2002 California Trip
Ahhhh yes, the Rent-A-Harley. Well, I was out in California, near Santa Cruz, on a business trip, it was the weekend, business was over, and we weren't leaving until Sunday. So what to do?
One of the guys noticed this pamphlet in the hotel lobby. It was from a place in San Jose that rented Harley's; V-Twin Custom American Motorcycle Rentals. Now, being from the Midwest (flatlands) and finding myself in California (opposite of flatlands), for the first time in my life, I could not pass up the opportunity to cruise around the California hills?
Of course, I really would have preferred a sport or sport touring motorcycle; especially if I was going to be spending time on some nice curvy roads. But, I wasn't going to be picky. Besides, I always wanted to know what it was like to ride a Harley; see what all the attraction is.
This was the bike I ended up with. The picture just doesn't do it justice. Here's one I took off their web site. Even though I'm not a Harley aficionado I still appreciated it for what it was. The guy in the shop gave me this one because it was set up with the straight bar and had a firm ride. He felt that If I was use to sport bikes, this one would be the closest thing to that kind of handling. He said keeping up with the sport bikes on the curves wouldn't be a problem. Of course being on an unfamiliar bike on unfamiliar roads, I wasn't about to go strafing curves at high speeds, but it was nice to know the handling would be there.
The bike was shiny (thanks to extensive polishing by the owner), loud, had a custom paint job, and it turned heads where ever I went.
The bikes composure was impressive. I could come almost to a dead stop on this thing without feeling like it was going to tip over. I guess that goes along with the low seating position and the fact that the engine is tucked in nicely along the frame; nice low center of gravity.
The craftsmanship and attention to detail was also obvious. Some of the things that caught my attention; an ignition switch that let you take the key out of the ignition and leave the bike running, a built in alarm, and self canceling turn signals... you know, the little things.
And yes, the bike did handle well. Lots of ground clearance, a nice bar, and a firm suspension really inspired confidence around the curves. And we're talking California mountains, so we're talking lots of curves.
As impressed as I was with the bike, there is one reason I would not buy a Harley; the riding position. The whole feet-up-front-wind-up-your-pant-cuff riding position just doesn't work. I don't know how people do that for extended periods of time. It didn't take long before my back was hurting and I was riding with my feet up on the rear pegs. Of course that had it's own problems because there's so little distance between the seat and the rear pegs, but it was still more comfortable.
I think Harley is really missing the boat by not offering a more standard ergonomic arrangement, i.e. feet squarely under you. Buell's are nice, but they're too extreme. Harley needs something in the middle. Either that, or offer bucket seats for all their models.