales of its latest models.” The report is based on statements from three anonymous Harley dealers and two unnamed analysts.

The rebate is stated to be up to $1,000 on 2016 models and will run through the end of April according to the Reuters’ report. Though the practice is something Harley’s competitors frequently incorporate, The Motor Company generally takes a staunch stance against the practice. But a strong dollar has actually been working against Harley as it lowers the price of motorcycles from competitors abroad and reduces profits on motorcycles Harley ships oversees. There’s also been strong competition internally from Polaris Industries whose Indian Motorcycle brand has been cutting into Harley-Davidson sales.

Harley-Davidson’s First Quarter 2017 report corroborates the Reuters’ report as 2017 motorcycle shipments have been reduced to 70,831 in the first quarter, a 14.7% reduction compared to the 83,036 it shipped in the first quarter of 2016. “This decision helped dealers focus on selling down their model year 2016 retail inventory,” states the financial report. The First Quarter 2017 statement also shows that retail motorcycle sales in the U.S. were down 5.7% compared to the year-ago quarter.

The Reuters’ report claims that two of the three dealers who confirmed the story said they had never been offered a rebate before.

One Harley dealer in a western state reportedly told Reuters’ “It’s not normal. Usually, any incentives are customer-facing.”

Spring Prep: Top 10 Checks to Get Your Bike Ready to Ride

American Iron Garage

At this point in our riding careers, we have a pretty good handle on the necessary precautions and checks and yet, every so often we’ll have one of those infamous “oh $#!#” moments. Sometimes it can happen in the garage or driveway, other times it can happen out on the road. Those moments suck, so we’ve compiled a list of ten basic, and some unusual, points to check before heading out for that very first ride of the season, or any ride for that matter. (Click on the page numbers below to check out the list!)

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

American Iron’s Editor Steve Lita Featured on Motorcycle Men Podcast

Steve Lita American Iron Magazine Editor

American Iron Magazine Editor Steve Lita dishes on the state of the industry in Motorcycle Men’s podcast Episode 85

Podcast alert!

American Iron Magazine Editor Steve Lita joins the Motorcycle Men Podcast to dish on the industry, American V-twins, and our Daytona Bike Week giveaway bike!

Check out what Lita had to say by listening to Episode 85! Check it out at now at Motorcycle Men

2017 FLTRXS Road Glide Special Review

by Dain Gingerellli

I was highballing north on US 395 along california’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, the Harley’s cruise control doing most of the work, when the slow-moving tractor-trailer up ahead forced me to reduce speed. I should point out, too, that this was no ordinary Harley-Davidson. I was riding a 2017 FLTRXS Road Glide Special, and its electronic odometer revealed that the Milwaukee-Eight engine had only recently been broken in by the crew at Harley’s West Coast fleet center. The big 107″ V-twin was loafing along at about 85 mph, the bike’s standard cruise control feature subbing for me while I relaxed and rested behind the RUSHMORE-inspired fairing. Life was good—until the big rig impeded our headway.

I gently applied the Reflex Linked brakes to cancel the cruise control command, hauling the speed down to about 60. A few cars approaching from the opposite direction prevented me from overtaking the slow-moving rig right away. Moments later an opening in the traffic set me free, so I purposely twisted the right grip, feeding raw gasoline and fresh air into the eight-valve engine’s thirsty combustion chambers. The single-cam engine liked that, and our speed increased proportionally until the Road Glide Special quickly found its new place on earth ahead of the lumbering big rig. Life was, once again, good for me.
Let me be clear about another point: I didn’t downshift to fifth gear while overtaking the truck. This new engine has torque (I almost feel guilty about not spelling that with a capital T!) in spades, making downshifting optional under most riding conditions. Harley claims 111.4 ft-lbs. at 3250 rpm, a figure that’s actually only a few ft-lbs. more than what the Twin Cam 103″ generated. What the 2017 figures fail to reveal is that the new Milwaukee-Eight’s torque curve is much broader than the 103″ engine’s. And I like the new torque curve. A lot.

AIM’s editor, Steve Lita, pointed out the technological highlights of Harley’s new engine in issue 341, and in issue 342 he gave a glimpse of what the new baggers that cradle the engine in their RUSHMORE frames are like. Now I’m going to tell you about what I consider to be the best bargain among those baggers: the Road Glide Special.

This bike has it all, and the marketing folks at Harley pretty much pegged it with the FLTRXS’s mission statement: “Long on features, comfort, and attitude.” Indeed, and beyond the standard RUSHMORE and new Milwaukee-Eight features, the Special sports Harley’s big Boom! Box 6.5GT touch-sensitive screen that’s positioned between the inner fairing’s two large speakers and right beneath the easy-to-read analog instruments.

Truth be told, though, I rarely use the infotainment feature. Oh, I’ll dabble with the navigation option now and then to save myself from being totally lost during an adventure, but otherwise I prefer to enjoy the drone of the engine’s exhaust note while racking up the miles. And what a sound the 2017 Road Glide Special’s new mufflers produce, a deep, rich, mellow tone, one that bikers have enjoyed for years. Harley engineers were able to attain this new, throatier sound by exorcising some of the mechanical-noise demons from the engine, primary drive, clutch, and transmission. Less clanging noise there creates a vacuum of sorts that can be filled with more decibels from the exhaust system, the end result a motorcycle with a noise factor that, in addition to complying with federal decibel regulations, sounds genuinely cool. Welcome to the 21st century of motorcycle engineering and marketing; the Road Glide Special clearly stands at the forefront of this new philosophy.

Enough about the features, let’s talk about the Road Glide Special’s comfort. I’m on record in past bike reviews stating that I love touring aboard Electra Glides. I still like those batwing fairing bikes but, in truth, when it comes to absolute comfort, this RG Special fits me like the proverbial glove. My 5′ 8″ frame and 30″ inseam are well-matched to the bike’s ergonomics. I can flat foot stops at traffic lights thanks to a claimed seat height of 25.9″ (laden), and the reach to the handgrips is relaxed and natural. The seat’s bucket shape is form-fit to my derriere, and the tinted stub windshield mixed with the fairing’s RUSHMORE ducting allows just the right amount of wind blast to entertain me without pounding me. The small winglets at the base of the aerodynamically shaped shark-nose fairing help with that, and because the High Output engine doesn’t have the Twin Cooled liquid-cooling option, there are no fairing lowers to further isolate me from the elements so I don’t feel like I’m wrapped fully in a cocoon. I’m on a motorcycle.

Now let’s discuss the Special’s attitude. There are two key elements to a bagger: it must be capable of toting a reasonable amount of gear for extended rides, and it must look cool in carrying out its mission. The RG Special’s two lockable saddlebags boast a claimed 2.3 cubic feet of storage capacity, and while I can’t exactly describe just what that equates to in real-world gear, I can say that I was able to pack three days worth of personal inventory plus my camera gear for the blast up US 395.
And the FLTRXS looked cool—you know, attitude— while making the run up 395. Start with the paint. Vivid Black remains the standard color for the base model, which places MSRP at a rather cool $23,999. Our test bike sported the Hard Candy Custom paint option (three new color choices are on tap for 2017, two of which are Hard Candy Custom colors), which boosts price to $26,999. Yeah, it ain’t cheap, so determine just how much attitude you want, and then set your budget.

No matter the color option, though, all Road Glide Specials ride with the same cool chassis features, giving each bike a stance that shouts Attitude! The parts mix includes the 19″ (front) and 16″ (rear) Enforcer cast aluminum wheels with Brembo calipers and Dunlop Harley-Davidson Series tires. The bike’s stance is further set by a lowered suspension that features Harley’s updated specs. Claimed front suspension travel is 4.6″ front, 2.1″ rear.

New for 2017, the 49mm fork legs are filled with Showa Dual Bending Valve (SBDV) technology to smooth the ride up front. Out back you’ll find a pair of coil-over spring shocks with hand adjustability to set preload. As a unit, plus the low-profile tires (130/60-19″ front, 180/65-16″ rear), the suspension sets the Special nice and low, the way a bagger should be. There’s a small price to pay, however, as shortened suspension means there’s less up-and-down travel to absorb some of the bumps in the road. To be sure, the new suspension technology works well over smaller road holes and frost heaves, but a series of repetitious bumps challenges the damping rates; expect some chatter or jack hammering at times.
For the most part, though, the ride remains controlled and rather refined. Moreover, after spending all day in the saddle, I never felt fatigued or beaten. I always looked forward to the next day’s ride. And for me, that and the attention to detail and attitude are what make the FLTRXS so special for me as a bagger enthusiast. AIM