1909 Vintage Harley Police Motorcycle, The earliest police model in existence

At the dawn of the last century, Harley-Davidson recognized that its rugged and reliable motorcycles were perfectly positioned to service law enforcement. Back then, good mobility was vital, and a single-cylinder Harley-Davidson provided that at a time when our country was just beginning to make the transition from the horse and carriage to motorized transportation. Easy to operate, economical to use, and a form of transportation that allowed widespread access to remote areas that needed policing, the earliest Harleys fit the bill. The archives state that the first sale of a Harley to a municipality for police work occurred in 1908, and Detroit was the first customer. From that humble beginning, Harley has expanded its efforts and focused on the law enforcement market to great success. Today, in the United States, over 3,400 police departments ride Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Worldwide, Harleys are used in over 45 countries, to keep the peace.

Our featured bike is an amazing, all-original 1909 Harley-Davidson police motorcycle owned by our good friend and amazing motorcycle enthusiast John Parham. It’s part of his vast collection of rare antique machines and one of my favorites for many reasons. It’s all original, and it’s also the earliest known Harley-Davidson police motorcycle in existence. That says it all.

The bike was sold to the La Crosse, Wisconsin, Police Department where it spent many years in service to the community. It passed through a few additional owners until it had outlived its usefulness and was then disassembled, put in boxes, and stored indoors for decades. It was then rediscovered,
reassembled, and donated to the La Crosse Historical Society. With no place to display it, the bike was then loaned to the local Harley-Davidson dealer who displayed it in a showcase for many years. Many people wanted to buy it, including John, but it was not for sale, and it remained on display for all the world to see. The La Crosse Historical Society was in need of cash to restore a local landmark building, so it decided to sell the machine to finance that restoration. A few collectors were aware it was on the market, but the price was steep due to its rarity and desirability. However, John was able to step up and become its next caretaker.

If you look the bike over carefully, you can see how well-preserved the machine really is. Complete down to its core, this motorcycle wears all its factory parts; its tall stance and proud heritage speak volumes about its journey through time. The paint, although worn, is all original and the La Crosse Wis PD designation resides in a small rectangular area outlined by factory pinstripes. The lettering was probably done by a local sign painter employed by the city. Wis of course stands for Wisconsin; this was long before the advent of the two-letter state designations we’ve all come to know and recognize.

The year 1909 was the first for the redesigned frame that incorporates a second top bar for added strength. The gas tank was also redesigned as a three-sided affair, a marked improvement over the 1908 frame and strap tank design. A metal toolbox first appeared that year, and beefier components like the front forks make the ride smoother and the chassis sturdier. The 28″ wheels put the rider up on a perch; and the 3.00″ clincher tires, though shaky by today’s standards, were state of the art back then. The handlebars have the cables running through them with the left grip used to retard and advance the spark and the right grip to control the throttle. This setup would last for decades. The single-cylinder motor has a bore of 3-15/16″, displaces 30″, and pumps out a claimed 4 hp! Power is transmitted to the rear wheel by a leather belt drive, and the clutch is activated and deactivated by the belt tightening handle on the left side of the bike. The rear brake is a coaster brake design, similar to what you probably had on your first bicycle. The bike retailed for $210, expensive by standards of the day, but well under what a car cost in the same period.

Harley also introduced its first V-twin in 1909, but that would disappear from the lineup the following year and return a few years later, remaining the heart and soul of a Harley-Davidson to this day.

Two colors were offered in 1909: Renault Gray with carmine striping and Piano Black. Together with their nickel-plated cylinders and assorted hardware, they were striking machines at the dawn of motor transportation.

There was great optimism during this period, and motorcycling in general was gaining favor. Production numbers continued to climb for all brands, and it was anyone’s guess as to who would dominate the two-wheeled trade in 1909. Indian was becoming a powerhouse back East, and other brands were entering the field on a regular basis. It was an exciting time in the business, punctuated by innovation and advancement.

In 2010, John was invited to display the 1909 police bike at the world-famous Pebble Beach Concours D’Elegance. The bike is on loan to the National Motorcycle Museum, John being the museum’s founder. So, anytime you’re in Anamosa, Iowa, stop by and view this amazing time capsule from the dawn of cycling. Thank you, John, for your continued stewardship of this great machine and for putting it on display for all to enjoy and appreciate. AIM

Words by Jim Babchak, photos by Pam Proctor

Story as printed in American Iron Magazine.

2013 Harley-Davidson Big Twins New Bike Specs

It took 110 years, but the wait for the 2013 Harley-Davidson models is finally over. It’s a special lineup, indeed, for the anniversary year. Sticking to just the Big Twins for now, five models will be available in the special 110th anniversary scheme, which also means they only come with all available options installed, and only in limited production quantities. Each Anniversary model is highlighted by a solid bronze fuel tank badge and Anniversary Vintage Bronze/Anniversary Vintage Black paint.

The 110th Super Glide Custom is limited to 1,500 units and includes a Smart Security System, ABS, and chrome aluminum profile laced wheels. The 110th Fat Boy Lo is limited to 1,750 and also includes the basic Smart Security System and ABS package. The 110th Heritage Softail Classic is limited to 1,900 examples and includes the same package as the Super Glide Custom, but with the addition of wide whitewall tires. The 110th Road King is limited to 1,750 and comes with the Smart Security System, ABS, cruise control, and contrast chrome, 28-spoke, cast aluminum wheels. The Electra Glide Ultra Limited 110th Anniversary edition is the top dog and already comes with every available option. It also happens to see the highest production run at 3,750 examples. And for those looking to explore on three wheels rather than two, Harley included the Anniversary package on 1,450 Tri Glide Ultra Classics that get upgraded with a Smart Security System.

For those who thought Harley was going to take it easy in its anniversary year and not introduce too many changes, nothing is further from the truth. In fact, H-D is taking factory custom to the next level with its new Hard Candy Custom line. Harking back to the So Cal garage builders in the ’60s, Hard Candy Custom brings metalflake and chrome back into play. There’s 16 new “big flake” finishes available, three of which are even offered as a solid-color option on the 2013 Seventy-Two, Forty-Eight, Street Bob, Blackline, and Softail Deluxe. The whole concept of the 1960s California custom is being brought into play as metalflake springer seats, single-sided swingarm bags, and sissybars are all available straight from the factory.

The other big news coming out of the Motor Company is the restyled Dyna Street Bob. Harley’s budget Big Twin received updates for 2013 that make it a bargain. This urban muscle cruiser comes stock with the 96″ Twin Cam that puts out 94 ft-lbs. of torque through its six-speed Cruise Drive transmission. The 2013 edition Street Bob is even more blacked-out than its predecessors thanks to new black triple trees, battery box cover, fork lowers, and wrinkle-black cast dash console with ignition switch. The center taillight and license bracket get removed in favor of stop/turn/taillights found on other bobber-style models as well as a side-mount license bracket. A cool, round air cleaner cover now graces the right side of the engine instead of the football cover found on most Big Twins. Also, H-D got rid of the built-in risers on the upper tree in favor of rubber-isolated risers that make the installation of different bar and riser combinations possible. Also new for the Street Bob is the addition of H-D1 Factory Customization that gives prospective owners more than 2,000 setup combinations straight from the assembly line. Choose from a different handlebar, paint job, foot location, and — ready for it —an upgraded 103″ Twin Cam engine! Before I give too much away about all the updates for the 2013 Street Bob, check out Editor Chris’ review on page 54 to get all the down and dirty details on this bad-boy brawler.

How can anyone talk about the 2013, 110th Anniversary, lineup without mentioning that huge party that takes place every five years in Milwaukee? This year, in a bid to showcase the Motor Company’s globalization efforts, parties will be held in dozens of cities around the globe, the biggest being Milwaukee and Rome. Rumor has it that even the Pope is getting in on the action! Keep an eye on American Iron Magazine for monthly reviews of as many 2013 models as we can fit in, and, of course, 110th anniversary celebration coverage. AIM

NEW BIKE SPECS By Tyler Greenblatt

Story as printer in American Iron Magazine.

2013 Harley Dyna Street Bob, A Nightster On Steroids

Harley-davidson did things a bit differently this year. Instead of having the press launch of its new models before Sturgis, H-D did it right after. Sturgis was over on August 11, and I was flying out to the launch on August 12. My destination was Seattle, where I joined a number of other journalists and the H-D staff who would present Harley’s latest and greatest. But that wasn’t the only change in the way H-D was doing things. Knowing the test riders prefer to spend at least a few hundred miles on a bike for a review, The Motor Company hired the Global Enduro tour company (GlobalEnduro.com) to take us on a spectacular three-day ride through the Cascade Mountains and into Canada. These guys did a fantastic job, and I’m looking forward to going on another tour with them. As for H-D, this was a great way to give us some seat time on the new machines. When the launch was before Sturgis, I always rode the bike I was reviewing to the rally to get at least 500 or more miles on it. This arrangement did all that and gave me enough time to ride two different Street Bobs, as well as a Fat Boy Lo that you’ll read about in an upcoming issue.

To me, the big news for 2013 (besides the 110th, of course) is the restyled Street Bob. Check out that paint job and rear section setup! And though I usually start my reviews by talking about the powertrain, the chassis has to take the lead this time. Let’s start with that paint job, which is just one of the new Hard Candy Custom colors that can be ordered as factory paint. It’s easy to see that The Motor Company has been watching what some of the aftermarket and garage builders have been doing for the last few years. Smart move! You can check out all the bike’s colors and specifications on page 58, so I won’t go through all that here.

To sweeten the pot a bit more, the Street Bob is now part of the H-D1 Factory Customization program. That means you can go online to Harley-Davidson.com, select the Bike Builder option, build your dream bike on the screen, and then order it through an authorized Harley-Davidson dealer. Your selections — which include paint, wheels, handlebars, seat, and foot controls — will be installed onto your motorcycle as it’s assembled at the factory. You take delivery of the bike just the way you ordered it. Pretty neat, huh?

I picked two differently set up Street Bobs so I could compare some of the options. The one you’re looking at is stock (with the ABS option), while the other one has been jazzed up with a few H-D1 Factory Customization items. As you can see, the stock Street Bob has the Hard Candy Custom Big Red Flake paint job with the bronze medallion on the fuel tank, mid-foot controls, solo seat, black rimmed 40-spoke laced wheels, and stainless steel, internally wired miniapehangers. This version has a MSRP of $13,729, or $14,924 with the ABS and security system option. The customized Bob I rode has Lucky Green Flake paint, drag bars, forward controls, five-spoke black wheels, two-up seat, and black and chrome 103″ engine. This one has a MSRP of $15,249, or $16,444 with the ABS and security system option.

So how did the bikes perform? Both machines handled and ran like Nightsters on steroids! The Bobs were a pleasure to roll through the twisties, as well as blast down the straights. At no time did either machine do any head shaking, wobbling, or anything else you don’t want a bike to do, whether ridden at low speed or high. Handling in the corners was always predictable, and I had lots of ground clearance (almost 5″), though my heel did hit the pavement a couple of times with the forward controls. The suspension and Michelins (a 100/90-19″ up front and a 160/70-17″ out back) did their job well. Braking was also great, since both machines have the ABS option. The fixed front four-piston caliper and rear two-piston caliper had no trouble bringing me to a stop reasonably quickly with smooth operation. Basically, the Street Bob is a well-designed machine, like the other Dynas in the lineup, with no unwanted surprises. For those readers who are rocking a short inseam as I am (32″), the Bob’s 26.7″ (unladen) seat height made it easy to touch down flat-footed at all times. On the stocker, I also had no problem reaching the apes comfortably; ditto for the drag bars. Guys with long legs may prefer the forward control option over the mid-controls. As for me, I was about an inch on the short side of putting my instep on the footpegs with forward controls, but I was still comfortable on the bike. A big difference between the machines comfort-wise was the seat. The solo felt like a slab of wood after a couple of hundred miles, while the two-up was much better.

Okay, time to talk about my favorite part of a motorcycle, the parts that make me go. Unlike the rest of the 2013 Big Twin lineup, the Street Bob and FXDC Super Glide Custom come stock, still powered by a 96″ (1584cc) Twin Cam. I was told this was done to keep the MSRP low. However, if you want a 103″ (and you know you do), it’s available as an option. The bike in front of you has the stock 96″ mill, while the other Street Bob I rode was 103-powered. Though the 96″ has plenty of juice to move the Bob along nicely, the extra power the 103″ provides definitely made things more fun. But then, I always want more power, so take that into consideration. As usual, the EFI system was seamless in its operation, no matter the altitude, outside temperature, or whatever else it faced. The exhaust note from the dual, straight-cut, staggered, shorty mufflers was also nice, for a stock system.

Now for the bad news: unfortunately, there’s an odd engine vibration (rough spot?) that shows up when the engine is between 2300 and 2900 rpm. It’s at its worst at 2500, but smooths out nicely at 3000. Every Dyna I rode on the launch had the same rough spot, but it’s not a fuel delivery issue. At first, I thought the flywheel assembly was causing the problem and that H-D was using a different balancing factor in the lower end, but I was told that is not the case. The Touring models don’t have this odd vibration even though they use the exact same engine, so I don’t think it’s due to a mechanical issue. Just for the record, any Softail I rode didn’t have it either, but that’s not a surprise since the engine’s counterbalancers would nullify it if it was there. At this point, I’m at a loss as to the cause; I just know it’s there.

As for the primary system and transmission, clutch action was smooth and clean. The Cruise Drive six-speed is the same as it always is, doing its job with a clunk whenever you shift. It’s also hard to find neutral when the tranny is hot. These are definitely not major concerns, but they should be mentioned for those who have not used a Cruise Drive sixer and are used to the five-speed. The bike’s overall gearing was right on the money, and I always had plenty of power when I wanted it, be it blasting out of a turn or down a straightaway.
Bottom line: the Street Bob is a lot of fun to run. In fact, I hated every time I had to give up one of the Bobs during bike swap time and couldn’t find another one to ride. AIM


Atory as printed in the December 2012 issue of American Iron Magazine.

2013 Harley CVO Breakout

By the time you read this report, the 2013 Harleys should be filtering through dealerships across the nation and around the world. And 2013 marks the 110th anniversary of the Motor Company. Word on the street is that if you’re shopping for a new Harley-Davidson, you should get ’em while they’re hot because demand will certainly be higher than it has been in recent years.

Shopping early is especially important if you’re in the market for a 2013 CVO (Custom Vehicles Operation) model. As in past years, only four variations are offered in limited numbers, three of which cater to the bagger crowd. The sole nonbagger also happens to be an all-new CVO model, and that would be the Breakout, a turnkey custom that’s based on the venerable Softail platform.

Like the 100,000-plus CVO bikes that Harley-Davidson has offered during the past 15 years, the sum of the Breakout and its add-on components surpasses its MSRP, which is pegged at $26,499. If you were to duplicate the Breakout with your own Softail, you’d spend much, much more than the stated MSRP.

The basis for the Breakout is the same basic Softail frame (with a modified swingarm) that was used on the now-discontinued FXCW Rocker. The steering head angle and a 21″ front wheel account for slight differences in the final rake and trail dimensions, but otherwise the frames are rather similar. This chassis, of course, accounts for the Breakout’s whopping 240/40-18″ Dunlop rear tire, the same as found on the Rocker that debuted back in 2008 when the fat tire craze gripped the custom bike market. What’s different, though, is the all-new 8.00-18″ Turbine rear wheel found on the Breakout. The polished-and-chromed wheel was purposely developed for the Breakout (although, like all CVO components, customers can also order Turbine wheels from the Genuine Parts & Accessories catalog), giving the bike its distinctive look. As H-D Styling Manager Kirk Rasmussen explains, “We gave the Turbine wheel a good deal of drama by pulling the spoke ridges all the way through to the rim, which help make the wheel diameter look larger.”

The rear wheel is matched with the front 21-spoke Turbine, and its 3-1/2″ width accommodates a hefty 130/60-21″ Dunlop. A new, wider fork makes room for the fatter tire. The combination of front and rear uncommonly fat tires create the Breakout’s visual proportions, which is necessary for a sleek, lay-down, long wheelbase (67-1/2″) chopper such as this. And by eliminating the tank-mounted speedometer and selecting a low, TT-style 1-1/4″ diameter handlebar with internal wiring, the Breakout maintains a low, even sexy, silhouette.

But we’re only scratching the surface of this bike’s styling cues. There’s plenty more to tease and please the eyes. For instance, perhaps never before has a bike used braided AN-type lines for the gas cap vents, and both fenders have been trimmed to the absolute limit to remain legal in all 50 states. The two-piece seats have a special fabric that simulates alligator hide (rest assured, no animals were harmed in the making of any of the 1,900 Breakouts sold this year).

Gobs of chrome-plated, polished parts aside, the most striking feature on the CVO Breakout is the paint. Three color schemes are offered: two are truly special in the industry in terms of mass-produced models. Our test bike was trimmed with Black Diamond/Molten Silver and Crushed Slate graphics, and it’s the Molten Silver that deserves close scrutiny. At a glance, it looks like chrome, but in reality, the finish is clearcoated raw metal that’s been highly sanded, polished, and buffed. The process includes 10 stages of sanding, ending with 3,000-grit sandpaper to create a mirror-like finish. The same process is applied to the Hard Candy Gold Dust/Liquid Sun with Pagan Gold graphics, while the Crimson Red Sunglo/Scarlet Lace with Hammered Sterling graphics paint scheme is — and I use the term loosely — more conventional by comparison. In truth, all three color combinations are over the top, even by CVO standards.

Like all CVO models, the Breakout checks in with a 110″ Screamin’ Eagle engine. Its advertised 112 ft-lbs. of torque, coupled with the bike’s stated 697-pound (dry) weight, offers what project lead Jeff Smith terms “the best power-to-weight ratio in the Big Twin lineup.” He’s speaking of all
models, too, not just CVO bikes.

You’ll understand what Smith is talking about, too, the moment you snick the CruiseDrive six-speed transmission into first gear and accelerate down the road. The Breakout pulls smooth and hard through the gears. Clutch-lever action from the all-new Assist and Slip hydraulic clutch is nearly effortless, too, thanks to a redesigned mechanism that reduces lever pressure by nearly 1-1/2 pounds. The exhaust note from the stacked Screamin’ Eagle mufflers will only encourage you to hold the throttle open as long as you can. No doubt, these pipes broadcast a nice, low burble that warms the blood of anybody who enjoys and understands the world of hot rods.

And anybody who understands Softails equates the breed with low seat heights, and the Breakout’s seat specs are no different, set at 26.3″ (unladen) and 24.8″ with a 180–pound rider on board. The reach to the Slipstream collection handgrips and forward controls requires minimal stretch by the average-size rider, and if you prefer to ride solo, flip up the passenger pegs and a single thumb screw loosens the rear pad for removal. Cornering clearance is what you expect from a low-riding custom, and you can feel the slight push that the fat rear tire presents, especially over rough or uneven road surfaces. Even so, the Breakout exhibits rather neutral steering behavior for such a long bike sporting a 240-width rear tire. Obviously, the choice of a 130-wide front tire helps maintain this balance along with a well-thought-out rake and trail combination.

When it’s time to end the ride, a gentle tug on the brake lever and a firm push on the rear brake pedal prompt the four-piston (front) and two-piston (rear) brake calipers to grip their 11-1/2″ rotors. Like all CVO models, the Breakout package includes anti-lock braking system (ABS), Customer Care package, and a Commemorative CVO ignition key that you may never use because this also happens to be the only model of this exclusive quartet with a keyless ignition system.

No doubt, the Breakout is perhaps the most distinct model in the entire CVO lineup. It was developed for the custom-bike enthusiast who wants a bike that truly sets itself apart from all others parked in front of the local roadhouse. If you want saddlebags and sound systems, shop for any of the other three CVO models. But if it’s wild paint, snappy acceleration, and a long, low stance that you’re after, maybe you need to check in with the Breakout for 2013. AIM

NEW BIKE REVIEW By Dain Gingerelli

Story as printed in the November 2012 issue of American Iron Magazine.

2012 H-D FXDB Dyna Street Bob

Don’t expect any apologies or excuses from Harley-Davidson’s FXDB Street Bob, one of five Dynas offered for 2012. This is a straightforward, minimalist motorcycle that mixes simple styling features like bobbed fenders, miniapehanger handlebars, staggered exhausts, and a solo seat to create a showroom custom that reflects the blue-collar attitude of a homebrew hot rod. You want in your face riding? You got it with this boulevard bomber that looks like it was bred to brawl on the unruly streets of Cleveland or Detroit, not scoot gaily through Los Angeles’ lofty Wilshire District or in Chicago’s fashionista Miracle Mile.

The Street Bob isn’t a newcomer to the Harley family either. It was originally launched in 2006 when Harley-Davidson also introduced the first-generation of its six-speed Cruise Drive transmission. The pair has aged well together, too. The Cruise Drive’s fifth-gear fiasco was
addressed in 2010 to squelch the somewhat malicious-sounding gear noise that irritated customers so, and the Bob only got better when the 96″ debuted in 2007 to give the bike more streetfighting muscle.

Oddly, though, while most of the Harley family members have since fattened themselves on the new 103″ engine for 2012, the Street Bob and Dyna Super Glide Custom retained the 96″ engine. No official reason was given by members of the Motor Company for that decision, so you can only assume that engineers were confident that the 637-pound-dry FXDB (and 648-pound-dry Super Glide Custom) didn’t require the added engine displacement, or perhaps there were so many leftover TC 96 parts in the bin that the best way to use up the supply was to earmark them for the two Dyna models for 2012.

No matter, because even with the 96″ engine, the Street Bob scoots along just fine when you dig your spurs into its flanks. Our low-gear acceleration test figures revealed a 3.1-second sprint from 20 to 50 mph while in second gear, and Bob took 4.2 seconds to gallop from 50 to 80 mph while in fifth gear. Both performance figures are comparable to what you can expect from any of the Big Twins powered by the 103″ engine package, so the 7″ handicapping seems to be nullified by the weight factor, which favors the two low-priced ($12,999 MSRP for either bike) Dyna models.

In the process, expect to achieve approximately the same advertised 43 mpg fuel economy figure with your Street Bob. Our test bike delivered nearly 41 mpg, and that was with some spirited riding during our acceleration tests.
Either of these fuel mileage figures, coupled with the 4.8-gallon gas tank, gives the Street Bob an effective range of nearly 200 miles.

For the most part, that 200-mile ride will be pleasant. The ride is firm, thanks to the stout 49mm fork legs and adjustable rear coil-over shocks, and steer-in for turns is surprisingly easy, even with the high handlebars. The Michelin Scorcher tires offer a smooth ride while cruising the freeway, and their grip through the corners is remarkably good even though there’s not much cornering clearance in terms of the bike’s hardware scraping the pavement if you become too aggressive at tilting the horizon. Ride the Street Bob as it’s intended — as a boulevard bomber — and you shouldn’t experience any unpleasant surprises or disappointments. In fact, you’ll feel like, well, a badass as you motor down the road because the seating position makes you feel that way.

Indeed, the Street Bob’s ergonomics set you in a rather relaxed riding position — the apehanger bars place your hands slightly lower than your shoulders when you stretch to reach the hand grips, and the mid-controls allow you to sit more upright so there’s less stress on your lower back (as compared to riding with forward controls). Taller riders might find the mid-controls to be too confining, though, and with a static seat height of 25-1/2″, the FXDB seems more agreeable to riders with shorter inseams. Just as there’s a reason why there’s chocolate and vanilla ice cream, there’s a reason why Harley-Davidson also offers the Dyna Wide Glide with forward controls — there’s something for everyone.

Regardless of which particular bike suits your riding style, there’s no denying that the FXDB Street Bob offers styling that reflects the heart and soul of the American biker. This is a motorcycle that you expect to see in the parking lot of the local steel mill or lumber yard. A little dust and soot on the Black Denim paint and its wrinkle-black engine cases doesn’t tarnish the Bob’s bad-boy image in the least, and the solo seat tells you this bike belongs to a lone wolf who probably will detour after work to the neighborhood bar to unwind with an ice-cold beverage or a local label before heading home. Clearly, this bike represents middle-class America, and the rustic tank medallion only underscores that fact. Ditto for the spoke-laced black rims, Bates-style 6″ headlight, and limp-sausage taillight. You can also order the ABS option, which our bike had, offering controlled panic braking from 30 mph to a dead stop in 28′. The dual staggered mufflers offer a pleasing baritone exhaust note, and the 96″ fuel-injected engine seems faultless from the moment you thumb the starter button to the time that you gently click the Cruise Drive transmission into sixth gear and settle back for the ride.

And at some point in your journey aboard the FXDB, you just might feel a little closer to your biker roots. The Street Bob has a way of doing that. AIM

NEW BIKE REVIEW By Dain Gingerelli

2012 Victory Boardwalk Motorcycle Review

Maybe the ancient Mayans got it right when they predicted that the world would experience a major change at the end of 2012. If so, then Victory Motorcycles is one step ahead of the curve because after nearly 15 years in the business, that growing, Midwest-based company recently announced a shift in how it’s going to market its products in the coming years. In the vanguard of that change is a new model, the Boardwalk, billed by Victory as a custom cruiser.

To better understand the Boardwalk, you first need to have a clearer picture about how Victory intends to reinvent itself, and that tale began with the acquisition of the Indian motorcycle brand less than two years ago. When Victory’s parent company, Polaris Industries, acquired Indian (ironically, the original Indian Motocycle Company ceased doing business in 1953, only a year before Polaris Industries was formed), speculation ran high that some of the existing Victory models would simply undergo a rebadging, and life would go on.

Hardly so, suggests Vice President Steve Menneto of Polaris’ motorcycle division. Instead, he promises that a “relaunch is on schedule” for next summer, possibly in August; it will be a proprietary Indian based on design features spearheaded by Polaris engineers and stylists.

Menneto pointed out, too, that the new Indian line would constitute the “classic brand” of what Polaris markets, allowing Victory to produce more mainstream bikes that take into account three aspects of its inclusive customer market. In the process, Victory marketers pinpoint their customers as three types of riders — those who ride cruisers, baggers, or tourers — and that those buyers want their bikes to exhibit a certain level of what one company spokesman termed “edginess.” Expect words like bold and aggressive to find their way into Victory advertising and promotional material as time goes by.

In a nutshell, the touring category includes all Victory models that come equipped with travel trunks. Baggers are just that, models with saddlebags (windshields optional), while Victory’s cruiser group is composed of naked bikes that are built more for style and performance. And it’s among the cruisers that you’ll find the Boardwalk, a model based on the tried and tested (and discontinued) Kingpin, which first appeared in 2004 and was derived from the Vegas that came to market in 2002. As you can see, the Boardwalk’s bloodline goes back more than 10 years.

Because the Boardwalk was spawned from existing models, there wasn’t much in terms of chassis and drivetrain development necessary to get the basic platform up to speed. This allowed the design team to spend most of its resources on the bike’s style and comfort factor. Consequently, the Boardwalk checks in with all-new sheet metal, and it rides on 16″, 60-spoke wheels with whitewall tires (as opposed to the Kingpin’s 18″ hoops). Like all Victory models, at the heart of the Boardwalk beats the Victory Freedom 106″ engine, an overhead-cam, fuel-injected V-twin that develops a claimed 113 ft-lbs. of torque. Power is transmitted through a primary chain drive and six-speed overdrive transmission, and a composite belt drives the rear wheel. Single-disc brakes are found front and rear (four-piston caliper up front, two-piston caliper on the rear).

For the most part, the sheet metal is proprietary to the Boardwalk. The wraparound fenders are a first for Victory, and no other model shares the bulbous side covers that form-fit to the seat. Speaking of the seat, like the Judge, the Boardwalk’s two-up saddle is an unusual design, so the aftermarket will require dedicated seats for customers seeking an alternative. In the meantime, Boardwalkers can opt for Victory’s custom replacement saddle, plus the existing passenger pad is easily removable to create a more custom appearance. Boardwalk owners will also like the passenger seat’s mounting system: removing the chromed fender covers on each side exposes mounting bolts that secure the seat, actually suspending the seat frame slightly above the fender’s sheet metal. So when the passenger seat is removed, there’s no unsightly center bolthole or annoying scuff marks on the paint, giving the Boardwalk the look of a bike intended for a lone wolf. Nice.

Whether you’re riding solo or two-up, the 25.9″ high saddle offers good support, and it’s scooped to keep your keister in one place while riding. The passenger pad offers additional back support for the driver, although the seat’s padding is probably on the firm side for most people.

The Boardwalk’s floorboards are spacious, too, and with no heel shifter to hinder you, it’s easy to place your foot on the end of the left board while cruising. Ditto for the right side, so you’re never hard pressed to find a comfortable position for either foot while riding this bike.

By now you might be wondering: why the name Boardwalk? Not a bad question, and I can only surmise that the tie-in is found with the handlebar, in this case it’s a low, wide beach bar. Boardwalks are associated with the beach, and the Boardwalk has beach bars, so there you have it. In any case, exaggerated handlebars like this often present a love/hate relationship to the rider, and the Boardwalk’s are no exception. You’ll certainly feel like a cool, low-and-slow cruiser rider when you grasp the handgrips and snick the bike through the gears, but when riding fast into headwinds you’ll work extra hard to support your upper body. Low-speed turns in parking lots and such require dexterous movements because when the bars swing wide left or right, the outside handgrip becomes a little more difficult to reach.

The Boardwalk’s ride itself is pleasant and rewarding. The suspension’s spring and damping rates seem well matched, although the single rear shock absorber’s compression damping might be the weak link when road ruts become too severe or repetitious. Otherwise, when you snick the six-speed transmission through its gears, you’re rewarded with a rather pleasant baritone exhaust note from the otherwise ungainly stacked mufflers (thank you, EPA). Victory offers EPA-and CARB-compliant replacement mufflers that produce a slightly deeper tone, and the X-Box exhaust (available from dealers for $999.99, including a remap kit that’s a must) simply looks cleaner and cooler than the stock cans.

Cornering clearance is sometimes compromised by the outrigger floorboards and the 675-pound bike’s low stance. You can figure on more than 150 miles between stops to fill the 4.7-gallon gas tank. Speaking of which, the tank logos represent part of Victory’s new look — eventually all Victory models will wear this label, but for now, only the Boardwalk has it. A Boardwalk can be yours for $15,499 black; $15,899, pearl white. AIM

NEW BIKE REVIEW By Dain Gingerelli

Story as printed in the October Issue of American Iron Magazine.

2012 Harley FLSTC Heritage Softail Classic Review

Here’s a surefire way to stir up the troops at the local biker watering hole: after grabbing a handful of beer nuts and repositioning your frosty mug in front of you, casually mention to those gathered round how you think that the Heritage Softail Classic — one of the long-standing models in Harley-Davidson’s vaunted lineup — makes such a fine bagger. Or calmly suggest that this Softail is a suitable everyday rider, a hog that you can rely on for work or play. Or if you really want to shake up the beer nuts, you can quote from Harley’s own propaganda sheet, citing that the FLSTC is a “custom-touring bike” like no other in the American V-twin market. Having done so, sit back to watch and listen as everyone gathered will assuredly voice his opinion on the matter, because the Heritage Softail Classic is a bike that is viewed differently by different people. More beer nuts, anyone?

No doubt, anybody who has spent time on a Heritage Softail’s two-piece saddle will have something notable to add to this debate. That’s because the FLSTC is a bike with a loyal following that dates back to 1986 when Harley-Davidson launched the Evo-powered FLST Softail Classic. That model paid homage to the original Hydra Glide of 1949, and almost overnight a classic was born. The following year, saddlebags and a windscreen found their way onto the Softail Classic, creating the FLSTC Heritage Softail Classic, and Harley has been making that model ever since. A low center of gravity, coupled with an equally low seat height (claimed 25-1/2″ off the deck), translates into an easy-to-manage ride for practically anybody to straddle the saddle. Well-placed footboards and a high-rise handlebar lends to ergonomics that, to this day, are unsurpassed in terms of riding comfort and control for the rider. If there’s a downside to the comfort factor, it’s the current passenger pillion’s configuration that digs into the small of the rider’s back. Otherwise, it’s pretty much the same seating position today as in past model years.

That first-ever Heritage Softail Classic pretty much nailed it in terms of styling, too. Even though 1980s technology prevailed — like today, the early FLSTC used disc brakes and was powered by Harley’s latest-at-the-time Evolution V2 engine — the Classic lived up to its name thanks in large part to its timeless styling. And if you park today’s Heritage Softail Classic beside one of the original Evo-powered editions, at a glance you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between the two.

But in terms of performance, a lot has changed to make today’s FLSTC Heritage Softail the top of its class. The current Twin Cam engine displaces 103″, making it the most powerful Big Twin yet to reside in the Softail frame. Harley claims 96.9 ft-lbs. of torque (at 3000 rpm), which is over
4.5 ft-lbs. more than the 96″ engine that it replaces, while the single-cam Evo engine usually generated about 80 ft-lbs. at 4000 rpm (claimed).

But beyond improved specification figures on the printed page, today’s 103″ engine feels peppier in its all-around performance. Shifting through the Cruise Drive transmission’s six gears, you get the feeling that this engine likes to rev, which it does. Our acceleration figures revealed that the 96.9 ft-lbs. of torque propel the 730-pound (claimed dry weight) FLSTC from 20 mph to 50 mph in second gear in 3.4 seconds. A similar roll-on test in fifth gear paced the FLSTC from 60 to 80 mph in 4.7 seconds. Cruising in top gear at 70 mph, the engine churns out a lazy 2600 rpm (indicated on the digital readout), so there’s still torque to be found if you want to casually accelerate without downshifting to pass a vehicle ahead of you. In that context, the FLSTC shines as a daily rider because you can expect good performance when riding from Point A to Point B. The FLSTC stops equally well, and our ABS-equipped (optional package) test bike took 24′ to brake from 30 mph to a standing stop.

That same performance applies when taking a road trip on the Heritage Softail, too, but there’s even more good news to consider: Harley-Davidson claims a combined fuel consumption rate of 42 miles per gallon, and with a five-gallon capacity in those Fat Bob tanks, that gives a range of about 200 miles. Our best mileage figure yielded 45 mpg (admittedly, unusual for our heavy-handed riding techniques!), giving an effective range of about 225 miles.

Generally, though, we averaged about 40 mpg with our bike. But long-distance riding is more than simply going the distance in between fuel stops. You need cargo capacity, too, and again, the FLSTC shines because those two leather non-locking saddlebags can stow away more gear than you might think. You can also strap a buddy-bar bag to the backrest for additional gear, should you need additional space.

After reaching your destination, you might want to cruise the boulevard at night, so the detachable windscreen can be removed in seconds. No tools required, either. Just place the screen in your motel room and go prowl the night.

You won’t be embarrassed by the FLSTC’s looks, either. Our bike’s optional two-tone paint scheme (for an MSRP of $18,054; the Vivid Black base model retails for $17,349) drew plenty of comments whenever we stopped for fuel or food, and the Heritage Softail is proof that you can never have too much chrome on a Harley.

The 2012 model is the first Heritage Softail Classic to utilize Harley-Davidson’s new tubeless, chromed aluminum, lace-spoke wheels, and the wide whitewall tires certainly help bring attention to those hoops. At 16″ diameter, tire sizes remain pretty much in check, too. No fat tires here, folks.

There you have it — timeless styling mixed with Harley’s most current technology, and a heritage that dates back to 1986. Today’s Heritage Softail Classic is truly a classic example of Harley-Davidson’s time-honored heritage. AIM

NEW BIKE REVIEW: By Dain Gingerelli

As published in the September 2012 issue of American Iron Magazine.

A Budget Motorcycle Bobber From Springers Custom Cycles

Looking for a fun, around-town blaster? Then this little bobber may be just the bike for you! Selling for about $19,000 as you see it, the Apollo is a nice-handling, dependable machine that won’t break your wallet.

Let’s start with my favorite part of a bike, the powertrain. An 88″ RevTech engine (three-year warranty) moved my test Apollo down the road easily, since the bike is so light. Other engine options include various S&S Cycle and TP Engineering offerings, as well as a Crazy Horse Bottlecap 100″ motor. My RevTech was fitted with a Mikuni carb that worked great. The engine fired on first spin when hot, two spins when cold with just one primer twist of throttle. Being easy on said throttle got me 72 miles down the road on 2.4 gallons of gas, which is when I hit reserve on the 2.5-gallon tank.

My bike was also fitted with a RevTech five-speed transmission (five-year warranty). Tranny options are either a BAKER or JIMS, five- or six-speed. As for the RevTech in my test bike, it didn’t always go into gear right away when downshifting. It was also impossible to get the tranny into neutral with the bike stopped and the motor running, even using my hand. The only way I could get into neutral — other than stopping the engine — was when downshifting from second as I was rolling to a stop. And, no, it wasn’t a clutch adjustment; we tried that. The RevTech five-speed cruised okay at 70 in fifth, but the comfortable maximum was 75, since the engine was revving at about 3000 or so rpm at that speed. The bike didn’t have a tach, so that’s my best guess.

Connecting engine to transmission was a 3″ BDL belt drive system, which is a nice setup. The BDL clutch’s action was smooth and predictable, but the clutch pull was a bit too stiff with nine springs in the pressure plate. When I mentioned this to the builder, he agreed and said he would be using only six springs from now on. This would eliminate the pull issue and still provide plenty of clamping force for this size engine.

As for the exhaust, it sounded great, but it’s definitely not EPA approved! The system in my test bike was a set of Big Growl Short Shooters, but all new bikes of this model will have Snub Nose pipes. They are the same setup except for the ends, which are straight instead of turned down as on this set. Regarding right side turning clearance, the turned down end of the lower pipe hits the ground about the same time a Heritage Softail floorboard would in a right turn. Going to the straight-end pipes will definitely fix this issue.

Moving on to the chassis, the Apollo’s Kraft Tech frame geometry is right on, and the bike handles well. In fact, it’s easy to maneuver at both highway and parking lot speeds. The turning radius is small but adequate. The DNA springer front end feels light, but not too light, and is a little bouncy on big bumps, as you would expect with a springer. With a 29″ inseam, my legs were about 1″ too short to reach the Excel forward control’s footpegs fully, but I still had no problem keeping my feet on the pegs or working any of the foot controls. While we’re on the subject of my short stalks, the Apollo is low to the ground, so being flat-footed at stops was never an issue. However, the leather-covered seat does start punishing your butt after 100 or so miles. This is definitely a blast-around-town seat.

The chrome 40-spoke wheels, both front and rear, are DNA units. Both are wrapped with Metzeler ME 880 rubber, a 90/90-21″ up front and a 150/70-18″ out back. My test bike’s brakes were chrome, four-piston Ultima units that worked fine. Disc and brake pad material, as well as master cylinder sizes, were perfectly matched. However, all future bikes will have chrome, four-piston JayBrake calipers front and rear, which are excellent units. The chrome hand control switches are standard for H-Ds, and they worked well, as usual. The smooth, chrome DNA handgrips added a nice touch to the Flanders handlebars. The chrome Drag Specialties speedo is located on top of the rear rocker box, right by the right side of the seat. It’s easy to read the speed when moving, but you can’t read the mileage unless you’re stopped. Lastly, the paint work was flawlessly done by Nub Grafix in New York. I’ve seen quite a bit of Nub’s work, and it’s always excellent!

Bottom line: the Apollo is a lot of bike for the money, but I would definitely go for the extra bucks and get a BAKER or JIMS six-speed tranny. Let the blasting begin! AIM


Springers Custom Cycles
1432 Rte. 179, Dept. AIM
Lambertville, NJ 08530

2012 Harley-Davidson FLS Softail Slim Motorcycle Review

Don’t let the name fool you. The Slim is more than just a trimmed-down Softail. It’s a bike that salutes the immediate post-World War II years when motorcycling redefined itself in America. It was a wild and rollicking time, too. And, despite today’s misperception that the 1947 Hollister incident served as ground zero, the real activity shaping the future of biking took place at competition events across America. Speed merchants like Tom Sifton and Chet Herbert built dazzlingly fast motorcycles for ironmen such as Joe Leonard, Ken Eggers, and Jimmy Chann for closed-course racing, and for a guy named Al Keys to ride as fast on two wheels as possible.

Among the lessons learned from racing was that excess weight can hamper a bike’s speed and handling performance. Indeed, even before the post-war era, competitors realized this and it was common to see Harley VLs and Indian Scouts with cut fenders and extemporaneous components removed in the interest of speed. Those early bikes were known as cut-downs, and across the aisle in the automotive world, racers removed fenders, floorboards, bumpers, even windshields from their cars, in the process prompting new names for their vehicles. Those early hot-rod cars were actually known as soup-jobs and bob-jobs; only later did someone coin the term hot rod. Bikers settled on the term bobber for their bikes, and it was common to see them at the Jack Pine Enduro, and TT races and scrambles across America.

Perhaps the ultimate bobber, though, was the Knucklehead-powered bike that Chet Herbert built for Al Keys to race at El Mirage Dry Lake. Keys, riding a bike known as The Beast, was clocked at 158 mph. In July 1950, Herbert, who went on to build high-performance race cams for
motorcycles and cars, also entered The Beast at the nearby Santa Ana Drags, which was to become the first continuously sanctioned quarter-mile drag races in the world. Keys and The Beast performed magnificently, too, finishing the day as Top Eliminator, a title he held week after week, defeating the top car driver, a guy named Dick “Krafty” Kraft.

Krafty Dick was a quick learner, though, and he took a lesson from Herbert to remove as much hardware from his modified Model T as he could. Ultimately, Krafty Dick showed up at the starting line with a bare rolling chassis sporting a firewall cowl section, a small gas tank, a flimsy roll bar, and a seat for the driver. The reduced weight was enough to finally help him slay The Beast, but the big lesson to everybody was that weight was a hindrance when it came to absolute performance. Power-to-weight ratio became part of every racer’s mantra.

But winning races wasn’t the objective behind Harley-Davidson’s new FLS Softail Slim. Instead, the Motor Company’s design team wanted to get back to basics, to focus attention on the heart and soul of the bike: the engine. After all, we’re talking about motorcycles. To do that, the stylists, led by Senior Designer Casey Ketterhagen, took the same approach that the racers did more than half century ago, in the process conceiving a bike that pays homage to those pioneers of speed.

The difference, of course, is the Slim was developed to win customers, not races, so Ketterhagen’s crew paid close attention to what components found their way on — and in some instances, off — the bike. Most obvious features are the bobbed fenders, and the rear lighting utilizes lessons originally applied to the Nightster, including the iconic side-mount license plate assembly. The rear tire is slimmer, too, the Dunlop listed as a MT90B-16″, which makes this the narrowest 16″ tire found on a Softail.

What you won’t find much of on the Slim is chrome plating. There’s just enough of that glittery stuff to catch the eye, but for the most part black paint or powdercoating takes its place. That’s just another nod to being period correct; chromium was scarce after the war, so for several model years, new bikes rolling out of Milwaukee didn’t have many chromed parts on them.

The Slim’s 103″ engine sports a raw aluminum/semi-polished finish to its primary and ignition covers, and even the rocker boxes have that poor boy finish to enhance the post-war heritage. The fork legs share a similar finish, and the old-style round air horn is coated in black.
Black highlights other trim items, too. The wheel rims, headlight, and nacelle are black, as are parts of the hand controls and that stylish Hollywood handlebar, a design that was found on early police models because its crossbar served as a place to position pursuit lights. And when you look down at the tank-mounted speedometer, you’ll also see the black cat’s eye console, another throwback to the time.

Perhaps the only point of contention that I have with the Slim’s styling is in the solo seat. While the tuck-and-roll vinyl cover looks period correct, a tractor seat as used on the Cross Bones would have been more in tune with the post-war times. But that’s a minor point, and no doubt the Slim’s saddle suits the bike’s profile well. It also sets your butt a claimed 23.3″ off the deck, although a long stint in the saddle makes it obvious that comfort wasn’t paramount to its design.

But the half-moon floorboards — another bobber-era feature — position your feet well for long rides, and the reach to the Hollywood bar places you in a comfortable riding position as well (an optional 2″ pullback riser can be installed without having to change control cables — nice touch). You practically feel like you’re sitting in the Slim, not on it, and you can only imagine what guys like Leonard, Eggers, and Chann must have been thinking about when they rolled their bikes to the starting lines so many years ago (although by the time Leonard won his first AMA Grand National Championship in 1954 he was riding race-bred KR models).

In any case, you won’t be sliding the Slim around any dirt tracks, but you might be scraping those floorboards around some corners because there’s not much clearance if you ride this bike aggressively through the turns. But
riding moderately, the way any Softail is designed to be ridden, rewards you with all the on-road enjoyment you can expect from this 671-pound motorcycle. It’s a ride that can take you across town or across country, or even back in time to when life was a little simpler and bikers were exploring new ways to go faster on their machines. AIM

NEW BIKE REVIEW By Dain Gingerelli

Story as published in the July 2012 issue of American Iron Magazine.

Steve “Street Rod” builds a chopper to rival the pros

Before I go on and on about this being Nutmegger Steve Van Blarcom’s first bike build, which it is, you should know that he’s a successful and well-respected builder of hot rods and classic automobiles. To say that he’s mechanically inclined just wouldn’t do his skills justice.

Having built countless custom hot rods and performed many nut and bolt restorations, there were still a few things that Steve wanted to do. The first was to set some land speed records. In 2006, he hit 198.43 mph in his Thacker and Shine 1929 Roadster at the Maxton Mile. He’s currently the record holder, and since the Mile closed down in 2010, he always will be. In 2009, he trucked out to Bonneville where he claimed a world land speed record in the roadster, taking it to 216.979 mph.

There was still something that Steve had not done. While he had worked on motorcycles and customized several of his prior bikes, he had never actually built one from the ground up. At the time, bike builder shows were becoming very popular on television. “I used to look at the bikes that they built and thought, I can build one like that,” Steve says. “I wanted it to be a theme bike like I was watching the bike builders on TV do.”

Steve’s life revolves around his family and hot rods. Both are displayed prominently on this bike. “When I thought about what I should use for a theme, because I’m such a street rodder I came up with the idea to make what we now call the Hot Rod Chopper.”

The stunning paint job has a House of Kolor Candy Blue and Silver laid down by Shane Salisbury of Wetcoats. Those colors are broken up with a painted chrome strip and ’57 Chevy aluminum fins on the back fender. “It went on from there and started to involve my whole family,” Steve says. The names of all the members of his family are featured on the bike, including Judy, his wife of over 40 years; his grandsons Derek and Drew, and his daughter Laura. The ignition cover on the left side of the bike is engraved Sandy, in memory of his other daughter. To make the family complete, there’s also a Steve painted on the bike.

Take a look at the other airbrush work that Shane did, like the moon eyes on the left side of the oil tank and “Mr. Horsepower” Woody Woodpecker on the right. To come full circle on Steve’s chopper, the paint features six of Steve’s actual cars right on the gas tank. The diner the cars are parked in front of is the famous Olympia Diner on the Berlin Turnpike in Newington, Connecticut. That was the popular strip back in the day where hot rodders used to cruise and show off their rides. The wide tires on his Bad Coupe painted on the fender almost make even the 300-class rear tire look pitiful.

Delivering power to that hunk of rubber is a 131″ V-twin built by H&L Performance in Wallingford, Connecticut, which uses S&S Cycle cases and produces 150 hp. The custom pipes, and the rest of the metalwork, were built by Jamie Miller of Miller Racing. That giant Weber IDF carb from Terry Components not only feeds tons of air and fuel to the beastly engine, but it also adds to the bike’s hot rod theme. A BAKER Drivetrain RSD six-speed backs up the 131, and the two are mated via a BDS 3″ primary.

For added cleanliness, Steve wired everything through the big blue frame. The frame itself sports 40 degrees of rake and is stretched 8″ up and 5″ out. It’s also tough to overlook those one-off wheels made by Chuck Wendt of Rowe Machine and modeled after the old Radir wheels that graced hot rods in the ’50s. That big beautiful front end is a 14″-over Mean Street Stiletto model, which Steve internally wired the brake lines through. Doing the actual braking at both ends are Performance Machine calipers. Steering is accomplished with a classy Custom Cycle Control Systems handlebar with built-in controls, and, of course, internal wiring.

With that clean look and killer power, it might be difficult to believe that the hot rod chopper is streetlegal. It is, as part of Steve’s original goal was to ensure the bike would be 50-state legal as any stock Harley-Davidson would be. Even the one-off exhaust has the proper amount of baffling to keep this chopper out of the impound.

While Steve has the technical skills and tools required to build a pro-level bike, no one can take away that this is indeed his first bike build. While many would-be builders out there tried to copy the pros they saw on television, Steve succeeded and gave “as seen on TV” a whole new meaning. AIM

READER’S RIDE By Tyler Greenblatt

Story as published in the July 2012 issue of American Iron Magazine.