Crystal Ball

Steve Lita American Iron Magazine Editor

Steve Lita, American Iron Magazine Editor

Ride to Work

A glimpse into what many of us will be using on a daily basis in the near future

Attending a trade show is like having a crystal ball. I am hooked on trade shows. Just name it, and I’ll try to get media credentials for it. I get to network with colleagues, see people I haven’t seen in a long time, make new contacts, see the hottest new products, and come up with ideas on how to incorporate all this cool new stuff into my motorcycle adventures and yours!

My most recent trade show was the Consumer Electronics Trade Show (CES) in Las Vegas. The timing was perfect, as it led into a motorcycle press launch in Arizona the next day. So why not get to town a little early and get my trade show fix?

The CES is primarily for the mainstream market. There are plenty of TV sets, home audio, and cellphone gadgets galore. This year there were several hot trends; 3-D printers dominated several rows of one show floor, and the catch phrase smart electronic wearables was prevalent. I didn’t spend a lot of time there, but it was amazing to see what people are dreaming up. This show is a glimpse into what many of us will be using on a daily basis in the nearfuture, and some of it is a glimpse into what your children or grandchildren will be using on a daily basis in the distant future.

I posted pictures on social media while walking around, but posting took time away from walking around and seeing the cool stuff. So, believe me, my phone is full of pictures of items you have not seen yet. Some of my favorites include the portable 12-volt air pump with a compressor and removable air storage tank, the high-mounted brake light for the back of a motorcyclist’s helmet, a motorcycle helmet headsup display, and heated shoe insoles to keep a rider’s feet toasty. Dainese was there with its inflatable motorcycle riding jacket—think of it as an airbag for bikers. And Dainese wasn’t the only one with such a product on display. Remember, companies design these products for the mainstream consumer, and an inflatable rider safety vest can protect horseback riders, skateboarders, or skiers. Several companies displayed new tire pressure monitor kits, an accessory I think no motorcycle should be without. After all, we ride on fewer tires than a car, so we need to take care of our hides. Schumacher Electric showed its new Schulink battery charger, complete with a smartphone app so you can monitor your motorcycle’s battery charge status without even stepping foot in the garage.

Cameras, both still photo and action, were abundant at the CES; watch for a 360-degree action camera coming soon. I also visited the manufacturers of many professional still cameras, because we use them so much in the magazine biz. But how about an action camera that’s built into a pair of sunglasses? CES had it. There are those smart wearable electronics buzzwords again. I hope to show you more of what I saw at CES. Watch for some product reviews in American Iron Magazine soon.

Some of the products at CES are already available, some are coming soon, and yet others are pie-in-the-sky dreams that are not in production yet, with companies gauging the public’s interest. Some of the booths were actually crowdfunded projects from new startup companies.

I had a nice conversation with the folks from the United States Patent and Trademark Office, and they were happy to show me their giant cat magnet on display. Joking here, it’s a prop they used in a television commercial, a trade show foot-traffic stopper, and hilarious to look at.

Some of the items that caught my eye, which are not applicable to the motorcycle industry, include a smart walking cane for the elderly or handicapped. The cane learns the walk rate of the user and can recognize if the user is walking erratically or has fallen down, at which point it can summon help electronically. That and the polished stainless steel robotic barista making coffee were my favorite non-bike items. Now all I need is a smart, wearable, stainless steel, robotic barista that I can carry on my motorcycle, and I’ll be all set.

‘Tis the Season

Steve Lita, American Iron Magazine Editor

Steve Lita, American Iron Magazine Editor

RIDE TO WORK, By Steve Lita, Editor

“…thinking about what will be here before we know it: winter’s icy grip”

A few weekends ago was the first weekend I didn’t have to keep the air conditioning on in the house. But, unfortunately, the pendulum seems to have swung pretty fast, as it was only 45 degrees when I left this morning to come to work. The temps are dropping and leaves are turning. Seems like we went from sticky, hot summer to brisk, cool autumn, and we skipped the whole sleep-with-the-windows-open season here in New England this year. Maybe it’s that. Or maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been entertaining myself lately with online social media jabs at a friend of mine who’s moving from Southern California to nearby Rhode Island. I’d say he’s in for a surprise when he tries to take an early morning ride on his motorcycle over the next few weeks.

I also bought a used motorcycle this past weekend, sight-unseen (I know, not very smart, but I had to have it). When I arrived to pick it up, I noticed a short 110-volt electrical cord sticking out from under the frame. My first thought? It reminded me of the old fashioned block heater cords I used to see on diesel trucks. Once I got the new project home I dug a little deeper into the mysterious power cord and found a Sears trickle charger hardwired to the battery. The unit was small enough to be tucked into a storage area adjacent to the battery, and I thought, what a great idea. It will eliminate workbench clutter when the bike is in storage for the offseason, and it only adds a pound or two to the bike, which isn’t a big deal. And all this gets me thinking about what will be here before we know it: winter’s icy grip.

While some readers might never feel our New England winter’s deep freeze, I’m sure plenty of you still feel the stinging pain on early morning rides even in the Midwest or southern states. So, instead of running a separate tech story about prepping your bike for winter storage or winter riding tips, I’ve decided to share a few of my favorite pointers here.

For those putting away a bike for the winter, you’ve already heard my first tip, tend to your battery. If your garage is somewhat insulated, you can probably get away with trickle charging your bike’s battery while it’s still mounted on the bike. Otherwise, remove the battery and store it indoors with a maintenance charger on it.

I like to fill my bike’s fuel tank with quality premium grade gas and mix in some stabilizer to keep the fuel from turning sour. Run your bike on this mixture for a last ride, and if the bike is carbureted, turn the petcock off and run the engine until the carb is dry.

Park the bike with the tires on small squares of carpeting to help prevent flat spotting, or, if you have the room, raise the bike off the ground and keep the tires off the ground completely.
Another winter prep I perform is not done on the bike, but rather to the garage. Set some mouse traps to keep the little critters from making a feast of your bike’s wiring harness. I don’t know how they can find copper wiring insulation appetizing, but I’ve seen several bikes ruined by common field mice. Also, plug the exhaust outlet(s) with a squishy rubber ball to keep moisture and the aforementioned mice out.

If you’re fortunate enough to keep riding year round, you’ll probably need some extra layers to keep out the cold. Some of my favorites are silk glove liners, often found in the skiing department of sporting goods stores. Silk is a wonderful insulator, and the liners are super soft and thin. Flannel-lined jeans are wonderful, and it feels like you’re wearing pajamas all day. If my neck gets cold when I’m riding, my day is done. So I’m a big fan of neck gaiters and quilted/lined bandanas. Most motorcycle shops can get these for you, or try Finally, stuff a few hunter hand warmer packets in your pants pocket. If you have any suggestions of your own, share them with us by writing to I know what to get my relocating riding buddy for Christmas: a snow shovel. He’s probably never seen one before. AIM

To order back issues, visit

To subscribe to the PRINT edition, click here.

To receive DIGITAL DELIVERY, click here.

Official Daytona Bike Week Bike Build Underway

American Iron Magazine is building the Official Daytona Bike Week giveaway bike and we’d like to thank all of the generous vendors and parts manufacturers that helped make it a reality. Each week we’ll showcase some of the companies on our website and social media, leading up to Daytona Bike Week in March, 2017.

The build began with a story in American Iron Magazine Issue #344 where we assess the status of our plainjane 2010 Harley-Davidson Ultra starting point. The bike was mechanically sound, with low mileage for its age, but was suffering from some flaws in the aesthetics department. This didn’t pose a problem, as we planned to transform the look of the bike and make it much more appealing for the ultimate prize bike winner.


All the wrenching, painting, and assembly duties will be handled by Rich, Eric, and Monica from Street Stuff Motorcycle of New England, in Norwich, CT. This is the second time Street Stuff has been involved with building the Official Daytona Bike Week bike, and they were stoked to get started.


In issue 345 we’ll start bolting on some cool Arlen Ness billet engine goodies shown here. Ness wanted to showcase its new “10-Gauge” line of billet aluminum engine and chassis parts. Most all of the engine covers, front and rear floorboards, fork tubes, 13” Bagger Apes and handgrips came from Arlen Ness.


You can win the Official Daytona Bike Week Bike by getting your ticket at Tickets are $50 each and only 4500 tickets will be sold. Get one before they run out!


Harley Softail Slim Engine Guard & Soft Lowers Install (Intro)

Harley Softail Slim Engine Guard and Soft Lowers Install

The engine guard and soft lowers add a nostalgic look to this Slim.

By Steve Lita/Photos by Tricia Szulewski

Adding some Softail Slim protectors

We were fortunate enough to get our hands on a brand-new 2016 Softail Slim S this year, and we just couldn’t leave well enough alone. The Slim has a nostalgic look and feel with its wire spoke wheels and Hollywood handlebar. And since our Slim came in the Olive Gold Denim paint scheme, with the military-grade lettering and star on the tank, we thought it would be fun to militarize it a bit more by adding a Harley-Davidson Black Engine Guard (#49023-02A/$214.95) and Soft Lower Kit (#57100213/$109.95), giving it even more of a vintage Army bike look.

H-D Softail Slime Engine Guard and Soft Lower Kit

First remove the clutch hose clip on the front frame tube with a T20 Torx wrench to allow some slack in the line.

There’s a chrome version of this engine bar available, but we opted for the gloss black, to match almost everything else on this Slim. The install was a quick and easy, three bolts, and since it’s a Genuine Harley-Davidson accessory, you know it’ll fit well right out of the box.

Softail Slim Engine Guard install

Install a bolt, washer, and locknut where the lower engine guard mounting point meets the floorboard mounting bracket on both sides of the bike. Tighten to 33 ft-lbs. with a T40 Torx wrench and 9/16” wrench.

We have more in store for this Slim, like a sprung leather solo seat, and old-time driving lights. Watch for more installs in American Iron Magazine and our sister publication, American Iron Garage. AIM

Harley Softail Slim soft lowers install

Install the soft lowers onto the engine guard with the logo facing forward.



Harley-Davidson Genuine Parts

Like what you see? The full article with all the steps, tips, tricks, and tools needed is in American Iron Magazine issue # 341! To order a back issue of this or any other issue of American Iron Magazine, visit
Follow American Iron Magazine on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!
To subscribe to the PRINT edition, click here. To receive DIGITAL DELIVERY, click here.

Our First Ride Impressions of Harley’s New Milwaukee-Eight

Cornering on the 2017 Milwaukee-Eight-equipped Road King felt more agile than ever.

Cornering on the 2017 Milwaukee-Eight-equipped Road King felt more agile than ever.

American Iron Magazine editor Steve Lita was fortunate enough to get in a day of riding on the new 2017 Harley-Davidson Touring models featuring both versions of the new Milwaukee-Eight engine; standard 107″ and CVO models equipped with the 114″ version.

The first thing you notice when you start up the new Milwaukee-Eight is, well, the precise and consistent starting. Thanks to a new automatic compression release and a more powerful starter motor, the engine comes to life every time without a hitch or a hiccup, which can’t be said for Twin Cam models. Once the engine settles to life at a calm 850 idle rpm, you’ll recognize the traditional Harley rumble, albeit a little smoother. Don’t get me wrong, this engine is not sewing machine-boring, it still has that chugging cadence to it.

The 107" Milwaukee-Eight, staying true to Harley's Big Twin tradition while leaping forward.

The 107″ Milwaukee-Eight, staying true to Harley’s Big Twin tradition while leaping forward.

Click the bike into first gear and release the clutch, and you’ll be pleased with the easier feeling on your left hand. Roll on the throttle easy, the Milwaukee-Eight smoothly pulls this heavyweight up to speed. But gun the throttle, and get ready for an aggressive bark from the stock exhaust. Thanks to less drivetrain noise and the added cubic-inches, the exhaust emanates an aggressive tone. After my first ride I commented to Harley engineers how much I liked the sound of the bike.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have access to a timed acceleration course, but suffice it to say the seat-of-the-pants-feeling under hard acceleration was that the new bikes pull away from a stop or roll on at speed harder than before. This Milwaukee-Eight pulls hard all the way to the 5500 redline, and I found the rev limiter many times when not judiciously watching the tach. I felt consistent thrust all the way up the tach range without the power petering off. It just pulls, pulls, pulls, and then smack! You’re on the limiter. Step up to the larger 114″ Milwaukee-Eight, which is available only in the CVO models, and get ready for a kick in the butt over the 107″ version; you will definitely feel the difference in power output.

And the 114" Milwaukee-Eight, a CVO-only option that will blow your socks off.

And the 114″ Milwaukee-Eight, a CVO-only option that will blow your socks off.

All of that is great for straight-line riding, but what happens when you throw the new Touring models into a curve? Much improvement has been made to this line of bikes, and the new 2017 models can handle some twisties better than ever before. New front fork updates feature SHOWA Dual Bending valve (SDBV) technology, which is similar to current cartridge fork inserts, but more adept for mass production use. Out back is a hand-adjustable SHOWA emulsion shock. Turn the adjustment knob 23 times to allow for 25mm of total adjustment. No more worrying about blowing out air shocks. Confidence in riding through corners at high speed is greatly increased.

The 114" CVO Touring Model handles better than you could imagine for a Big Twin.

The 114″ CVO Touring Model handles better than you could imagine for a Big Twin.

My overall riding impression of these new Milwaukee-Eight-powered models is that Harley has taken all the right feelings and emotions of the previous engine and refined them, doing so with new high-tech components. The looks of the engine are right. It’s not some foreign, radical departure. Yet under the skin, the internal components work in better harmony than before. I think of this engine as a well-sorted Big Twin. It’s better than you ever thought the Big Twin family could perform.

For the full first ride review of the all-new Milwaukee-Eight Touring models, pick up a copy of Issue #342. In Issue #341, on sale 9/13, we give you everything you need to know about the new engine platforms.

2017 Victory Octane First Ride Review

2017 Victory Octane 1st Ride Review

NEW BIKE REVIEW • by Steve Lita

OK. So let me get this straight. You want me to pin the throttle and dump the clutch, right?” Those were my words to the stunt riding duo of Joe Vertical and Tony Carbajal at the Victory Octane press launch. Joe and Tony were our guest hooligan event directors for the day. Ironic that we were practicing hard motorcycle launches at a press launch, I thought. Their response to my question? A resounding “Yes.” So that’s what I did aboard the new 2017 Victory Octane. And the result was a high-revving blast-off with plumes of smoke dissipating from the Octane’s rear tire as I fishtailed down the back straight at Orlando Speedbowl. Our test day, held a few days before Daytona Bike Week, included agility testing on a gymkhana course, practicing burnouts and the aforementioned rolling burnouts, and finally drag race test runs down the quarter-mile strip. Not your average evaluation of a new model motorcycle. But the Octane is not your average cruiser. It’s more like a cruiser that thinks it’s a sportbike, actually.

While I was riding the Octane around the back roads of Florida, I kept trying to think what I could compare it to. In the realm of American-made muscle cruisers, I could think of only one, the V-Rod, and expanding my thoughts to manufacturers of non-American machines I could only think of one other: the Star VMAX. Quite frankly, when considering the real-world scenario of what I could have the most fun on without breaking the bank, the answer kept returning to one point: Octane!

Steve Lita Burnout 2017 Victory Octane

The 2017 Victory Octane press launch included some Hooligan 101. Looks like Lita learned fast.

Sure, both of those other models are a hoot to ride and plenty capable of leaving dark strips on the pavement themselves. But I don’t ever recall riding any V-Rod that offered the agility or the pared-down muscle car feeling of the Octane or left as much spending money in my wallet as the Octane. How much is the Octane, you ask? Try on $10,499 and see how it fits. Fits me just fine.

The formula is as old as hot-rodding itself: big engine times small/lightweight chassis plus few amenities equals Ya-Hoo! Carroll Shelby did it with the little Cobra way back in the ’60s, and it still works today, even on two wheels. Actually, given modern efficiencies in manufacturing, materials, and systems such as fuel injection, the formula works even better now.

Providing the muscle in this muscle bike is an 1179cc, liquid-cooled 60-degree V-twin, Victory’s first crack at a liquid-cooled engine. It utilizes dual overhead cams with four valves per head and a 60mm throttle body equipped induction system to create a 104 hp output and 76 ft-lbs. of torque. That’s more horsepower than any other Victory motorcycle up to this point. The short-stroke engine allows higher engine rpm and a quick-revving engine response more akin to a sportbike than a conventional V-twin, and the modest 10.8 to 1 compression ratio should allow the Octane to live happily on common street-grade gasoline. The smooth shifting six-speed trans sends power to the short geared rear sprocket via a belt drive. It’s amazing to me that the belt can withstand the punishment that the engine produces, but it does. That’s modern technology for you.

2017 Victory Octane Wheelie

Lightweight and powerful, lofting the front wheel of the 2017 Victory Octane doesn’t take much.

You’ve probably been muttering “Just how fast is it?” since you read about our little excursion to the drag strip in the first paragraph. Victory’s usually optimistic press blurbs say the Octane can do the quarter-mile in 12 seconds and blast from 0-60 mph in less than four seconds. Well, this ain’t no bull. I saw a fellow moto-journalist rip off a 12.05, and we heard about a pro rider dipping in the high 11.90s. Me? After a couple practice runs, I was able to muster a 12.40. Guess I need a little more practice on those hard launches and finding the proper shift-points (and a few more salad lunches). Not bad for a cruiser, with a not-the-largest-V-twin-out-there 72ci engine. Thanks to that law-abiding, wide-open throttle testing, I can also tell you the Octane pulls all the way to redline. Power doesn’t peter out at the high end of the tach. It just keeps pulling until you’re bouncing off the rev-limiter, hence the need for more shift point practice on my part.

For the full ride review, custom bike features, tech stories and more,
CLICK HERE American Iron Magazine issue 337

Also available in digital format CLICK HERE American Iron Digital