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100% NEW 100% ZODIAC! NOW

£ 644.20

161204 DANCER CHROME BILLET HEADLIGHTS are available in 3 stunning designs. Starts at £ 273.90 735004 HANDLEBAR VIBRATION DAMPERS reduce unpleasant vibes. Easy to fit inside 1” handlebars. Sold in pairs at your Zodiac dealer £ 17.30

999832 THE 2010 IRON & LACE CALENDAR runs from September 2009 through December 2010 and shows 16 great bikes with 16 great and sexy babes. Go get them at your Zodiac dealer for £ 17.20

750645 S&S 50TH ANNIVERSARY MAC TOOL TRAY with 187 pcs. quality tools in inch- and metric sizes. Was £ 807.10. Available as long as stock lasts at your Zodiac dealer for only £ 644.20

740676 RSD’S VENTURI AIR CLEANERS are great looking High Performance parts available in Black or Chrome. Available for Big Twins, Twin Cams and now also for Sportsters. Starts at £ 413.40

734479 ON-BOARD COMPRESSOR for the stock air shocks on Touring models. Fits behind the side bags. Starts at only £ 238.90 241528 BEAUTIFUL CHROME PLATED 4” (10 CM) HIGH, TILT-BACK RISERS Sold in pairs starting at £ 182.90

167501 SMALL BRIGHT SHINING LED fitted on an M6 stud can be fitted almost everywhere on your bike. A pair starts at £ 6.50

744765 Harley Touring models are notorious for high-speed instability. PROGRESSIVE SUSPENSION’S TOURING LINK CHASSIS STABILIZER is a bolt-on solution for this problem. Fits 1993 thru 2008 Touring models. Starts at £ 172.90

797085 ACCEL’S SELF LEARNING FUEL INJECTION CONTROLLER tunes your bike automatically when you ride. It will never get any easier. Starts at £ 536.30


6, 7 and 8N, THE NETHERLANDS Novembe r 2009 BAD SA

4, 5 and 6LZUFLEN, GERMANY Decembe r 2009 VERONA, IT ALY

094101 FRONT FORK BRACE increases stability when braking with a single disk. Also improves the road holding when cornering. Fits 39 mm forks on Sportsters, Dyna’s and FXR’s. Chrome finish. Available at your Zodiac dealer for £ 171.60

15, 1 and 17 Janua6ry 2010 302215 CHROME REAR PULLEY COVER fits like a glove over the stock pulley on 2004 to present Sportsters. Starts at £ 61.80

THE 2009 ZODIAC BIKERS BOOK Now available at your Zodiac dealer or order at Price £ 9.00 excl. postage.

The new Zodiac catalog is available in English, German, French, Italian and Spanish. Over 1.400 full colour pages with thousands of new and exciting parts and accessories from all over the world.


YOUR GUARANTEE FOR: Perfect Fitment s Wide Product Range s Fast Delivery Quality & Excellence s No Nonsense Warranty


For all Harley’s and American V-Twins we recommend

Internet: E-mail: Original Zodiac parts and accessories are only available through a Zodiac retailer (not directly from Zodiac by mail-order). Check out for your nearest Zodiac dealer. Suggested retail prices include VAT. Prices can be subject to change without notice.

9905-913 UK AMERICAN_V 210X297mm.indd 1

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American-V: Contents 37

Issue Thirty Seven


BaZa put us onto a mate of his from the ’States, whose fabrication skills match his vision for the perfect FL Softail.


New editorial policy: one trike per issue. That might keep Haydn quiet, but this one won’t. Desperate Dan rides again.


Rebel Motorcycles Ltd, Legendary Motorcycles calendar, Maxxis Classic Tyres, Weise Brooklands Jacket, IAM’s How to be a Better Motorcyclist, The Original Wild Ones


Now here’s a thing: three former Triumph owners pit the new Thunderbird against a Super Glide Sport and a Victory Vegas 8-Ball ... and not one of us mentioned the radiator!

28: HDRCGB AT 60

If you were warm on August bank holiday, it was probably the candles on the Rider’s Club’s birthday cake. Could have explained the wind ... or was that the noodles?


The plaything of a hedonistic rock god ... is that right?


Who are you! No, not the chant from the terraces: we really want to know: How many sugars? Do you take milk?


Get your shoes off the Sofa ... oh, a different kind of Sofa. Can I keep them on then?


Amanda’s been out riding with the Rozzers in her continuing quest to stay alive, and came away smiling.


Another production bike in our shop customs series: Skull Chopa’s stunningly simple proto-chopper.


No desire to go to the biggest of the American rallies? You might do after this.



40: CLASSIC: 1915 MODEL 11-F


All I’ve got to do now is replace the mainshaft seal in the gearbox and my old Shovel won’t mark it’s spot any more.

Or was it a 15-J ... getting raviolied in alphabet soup.


The man-eating tigers in Warwickshire can relax for a weekend, the Bulldog’s back in town and partying hearty.


Rock and Roll, or Pizza Delivery? We put the new generation Custom Softail through its paces.

Editor: Features Editor:

Trade Sales: Natalie Cole: 01778 392404

I’m sure we’ve used that before, but if so it was probably on a fat wheeled Dyna that Kev French was involved with: this one’s Richard’s though. Street Bob of the issue is a P&A reinterpretation of the custom world’s favourite Dyna, but one that looks forwards.


Where hast tha’ been since I saw thee? Actually, chasing a tent that blew away in the night: have you seen it?


It’s a matter of pride: you just can’t let people get away with it, y’know.

Subscriptions: 01778 392484 Contributors this issue: Steve Kelly, Graham Gabriel, Amanda Wright, Annual Subscriptions Cris Ireland, Anna Wrack and Stewart Rodd. UK: £24.75 EU: £36.75 Proofing: RoW Zone 1: £38.55 Graham, Hazel and Amanda RoW Zone 2: £42.75 (all include postage) Design: Mini Ha-Ha and Erika McAston All editorial enquiries to: Advertising Manager: Emma Howl 01778 392443 Advertising Sales: Andy Fraser 01778 392054 Advertising Production: Joanne Osborn: 01778 391164

Published by American-V, PO Box 336, Crewe, Cheshire, CW2 7WY. Tel: 0207 993 8002 Printed in the UK by Warners (Midlands) PLC, Bourne. Distribution by: Warners Group Publications Plc West Street, Bourne, Lincolnshire, PE10 9PH Tel: 01778 391135 Copyright 2009 American-V.

This issue was brought to you ... er, a week late: spent far too long looking at the wrong calendar. Ahem.

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American-V American-V # ONE

News & Products Editorial There’s a huge amount going on at the moment, but perhaps the most important thing is that we’re looking for feedback from you. We ran an on-line questionnaire on the website that predated the magazine, which set the editorial agenda, and we want to make sure we’re meeting those expectations. We want to know what we’re doing right, what we’re doing wrong, and what we can do to make things better – apart from better proofing, obviously, if only to save the phantom photocopier the cost of a stamp from Malaga. And we want to know your reaction to the three-way test with the Triumph: it’s one thing to have classic Italian singles with the Harley bar-and-shield cast into their cases, but brand new British vertical twins: what’s the world coming to? You tell us. Do you want to know how the new Bonneville compares with a Sportster: perhaps the oldest model names in motorcycling, and each distinctive in its own right – even if the Triumph has changed more than the Sportster has. How about a Speed Triple and a Buell? How about putting the occasional Jap cruiser in, if only to laugh and point? Does it make the magazine better or worse, and do you trust us to get the balance right? Oddly this hasn’t been driven by a lack of American V-twin stuff: we could easily go monthly and have twice as many pages – if I could afford the psychiatric treatment – but we’ve actually had requests from readers to roadtest the Honda Fury – their factory chopper – when it’s available. I confess that surprised me, but what do you think? It has been done before: Heavy Duty and American Motorcycle both diversified and they both died shortly afterwards: whether because they were last desperate acts and they couldn’t have survived anyway, or whether they alienated their core readership is unknown, but we’re taking no chances. Is an occasional digression desirable or the thin end of the wedge, or do you want an American-V insight into what else is out there, written in the context of the bikes you know? Tell us all on page 65. And in the meantime, if you can afford to, think about getting your bike serviced after the busiest rally season we’ve seen in years: apparently the recession is over – Robert Peston said so – but the trade still needs your support. And if you can’t, don’t: we’ve all got to get through this. Andy


The new owners of the Newcastle Harley-Davidson – formerly Just Harleys – have created a event to raise £25,000 for the Breast Clinic Fund at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary. Paul O’Callahan and David Hall were keen to find a way to give something back to the local community, and Julie Horsfield, the dealership’s HOG Chapter Director, came up with the idea to secure funds to buy a Scinti scanner for the infirmary after a chance meeting with the consultant who diagnosed a friend with breast cancer twelve years ago. David and Paul are spearheading the Ride Aid fundraising campaign with an ambitious ride-out from Newcastle to Lands End via John O Groats on 23-25 October, coinciding with Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and are being supported by seven additional riders, including two Cleveland police officers on police motorcycles on loan by Harley-Davidson UK. Buell UK have loaned motorcycles for use by the other seven riders for the duration of the main event. Additional support events are also being organised, including a Ladies of Harley pinkthemed ride-out to Linden Hall on 4 October. RVI Consultant Andy Griffiths was delighted that the team at Newcastle Harley-Davidson and Buell was dedicating its inspiring ride from John O Groats to Lands End to help us raise funds for the breast cancer care unit, adding that “the Scinti scanning equipment is an extremely important facility that benefits a large number of women with breast cancer, as it minimises the extent of surgery that our patients need during treatment: a big thank you to Newcastle Harley-Davidson and Buell, and to everyone who is helping to make this happen and for the generous donations that are being pledged.” David Hall has been overwhelmed by the level of support that the event has generated already and the strong community spirit in Tyne & Wear. “There’s no doubt that the ride-out will be hard work and we have a huge task ahead of us to raise the much-needed £25,000 for the RVI. So while we’re grateful for the support that we have received to date, we still need to implore people to get involved by donating, buying raffle tickets or helping with fundraising in any way possible – however big or small”

CAPTAIN AMERICA MEETS BSB Remember this? It looks like the 2010 XR1200 Trophy is on. After an additional year’s development, Harley are very bullish about the prospects, Warrs and the Blade Group are on-board, rumour had it that the Magic Group brought Paul Lewis back to compete last year, Niall MacKenzie and Sean Emmett’s names are being bandied around, and privateers and experienced motorcycle journalists are lining up. American-V editor, Andy Hornsby, was too busy laying out the issue to comment, but is expected to be washing his hair that day, having seen video footage from Italy.

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Warr's Ad_American V_Oct/Nov-09:Warr's Ad_American V_Oct/Nov-09 04/08/2009 11:33 Page 1

Warr’s Black ‘Bomber’ – Customised Harley-Davidson Fat Bob

Europe’s most successful Harley-Davidson Dealership


+44 (0)20 7736 2934


» FILTERING: THE NEWS You at the back, stop picking your nose and tell me the next major improvement to a Harley’s oiling after the recirculating system brought in with the ’36 Model E? Yes, that’s right, an oil filter. You could certainly add one to a generator motor, once people realised it would be a good idea to filter out any nasties, having scavenged the oil from the sump.. And you still can, ether by hanging a canister off the side of the bike, or now with this decide that bolts on where a generator would ordinarily live – presupposing that the generator has been replaced by a later alternator. W&W 52-314 W&W 52-317

for 1986-90 H-D Sportster, S&S P, SH, Superstock & Buell. H-D Knuck / Pan & S&S KN


We’ve had years of tricky bolton air-rides for Softails now and years of air-suspension as standard on the Tourers, but for some reason there’s not been a big rush to use the compressor of the former to control the settings of the latter. That’s changed now, which will add a whole new level of sophistication to the Tourer: not to make it go up and down, but to be able to adjust the bagger for different loads. The Mini-Air control’s compressor has a pressure gauge and is designed to mount to one of the shocks, making sure you leave access to the built-in switches, and it’s reckoned you could fit it in fifteen minutes. Zod 734479 Zodiac Bagger Mini Air Control for Touring Models

PM BELT UP Storehouse have been stocking-up, on belt drive primaries from Performance Machine of late, including their new Contour open belt system. Supplied in a chrome, polished, black anodized or the stunning Contrast Cut finish for a host of applications from PM’s Phatail wide tyre set-up to stock applications – 1991-2006 Softails, 2007-to-date Softails excluding the Rockers, and now one for the 08-on Rocker – there should be something there to suit whatever you’re doing ... providing it’s a Softail, of course. So many variations, in fact, that they didn’t have space to write them all down ... or forgot, so for more data see your local Storehouse dealer.

Important: Check Your Laced Wheels Without wanting to start a panic, if you’re running an original 16-inch laced steel wheel in the front or back of your Harley-Davidson, we want you to check your wheels – especially if you’re about to change your tyres. There have been a couple of rim failures, brought to our attention by BaZa® Bloxham whose own 2003 Road King Classic suffered just such a failure, and we want to try and work out if there is any common denominator between them. There is no suggestion that there is a manufacturing defect, but the failures are potentially serious enough to cause a loss of control so we are taking it seriously. BaZa is collating details from the Rider’s Club website, and we’re covering it here to make sure we get as big a control group as possible: the more responses, the more integrity the data will have. And if nothing else, we will hopefully help to reinstate a safety check that is easy to forget – removing the rim tape and inspecting the rims. And the inspection? You are looking for a build-up of rust around the circumference of the rim, not across the profile. This isn’t the sort of rust you’d be cleaning off the outside of the rim, but that has come through from the inside: for example if the chrome is lifting though the steel beneath bubbling. It is far easier to see any problems with the tyre off, when you can check the state of the steel beneath the rim tape, but it can be done with the wheel and tyre in situ. If you have any doubts as to what you’re looking

at, tap the rim with a spanner at various locations round the rim, and listen for a marked change in tone: check the state of the metal near the different tone Pay particular attention on baggers, because many people won’t remove the panniers from one tyre-change to another, so it could go unnoticed. Yes, it will be a pain in the backside because the mudguard, belt and brake rotor will all get in the way, but make the time to check it. Please note this only applies to steel, laced wheels only. If you’ve got a mate with a bike lift, go and see them and make life easier on yourself. And if you can think of anyone else who might struggle, take them with you. The more the merrier. If you’ve had to replace a tube because it was damaged by rust, you should already realise that you’ve got a problem. Why shouldn’t you panic? Because currently the cases are isolated, don’t affect a particular model or year, and there doesn’t appear to be any trends. If we can spot a trend, we can make sure people are aware. What’s the worst than can happen? The rim could develop a split, which could puncture the tube, or unseat the tyre. The next worse thing is that you’ll have to stump-up for another wheel. In most cases, it’s a problem that can be fixed by getting rid of any rust when changing tyres – a good stiff wire brush will do the trick – and ideally a an anti-rust paint: it will only become a problem if it is left untreated. If you can see daylight, it’s too far gone and you owe BaZa a beer.

The information we want is: • Model? • Year of manufacture? • Current mileage? • Number of previous owners? • Are they the original wheels? • Average length of time (or mileage) between tyre changes? • What tyres used? (If not Dunlop, do you adjust the tyre pressures?) • Who changes them? • Are new tubes used when changing tyres? • Is the rim tape renewed when changing tyres? • What sort of inspection made: internal / external and visual / audible? • Is a visual inspection carried out of the INSIDE of the wheels at tyre change? • What was the result of the inspection: BaZa has now fitted a Fat Boy wheel to the back of his Road King. Send your responses to and we’ll forward them to BaZa, or else go to the HDRCGB’s online forum and enter your details there: simply (simply?) type the following address in your browser

AmV37.News.indd 6

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Get your lovely headlamps here. What do you need to know? They go on the front, are chromed billet, and are the dancer-series: the Sundancer and Moondancer are both 5¾-inch lenses and measure eight inches front to back, the Raindancer is a 4½ and 7-inches. All are pre-wired with diamond cut lenses.

How long have Harley bars been spaced as wide as they are? Well, I don’t know, that’s why I’m asking: I can’t know everything, I’m only a piece of paper with some ink on it. Anyway, no matter how long, or how wide for that matter, you struggle to fit skinny ’bars on them and that’s lead to these little fellas: bolt them into your stock yokes to bring the clamps 50mm closer together, which is great news for fans of the Japanese bobber style. And it’s from Fork in Japan that these have come, via Germany and the good folks at W&W. And look! Handlebars too! I’ll bet they’re not Chubby Bars W&W W&W W&W W&W W&W

20-610 20-611 20-671 20-672 20-673

Zod 161204 Zod 161215 Zod 161214

Moondancer (A) Sundancer (B) Raindancer (C)

one-piece clamp separate clamps low-rise skinny bars medium rise skinny bars high-rise skinny bars

The anti-v rod

No, not the bike, not that sort of rod ... or v. Simply a rod that is anti-vibration, designed to damp down those irritating tingly vibes at a handlebar’s extremities, and possibly the best £19 you could spend to make your bike feel nicer over distance.



Marvellous little things, are LEDs. They don’t mind vibration, they seem to last for ever, use very little voltage and burn your retinas out if you’re following something that uses them in the dark. These little suckers come with their own M6 threaded stud and a 13mm hex head to bolt anywhere you want, within reason. They come in pairs in stop lamp red, indicator amber and illuminating white: don’t use them as idiot lights unless you don’t ride at night or hide them – or yourself – behind an tinted panel. Zodiac Studded LED Lights

167501: Clear / 167502: Red / 167503: Amber

Remember the days when, while your bike was marking its spot on the driveway, you were doing much the same on your girlfriend’s parents’ sofa, because you’d omitted to take off your waxed cotton jacket: your Belstaff. In those pre-’textile’ days, it was about the only thing that would keep you dry, except perhaps a car, and it was about as cool as a ripe Afghan coat, but all that has changed now, because it turns out that while all the cool kids were wearing their Che Guevara T-shirts, Ernesto himself was wearing a Belstaff Trialmaster, now recreated as the Che Guevara Jacket, as immortalised in The Motorcycle Diaries – a copy of which you get with the jacket. Still lined at collar and cuff with corduroy it has the four external patch pockets and a single one inside, it’s now sold as ‘green’, because it’s all from natural fabrics. Sadly they’re no longer in Stoke-on-Trent, down the road from here, but Italy where the rescued company is now based, but that makes you feel better about it coming via Germany, which would otherwise be a hell of a detour. They will only be available in very limited numbers, so if you want to relive your past, get a move on. W&W 94-319 (S) - 93-324 (XXXXL) Belstaff Che Guevara Jacket

AmV37.News.indd 7


5/10/09 19:00:54

American-V American-V

Reviews Rebel Motorcycles Ltd

Laurent Bagnard ISBN 978-2-9534247-0-6 RRP €30.00 plus shipping There is no real way to do justice to this book, it is so well-presented, so beautifully printed – privately by its author – using top quality materials, that mere photographs of a couple of pages can’t do it justice, and we could’t afford to do it as a cover-mount. You hear people talk about Coffee Table books, but in truth there aren’t that many around that I’d put on my coffee table. This one, however is worth going out to buy a coffee table just so’s to have somewhere to display it – not that you’d let anyone put coffee next to it. It’s short on words, but big on uplifting pictures that speak volumes: superbly photographed and cleverly manipulated to emphasise the essence of the subjects, and can make you catch your breath as you turn the page to each new stunning spread, and it does it time-after-time. I really can’t recomend it highly enough, primarily as an indulgence: it’s not the sort of book that you need, but you’ll want it on sight and you might just end up having to covet a mate’s because with an initial print run of just two thousand copies, it’s likely to become a highly treasured, sought-after volume. Do you need reminding it’s Christmas soon? Andy

Legendary Motorcycles 2010

Basem Wasef ISBN 978-0-7603-3703-5 RRP £8.99. Am-V Offer price £6.99 inc P&P Tel GBS on 01206 256777 quoting “Legendary Motorcycles” Another calendar, obviously, but this time a bit of a mixed feast, covering a wider selection of bikes, all oif which famous in their own right, or by association with famous owners. It’s great news for me because it gives me the chance to show a stunning 1948 Vincent Rapide that was owned by Marty Dickinson, and which has seen action at Bonneville, and to admit that I really want Von Dutch’s bitsa side-hack, even if it is a BMW. And then there’s a Triumph ridden by Steve McQueen, and his Indian, and Dan Haggerty’s Captain America, as well as Kenny Roberts Yamaha TZ750, a Britten and more. Varied, but all interesting machines.



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5/10/09 14:18:04

Subtlety is not one of the Hammer’s virtues. Just take a look at the chiselled features, bold curves and muscular frame of this race-inspired mean machine. Then check out the chopped rear fender, X factor wheels and super-fat 250mm rear tyre.

And to top it all, it’s driven by a 1731cc Freedom V-Twin with 6-speed overdrive. An American powerhouse that gets a real kick out of its jaw-dropping performance.

Victory prices start at £8,695 OTR Book a test ride now at 0800 9156724

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Lift any make and model in complete safety! America: Tel: 404 550 5123 Australia: Tel: 417 320 742 p10_avoct09.indd 1

1/10/09 15:15:22


Weise Brooklands Leather Jacket £219.99 Having been casting around for a stylish leather jacket a while – one that I could wear both on and off a motorcycle – I was delighted when news came in of Weise Clothing’s new Brooklands. It’s pretty plain, lacking any obvious branding, and also pretty black: two good things in my book. But it’s also understatedly stylish, with a pair of retro sixties-inspired off-white stripes on the front for a bit of decoration, which also has the effect of appearing to widen the shoulders. Not so obvious is the removable armour the jacket features, it’s hidden well but actually are CE approved ‘Impact Protectors’ supplied by Knox and sited at the shoulders, elbows and at the back. The armour is easily removable, but so far, other than to check it did, I’ve kept the armour in because it is so unobtrusive. The Weise Brooklands also features a zip-out 60 gram quilted lining

around the torso area, but not the arms, for colder days and on the bike when it’s nippy in Summer (hardly ever I hear you cry). This liner too is a cinch to zip out, but yet again I’ve tended to keep it in because again, it’s so unobtrusive and I tend to wear the jacket off the bike unzipped anyway. More clues to the Brooklands being a proper biker’s jacket, rather than a fashion item, are important little things like the zipped and popper-fastened cuffs at the end of arms that are long enough to cover your wrists and tuck snugly into gloves. There’s a proper flap behind the YKK matt chrome front zip too, to catch drafts, and even a six-inch zip at the back for attaching any of Weise’s jeans or trousers. The Brooklands fastens down tight at waist and neck on the road and has proved a welcome protection for those warmer rides. It clearly isn’t really designed to be a winter riding jacket, but with a good fleece underneath – be sure to choose slightly larger, they are snug – and light waterproofs, the Brooklands would pass muster. The Brooklands jacket felt right almost immediately, the leather is good quality nappa, quite flexible out of the box and sure to get better with age as it moulds to me. If I’ve one gripe, it’s the amount and size of the albeit very neat pockets. There’s four zipped pockets around the jacket, 2 at the hip, one wallet/phone/ cards pocket just inside the jacket on the left and another outside on the chest. None of the pockets are very large, even the hip pockets have narrow

openings and short zips which are really hard to slip my not overly large hands into. And while the available sizes of the Brooklands jacket changes from 38- to 52-inch chest, the pockets apertures appear to have stayed the same size, so bigger men will struggle to get their fat hairy digits inside. Neither are any of the pockets all that capacious, so the usual multitools, adjustable spanners, spare spark plugs and even split links (for some obscure reason) that I tend to haul around in bike jackets will probably have to stay my Lancer type BLJ. But, truth to tell, the smarter Brooklands isn’t really that type of biker jacket is it? Those minor gripes aside, the Weise Brooklands jacket has definitely proved fit-for-purpose, I wanted a mid-priced, great quality lighter leather jacket, which would be a proper riding garment whenever I needed it but look smart and stylish around town too. The Brooklands has done all that. I’m chuffed to bits with it and so far to be honest haven’t really taken it off since I got it. Rich

AmV37.News.indd 11


5/10/09 14:05:42

American-V American-V

Reviews If you shop around a bit on UK-based bike part websites, a matching set of Maxxis’ C6011 Classics could see you with change out of £70. For that kind of money you’d expect some pretty naff tyres, but to tell you the truth the set I’ve currently got on my Road King are surprisingly good. Their roadholding isn’t quite up to say a newly scrubbed-in set of Venoms, but neither is it anything like the heart-in-mouth uncertain and unstable ride you’d expect from budget tyres in the past. Initially I ran just the Maxxis Classic front, paired with another square-section cheap tyre that fitted the rear. It wasn’t ideal by any means, but I was caught between a rock and a hard place and needed to

get back on the road as soon as possible. The durable Maxxis front saw off the rear in no uncertain terms, very little wear and remaining commendably sticky – the nameless rear on the other hand (of uncertain age to be fair) got totalled, the tread went, as did the sidewalls. Thankfully, when I came to replace that rear tyre, the matching Maxxis Classic has arrived. With just a few miles under the pair the difference to my Road King’s ride was astonishing. The company seems to working hard to get their tyres right and these Classics boast a special compound mix to suit the types of bikes they’re designed for and the matched tread patterns, front and rear, have so far

Maxxis C6011 Classic & Touring Tyres Available in two variations: MAXXIS TOURING C6011 provides increased strength in the casing construction to handle heavier bikes. The MAXXIS CLASSIC C6011 is designed for classic styled machines, and comes in regular black (as tested) or with a 2½-inch whitewall.

The Original Wild Ones

Tales of the Boozefighters Motorcycle Club Bill Hayes and Jim ‘JQ’ Quattlebaum ISBN 978-0-7603-3537-6 £9.99 If you only want to buy one book that deals with the birth of the motorcycle culture in the US, this is possibly it. Stripping down the Motorcycle Club to its raw roots, of a bunch of guys drinking, partying and racing each other on the dirt in some gruelling competitions, set in what was still largely a wild new world on the West Coast of America, this volume sets out to set the record straight about the club that sprung to public prominence in the aftermath of Hollister, and particularly a Life magazine cover. Full of first-hand anecdotes from The Original Wild Ones themselves, including the revelation that the club’s name had nothing to do with them fighting when drunk and lots to do with the role beer played in the lives


of a bunch of enthusiastic two-wheeled motorheads: Boozefighter was a term for an alcoholic. Liberally illustrated using contemporary images that will shatter some popular myths, as a book of short unrelated tales, it is very easy dip into, and affectionately written. Highly recommended. American-V deal: £7.99 inc P&P Contact GBS on 01206 255777 and quote “Original Wild Ones”

How to be a better rider

Advanced Motorcycling: the essential guide. Stefan Bartlett and Jon Taylor ISBN 978-0956-223913 £9.99 This is the very latest edition of the IAM’s roadcraft book, and by far the easiest one yet in terms of the range of disciplines required to pass the IAM Motorcycle Course, but equally to stay safe in a hostile world, with excellent illustrations, lots of bullet points and an updating of the phrasing used throughout. Beautifully printed, it is almost the perfect book for the 21st century although, sadly, that isn’t necessarily a good thing. It is written for people with the attention span of a goldfish, and due to its pick and mix approach, it is all too easy to miss huge swathes of critical information. You could try reading it cover to cover – I would recommend you do because it is important stuff – but it has not been designed to be used that way and the visuals and bullet

given good traction in both the dry and the wet: the blurb on their website mentions that ‘Additional stability is provided by the offset centre rib, which resists tracking over surface rain grooves and steel grated bridges’, and I’ve got to say that seems a fair comment: granted the old rear was badly squared-off, but the bike would skip out on cats-eyes before when trickling through traffic, which the Maxxis Classics haven’t done since they were fitted. As rear tyres tend to wear faster than fronts, with a couple of thousand more miles on the front I’m now expecting to replace them both at the same time, and if I’m being totally honest I would still go for a more expensive matched pair, because at this point I’ve still got more confidence in them under extreme circumstances, but that’s only if – and it’s a big if – I’ve got the funds. It must be said, though, that I’ve lived with sets of more expensive tyres for longer, and it may well be that with a few thousand more miles on them, I might get used to their handling characteristics and have greater confidence; but even now I wouldn’t sulk for a minute if I did end purchasing another set of Maxxis Classics. A good competent all-round tyres for my heavyweight, they don’t feel cheap, don’t look cheap and don’t act cheap. Rich points that make it an easy reference book, detract from its overall readability. It seems to have been done, in an attempt to engage younger riders who would previously have seen the IAM as boring old fogeys on BMWs, but it will take more than this to shift that misconception, and the net result is the near loss of a valuable resource for self-study. Overall, I’m pleased to see the replacement of the misleading term ‘counter-steering’ with ‘positive steering’ although the explanation is still as clear as mud: I’m not sure that anything other than one-to-one tuition, ideally with two-way comms, could get it across easily. But for me, addressing the hazards you’re likely to face on the road in bite-sized chunks is wholly inappropriate because it fails to get the fundamental principles across, and so I would struggle to recommend this book to anyone EXCEPT as a companion book to a proper explanation of roadcraft, or to a full IAM training course. Then it becomes a series of reference notes to remind you what you’ve been taught, in which case it would work exceptionally well. All you’ve got to do then is to accept that American-style bikes, their weight distribution, power characteristics, rear wheel bias and braking techniques have been completely left out. Andy

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Avon Fowlers of Bristol Pylle Hill, Bristol BS4 3DR 0117 9770466 Bedfordshire Pure Triumph Woburn MK17 9PY 01525 292490 Berkshire Bulldog Triumph Twyford, nr Reading RG10 9EU 0118 9321331 Buckinghamshire On Yer Triumph Aston Clinton, nr Aylesbury HP22 5HQ 01296 632000 Cambridgshire Peterborough Triumph Eye, nr Peterborough PE6 7UR 01733 223444 Cheshire Bill Smiths Motors Chester CH3 5DH 01244 320699 Cornwall GT Motorcycles Plymstock, Plymouth PL9 8JQ 01752 480250

Warwickshire Knotts of Stratford Stratford upon Avon CV37 OAH 01789 205149

GTR Manchester Philip Youles Manchester M8 8EB 0161 8191670 Hampshire Rafferty Newman Fareham PO16 OHD 01329 232424

West Midlands Birmingham Triumph Birmingham B9 4EH 0121 7664940

Isle of Wight Dave Death Motorcycles Carisbrooke PO30 5JS 01983 522160

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COVER the chassis, component, GO AND DIS litre tank, ed ak so e rom ch d an 22 GO on a , contour E FROM EVERY-SLOPE a 1600cc parallel twin, SIGN THAT OOZES CRUIS E TRUE ME ANING of 85bhp and 146 Nm on DE A R VE CO DIS D AN GO y, GO AND DISCOVER TH ES THEM. the handling, the abilit UR EXPECTATIONS ON A BIKE THAT REDEFIN YO TE UA GO AND RE-EVAL

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12/10/09 11:32:24

15/10/09 13:20:13

H-D Super Glide Custom v Victory Vegas 8-Ball v Triumph Thunderbird: Three-Way Test

96-98-100 COMING, READY OR NOT! Should that perhaps be “Thunderbirds are go!” Maybe a bigger question is what on earth is a British parallel twin doing in a magazine called American-V?

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Roadtest: 2009 Road King Classic Three-Way Test:Harley-Davidson H-D Super GlideFLHRC Custom v Victory Vegas 8-Ball v Triumph Thunderbird

There’s a simple answer to that: Triumph’s new Thunderbird is aimed squarely at the American V-twin market and there’s only one way to find out how successfully it has met its brief, which is to put it next to two very different American-made V-twin motorcycles: different in their technologies, heritage and style but remarkably similar in their power delivery and character. Let’s be brutally honest here: we’re only doing this now because it’s the first time that Triumph – perhaps the only other motorcycle manufacturer in the world that has the same heritage, brand awareness and style as the Motor Company – has built something that so successfully pitches itself at Harley’s core audience: the Bonnie is too small and the Rocket III is no more relevant to the Harley sector than the BMW R1200C was: it has a style all its own, and it’s not one that gels with the Harley faithful. So they’ve gone back to type: Triumph’s international reputation was founded on parallel twins and that’s what they’ve provided for this most conservative of classes: traditional curves, wrapped


around Triumph’s biggest twin to date: all 98-inches of it – 1597cc in case you wondered. That they called it the 98-inch Thunderbird rather than a T1600 underlines its place in the food chain, but it doesn’t end there. The traditional Triumph twin was founded – as were the overwhelming majority of British twins – around a long-stroke motor with a 360-degree crank, offering one firing stroke per crank revolution, which created a very specific vibration and power delivery. It was very different to Japanese twins which typically had a short-stroke, 180-degree crank, a very different personality and vibrated less: the exception being Yamaha’s almost square, 360-crank XS650 which shook with the best of ’em. The Thunderbird is a very different parallel twin though. Its developers spurned the classic 360-degrees, and ignored the 180degree alternative, instead choosing to do something that Yamaha did with their TDM850 motor when they launched the TRX850 roadster to create ‘a Ducati with Japanese reliability’: they fitted a

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270-degree crank to make the engine fire like a 90-degree V-twin. If they’d made it a long-stroke motor and gone for a 305-degree crank to mimic a 45-degree V-twin they’d have been closer still, but Victory have already proved that you can get an American power delivery without recreating a Harley-Davidson big twin ... just as Honda demonstrated the secret wasn’t only within the cases of a long-stroke 45-degree motor with their VT1100 ACE. History hasn’t been terribly kind to the ACE or the TRX, but I’ll be astonished if the Triumph Thunderbird shares their fate because the resulting combination of roll-on torque, some mechanical feedback and style, hooked to a ‘heritage’ brand that people are comfortable with, should create more than enough demand to sustain it both here and in the US. The engine itself was designed from the outset to be clean and uncluttered with an emphasis on torque, character and refinement, and it was perhaps inevitable that it would take some styling cues from the reinvented Bonneville.

Like the Victory, it’s a unit-construction wet sump engine, the crank and gearbox sharing a common case, which loses a separate oil tank and external plumbing. The gearbox itself is a six-speed helical-cut cluster with an overdrive top gear – at least that’s how Triumph describes it, but it certainly pulls well enough in sixth to be considered a driving gear. Fuelling is by twin fuel-injection bodies, each with its own fuel map, running a closed loop system. It has been set up to recognise the difference between cruising and sport roles which means it can burble along economically if you’re not in a hurry, or else pour fuel down its throat as though it’s last orders at a Camra convention. Triumph suggest it uses ‘20% less fuel than some other cruisers in mixed use’ although that doesn’t actually mean anything without naming names: I drink 20% less than some of my friends and 100% more than others, but does that make me economical? The tank range might reach 200 miles if ridden very carefully, but I managed between 117 and 155 miles between

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Three-Way Test: H-D Super Glide Custom v Victory Vegas 8-Ball v Triumph Thunderbird

fill-ups, from a reported ten miles range remaining. If you suffer from a heavy right hand, it’ll drink! Gases are expelled through full dual-skin chrome-plated stainless-steel headers that should never blue, and the overall system has been tuned to optimise the engine’s bass tones – even more so on the test bike which had the accessory silencers that are designed to let a few more decibels out when riding in a spirited manner: certainly more audible, but still inoffensive. The motor is fitted as a stressed member within its monumental chassis, with vibrations controlled by a pair of balance shafts taking most of the harshness away without losing the sense of a big motor between your legs with some mechanical feedback, although it’s smoother, and buzzier than the vibrations you’d get on a big twin or a Victory. The chassis looks like a combination of substantial forging and mainly straight tubes, much like the new generation Harley-Davidsons FLH, which bodes well, and it seems to be built to last – you certainly couldn’t call it delicate – and to that stiff chassis, Triumph have fitted half-decent Showa suspension front and rear. The shocks aren’t adjustable except for 5-way preload but they are well damped, as are the 47mm forks with 120mm of travel, which soak up all but the worst potholes.

SECOND OPINION: I’ve got to admit that the last Triumph vertical twin I’d ridden was my own Tiger/Bonnie hybrid 650cc way back in the late seventies, when 650cc was still a big motorcycle. I’ve run a few vertical twins since, however, in the form of a custom 650 Yam Custom and Honda 500T which I used as my winter commuter while in Leicester, which was faithful, but ultimately doomed. None of them would be seen as very big now and it was odd to realise that while I’m quite used to v-twins displacing ridiculous amounts, my jaw drops when the twin in question is arranged vertically. 1600cc for a vertical twin? What? Are you mad? Received wisdom 25 to 30 years ago was that 650cc to 750cc was more or less the upper limit for vertical twins - any bigger and they would ultimately shake themselves to pieces: the isolastic 850cc Norton Commando was oft cited as a prime example. Of course that was 25 to 30 years ago, things have moved on from then.


The brakes are exceptional – a pair of 310mm floating discs gripped by a pair of Triumph-branded Nissin 4-pots – and the promise of performance extends to the tyre selection, a new Metzeler 200-section 17-inch rear tyre developed for the model fills the modest rear mudguard nicely and is matched to a traditional 19-inch up front. Final drive is by the first belt drive fitted to a Triumph since the 1920s, and there aren’t many marques that can make such claims. So, it’s all good so far? To be honest, yes. In glorious isolation it stands up very well. It is an exceptional motorcycle. Wellmade, good materials, enough character to avoid accusations of blandness, excellent roll-on power and excellent taut and neutral handling. What’s not to like? Objectively, nothing. Subjectively ... are you sitting comfortably? Don’t worry, it’s not a long list. The overall bike is too big, the forks are too short, the tank is wider than it needs to be to squeeze its 22 litres in, and it’s actually wearing the wrong clothes. Too big? Imagine motorcycles were inflatable: this one’s got about 15psi more air in than it should have, giving it the scaled-up model kit appearance that is prevalent among Japanese cruisers. Forks are too short? For a cruiser, yes: it looks like it’s nose-diving all the time, or that the front suspension has collapsed – especially when parked next to an American original – and it’s more than a purely subjective issue: a couple of inches in the forks would elevate the front end enough for the tell-tales beneath the footrests to kiss the tarmac rather than dig trenches round tight turns and roundabouts. Tank too wide? Yes, it looks great from the side, but the penalty of wide frames is that they define the shape of the tank’s underside, but I think there’s more to it than that: I think it has been designed to be wide. It’s most visible when you look at it from above or head on, and it makes the wide forks look narrow, and completely hides the motor beneath it. And wearing the wrong clothes? The Power Cruiser reference above covers most of it, but there’s something else. I couldn’t put my finger on it until I started reading about the designer, an American called Tim Prentice, who can include the Rocket III Touring in his portfolio, but also worked on the Yamaha Road Star and the Honda Rune and VTX: Bingo! It’s pitched as understated, but I’d go further: it’s generic and anonymous. From the tiny lozenge badge where the iconic Triumph script belongs – remarkably close to the unremarkable badge that graced the sides of 1940/41 Indians – to the safe lines of the Japanese manufacturers’ perception of classic American motorcycle with more than a hint of Honda’s VTX in the back-end. Sadly Triumph has missed an opportunity to shout “we’re here” from the highest rooftop and cash in on their heritage. It builds

The new Thunderbird makes more sense in the flesh than the photos, it’s a handsome motorcycle, solid-looking and long, but not intimidating. For all that, though it didn’t have much presence for me. Maybe that illusive impression is related to familiarity and reputation, and with the Thunderbird being a brand new model, it hadn’t had much chance to start creating its own legend. Plus this one was grey. Had it been sunburst with black tiger stripes, and ‘Graagh, Danger Danger’ on the tank? Dunno. Having found the keyhole and started it up, making sure that the clutch was pulled in – because it won’t fire otherwise – the Thunderbird burst to life with a pleasant and surprisingly familiar vertical twin hustling burble. I didn’t experience too much of the claimed immediate torque at very low revs, like you’d get with a Harley for instance, but rev a little higher and good things happen: by mid-range the power floods in and the Thunderbird really picks up its skirts and begins to fly.

On the varied roads of the test, I was able to rev the machine fairly enthusiastically in the midrange, but found that the road ran out just as the machine began to storm forward, and unable to really explore what the Triumph was capable of the upper reaches of the rev-range, I instinctively changed up. It certainly felt like there was plenty left on tap though, much like a Sportster-derived, Thunderstorm-engined Buell powering-on higher into the revs when you’re used to a Sportster running out of steam. Certainly the Thunderbird was rapid, although the sixth gear overdrive transformed that into effortless motorway long-distance cruising. The gear change was, on the whole, as slick and positive as Triumph claim: I had one issue with it just once, stalling as I stopped at the first set of traffic lights, thinking I’d snicked the box into neutral from second, but that was simple unfamiliarity and it never happened again. The Thunderbird had a very good set of front brakes – and comes with an ABS option – but for me, a fairly ineffective rear brake: odd with

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on the legacy of the 1949 6T Thunderbird which was a big-bore 650cc version of the 500cc Speed Twin designed to appeal to the American market, but while they had the styling cues of either the original iron-headed, rigid or swing-arm framed model to work with they’ve ended up with a generic cruiser with a vertical twin engine, inexplicably ignoring the fact that they had the most iconic non-American motorcycle in biker history to work with: Brando’s Johnny rode a Thunderbird in the Wild One ... and it didn’t look like this. But this is supposed to be a comparison test ... what of the Americans?

such an American-styled machine. That meant the forks flopped a bit at lower speeds, as they were taking most of the machine’s weight under braking. Those long forks also took some hauling around at first, but as I became more accustomed to the Thunderbird and let the machine teach me how to ride it all began to flow naturally, and I relaxed into a secure and solid ride. This particular Thunderbird felt a little soft, it bounced back-and-to, wallowing on it’s soft-sprung shocks. Not enough to upset the near perfect handling – and at a reasonable pace too – but I’m not sure I’d want to ride it very hard in the mountains with that particular set up. Happily the rear shocks are fully adjustable for preload, whether that was for

With absolutely no hint of irony whatsoever, switching from the oversized Thunderbird to Cheltenham Harley-Davidson’s Super Glide Custom demo brought to mind the culture shock experienced by riders of the nineteen-fifties as they climbed off Harley’s big twins of the day onto the contemporary Triumph Thunderbird ... only backwards. In one of the most astonishing role-reversals in motorcycling history, the Super Glide felt tiny. Heavy, yes, but concentrated. Lighter, leaner, and even tauter:


a hefty pillion or a blast through the lumpiest bits of Wales. If you’re used to custom/cruisers, the seating position was generous and neutral, sat upright, with good wide handlebars. The rider’s seat was generous to say the least; wide but also very low, and paired with an unobtrusive and nicely styled pillion which is removable if you want a solo look. I came away from the test fairly impressed overall. For a stonky-looking, well-designed cruiser that is capable, comfy, quick and decidedly different ... and of course most definitely isn’t either Japanese or indeed American, the affordably-priced new Triumph Thunderbird has to be an option to consider. That it’s British too can only be seen as a huge plus, but get it in some less conservative livery though, eh?

The Vegas 8-Ball, by contrast, is an aggressive motorcycle with tons of attitude, but surprisingly, when ridden alongside the Thunderbird and the Super Glide actually seems no faster than the other two. It’s not as comfy either, but that’s soon forgotten when enjoying the engine’s snarl. Its blacked-out Freedom V-Twin displaces 1634cc / 100ci and it knocks out 85bhp from stock, but torque is the measure of a big-inch twin and it tugs straight away from very low revs, pouring it on right through the range. Blasting along backroads, the motor is a dream, and accelerating from the lights, onto motorways or dual-carriageways will twist your features into a fierce grin, but I’ve never found the Freedom very relaxing to cruise with: it’s too tempestuous, like two hornets caught underneath an upturned glass. It growls lumpily, vibrates – albeit fairly nicely – and, well, what was initially exhilarating, raw

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Three-Way Test: H-D Super Glide Custom v Victory Vegas 8-Ball v Triumph Thunderbird

completely counter-intuitive and a genuine surprise. In a more familiar context it was like climbing off a big twin and onto a Sportster, and much of that is going to be down to the impact of that fuel tank, although some can be attributed to the short reach controls of Harley’s smallest Dyna. The Super Glide carries 19.7 litres of fuel compared to the Thunderbird’s 22 litres but the Harley tank seems to be about third smaller. That will be partly due to the box-section spine of the Dyna chassis intruding far less into the tank’s underside, allowing more elegant proportions. It’s not the only time that the word elegant springs to mind. The Dyna’s engine might only be giving away two cubic inches in capacity but it looks almost willowy: it looks sculpted rather than cast and that’s the first time I’ve thought that about a Harley lump since the squared-off Evo’s aluminium barrels replaced the waisted Shovelhead’s cast iron. It’s almost delicate but not because it’s under-engineered, but purely because the Triumph’s is colossal: irritatingly that difference doesn’t come across in the photographs, but trust me on this. Not for the first time, you reach for the stats. On paper there’s not an awful lot in it: the Thunderbird tips the scales 13kg heavier at 308kg, it’s 20mm taller in the saddle with 15mm less ground clearance but the Super Glide is 15mm longer in the wheelbase despite a tighter 29-degree steering head. But the statistics don’t begin to reflect the differences, which extend well beyond the first impressions of scale. On the road, from the moment you press the button the differences are manifold. Any first impression that the Triumph’s vibrations are obtrusive are countered by the throb of the Harley’s 96-inch, long-stroke and rubber mounted v-twin motor as it bursts into life and rocks backwards and forwards on its iso-planar mountings; and on the

and moto-mechanical-mad soon becomes very wearing on a straight road, for me. Our 2009-model Vegas 8-Ball still sports the ‘old’ 5-speed gearbox but is none the worse for that on A-roads, and apart from thicko here trying to knock it up into sixth on the dual carriageway a couple of times, I found it more or less perfect. To tell the truth I’ve never counted the gears on any bike I’ve ridden anyway, and have just kept on going up until there’s none left. I do miss the ability to drop the revs for those long motorway and fast dualcarriageway runs. I’m not saying you won’t get where you want to go with the 8-Ball, but you just might feel a lot more relaxed and a lot less frazzled if you’d had the option to snick up into the overdrive: next year that will be resolved because it’ll gets the Vegas’ sixth


sort of A- and B-roads we were riding it didn’t really get chance to hit the 3k threshold that would ordinarily smooth out those vibes. While Harley-Davidson has never enjoyed the best of reputations in this country in terms of its handling prowess, there’s not a whole lot wrong with the second generation Dyna chassis, with its stiffer swing-arm and the 49mm forks from the VR-series. You can point an accusing finger at the efficiency of the damping in the rear shock in terms of suitability for UK road conditions but apart from a relative tendency to understeer compared to the Thunderbird, I’m not sure there’s a lot between them overall. The Triumph will hold any given line within reason but runs out of ground clearance quite quickly once you’ve gained confidence in its abilities, while the Super Glide with its mid-set foot controls cants over a lot further before the heat shield clips start to graze the tarmac, but needs a little extra rider input to hold its line. There’s a major difference in terms of braking, however. Harley might well have come on in leaps and bounds since rolling out decent calipers in 2000, but the twin 4-pots on the Thunderbird easily outbrake the single 4-pot of the Super Glide, if you’re riding in the European style. The difference in instrumentation too is marked, but is less critical to my mind. The Triumph has a tacho inhabiting the bottom arc of the speedo’s dial, which looks great when standing alongside the bike but is too small and too far from the rider’s view to be much use when in a hurry which, let’s face it, is about the only time you care about what it says. To its credit, however, the speedo is a clear, easily read instrument, day or night. It also has a neat LCD panel to the right hand side of the dial – controlled by a switch on the right hand handlebar that looks like, and is situated very close to the starter button – which switches between odometer, twin trip meters and a time of day clock, and also

and a price hike. In this form, though, the 8-Ball feels like a huge, low slung Sportster with tons of grunt. Black it is, and black is good, for in the 8Ball’s case it brings out the lines of the bike and makes a feature of the sculpted metalwork, often lost or overpowered on its more rampantly painted stablemates. It doesn’t shout ‘look at me’, but neither does it care much: it’s a biker’s bike, for riders who understand what they are looking at. Joe Public can ‘do one’ and be impressed and awed elsewhere. Like all Victorys it’s a big bike, made manageable by the way the handlebars swing comfortably back towards the rider – no complaint there – but I can’t help thinking that the bike would look so much better with bars that follow the line of the forks. Or even better, pullback drags, nose-fairing and belly-pan.

Keeping the forward controls where they are, with upright bars, the rider would have to be folded like a jacknife over the long high tank, which can look cool for a while, admittedly, but I wouldn’t like to ride it for a whole day like that. Sitting in the 8-Ball overpowers the sensation you get from either the Super Glide or the Thunderbird: you know those other two are rideable, almost sensible, but the growling, snarling, enormous animal that you’re currently straddling is initially an intimidating experience, even for someone like me whose ridden lots of Victorys before. Within a mile or two, though, the 8-Ball, like any of the recent Victorys I’ve road-tested, proves balanced, stable and controllable. That’s when the rush starts, man: taming the huge, snarling beast. One day Victory motorcycles will be banned for being too addictive.

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features a remarkably accurate fuel range meter that I trusted by the time I’d drained the second tank, if only because it seemed to be consistent, as did the multi-segment LCD fuel gauge. It was irritating that the accompanying low fuel light came on with loads of fuel showing and fifty miles of range, but it was more reliable and linear than the typical Harley’s plummeting gauge, and infinitely more useful than Victory’s woeful low fuel light, which is ignored by most intelligent riders, who set the trip when refuelling and start looking for fuel again when 100 miles have passed Forget the detail though: you’ll want to know if the Thunderbird has the stomp of a big twin, and the quick answer is yes, the spec sheet says so, which is the second big shock of the experience. Apparently the Triumph generates more peak torque and at lower revs than the Harley – 146Nm@2750rpm compared to 123Nm@3125rpm – which is both impressive and astonishing; all the more so because it doesn’t feel like that on the road. Some of that’s because peak torque is a poor measure compared to the shape of the torque curve. The rest will be just down to the way a Harley delivers its power: a long time ago in a mainstream bike magazine far, far away (okay July 1981 in Bike), Brecon Quaddy road testing the then-new Kawasaki Z1000LTD described an encounter with a “real Harley-D” at some traffic lights, and described the annihilation of the Kawasaki as “man, he just go!” as it catapulted itself halfway to the next set of lights while the Z1000 was still winding up its camshafts. I appreciated for the first time what he meant when comparing these three: what torque the Harley has, it lays down like almost nothing else ... although it has to be said that once the Triumph is rolling, it picks up speed with alacrity: its roll-on torque is immense. The Triumph will pull strong from 2k even in its supposed overdrive gear, but it’s much more lively between 4,000 and 6,000. If you want to put traffic behind you from the lights, you crank it to a shade below the red line before hooking second; that drops it back into the mid-fives and it will return to the redline with indecent haste. Then repeat. There’s no sense in continuing to do that beyond third because if the other vehicle isn’t a speck in the mirror by then, it’ll come hammering past you when you hit a brick wall of wind resistance and a decaying power curve crossing into three figures, regardless of which gear you’re in. Triumph quote 115mph as a top speed and I daresay an engine with a few more miles on it will manage that, but not in a hurry. It’s all rather The 8-Ball offers faultless handling as is becoming expected from Victorys, and it offers great stopping power too even with just one disk up front. Basically the bike goes where you point it, always handles a lot lighter than a rider might expect from its size and even parks-up easily due to great balance, good lock on the bars and a low seat height. Let’s face it, the Victory Vegas 8-Ball in its 5-speed form is a bargain price compared to the others on this test, and you get a lot for your money ... except options for colour. However, whereas though the other two would make great life partners, you really could marry them and live with them day in, day out, the 8-Ball is much more like a mistress; tempestuous, fun and dirty, but you pretty much know that she’s best kept out of the way until the weekend’s excesses. Getting on the Dyna Super Glide was like being reunited with an old friend. Not that I’ve ever ridden a 96ci Super Glide or indeed ridden any Super Glide for a few years now, but everything felt right. The Dyna is the

most expensive of the three bikes we had out on test, but for me it also was the most accomplished, the most well rounded and, dare I say, the classiest. Perhaps the only slight jolt of unfamiliarity, jumping from one bike to the next was the Super Glide’s mid-set footrests, but that sensation lasted oh, about 30 seconds. I knew what to expect from the super-smooth powertrain, I knew how it would handle, how it would stop, there were no nasty surprises awaiting me: I’d come home. Perhaps that’s why I ended up riding the Super Glide faster than the other two, or perhaps, despite its seeming docility it is actually as fast or even, in the mid-range particularly, maybe faster. It’s competent and confident: a thoroughly relaxed ride that allows the rider to push the bike as fast as is comfortable, as far as the rider’s own abilities allow. The Super Glide is superbly balanced and responsive to the throttle. At lower revs it is a supremely comfortable cruiser, an easy ride, agile enough to get around stuff, rigid enough

to inspire confidence, but twist the throttle wider and the Super Glide tightens up – totally planted and still beautifully neutral – giving the impression that the bike is happy to take on everything you throw at it. Blasting through the mountains or bouncing across a field to your tent, it’s a competent machine. Both other machines looked nearly right to me, especially when away from each other – the Victory perhaps winning it over the Thunderbird purely because of familiarity with shape and function – but the Super Glide Custom just looks absolutely right, straight away; and at any angle, with or without company. It easily had the most presence, both on the road and parked up. The others drew brief awe and favourable impressions but then onlookers lingered with the Super Glide drawing immediate and lasting admiration. It had little to do with the badge on the tank, after all Joe Public assumes that anything with a low seat and high ’bars is a Harley. Nope, I think the Dyna looked right, because of careful, continuous design since ... well,

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Three-Way Test: H-D Super Glide Custom v Victory Vegas 8-Ball v Triumph Thunderbird

arbitrary really: 100mph is generally considered to be an automatic ban on the road, and is literally a pain in the neck on any unfaired motorcycle over protracted distances. And then of course there’s the Victory. The king of the flat torque curve. As I said, almost nothing lays down torque like a Harley: a 100-inch Victory does ... well, very close. It lays down as much, just slightly differently. The Vegas 8-Ball was the least sophisticated of the bunch both in terms of the aforementioned instrumentation, which is best described as rudimentary, and was the only one of the three to be running a five-speed gearbox, because a regular Vegas wasn’t available. On the roads we were riding, an overdrive sixth wasn’t especially relevant. That said, with 2010’s 8-Ball looking like having a six-speed gearbox it’s all rather arbitrary: that will also bring it closer to the price of the dressier Vegas model, as well as these two. Climbing off the Super Glide onto the Blade Group’s 8-Ball demonstrator opened up the riding position, returning to distant handlebars and forward controls, but it was still a long way from the Thunderbird. As already mentioned, in terms of its technology, the Victory has much more in common with the new Triumph: a ground-up balanced OHC, unit construction, wet-sump with a gear-driven primary, it is of a newer generation of motor than the Twin Cam – even in its highly-evolved form – but it sits between the new Brit and the classic American in so many ways. It also splits the difference between the long-stroke 96-inch Harley and the shortstroke 98-inch Triumph: the 100-inch Victory is nigh-on square Visually, it retains the proportions of an air-cooled motor, which serves to make the Triumph’s lump look clumsy by comparison, but it was the noisiest motor of the three, mechanically. There’s a lot of noise in an overhead cam valve train, and while Victory’s

hydraulic silent camchain tensioner keeps that noise to a minimum, the largely empty rocker covers do little to absorb the sound of its spinning cams or tappets. The liquid-cooled Triumph bears out the popular myth that only a water jacket will meet noise regs, but the near-silent pushrod Harley with its hydraulic tappets defies such received opinion from the end of the lounge bar. The main audible irritant on the Victory is in fact a disengaged clutch at tick-over, which amplifies any play in the gear-driven primary when it isn’t under load, and is something the Triumph suffers from to a lesser extent: in both cases, pull in the lever and it goes away. Power-wise, off the line, the Victory squats on its haunches and launches: maybe it’s something to do with a common big end journal. After all, that’s about the only thing that the Victory and Harley engines have in common, and even then they couldn’t be more different in technologies if they tried. Roll-on torque, too, is exemplary but there’s a sense of squirt and coast with a Victory: gun the motor and then ease off – it’s most noticeable with a loud exhaust system, its booming bass-tone telegraphing the load under power, diminishing to an unobtrusive note when the throttle’s rolled back. There’s always a temptation to stick pairs of bikes on a drag strip to see how they compare under laboratory conditions, but with three bikes and three riders, the endless combinations required to take any weight, familiarity and riding styles out of the equation would have been tortuous: you want to know that you’ll be able to ride in the company of the other two without being shamed from the lights or when dealing with traffic, and each of these will keep pace with the others nicely: any fundamental differences will be down to the rider ... or handling. The Victory will keep pace with the Harley and Triumph through the bends with ease. The increased cornering clearance will run out marginally before the Harley but a long way after the Triumph riders has obliterated the tell-tales. It’s slightly more vulnerable to road conditions due to its skinny 21-inch front tyre, which also means it’s less capable of using the full power of its Victorybranded Nissin 4-pot, although it does have the edge in braking terms over the Super Glide ... at least in the dry. Yes, okay, so we should have put the T’bird against a Fat Bob and a Hammer: next time – once Triumph realise what they’ve created and build a Street version – perhaps we will, although I can make an informed guess at how that would play out. The existing Triumph would run rings round the Fat Bob and the

since the early seventies at the very least, and beyond if you include Sportsters and bobbed and chopped Big Twins in the family tree. Tagged perhaps unfairly as the most boring Big Twin, (possibly because it isn’t trying to be anything else other than a Super Glide) despite the higher price tag, the Super Glide is the bike of these three that I would personally want to own: in fact I can see me owning one. Perhaps it is because the Dyna felt as if it could do anything, from cruising, scratching through touring to posing, and yet also has the most potential to be exactly the machine I’d possibly want to turn it into – helped by the vast aftermarket and massive performance possibilities. Often overlooked on the showroom floor, the Dyna Super Glide Custom offers great value for a Harley Big Twin, and makes oh-somuch more sense when you actually wheel it outside: take another look, and then reach for the key. Words: Rich King


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THIRD OPINION: Right, three bikes in 1000 words – no time to mess about – so ’ere we go! First up was the Triumph Thunderbird. This is a bike of truly Biblical proportions, and I wondered if He would be moving away from His traditional Harley in the near future – it’s clearly what Triumph have aimed for with this bike as, for me, it has significant ‘presence’. Frankly, they’ve actually done a pretty slick job with it. Looking around the bike I found that it has some very nice features: easy-to-read and comprehensive instruments, Japanese-style indicator controls, a side-stand that’s simple to find and operate as well as tasty aftermarket exhausts – which, by the way, are much nicer than the standard ones. It also appeared well put together, with a good finish to all the components.

Both the seat height and reach to the bars were great for my 5´11˝ frame but I found that the wide tank pushed my legs apart, which was tiring when cruising at higher speeds. The ground clearance also seemed quite low – possibly due to the width of the bike – and my heel dug in to the tarmac on one roundabout, which did catch me by surprise, as I wasn’t going very fast. The handling was OK, but it was much more of a handful than the other two bikes, due to the sheer bulk of the thing and a slightly top-heavy feel. However, I do have one nagging doubt as – at the end of a long day – the steering did seem a bit vague when filtering through traffic, but it could have been me as by this time I was knackered! On the plus side, the clutch is light and changing gear is easy. The front brake was bloody good – which I wasn’t expecting, and I

Hammer but the would be much less engaging to ride with the red mist descending: depending on how Triumph realigned the Thunderbird to compete in that genre. But back to these three. It’s not just the Victory’s engine that has much in common with the Triumph, the frame too bears a striking resemblance. A stressed member with three top tubes, the Vegas chassis has to accommodate the air-filter for the Victory’s downdraft twin choke EFI beneath the tank and runs a rising-rate monoshock back end, but the similarities are there. Where it differs wildly is in the fuel tank, which is 20% smaller than the Triumph’s at 17 litres (3¾ gallons, or 4½ US) but looks half the size. In terms of dimensions, the Vegas lives up to preconceived

changed my riding style – I use the word ‘style’ loosely – to suit. Later on, forgetting that Harleys don’t have quite such good front brakes, when I swapped bikes with Andy, I nearly rode the Custom into the side of a white van – my, how we laughed! I did need to rev the Thunderbird to keep up with Andy on the Custom, and while there is plenty of power, it’s further up the rev range than the other bikes. This isn’t a problem as the motor spins up easily, but it did vibrate and I was reminded of my 1981 T140E Bonneville, although it wasn’t nearly as bad. The vibration was really only apparent above about 3200rpm and I didn’t find it annoying, and I couldn’t decide if it was simply inevitable because of the parallel twin configuration, or if it had been deliberately engineered in to add character, and to differentiate the motor from that of a Harley. Whatever the truth, Triumph’s parallel twin felt


expectations of the differences between American and British motorcycles in a way that the slightly more European-friendly Dyna doesn’t. It’s a full four inches (99mm) longer than the Triumph although nearly an inch and half of those are in the overhanging rear mudguard; like the Harley it has more ground clearance and a lower seat height, and somehow manages to be the lightest of the three at 288kg or a massive twenty bags of sugar less than the Thunderbird – there’s the basis for an interesting experiment next time you’re in a supermarket with time on your hands – and just five fewer than the Super Glide. The Victory felt low and lean after the Super Glide but was probably just less crowded, and lacked the sense of concentrated heavy metal that signalled the earlier switch from the Triumph.

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Three-Way Test: H-D Super Glide Custom v Victory Vegas 8-Ball v Triumph Thunderbird

totally – and I do mean totally – different to a v-twin, in spite of having a 270-degree firing angle, which was meant to simulate the riding characteristics of a v-twin – yeah, right! Next up was the FXDC Dyna Super Glide Custom, and I really wanted to know what the benefit of a sixth gear, fuel injection and an extra 134 cc’s would be compared to my own 2002 FXDX Dyna Super Glide Sport. Well, the extra gear ratio did drop the revs slightly, but I don’t know how much because it lacked a rev counter, but I reckon this extra gear is nice-to-have rather than essential. The more modern engine was a very different matter – the bike was way quicker than my Sport without losing that gorgeous flexible feel – very, very impressive! In fact, it seemed easily as fast as both the Triumph and even the Victory, which had a Stage 1 kit fitted.

On the day, I rather cruelly described the Custom as a “lovely, cuddly bike”, which isn’t really in keeping with the image is it? So, I think I’d better explain myself. Basically, you know exactly where you are with it. Yes, it’s got quirks but they’re basically the same ones as on my seven-year-old bike. It’s friendly and totally unintimidating to ride at all speeds, it looks charming and has that classic ‘potato-potato’ soundtrack. But don’t be fooled; every component had been cleverly honed – within an inch of its life – to provide ‘The Harley Riding Experience’, and that’s what you get – in spades – and I loved it! Last, but by no means least was the 8-Ball ... This was my first time on a Victory and I thought the 8-Ball was excellent – really excellent – and easily as good as, albeit very different to – the Harley.

Bellowing through its Victory Performance exhausts which showed less restraint than Triumph’s accessory silencers, it proved useful in providing a control for comparing engine speeds. On one occasion, riding the Super Glide following Rich on the Triumph and with Graham following on the Vegas, I could hear all three engines through their exhausts, and for all the differences in stance, attitude, technology and style, they were all singing from the same hymn sheet – and experience suggested that each could call upon enough torque to turn a lively canter through the countryside into a more challenging competition, but there was little point. All of these bikes are less about getting there first, more about the journey, and they all make an entrance. That they each make a different impression is good: actually no, it’s brilliant because it justifies the existence of the three brands, and serves to underline the variety that exists in this market, which is lazily tagged the cruiser sector, but then one of the main outcomes, however, was to discover that Harley don’t actually make a cruiser. Without trying to sound all-superior on The Motor Company’s


The modern styling is clean and sophisticated, and the engine is crisp with an exhaust note vaguely reminiscent of a rapid fire World War II anti-aircraft gun through its accessory pipes. Like the Harley, it makes you feel really good, but it is its competence – rather than its character – that you are most aware of. There is a precision to it that encourages you to ride well, and it is comfortable enough for you to want to keep doing so. This is Victory’s entry-level bike and only has five gears – although that is soon to change. Do you want – or need – a sixth gear? I guess that depends on how much motorway riding you do. All I can say is that fifth felt pretty high to me: it’s about the same as the Harley’s fifth ratio which is enough for most situations. Overall I liked it so much that my first job on returning home was to see how much 8-Balls

behalf, I can’t think of a Dyna or a Softail that really ticks the cruiser box: they’re all customs, streetbikes, muscle bikes, retros, soft-tourers of full tourers, and even if you include the vanilla FXD Super Glide, that’s just a naked bike. Even dressed Japanese baggers are more easily defined as an oriental version of a Road King or Heritage Softail than either Harley copes with the cruiser tag. It’s almost impossible to go into a roadtest without some expectation, and I anticipated that the Super Glide Custom would be a Dyna-framed version of a Fat Boy, courtesy of its broad pulled-back ’bars, but in fact turned out to be closer to the old Softail Deluxe: a Dyna ‘Low’, perfect for the shorter/lighter rider. The Victory is on the verge of being a cruiser in the accepted definition, but actually sits more comfortably within the custom sector: it’ll run with the Night Train, but doesn’t stand direct comparison with anything in the cruiser class either. Victory have done a good job of making bikes that are Victories first, and then slot into custom, street, muscle or tourer categories second. And that’s where I think Triumph’s future lies: putting clear blue water between its Thunderbird and Japanese cruisers, both in terms of perception, but more urgently styling: it needs to be more ‘Export’ Triumph than misconceived American classic, and if that engine was in a bike that paid greater homage to a 6T Thunderbird; and was first and foremost a Triumph, it would be more welcome in my garage. It would also lend itself to a limited production “Johnny” edition, with a near-perfect strap-line for the marketing: “What are you rebelling against, Johnny?” Would I have one? Which one? The Super Glide Custom? Yes, with different bars and forward controls to account for my height and long arms.

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were fetching on ‘Biketrader’, and my only criticism – which I’ll admit is trivial – is that I didn’t like the warning lights. Objectively, can the Triumph compete with the other two bikes? The answer to that is a categorical “yes”. There was little to choose between the three in terms of performance, function and finish. That said, they each offer a very different rider experience – with different looks to boot. The Harley is slightly quirky and, to my mind, defines the class. The Victory is relatively new, aggressive, has no quirks and I found it to be the easiest to ride. But if you don’t like v-twins – in which case you’re probably reading the wrong magazine – or if all your friends have Harleys and you want something different, then the Triumph certainly delivers. Words: Graham Gabriel

The Vegas 8-Ball? Yes, almost exactly as it is, maybe in place of the 92/5 Vegas for the extra punch of the 100-inch motor but I’d hurry to get the last of the five-speeds and spend the money saved on a new gearbox pulley to raise the final drive gearing because I’m tired of six-speed boxes on bikes with a broad powerband. And the 98 Thunderbird? No. Not as it is. It’s an excellent machine – no question about that – and it does everything I could ask of a motorcycle, including having some character, but it lacks a classic elegance, from the massive tank that owes nothing to the Triumphs of old, to the oversized engine that will take some disguising to create the bike that I would like it to be. The acid test for me, personally, is when walking back to a bike: you should be desperate to want to ride it. It should look cool, maybe a little malevolent, and it should stand out from the crowd. The Harley does that every time for me: I reckon successive generations of Davidsons must have stood at a lonely Mississippi crossroads waiting for the devil to come and resharpen their pencils. And as long as the Victory is approached from almost any angle except square-on, I’m happy. The Triumph doesn’t cut it for me, though: it lacks the originality of Turners twins, and is poorer for it. I can’t help thinking that if Prentice had stood at those same crossroads, hoping to get his PC recalibrated, the attending devil would have sucked through his teeth and apologised for having only brought the Mac disks. But, if the Thunderbird’s scale suits you, and you like the generic cruiser look but don’t want a Japanese Vee, it could be perfect. If you like your big twins elegant, however, the T’bird comes across as a little clumsy, and demonstrates how good a job

Victory’s designers did in creating a modern American motorcycle without building a Harley clone, or using their technology. And then, of course, there’s the Harley: the original, continuing to demonstrate the value of evolution: mechanically and stylistically. But there are no losers here, just three different interpretations of what a big twin should be: the trick is to know what you want of a big twin to make sure you park the right one in your garage, because it would be expensive to get it wrong.

Words: Andy Hornsby Pics: Rich King and Andy Hornsby





Length: Seat Height: Ground Clearance: Rake / Trail: Fuel Capacity: Oil Capacity: Weight: Engine: Displacement: Bore x Stroke: Torque: Fuel System: Compression Ratio: Gearbox: Transmission: Forks: Shocks: Wheels: Front: Rear: Tyres: Front: Rear: Brakes: Front: Rear: Exhaust System: Instruments: Colours:

2355mm 600mm 153mm 29º / 119mm (29º fork) 19.3l 2.8l 295kg Twin Cam 96 45º V-Twin 1584cc / 96ci 95.3mm x 111.1mm 91ftlb / 123nm @ 3,125rpm Electronic Fuel Injection ESPFI 9.2:1 6-speed helical Chain primary; belt final drive 49mm telescopic with 127mm travel Twin coil-over shocks with 104mm travel 19-inch laced, chrome steel rim 17-inch laced, chrome steel rim 100/90-19 160/70-B17 300mm with 4-pot caliper 292mm with 2-pot single-sided caliper Staggered, balanced shorty dual exhaust Speedo with twin trip, odo, clock, fuel gauge, lights Vivid Black; Dark Blue Pearl; Red Hot Sunglo; 2-tone Vivid Black / Pewter Pearl; 2-tone Flame Blue / Pewter pearl £10,590 (Black) £10,750 (Pearl) £11,080 (2-tone) Cheltenham Harley-Davidson. Cheltenham GL51 7PA: Tel: 01242 240570 •

2439mm 673mm 148mm 32.9º / 126mm 17l 4.75l 288kg 100/5 Freedom 50º V-Twin 1634cc / 100ci 101 x 102mm 113ftlb / 153nm @ 4,000rpm Electronic Fuel Injection 8.7:1 5-speed helical unit-construction Gear primary; belt final drive 43mm telescopic with 130mm travel gas monoshock / rising-rate linkage; 100mm travel 21 x 2.15-inch cast 18 x 5.5-inch cast 90/90 21 180/55-B18 300mm floating rotor with 4-pot caliper 300mm floating rotor with 2-pot caliper Staggered, balanced slash-cut dual exhaust Speedo with rip, odo; low fuel, lights Black with 8-Ball decal

2340mm 700mm 140mm n/a 22l 4.2l 308kg Liquid-cooled, DOHC Parallel Twin with 270º crank 1597cc / 98ci 103.8 x 94.3mm 107.7ftlb / 146.1nm @ 2,750rpm Porgressively linked multipoint sequential EFI 9.7:1 6-speed helical unit-contruction Gear primary; belt final 47mm telescopic with 120mm travel twin coli-over shocks, 95mm travel 19 x 3-inch 5-spoke cast 17 x 6-inch 5-spoke cast 120.70 R19 200/50 R17 2x310mm floating rotors with 4-pot calipers 310mm with 2-pot single-sided rotor. ABS option Balanced twin exhausts Speedo with tacho, twin trips, clock, fuel gauge, lights Jet Black; Pacific Blue/Fusion White; Aluminium Silver / Jet Back


Non ABS: £9,499 single colour / £9,764 twin colour With ABS: £10,099 single colour / £10,384 twin colour

Blade Motorcycles. Swindon SN2 8DP Tel: 01793 435627 •

Triumph Motorcycles Limited, Hinckley LE10 3BZ Tel: 01455 251700 •


Testbike supplied by:

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Cheltenham Harley-Davidson

599 Princess Way, Cheltenham GL51 7PA Tel: 01242 240570

Dockgate Harley-Davidson

Heritage House, Second Avenue, Southampton, United Kingdom SO15 0LP Tel: 02380 571200

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Stratstone Harley-Davidson

2 Loxam Road Chingford London E4 8SE Tel: 0208 5319026

Stratstone Harley-Davidson 37-43 Chapel Ash, Wolverhampton WV3 0UF Tel: 01902 371 600


Guildford Harley-Davidson



Lincoln Harley-Davidson


Warr’s Harley-Davidson

Newcastle Harley-Davidson


Warr’s Harley-Davidson


Waterford Harley-Davidson

Portsmouth Road, Peasmarsh, Guildford, GU3 1NA Tel: 0845 388 9643

8 Tritton Road, Lincoln LN6 7QY Tel: 01522 850098 Fax: 01522 850088


3 Dinsdale Place, Warwick Street, Sandyford, Newcastle NE2 1BD Tel: 0191 2327174


Ber Street, Norwich, NR1 3ES Tel: 0845 224 0419

Norwich Harley-Davidson


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Thames Valley Harley-Davidson

Windsor House 121 Yarmouth Road Slough, SL1 4HY Tel: 01753 515500

611 Kings Road, London, SW6 2EL Tel: 0207 736934

16 – 20 Mottingham Road, London SE9 4QW Tel: 0208 8579198

Ozier Park, Waterford City, Ireland Tel: +353 51 844200 Fax: +353 51 857206

Corner House Garage, Whitecross, Wootton, Oxfordshire OX13 6BS Tel: 01865 735121

Langage Business Park, Eagle Road, Plympton, Plymouth, Devon PL7 5JY Tel: 01752 332 775

West Strand Park, Strand Road, Preston, Lancashire PR1 8UY. Tel: 01772 551800

Silverstone Harley-Davidson

170 Watling Street East, Towcester, Northamptonshire NN12 6DB Tel: 01327 353444

Stratstone Harley-Davidson

To advertise your Harley-Davidson Dealership on this page, call Andy Fraser now on 01778 392054 or email

Waterlinks Motor Village, Lichfield Road Aston, Birmingham Tel: 0121 335 70 43

1/10/09 15:27:00

Event: HDRCGB’s International Rally: Walesby


Sixty years ago, ‘Pop’ Richardson gathered a big enough group of like-minded riders together to form a club based round something they had in common: they all rode Harley-Davidsons. The result was the Harley-Davidson Riders Club of Great Britain, and this year’s International Rally celebrated that fact in style at Walesby. The club of 2009 were joined by founder member Vic Richardson, one of Pop’s two sons, who returned for the occasion from Australia where he still serves as the club’s rep; and with a winning combination of an excellent location and many more people than struggled across to last year’s Oswestry event, it deserves to go down as the classic International of recent years. Set in the heart of a once thriving Nottinghamshire coal field, the Walesby Forest Scout Activity Centre provided a stunning location which


could have looked busy with 250 bikes and riders camped among the trees but ultimately swallowed upwards of a thousand visitors without looking crowded, and the event was well supported by the trade – including Custom Chrome, Krazy Horse and Skull Chopa, with Robin Hood representing the official dealer network: a first for recent years. Thankfully the wet weather that doused the early arrivals and organisers threatened all weekend but held off, and the only one who fell foul of it seemed to be Patrick Delli, ‘The French Owl’, who cut it extremely tight arriving on-site in an early dusk brought on by leaden skies riding what had been his KHK Special, now running an Ironhead XL motor but still no lights.

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AT 60

With or without lights, you really needed to know where you were going because there was very little visible evidence of anything from the road, other than a few leather jacketed figures staffing the gate: the surrounding trees acted as a barrier shielding the event from the outside world

– and vice versa – making the vast site seem private and quite intimate, belying the sheer numbers of people milling around. The first indication you had of the scale of the event was the size of the massive gazebo/marquee, which filled up quickly and completely, with a wellstocked, busy bar at one end – serving, among other things, a very nice real ale on draught – and a stage at the other. But don’t go getting the impression that the townsfolk of nearby Ollerton weren’t aware of the party on their doorstep because the endless stream of bikes from the site in search of a wider selection of food gave the local traders an early Christmas, with bikes parked outside every chippy and takeaway, pizzas being delivered to the site thirty at a time and the happiest Tesco store manager that you’d have found in their national network that weekend: apparently they got ‘Store of the Month’ on the proceeds, and as quick as the staff were refilling the shelves, they were being emptied. The same was true of a local pub who laid on a mini-bus to ferry people backwards and forwards until he ran out of food!

It might well go down as the classic International, but folk will be talking about the on-site food for as long as the event itself, and full marks go to the Crêpe and Waffle seller who had the wit to start offering very palatable savoury alternatives to those weren’t enamoured by the burger


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Event: HDRCGB’s International Rally: Walesby


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vans. No, they weren’t up to the club’s usual high standards but the owner held his hands up, paid in full and, if it’s any consolation, he must have lost a shed-load of money for his pains. His loss was the local community’s gain, however, and by all accounts if the club is looking for a return visit after next year’s trip to the Lakes, they will be welcomed back with open arms – both to the site and the town. And at the risk of upsetting those for whom the split over Shipley is still an open wound, you can understand why Baildon was so reluctant to let the Shipley

Rally die without a fight after more than twenty years. There’s not a lot more I can add without robbing space from the pics except to say atmosphere, chilled; company, excellent; banter, lively; location, superb; show winners, worthy; welcome, warm. Very many congratulations to Kev Scrivener and his team for an excellent job, and worthy of the occasion: any news on whether those who ate their words found them any more palatable than the noodles? The underlying hope is that the Riders’ Club has turned a corner with their

‘International’ after dwindling numbers for the last couple of years at Oswestry, because, even once the Anniversary effect had been taken into account, attendance exceeded all expectations – to the point of running out of rally badges. It does pile on the pressure for The Lakes in 2010 and I can hear the sound of Lake District Tourist Board brochures being collated from here: Europe-bound, to capitalise on the success of this year’s Summer Rally: Walesby’s going to be a tough act to follow.

Words and Pics: Andy Hornsby

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4/10/09 00:08:05

Custom: Phil Power’s Shovel


EH ... ? HOW CAN THAT POSSIBLY BE A SONG ABOUT BEER? There’s a Shovelhead chop that crops up all over the place, to such an extent that there must be hundreds of people who’d swear it must be a local bike, but one that they only see at rallies. Of course it is a local bike but only if you live in East Anglia, because this is the first choice of wheels of the mad axe-man of the popular guitar rock covers band, LAF, long time Krazy Horse roadie and Bury St Edmunds’ answer to Rod Stewart: Phil Power.


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3/10/09 16:56:36

Custom: Phil Power’s Shovel

We finally caught up with Phil at the Riders’ Club’s 60th Anniversary bash at Walesby, in August, where apologetic club president, Kev Scrivener, was forced to forego his normal restraint in welcoming Lithuanian Air Force to the stage as “Loud As F...”, falling victim to the urban myth surrounding the band’s initials. Phil wasn’t the first band member to own the bike, and it says as much for the longevity of the band as the bike that frontman,

Hoffy, bought the bike off the original builder, Badger, long before Phil got his hands on it, and Phil’s had it ten years. It hasn’t always looked like this, though: about the only thing left of the original bike will be the frame and big chunks of the engine; and the frame, whose origin is lost in the mists of time, has been modified. Between Hoffy and Phil, though, the bike spent a few years in the wilderness, bought by a bloke somewhere near Lowestoft, where it seems that it lived unused in a shed, until he realised he wasn’t doing anything with it, and decided to sell it on. Which is when Phil came along. He knew the bike even though he hadn’t seen it in a while, and took a mate with him: Krazy Horse Kustom’s original frontman, Steve Studd, who knows a thing or two about bikes ... and also happened to be playing guitar in the band too. Having been stood for a while, it plain refused to fire-up, but Phil was definitely interested and said he’d buy it if he could hear it running and all was well. A phone call a few days later explained that he had got


AmV37.PhilPower.indd 34

3/10/09 16:56:45

New Production Bikes: Skull Chopa / Tattooes Optional ‘La Rocka’

it going but it had stopped again and wouldn’t start again, which wasn’t really what he wanted to hear, but the price dropped ... to about half, which was too good a deal to turn down. How bad could it be? Having dragged it back to Bury, the problem was quickly identified: catastrophic engine failure. It might well have fired up in the shed, but it wasn’t going to do so again without some very serious remedial work. They’ve no idea how or why, but the forked con-rod had sheared across its big end and what remained of it had slid up the other rod, and it slides up and down the marginally less mangled ’rod quite happily, but won’t slide off, almost as though forged in an artist’s studio: it was so impressive that he’s still got it, in fact. It was time to bring in the big guns, which in East Anglia means the saviour of many a Shovelhead, John Gibson, leaving Steve Studd to bring the bike back up to scratch: contrary to popular belief, not everyone in East Anglia is an engineer or a mechanic ... but then Phil’s not from round there. The big problem inside the motor was that original Harley generator Shovel cranks aren’t easy to come by any more, so an S&S crank, flywheels and rods replaced the modern art sculpture, but have retained the original 1200cc capacity. Some extra urgency has recently been added with a better, but still fairly mild cam, but he reports that it really goes well enough as it is so, why overstress it? The only major addition was the 3-inch Primo belt primary linking the rebuilt motor to the original 4-speed kicker gearbox. And he rode it like that, largely as Badger had built it, for about five years before deciding to make it his own, which is when it really started to become the bike you see here. It was a sensible evolution and brought it up to date in terms of technologies that were known not to compromise the bike’s rideability, and it wears it well. Briz modified the back of the frame to take a 180-section tyre on an alloy-rimmed 18-inch wheel in

place of the previous MT90 – about a 130-section – matched up to a 21-inch alloy rim on a single-sided hub. The forks were switched for a pair of stretched SJP Tech Line forks gripped in a set of yokes with an extra six-degrees of rake, and the brakes were uprated to a single-sided Pretech 6-pot and floating rotor on the front, and a Tolle sprocket rotor at the rear. It also got a new lick of paint: well, the mudguard needed modifying to clear the broader tyre, which Steve Studd made a very neat job of, and Phil really fancied doing something with the iridescent paint that was still relatively new. It took some digging out: the main users at the time were TVR but they wouldn’t part with any, but Baker Bodycraft managed to bring a pint of “Chameleon” paint out of the US, and that’s all it took. Laid over a black base coat, it changes colour depending on the angle you view it from, which makes it a bitch to photograph and explains the variations in colour in the shots ... at least that’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it. The flames were added more recently by Ty Lawer at Pageant, and cleverly they’re transluscent to allow the iridescence to come through. And it’s looking damn good for a five year-old paint job, but it’s just about to be redone: not that you’ll notice, because the only reason it’ll be back in the spray booth is that there’s a leak on one of the tanks that has persisted despite all attempts to sort it out, so Phil’s got a new set of the original-style 3.5 gallon Fat Bobs which will be sent back to Baker Bodycraft and then on to Ty. Doesn’t he fancy a change? Apparently not, but when you consider that he washes the bike about once a year – whether it needs it or not – and every picture tells a story: it has always looked good wherever, and whenever I’ve seen it. Sadly I missed the ‘clean’ bike by about a week, but a bit of honest roadfilm doesn’t detract, and that’s how most people will know it anyway. And how does a self-confessed non-technical rider cope with a Shovelhead?


AmV37.PhilPower.indd 35


3/10/09 16:56:53

Custom:Vs Phil Power’s Xl1200C Dyna LowShovel Rider

Apparently it helps to have a couple of fat mates who are handy with the spanners and are on hand to kick it over if it’s playing up, as it did very publically when he came to ride it out of the tent at Walesby, but he’s not sensitive about it. Apparently the problem got progressively worse until it finally needed fixing properly at the ferry port on the way to t’Centrum a couple of weeks later, and was traced to nothing more irritating than the points. It’s a small price to pay for the sheer love of the bike: he’s got newer bikes but the Shovel is the bike he takes out by default and he rides the wheels off it. If anything, he reckons it goes too well, which he blames for the only major headache in recent times, which was when the original oil pump packed up on the way back from Oswestry last year. That resulted in a new S&S pump in place of the old original, but it hadn’t done the top end any favours, needing new valves and springs, but if anything that should mean it will be even more reliable now. For the record, a quick roundup of the parts include the excellent K-tech handlebar controls, oem forward controls that were destined for running boards but will begrudgingly team up with cruising pegs; a Zodiac headlamp shell; one of those squashed cats-eye taillights on a stunning sidemount that is a single piece of aluminium – CNC-machined to elevate the registration from a relieved and painted background; a modified and recovered La Pera solo seat, S&S Super-E carb and a pair of Paughco pipes ... well, you can spend too much time weaving everything into the story, and I’ve got an irresistible urge to go and drag my old Shovel out and blow away a few cobwebs, and prove that it isn’t just blondes that have more fun.

Words and Music: Stewart Rodd


AmV37.PhilPower.indd 36

3/10/09 16:57:01


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1/10/09 15:31:15

Got a staged motor? What did you do with the breather pipe that used to vent into the air-filter? The common practice is to stick an air filter on the end of it, tuck it somewhere away from the tyres and forget about it, but I was getting increasingly hacked off with the nasty chromed plastic cup that housed my filter – not least because the chrome was peeling off – so resolved to do something better: arguably greener. There are lot of things out there, but this was going on a thirty year old Shovelhead that’s wearing its years with dignity and the idea of a chromed billet item from K&N, while very good looking, wouldn’t sit right on the bike. There are plenty of alternatives for sale on ebay, but check the sizes: most of them are for cars where you can hide something that is 160mm high and 100mm wide reasonably easily. And there was something else that I wanted to build in which seems to have been overlooked: my Shovel is an old bike and it sumps – which is to say that the oil in the high-mounted tank drains down past the ball-bearing check valve designed to block its passage into the crankcase. If you start the engine with a crankcase full of oil, the scavenge side of the oil pump just can’t get it back to the tank quickly enough and the rest of it streams out of the breather – about a litre of it last time. Rather than mess around, pulling the pipe off the knackered filter, shredding my fingers in the process, or let the oil strain itself past the filter that is inevitably full of the detritus thrown up by the rear tyre, rendering the oil useless and choking the filter, I wanted an accessible, clean take-off point for that oil. It’s not much to ask. Well it obviously is because I couldn’t find one ... so I made one. There was one major problem: I’m not an engineer, or a fabricator, and while I knew exactly what I wanted, I had no idea whether anyone made the components I needed, or what they might be called if they did – which is one of the main reasons why we’re running this as a tech feature. First-up I needed a tank, then a feed pipe from the oil pump and a breather venting to the atmosphere. How complicated can it be? The tank and breather were easy enough. I wanted enough capacity to be able to catch any ‘sneezes’ from the breather without worrying about it, but small enough to be able to fit unobtrusively on the bike. I found a set of six measuring 63mm x 80mm and holding slightly less than a quarter of a litre for just over a fiver from an ebay shop – curryhotcurry, if you’re interested – and a small filter



for about the same from another ebay trader (300bhp). All I had to then was work out how to get the oil in and the air out. What I actually wanted was a double-ended chassis-mount brass fitting that would provide a nipple on each end – one to take the pipe from the oil pump and the other, protected by the canister in normal use but onto which I could slot a clean pipe, to draw the ‘sumped’ oil off when necessary. What I ended up with, after a long chat with John Gibson and Bob in the workshop at Krazy Horse, was a brass 1⁄8 inch NPT 8mm microbore elbow fitting – its tapped end de-restricted as far as the right-angle by running a bigger drill up it so that it passes a lot more air – a similar straight fitting which would go to the air-filter, and a length of micro-bore to act as a nipple. Okay, so I can’t stick a clean pipe onto the inside to draw off oil, but I’ve got five extra canister bottoms, one of which I’ll convert with a take-off point. The spun aluminium canisters are very thin-walled – they weigh less than 40g each – and there was no way I was going to be able to hold a thread in the lid, but as luck would have it, on the return trip to home and with microbore fittings still in hand, I dropped in to see Roger Allmond and lo, there next to his CNC milling machine were a couple of discs of aluminium. Perfect! He donated them to the cause and I was on my way. All I needed then was an NPT tap, and the time to cobble it all together. The NPT – or National Pipe Thread – was the first obstacle: in case you didn’t know (I didn’t), it’s a tapered thread used extensively in plumping and the big benefit is that as you fasten the fitting, it gets ever-tighter, resulting in a leak proof seal – especially when combined with PTFE tape. For the record, NPT is the American standard, and BSP (British Standard Pipe) works on the same principle. Did I have one? Course I didn’t; I’m not a plumber either ... but then neither did any of the plumbing supplies companies I tried. Luckily I know a few engineers who stood a good chance of having one – which is one of the joys of living in a town founded on the engineering industry: that most people my age who are smoking round Crewe on Harleys these days are the guys who left school and went into Rolls Royce/Bentley, the Railway Works or Midland Rollmakers to serve engineering apprenticeships, and they’re more likely to have a lathe in their shed than a lawnmower in one piece. I was standing in the local engineering suppliers when one-

AmV37.Tech.indd 38

3/10/09 11:39:07

Tech: Breather Catch Tank

such, Hector, returned my call. The well-informed guy behind the counter was explaining that you can put a tapered male thread into a parallel-tapped female, which meant I could get away with a normal thread which was about to save me a tenner, but Hector had everything I needed which saved me thirty. He’d also got lots of experience in using them, which saved me a tantrum or two I’m sure. You’ve got to be very careful with NPT because, being tapered, the further you screw the tap into the material, the bigger the hole gets. If you’re not careful, you can run out of thread before you ever get the fitting tight. You’ve also got to be careful to mark the top surface of the work, because the fittings only fit one way. And so I left Hector’s with a drilled and tapped disk and a roll of PTFE in case I couldn’t find mine, and we were in business. Next I had to work out how I’d fit it to the frame. I’d already worked out where that was going to be, using the forged lugs on the 4-speed frame that were designed to hold the muffler brackets on the FL, so all I needed was to make a bracket. As luck would have it, while playing with the idea of making a side-mount for the Victory some time ago, I wandered down to the local metal salvage yard, where I was directed to a skip full of extruded aluminium in response to a vague suggestion of what I was looking for. I’d picked up a couple of lengths of different sizes, and the smaller one of the two was proportionally perfect, once I remembered where I’d left it. Marvellous! It’s immensely strong and is a perfect right angle that wasn’t formed by bending a flat plate, and so shouldn’t have any structural weakness for the Shovel’s vibrations to start worrying away at. Being aluminium it was also easy to work, cutting off a length and even doing some rudimentary shaping, and by the time the thin aluminium of the lid was sandwiched between the bracket and the tapped disc inside, the whole lot still weighed less than the two brass fittings. I’d had it in mind to use self-tapping screws to hold the top sub-assembly together but in the end found some long pop rivets, and figured their aluminium heads would look better with the rest of it, and to make sure that any air that got in could only come through the filter, I blocked the holes in their centres with Araldite. I nearly came a cropper when it came to mounting the bracket, realising that one of the mounting holes was too close to the lid to be able to sneak a bolt past: I’d already decided that I wanted the inaccessible bolt head on the blind-side and the Nylok nut where I could see it to unfasten it. It happened to be the least accessible one, so having been accurate in drilling the holes to line up with the frame, I slotted it, which will make it far easier to remove if necessary, just needing to be released a few turns to slide off, and I managed to find a pair of bolts that had come off the bike at some point in the past, so matched the ‘used’ look perfectly. And then it was time to fit it, which is when I discovered that it sat a little too close to the rear brake line for the filter to sit bolt upright as I’d planned. Looking at it again, I reckon I’ll fix it by replacing the straight connector with another elbow – I cunningly left enough space to be able to rotate the elbow to fasten it with the straight connector in place – and running the air-filter horizontally to the rear either directly or on a length of microbore. Apart from that, job done!

Inevitably, while it was very cheap in terms of materials, if I factor my labour into it, it will probably have cost three times as much as the billet K&N, but there’s a satisfaction in making something yourself ... even when it’s as imperfect as this: it works, and it does everything I want it to. As long as it doesn’t get clobbered by kerbs I’ll be happy, and I’ll keep my eyes open for a 43mm diameter 25mm high canister that fits the same lid, which will be less vulnerable. Or maybe I’ll find somewhere else to mount it, rather than idly putting it where the breather pipe finished, because that’s where the old filter just happened to be. It won’t prevent sumping – I really need to go and get a few 3⁄8 bearings to re-seat the check return valve, unless anyone’s got an old Evo push-rod kicking around that they don’t want? The ball end is 3⁄8 too, and it makes a great lapping tool. Words and Pictures: The Technical Team There is, of course, always an easier way of doing things, and as the breather on the Staged Cyclone is breathing oil vapour onto the rough cast ally swing-arm, I decided that could do with a catch tank on that too, but took the easy route: 1. Go to an off-license and buy the canned drink of your choice – we used the pre-mixed Jack Daniels and Cola for its colour, graphic quality and ... taste: other drinks, colours, graphics and tastes are available. Might be worth getting a second one, in case you make a hash of the first attempt ... or you have a partner who takes a dim view of seeing you drinking by yourself. 2. Drink the drink. 3. Attach the empty can somewhere with zip ties or double-sided sticky pads – be aware you’ll have to remove the can to empty it, but if you do wreck it the only penalty is having another drink. 4. Put the end of the breather pipe into the top of the can. 5. Job done! Obviously, you don’t test it after having had alcohol; and for strict teetotallers, we will be happy to furnish you with empty cans by return of post, just send your full ones to the usual address. I’m reliably informed there are non-alcoholic drinks available in cans too. ■

AmV37.Tech.indd 39


3/10/09 11:39:14




AmV37.1915_11-F.indd 40

3/10/09 09:35:50

Classic: 1915 Harley-Davidson 11-F

This stunningly restored 1915 Harley-Davidson V-Twin belongs to Larry Wood, and bringing it back to life from a shot-full-ofholes, rusting relic has been a labour of love for Larry and his business associate Pete Springer, who do this sort of work for a mixture of profit and personal satisfaction.

AmV37.1915_11-F.indd 41


3/10/09 09:35:55

Classic: Harley-Davidson Xl1200C1915 Vs Dyna Low Rider11-F

Their joint venture is a kind of self-financing retirement hobby, with the wonderful fringe benefit of being able to ride bikes like this classic piece of American motorcycle history. By far the earliest Harley-Davidson I have ever researched or written about, it gave me the ideal opportunity to look into the whys and wherefores of The Factory’s almost legendary convoluted model identifications. Just shy of one hundred years after this bike left the Milwaukee production line, we are left with a baffling barrage of alphabet soup, for example, how on earth did they ever come up with a complicated model designation such as found on my FLHTC? That is quite a mouthful of meaty soup to get stuck into! Ah, but was it any simpler in the very beginning, or have they, as some suspect, always plucked random letters out of thin air? The bike you are looking at here was apparently given the designation of 11-E, but is from 1915, and looks an awful lot like an F-head J, so I set myself the task of finding out what it actually is ... and why. Are you sitting comfortably? We’ll soon change that! The year that Harley produced their first V-twin in 1909 they also had four single-cylinder models on their books, which were the 5, the 5-A, 5-B and 5-C, all based round the same engine. The ‘5’ referred to the year of production since production began – which suggests that production started in 1905 with 1, or that the second year was prefixed 1 to differentiate it from the year 0 bikes: it’s too far away to tell. It made obvious sense then that the V-twin was therefore the 5-D and indeed it was. A 7hp V-twin that used the same DeDion Bouton atmospheric inlet valves that worked on the singles – the descending piston on the inlet stroke creating a vacuum that opened the inlet valve against a light spring – they made twenty seven of them, and they were rubbish. They recalled them all, and the Harley-Davidson archives hold what is believed to be the only remaining intact example. They didn’t make a 1910 model 6-D. In 1911 a completely redesigned V-twin was produced featuring an F head – which describes the relative positions of the tracts to the barrel, one above the other, parallel to the bore, which is also known as Inlet-over-Exhaust (IoE) – and it worked. Harley resurrected the D suffix to create the 7-D, secure in the knowledge that the dodgy D’s were out of circulation and this new D was a 6½hp, 49.5-inch / 811cc V-twin with magneto ignition and a leather belt drive. It was joined in 1912 by a chain-drive high performance model that ran alongside the old leather belt model 8-D, and to save confusion this new 60.5-inch / 988cc 7-8hp monster was called the 8-E for the same money, so there’s little surprise that the E killedoff the smaller belt drive D in a year, to be the sole V-twin for the 1913 model year, referred to as the “Nine-E. That simplicity didn’t last long, but they were pioneering times and technology moved on apace, and the Ten-E was joined in 1914 by the Ten-F, which came with a two-speed transmission in the rear hub ... and then all hell broke loose. No, they didn’t enter World War 1, but they fitted electrics and the two bike range doubled to four bikes: a single speed with magneto (11-E) or electrics (11-H) and the F, now with

a proper three-speed gearbox with magneto (11-F) or electrics (11-J). They also raised performance to a guaranteed minimum of 11hp – though some were said to produce 16.7hp – courtesy of new barrels with larger inlet ports, a larger cylinder head and carburetor and heavier flywheels that arrived that year, but the obvious question is what happened to G and I. Well, G was already in use for an oddity that was first produced in 1912 but seldom appears anywhere: a 2-speed delivery van which perhaps explains why the Servicar was a G. We suggest the suffix ‘I’ was just common sense and was possibly avoided just because it looked too much like a ‘1’, which also saved the confusion of having an 11hp 11-I. Still there? Good. The J was so long-lived that anything with its distinctive timing chest is often wrongly identified as one, but it’s actually reasonably easy to tell them apart – especially that first year when the height of the electrically-equipped models’ generator was equivalent to the rear cylinder including its head and they were dubbed the three cylinder Harley, but it’s easy enough to pick through the rest too. Does it have a gearbox? Yes? It’ll be an F or a J. No? It’ll be an E or an H. Does it have electric lights? Yes, it’ll be an H or a J. No, or it has Acetylene lights, it’ll be an E or an F. This particular bike has a gearbox and Acetylene lights so it is an F. To be absolutely certain, does it have a generator? No, it has a Bosch Magneto ... and a klaxon instead of a horn. That doesn’t mean it couldn’t become a J, because all it would need to do is drive a generator and supply its sparks through a distributor and coil, or that the engine wasn’t originally used without a gearbox, which perhaps explains why its engine number – 10446K – is higher than the 9,855 model 11-Fs said to have been produced in 1915, but not the total of 11hp F-head motors which stood at a monumental 14,989 across the four models. Larry informs me that this 94-year old, 61-cubic inch, F-head, only produces about 8hp of its ‘guaranteed’ eleven, which you’d be forgiven for thinking might point to a 1914, engine except that the headwork of the more powerful motor meant the fuel tank needed to have cutaways to clear the revised overhead inlet valves’ rockers, which Larry’s 11-F has certainly got and needs. That said, the vintage motorcycle is still capable of an impressive top speed of 50mph, which feels much faster with the 1915 rear band brake, no matter how may times you read the reassuring marketing information describing their design at the time as the most powerful on any motorcycle. There wasn’t a front one. And while this might not be the top-of-the-shop electric J, an owner at some point in the past has decided to fit the ultimate accessory of the Acetylene lights – in this case an operational, Prest-O-Lite acetylene headlight and beautiful accompanying cast aluminium Perfection taillight – producing light by dropping


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water onto calcium carbide: the ultimate total loss lighting system, but sadly one that is very hard to fuel these day because the practice of sending water-sensitive calcium carbide through the post is frowned upon. Advanced in its day, like many aspects of this bike they are less than state-of-the-art now. Quite apart from the brakes, rider comfort is also rudimentary with no rear suspension, and only a sprung saddle and leading-link, coil-spring-assisted front fork that offered limited wheel travel to insulate the rider from the road, many of which were themselves little more than rutted dusty tracks or muddy paths. As you can see, this bike is predominantly liveried in grey, which was in truth the only factory colour offered from 1906 through until the end of 1917 when they switched to green – not-coincidentally the colour of the machines produced for the war effort, and ultimately a significant factor in overtaking the previously dominant Indian Motocycles, who insisted on repainting all their unused war surplus in civilian colours and so couldn’t supply new bikes to their dealers, while Harley sold theirs in the army Olive Drab Whether this 1915 motorcycle left the Wisconsin factory as an E

model, an F model, or even an H or J doesn’t really matter, Larry and Pete have ultimately restored a collection of parts that may or may not have left the factory together at the same time, into a jawdropping, road-legal, rideable motorcycle of epic magnitude. As with all historical artefacts, who is to know for sure whether or not someone had tinkered with the bike in the past? Perhaps it had been rebuilt from two wrecked motorcycles; perhaps someone blew an engine and replaced it with another from a later year? And is that where F in modern naming conventions comes from? Errr ... no. That F succeeded a very different E, which could have been said to have followed an R, which was, in fact, a revised D, if the R hadn’t become a W ... but that’s a story for another day.

Words: Steve Kelly and Anna Wrack Pictures: Steve Kelly


AmV37.1915_11-F.indd 43


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SDavoct09.indd 442 p46_avjun09.indd

1/10/09 15:38:24 2/6/09 10:11:29

Event: Bulldog Bash 2009

THEBULLDOG There must have been thousands of people keeping a weather eye on the August forecasts, hoping the midweek rain would pass in time to prevent a second mudbath at the Shakespeare Country Raceway ...

But in all honesty it was less to decide whether to head to Stratford-on-Avon and more to see what gear to pack. Mandie and I arrived on the Friday afternoon after a leisurely and dry ride down: so nice in fact that we even stopped outside a sun-baked pub for our last chance to get a pint in a pot for a couple of days. Closer-in, the promised police presence wasn’t overly heavy in Stratford, though as we approached the site it became clear that the force was definitely out in strength: less obvious the sub-machine gun toting paramilitary types this time, but, to be honest we didn’t know whether to feel more or less safer. On site the ground was still very, very wet. but the welcome sun was beginning to start the dry-up which would continue throughout the rest of the weekend, and while there were huge pools of slushy mud in places, these could generally be avoided on foot by careful, mountain goat like agility. Of course some people – festival mindset to the max – were actually looking forward to get completely covered in mud ... or were at least not bothered if they ended up that way. Looking around the site it was immediately obvious that there were a lot

more young people around than even last year, many on their own bikes – or even own builds – and, it has to be said, people were looking good: women dressing up again in full-on biker chick chic, especially for the evenings, and men looking much tidier, leaner and fitter – the grim days of the “old, fat and f*ckit” nineties long past. All across the site there was a great atmosphere and everyone I could see was partying hard, or had already done so, absolutely no-one missing rolled up carpets under their arms, having left their bad attitudes at home in the naughty box. The quality of the custom show was something else: it has long been one of the major places to show in Europe on the annual calendar, and this year included a trophy for Best Ladies Build, won by Rebecca Thompson for her Harley 45 Servicar trike. Meanwhile, outside, a full house settled-in on the stands next to the strip to watch the mechanical goings-on, including Eric Teboul riding a hydrogen peroxide powered rocket bike at a speed of 5.30 seconds at 243mph, breaking his own


AmV37.BulldogBash09.indd 45


3/10/09 11:06:07

Event: Bulldog Bash Low 2009 Rider Xl1200C Vs Dyna

record set the day before. And another record fell as Martin Hill in his Fireforce jet funny car set a track record of 282 mph in 5.9 seconds. One of the major, impressive spectacles, though, was the Red Devils parachute team dropping in over the site in support of one of the Bulldog’s adopted charities, Help for Heroes, passing a baton between themselves during free-fall which was then presented to local councillor Brian Slaughter, who had done so much to support the event and its charities. Unlike some shows, popping into town for a sit-down meal or stocking-up on more fags was encouraged, and spreading some cash around the town is one of the reasons I’m sure why the locals are so supportive of the event – that and the fact that many more local people look forward to going to the Bulldog themselves nowadays. Prices on-site were not prohibitive either, with a can of beer at a couple of quid and most food under a fiver.


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On the Friday, staying in the Beer Tent with mates, watching Oliver/Dawson SAXON and UFO, I didn’t really get an impression of how huge the mass of people was, but on Saturday, however, I nipped off to Windsor HA’s stand towards the end of Motorhead’s brilliant two-hour set to make sure we’d got water in the tent for the morning, and on my return – just after Lemmy had said his last goodnight – I was met by a solid wall of happy humanity off to do something else. I’d previously had difficulty in visualising what 23,000 people looked like. Talking about masses of people, loos became an issue this year, and while they were kept clean through regular visits from pump-out trucks, queues could become huge, especially in the evenings. A few more would definitely be welcome next year, but then the organisers couldn’t have anticipated that the gate would nearnigh double over last year’s attendance. As ever, though, the Bulldog remained very well organised: all workers had specific tasks and were easily recognised, typically working from a fleet of labelled Land Rovers, which these days means that sleeping drunks were not left to lie: they’d be ‘recovered’ by paramedics whether from the beer tent, the grass or wherever and taken to the on-site A&E for a check over. After the event organisers and showgoers alike were slightly mystified that Assistant Chief Constable Bill Holland claimed that his massively expensive overpolicing operation outside the gates had been a success, as there hadn’t been any trouble at all: this statement, of course,

referring to an event that hadn’t seen any trouble beyond an occasional theft for twenty-three years. Presumably he’s now returned to his normal duty of keeping Warwickshire free from man-eating tigers. This year’s operation was expected to cost £1.4 million (the Warwickshire Police website at the time of writing still had not released the promised figures) ... or if you prefer, £60 each for the 23,000 show-goers. On balance it would have been significantly cheaper for a single police officer to buy a £55 ticket on the gate for everyone who turned up, on the promise they’d behave themselves. Mates back home on Sunday were interested to hear how the 24th Bulldog Bash had gone, some having been in two minds whether to go themselves. It wasn’t not so much the fear of police harassment, even much less so the fear of ‘trouble’, but more-so the price: The Bulldog Bash is perceived by some to be expensive for a rally. Perhaps they have a point, if they’re comparing it to other, much smaller rallies, but then what other rally offers top-ofthe-bill drag racing, a world class custom show and headline bands, run-what-youbrung on a professional track, a fairground, dancing girls, loads of shops or star DJs over one long weekend? Perhaps it’s time to perceive the Bulldog Bash not as an ‘expensive’ rally but rather as a remarkably cheap festival without the clueless gap-year idiots, and with the added advantage that it’s particularly aimed at entertaining bikers. Words and Pics: Rich King

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3/10/09 11:06:30

Roadtest: 2009 Harley-Davidson FLHRC Road King Classic



Introduced in the 2007 catalogue in a choice of blue, red or black, it was an interesting departure from the Softail and with its kickedout front end – boasting a VR-esque 36.5-degrees at the headstock with a modest extra degree of trail adjustment dialled into the distinctive new yokes – it was a radical new statement and came with a whole new set of bodywork to underline the fact. If you were being cynical, you could suggest that the fuel tank is a resurrected Deuce item, but everything else was brand new – even down to the Softail swing-arm which accommodated the new 240section tyre.


So there it sat: a half way house between the Deuce and the V-Rod, which seems like a very funny place to position a new bike, with the Deuce having been canned after poor sales and the VR’s still struggling to find their niche. In fairness, the Deuce was actually a damn good bike, and arguably the best FX Softail that Harley ever made in every objective sense: its seventeen-inch rear wheel being the first to break out from the near slavish adherence to the MT90 tyre. But it struggled for its ‘broken back’ lines, at odds with the classic headstock to wheel spindle line recreated by the Softail. The V-

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4/10/09 00:51:07

Head to Head: 2009 Harley-Davidson FXCWC Rocker C

Time flies when you’re having fun, but it surely doesn’t feel like the Rocker C should be gracing it’s third model year catalogue, albeit a little lonelier in the absence of its plainer, simpler, single-seated running mate.

Rod too hasn’t gained widespread acceptance yet, but there’s no doubting that it’s a good motorcycle in its own right, if you want that sort of bike. Could the Rocker C be the bike that glues Harley’s heritage to a future that The Motor Company is desperate for us to embrace? Or is it just a styling exercise? Hopefully it’s the latter, for reasons that will become clear in time, but first let’s praise it for what it is, because it is an excellent bike in it’s remaining form, dazzling with chrome and polished aluminium, and stunning in its top drawer paint.


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4/10/09 00:51:14

Head to Head: 2009 Harley-Davidson FXCWC Rocker C

It’s not hard to see why the plain Rocker didn’t go the distance and we can only speculate how different its future might have been if it had been finished in a lustrous, smooth powdercoat rather than the heavily-textured utilitarian grey that must have been an expensive treatment but did the bike no favours at any price, and certainly not the premium price it was pitched at. If anyone got one as a cheap deal with the intention of removing that textured finish, please drop us a line and tell us how you got on. The Rocker C was a different story, though, meeting its initial sales expectations and charming those who rode it. There was nothing ordinary about it: from its flat and slender tank with a new console-less speedo rising up from the front, through the new handlebar risers and bars, deep dish headlamp atop long forks of a distinctive new design, the new cast oil tank and a swingarm-mounted rear mudguard – even a new rakish line to its dual tapered mufflers – it was like no standard bike before it, but it left its party piece to the end. Tucked under its solo seat is a fold out pillion pad, that turns the custom bar hopper into a means of giving a mate a lift home ... as long as they don’t live far. Pitched as trick technology, part of you can’t help but wonder whether it is a means of telling owners that they really shouldn’t think of putting a phantom pillion pad on the rear mudguard, which is not weight bearing: if you want luggage there’s a very

SECOND OPINION: The Harley-Davidson Softail Rocker C is yet another of those machines that really do knock your socks off when you see them on the road where they belong. I’d never really had a high opinion of the machine in the showroom, but then a mate bought one and I started to look at it a bit differently. I still rated the bike as quirky, though, until Andy turned up on this lovely 2009 Crimson Red Sunglo Deluxe Rocker C outside my house. I truly was taken aback, yes it still looked quirky, but actually ‘looking quite nice’ quirky, not ‘Honda CX500 Maggot’ quirky. Other than riding it around the back and locking it away for the night, the first ride out was the next day, in sunlight and even warmth. Ideal for trying any bike out really. It didn’t take too long to get used to the forward sets, or even the wide, oddly Y-shape ’bars, and I was on familiar territory with the 96-inch solid-mount engine, but it took me a really long time to get used to having


specific rear sub-frame that you’ll need, so don’t go making any other plans. While it might have been compromised in the practicality stakes, it rode well, but that was nothing like you would expect. Much like Victory’s Jackpot, it looks radical but is remarkably predictable, and if anything with its tyre combination – a nineteen-inch front, and marginally narrower rear than the Jackpot’s 250-section – it’s a little more neutral than Victory’s custom flagship on the open road. If the handling has an Achilles heel, it is heavy steering at walking pace or when manhandling it, when the forks really want to flop to one side or the other. They’re just half a degree short of the original V-Rod’s 38-degrees which were tamed by 4-degrees of trail adjustment in the yokes, which made it much more neutral. It’s all the more surprising because Harley just about wrote the book on the use of trail adjustment. Still, on the open road, it’s a proper bend-swinger that will track true on decent B-roads or faster, but can still be a bit of a handful on slow junctions where it will run wide unless you account for it. Evidence of the tautness of the frame – and, it must be said, the quality of the current oem tyres – comes through the absolute confidence with which you can draw lines round roundabouts with the right-hand footrest’s telltale, and get increasingly capable of marking your entry and exit with the left. This could be construed as limited ground clearance – it is – but with a little thought, a little extra pressure on the outboard footrest can keep the bike more upright without looking like you’re hanging off it through the twisties. The footrests fold up anyway, so they don’t unsettle the bike’s handling in the bends, and by the second or third scrape, you’re anticipating it – or at least you should be – so you can get on with enjoying it. It’s worth noting, however, that the tarmac-ground tell-tales make for a razor sharp obstacle to navigate in the garage. Handling is one thing, however, the fit of the bike is quite another, and this is the biggest surprise of the Rocker C.

nothing behind my back or underneath my seat. A disconcerting vulnerability that could have been easily sorted, I guess, by fixing on the little pillion pad stashed under the front seat, but the bike looked better without it so it stayed stowed. After a few miles however, when my body had realised it wasn’t going to fall off backwards, I more or less totally forgot about the gaping chasm behind me. A look at the 240-section rear tyre, moulded around the gorgeous 5-spoke 18-inch rear wheel and the kicked out forks holding a matching 19-incher shod with a fairly narrow 90/90 convinced me initially that this might be a bit of a beast to steer. I was wrong. Yes, there was some hesitancy at the rear, some roll, but nothing like as bad as I had feared, the front too was a little slow but solid and, again, after a few miles I’d pretty much stopped obsessing about the tyres and was settling into a thoroughly enjoyable ride. Great brakes and tyres inspired confidence, the grip from the fat rear phenomenal, and that, combined with the excellent, effortless and

very rapid TwinCam meant for a lot more fun than I’d been expecting. I’d been expecting compromises – looks taking preference over performance – but again I was wrong. The Rocker C was quick, cool and confident, eating up the A-roads and even pretty pleasant on the motorway, the high front end and low seat height deflecting a lot more wind off me than I would expect from an naked Harley Softail, even allowing some comfortable high-speed cruising. The odd ‘bars weren’t: they turned out to be comfortable too, set into weird risers that I also got to like. Perverse muppet, but that’s why you test ride stuff. As if to convince himself – and unusually before I’d ridden a bike – Andy mentioned that he thought the balanced 96-inch TwinCam vibrated a bit more than most. It wasn’t that he was unhappy about it – quite the contrary – just wondered if it was his imagination or whether Harley had retuned the balance shafts ... or if it was broken. After a few miles, I had to agree. The Rocker C did vibrate more than previous

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It’s tall in the saddle and short in the reach to its handlebars, which makes it great for a tall person with short arms. It’s significantly taller than the plain Rocker, and there’s only one reason what that can be the case: the basic Rocker hadn’t got a few kilos of ironmongery tucked beneath it, and so you sink nearly 21mm further into its softer saddle. On the Rocker C you sit higher, and you sit on thinner foam. You learn pretty quickly that even if you haven’t got a friend in the world, the best way to ride the Rocker C is with the pillion seat extended. Why? Because the little cubbyhole where the seat squab sits when not behind you will squash down when it’s empty, which changes the dynamics of the saddle quite dramatically. You could, of course, leave the squab behind, but that defeats the object: if you’re gong to go that far, consider fitting the Rocker’s seat and have done with it. For me, a hundred miles was as far as I wanted to go in a single stint with the seat stowed, which would increase to a tank’s range at a push if the seat was folded out ... and that’s further than you might think because while the tank is skinnier than a Fat Bob tank, it’s also longer and so is the same 18.9 litres as last year’s specs suggest the Fat Bob-equipped models are. That elevated sitting position gives a different sense than your typical Softail custom, or indeed any Harley custom or recent times, and fundamentally alters the relationship with those pulled-back handlebars. Obviously it’s not to the detriment of the bike’s highway speed handling, and adds to the sense that this is a bike designed to test the water with a new generation of riders not familiar with the low seat, high wrist Harley style ... but then it rewards the traditionalist with the most


96-inch Softails I’d ridden, and no, it wasn’t a bad thing: this Rocker felt like a proper motorbike, not a safe, sterile weekender. Truth to tell though, a weekender it is, because I felt the Rocker C was too much of a toy for me. Excellent though the machine is, it’s just not practical enough. You can’t bungie stuff on it, you can’t use throw-overs and realistically, despite the neatly-stashed pillion, you can’t take passengers ... well, not very far. Starting at nearly fifteen and a half grand that’s a lot of money for impracticality, but then I’ve yet to see what owners start to do with their own Rocker Cs, and how they work around the machine, moulding it to their own ideas. Certainly that mate of mine who bought a Rocker a couple of years back has no regrets at all. After a line of powerful Japanese Sports bikes, a BMW cruiser, a Triumph Rocket-III then a Harley V-Rod he’s held onto his Rocker longer than anything I can remember him keeping. That’s got to say something. Words: Rich King

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4/10/09 00:51:25

Head to Head: 2009 Harley-Davidson FXCWC Rocker C

THIRD OPINION: There is something about the Rocker-C that I can’t quite fathom: is it pizza delivery or Rock n’ Roll? My first experience of the bike was riding pillion out of Bisley Camp, and at first sight, I did wonder whether the seat would take my not-so-dainty weight and I was reassured by a combination of named previous occupants and America’s love of liability lawsuits. I still held onto Andy for dear life, though, as I felt precariously perched on this mid-air seating arrangement, until I got used to it and then let my natural balance take over. The pillion seat and foot-peg relationship is great, making it just right for me, but this is where any positive pillion experience begins and ends: it is a rapid downhill spiral from there. After less than five miles my backside was numb, partly due to the fact that the padding in the pillion seat is negligible – it felt like I was sitting on a pile of bricks – and hindered further

in that there is nothing to hold onto except the rider. And with no way to shift my weight around by pushing with my hands, or feet, because the positioning of the foot-pegs didn’t offer any real leverage, I couldn’t move in search of a comfier position ... well, one that I could pretend was comfier: there really is no sense of ‘comfy’ on this bike’s pillion. The only practical use for this pillion seat is for a pizza delivery boy to strap a six inch box to. I’d even question its value to take your mate to the corner shop for a packet of fags ... except to make sure they walk back and never ask again. Harley need to have a rethink on this and many other bikes in their custom sector. Yes, it will create a demand for P&A seats, and will serve to encourage pillion riders to gaze enviously at the rider’s perch, but come on! My pillion experience almost put me off riding the bike to see how it behaved, and it certainly had its work cut out to win me over: as judge, jury and executioner, it wasn’t looking good, and I have a somewhat unforgiving nature.

mechanical feedback of any Softail that I can recall – which includes the last time I rode a Rocker C. It caused me to wonder whether Harley have retuned the balance shafts for 2009 Softails without telling us, or indeed whether the test bike was broken, but I was glad of the gentle throbbing lowpitched vibration reminding me what I was riding. It was reassuring after the Thunderbird, which has enough vibration to give you a sense of some soul, that the Harley-Davidson motor I’d previously dismissed as lacking some of the essential


Whether that affected my judgement in terms of its aesthetics isn’t absolutely clear, but it sits awkwardly in Harley’s line-up for me. The flat, deflated-looking petrol tank was lifted only by the stylised flame paintwork on it, and I wasn’t enamoured by the central clock jutting out from the tank, which felt too contrived for my liking. I could continue with my subjective diatribe, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder: it had a bar and shield on the tank which made it worthy of being given a chance to prove itself. Two points to draw attention to are the ignition switch and the rider’s seat. You feel as though the key should be held by the ignition switch whether on or off, but like all barrel keys, as soon as you switch the bike off, the key falls onto the floor unless you remove it. And the riders seat felt as though it should have been positioned an-inch-and-a-half further back when running in solo mode. Oddly, it felt perfect when the pillion seat was set up which means it’s either psychological – and you feel you can sit further back without falling off – or else the empty pillion

qualities that I associate with a proper motor actually felt like a big-inch V-twin. It also served to remind me that we haven’t really ridden many Softails recently, and certainly no FX Softails, which looks like being a mistake: next year there won’t be any FXSTs to ride and the FXCWC Rocker C will constitute Harley UK’s skinny wheeled Softail range: I can’t help thinking that the classic FX custom range is shifting much more towards the Dyna family. Harley must believe that they have done something right with the Rocker C, because I can only recall one other bike that survived three model years with so few changes: the original V-Rod. Like the V-Rod, the bike is synonymous with a particular colour but while that was singular in the case of the aluminium-bodied V-Rod, the Blue Pearl finish was picked out for special treatment and will forever be associated with the model. For it’s third appearance it gets a new paint job, Black Denim. There have been some changes: Pacific Blue to Flame Blue in 2009 and Red Hot Sunglo will replace Crimson Red Sunglo for 2010, but those differences in hue aren’t likely to change your purchasing decision. All paint schemes carry the ‘Deluxe’ tag,

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squab’s cubby hole collapses a little, changing the shape of the seat. But you know what? I enjoyed this smallerthan-average Harley so much that I was genuinely sorry to see it go at the end of the road test: I’d had such good fun riding it, and racked up a good few miles in a wildly varied set of circumstances. At first I was thrown by its sheer length and steering geometry, which needs serious consideration in slow, sharp bends and never goes away, but it’s just something to account for when you’re riding it. But the more I rode it, the more I wanted to ride it, providing my wheels for the BikeSafe workshop that I did with Cheshire Police, when it responded perfectly to every task and undoubtedly contributed towards my confidence, and an outing to the coast with a friend on his own blue Rocker C. The trip to the seaside had been sheer escapism thinly disguised as a chance of a photoshoot, but all pretence of work broke down

because the two Rocker Cs in their alternate liveries, basking in the early autumn sun, drew passing admirers like seagulls to a discarded fish supper – to the extent that one lady from across the road came over to ask what all the fuss was about: she and friends been watching and speculating since we’d first turned-up. I pointed at the tank badge, which was enough to send her way happy. As for the journey, apart from a very annoying vibration in the lower gears, the Rocker-C rides extraordinarily well, impressing me no end with its stability and responsiveness to the point that I can do nothing but sing its praises – and that extends to the brakes, which I had to work pretty hard on the observed ride. In fact, seeing as I have no need for a pillion, I would seriously consider buying purely for the fun of it – did I mention that it is useless as a two-up prospect? That said, either Harley or I would have to make a few fundamental changes to the aesthetics. Words: Amanda Wright

which means a lined flame job rippling down the shoulders of the tank and mudguards, picked out against the rich pearl paint – silver against the black and black against the red – or in gloss on the Denim Black and reduced to a simple pinstripe on the cheaper Vivid Black option. The minor price difference might account for why you don’t see many black Rocker Cs on the road, or it might just be that they’re less visible. So, the future or a design exercise? The resemblance to the VR family is there, when you stop to have a proper look, which could point the way towards either a new shape forming, a way of bridging the gap between the traditional bikes and the shape of things to come using everyone’s favourite chassis and a familiar motor to soften the blow ... or maybe a way to draw those who were initially attracted by the V-Rod further into the Harley-Davidson family. As a card-carrying traditionalist, it doesn’t work for me on an aesthetic level, although I do love the way it rides, which takes it right back to the Deuce: indeed, I had to consciously stop myself from calling it the Deuce in conversation. My preferences are immaterial, however, and the Rocker C certainly attracted attention wherever it went. It’s obviously not designed to serve as a replacement for the FXST range, priced at the top end of Harley’s price range. You can spend more on a Softail with the Heritage Classic in two-tone, but for that you’ll get a hell of a lot more motorcycle for your money, and infinitely more practical flexibility, even with the Rocker C’s bespoke luggage. But the Rocker C isn’t about flexibility so much as making a statement about the future of American motorcycles according to Milwaukee. Whether or not it is the way they see the market moving is almost irrelevant, however: it demonstrates what can be achieved with a traditional engine and frame, pushing towards a new dawn. Me? I’ll have an extra few shandies at the bar, miss that new dawn entirely. Maybe I’ll surface sometime after lunch to sit and stare at my Hard Rocker, when they make it, with a stretched Fat Bob tank and a solo sport saddle straight out of the 1940s on a real or fake sprung post, ape-hangers, 120/70x21 front wheel and a 103-inch conversion. And I’ll probably just drink in its classic lines for the rest of the afternoon, before donning my rose-tinted wrap-rounds and disappear into the sunset. Words and Pics: Andy Hornsby

SPECIFICATIONS Engine Displacement Bore/Stroke Engine Torque Fuel System Compression Ratio Primary Drive Final Drive Length Seat Height Ground Clearance Rake/Trail Wheelbase Fuel Capacity Oil Capacity Dry Weight Wheels: Front: Rear: Tyres: Front: Rear: Instruments

Harley-Davidson FXCWC Rocker C Air-cooled, Twin Cam 96B 1584cc 95.3 x 111.1mm 117Nm @ 3,250rpm Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection 9.2:1 Chain Belt 2415mm 641mm 135mm 36°/157.5mm 1760mm 18.9L 3.3L 307kg Polished, 5-Spoke Cast Aluminium Polished, 5-Spoke Cast Aluminium 90/90-19 240/40 R18 Tank-mounted electronic speedometer with odometer; Time-of-day clock; Dual resettable tripmeter Indicator Lamps High beam, neutral, low oil pressure, engine diagnostics, turn signals, security system, 6-speed, low fuel warnings Brakes 4-piston front and 2-piston rear Lean Angle L/R 26.8° / 26.8° Exhaust System Chrome, staggered shorty exhaust with dual mufflers Colours Vivid Black; Flame Blue Pearl; Red Hot Sunglo; Black Denim MSRP Vivid Black £15,460 Pearl/Denim £15.620

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ELECTRA SOFTAIL? Who here can say, hand-on-heart, that they’ve not looked at a Harley and thought it would be perfect if only they’d added this, or removed that or even just left it alone ’cos the last one was better for you?


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3/10/09 22:28:20

Custom: Todd’s Electra Softail

I know I can’t, and I’d be surprised if you can’t either, because the double-edged sword of perhaps the most extensive back catalogue of any motorcycle manufacturer means we’ll all have our favourite bits of generations of bikes, and the chance of The Motor Company creating something that ticks every single one of your boxes is infinitesimal. It’s one of the reasons why custom bikes exist, why no two Harleys are the same and why The Motor Company will forever struggle to please all the people all of the time. I, for instance want them to build a Dyna Road King, especially having seen what an FL Dyna could look like way back in AmV14, offering the flexibility that the old-style Electra could undertake, and judging by the feedback so did many others. Todd, on the other hand, wanted something like a Softail Road King, but rather than just talking about it he built one! A hard-bagged equivalent of the Heritage Softail Classic, it’s a bike that’s begging to be built, although I can’t begin to think what its designation or even its name would be, although I note they’ve reintroduced the ‘Convertible’ tag for a CVO model this year, and that’s where Todd’s very special Softail works particularly well. I can’t remember the last time I saw a bike that worked so well with and without QD luggage, thanks to a system of Todd’s own creation, but to get bogged down in the bike’s flexibility is to miss out on just how clever he’s been in creating the perfect retro tourer. Where the hell do I start? There’s nothing that hasn’t been fixed, fettled or replaced. Okay, so the motor is relatively simple, if only because it’s all within our collective comfort zone. Be aware though, that this is breaking you in gently.


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3/10/09 22:28:26

Custom: Electra Xl1200CTodd’s Vs Dyna LowSoftail Rider

At the heart of this deceptively simple-looking Softail is a highoutput Evo motor with all high performance internals, running a 9.5:1 compression ratio, an S&S Super-E carb that features an adjustable main jet and hidden choke, breathing through a K&N air-filter hidden behind a modified 1956 cover. A Crane Hi-4 single-fire ignition with dual coils and Accel 8.8 leads lights the mixture, and the motor breathes out through a set of Kerker crossover pipes with modified baffles in its fishtail mufflers. It drives an Ultima 6-speed overdrive box via a chain-drive primary that uses a BDL Compensator and Barnett Scorpion clutch beneath an Ultima chaincase. It’s worth quickly explaining the compensator because it’s not that well-known yet. Designed specifically for chain drives, this is a unique item that uses Teflon disks compressing laterally rather than a big spring to cushion the power pulses from the motor, and it weighs less than half as much as a stock compensator and is about half the size too. Then it starts to get clever. You get a sense of how far he has taken his mission with the Stealth Shifter rod – you know, the one you can’t see above the


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primary drive? It is there, but the only visible part – painted to match the engine cases – is an arc of steel that fits tight to the line described by the primary and crankcase’s union, obscuring the timing plug’s hole, connecting a modified linkage at each end. And then he hasn’t so much fitted an oil cooler as created one from stuff that was lying around, and it couldn’t be more visible unless he added a big sticker saying “Oil Cooler” on it, but I’ll warrant you haven’t seen it without really scrutinising the pictures. The only visible evidence is an oil-union and hose running to a very familiar place because Todd has run the oil through the crashbars on its way back to the tank, making the most of them being in the cooling breeze. He also modified the oil tank itself to incorporate a tool-less frame-mounted drain ... oh, and he made the oil filler cap into the bargain. Which bring us back to the QD touring kit – if only to explain that only the front crashbars are used for cooling the oil: the rear ones come off with the luggage. As you’ll expect by now, the touring kit is more than just a set of removable bags. Starting with a pair of 1977 fibreglass slantbags, Todd has

fitted internal lights so they can be packed and emptied with ease in any light, and has incorporated amber turn signals and red running lights into a single discreet lens on each side. Don’t bother looking for the usual clumsy hinges, latches or locks because they’ve all been tucked away inside too, leaving them completely clean externally. They mount using lockable Harley’s ‘removables’ bobbins at the top for position, with a good solid bracket at the exhaust hanger to take the weight, and to give the rear crashbars a good anchor. He’s been as resourceful at the front end, with the detachable screen, which could easily lift off like the Heritage Softail’s, except that when Todd was in normal running mode, he didn’t want his custom FL Softail cluttered up with the spot-lamps or the one-off wind-deflectors that he designed and made for touring duties, so he’s designed something that unplugs and comes off in one piece. The front indicators are another masterpiece: have a quick peak at the prismatic reflectors in the spot-lamps. That splash of orange is from the indicator bulb hitching a ride, and check out the picture with it lit: that’s what I call signalling your intention. He’s obviously happy enough to use hand signals in day-to-day use, but on the long haul, when the weather and the light can’t be guaranteed, he’s gone for maximum visibility and has managed to do so without a lot of clutter. It could, of course, be a result of wanting to maintain the classic lines of an earlier age: indicators were factory options right back as far as 1950 on big twins, but they weren’t standard items until into the 1970s, and but for a few more pragmatic options – like the 13-inch Lyndall Racing floating rotor with its 4-pot RevTech caliper, looking perfectly at home against the backdrop of a ’59 front mudguard with its chrome spears, and a 4-piston PM caliper gripping

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3/10/09 22:28:49

Custom: Todd’s Electra Softail

an 11½-inch Braking Wave rotor at the back – you could easily take it face value and forget that the bike’s relatively new. Most art relies upon a willing suspension of disbelief, and everything about the bike makes you want it to be the old master that it appears to be. That could explain why, when the 5.2 US gallon Fat Bob tanks are bigger than anything fitted back in the day, your eye is drawn to the 1947 tank badges. And it runs deeper, from the super-clean early-style handlebars, with clamp-less integral lever brackets, classic ‘Nostalgic’ grips, internal throttle and wiring to the early box-less Knuckle-style switchgear for starter, indicators, high beam and horn. You almost forget to notice that there’s a front brake master cylinder missing, but it’s not far away – there is a cable-operated remote unit tucked inside the chromed 1960 headlamp nacelle. Detail touches like the Bubba oval boards and matching pad on the reshaped brake lever, the round mirrors, laced wheels and nostalgic horn just serve to underline that impression of a timeless classic – even if the boards are billet, the mirrors are repro, the wheels are DNA 60-spoke for tubeless tyres and the classic horn conceals a 139db Stebel Nautilus horn. By the same token, the barrels of the Evo motor are painted black with bare aluminium heads above, conjuring up the impression of cast iron, but without going over the top with cosmetic rocker covers or a generator-style timing case – each excellent in their own way – but the secret is knowing when to stop, and Todd’s probably done just enough without creating a parody. But then it’s not all traditional either. That’s obvious by the one-off handmade fibreglass dash that contains not only the anticipated speedo and ignition switch but also a tacho and oil pressure gauge. In case you were wondering, the LED warning lights – neutral, high beam, oil pressure and indicator tell tales – are arranged round the custom speedo face. Less visible – a limitation of photographs – is the Custom Cycle Control Systems’ SAS air suspension at the back, with its electronic control, or the toolbox hidden in the trailing edge of the rear mudguard, but the least visible piece of hi-tech wizardry is the Aritronix alarm with Doppler radar perimeter protection and a pager: when you’ve gone to these sorts of lengths to build your perfect bike, you want to be sure you keep hold of it. Like the vast majority of good custom bikes, the more you look, the more you see from simple things like the LED lay-down taillight to the lack of a speedo cable to detract from the clean lines

of the forks – because he’s running it off the rear wheel – or the illuminated cigarette lighter. Or it might just be the simple, deep and rich 3-step Ford Laser Red that ties it all in together. One thing’s for sure: if Harley did create an Electra Softail, for want of a better name, it wouldn’t be close to this specification. But then if Harley made precisely the bikes that we wanted, we’d have no opportunity to make them our own, and where would be the fun in that?

Words: Andy Hornsby Pictures: Todd Taliaferro –


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Trike: Desperate’s Indian

There’s a lot of stuff going on in the land of the third-wheel, from the F1-styled back-ends in place of swing-arms, through customs, to full-bodied touring machines so we’re going to stick a trike in every issue for the forseeable future, if only because we’ve got enough to keep us going until Harley bring theirs over, regardless of whether that’s 2011 or 2012. And we’re starting with a name synonymous with custom trikes for as long as custom bike mags have existed ...

I’m not too sure what got me ‘into’ Indians, but it happened a long time ago. I was going through some old papers a while back and found some of my schoolboy drawings of choppers which dated back to 1965, and when I looked closely, they all had Indian engines, when everyone else in my class dreamed of owning a Bonny and drew one of them. I bought my first one when I was 18, for a tenner, and when I pulled the heads off was amazed to find red grease on the pistons ... it was brand new. Like a fool, I sold it at a vast profit for £45. I’ve owned many since then, including a 1939 Chief bought for £450, I wish I’d kept them – as well as the 1923 JD Harley I got for £125 and not mentioning the 45 engine that I turned into a V-twin plant pot holder: how times have changed! How much do I like these bikes? Well, my 16-year old daughter’s middle name is ‘Hendee’ named after the Hendee Manufacturing Company, Springfield, Massachusetts, who built them. Funnily enough, she really likes it, and there’s no way I would have called her ‘Harley’ even though I’ve owned quite a few. For a couple of sad years I became Indianless until this one turned up nearly twenty years ago. I bought her, sight unseen, for £1,000 – a vast amount back then – and she was the ultimate Rat Bike, but along with the bike itself there were some big boxes of bits, and when I finally got around to opening them, some three years later, there were all the parts for two more bikes and three engines. Phew! As well as being a Rat, it was actually what they now call a ‘Bobber’ (I hate these shitty names bikes need to have these days: Bobber is nearly as bad as Old Skool) with Matchless forks, and very minimal, but one day a complete 12-inch overstock

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Trike: Desperate’s Indian Xl1200C Vs Dyna Low Rider

front end off a Harley 45 turned up, and she was rapidly raked. That was my most favourite incarnation of the old girl, and she’s gone through many changes, and appeared in a fair few magazines. A couple of years ago, though, it was a very radical low-rider, complete with 10-inch car rear wheel, but I had a yearning for another trike – possibly because I ran ‘Desperate Dan’s Custom Motorcycles’ for 20 years, building trikes. I hate farming out work to other people, and have a modest twenty-by-twelve foot workshop at the side of my house, so everything you see was built there, the only work sent to others being the powder coating, seat and engraving. The frame is made of one-inch, heavy wall box section, and don’t let anyone tell you it can’t be bent, ’cause mine was, in a hydraulic tube bender. And building the frame was possibly the easiest part, taking not much more than a day: the rest took months. If you look closely, you’ll see that the engine is a stressed member and that there are no lower tubes. The rear axle took the longest time to do, it’s a Reliant Regal, drastically narrowed both sides and converted to chain drive with a fully operational differential. There’s only one sprocket that will fit in the casings in place of the crown wheel, and that’s a 36-tooth one, which is handy as the original bike had a 36-tooth sprocket too, so the gearing’s perfect. A pair of pretty rare “Turbovec” wheels keep it off the ground, but making four-to-five stud adaptors took up a couple of weeks. Up front are those twelve-inch-over Harley 45 Springers, now sporting a Virago XV535 rear wheel. Don’t be deceived by the simple looks of this thing: the headstock gussets are also the oil tank, while what appears to be the petrol tank on top of the frame is the electrics box. The fuel tank’s under the seat, along with a huge hidden 12-volt jelly battery supplied with power by a Citroen 2CV alternator running backwards. The front brake cable runs down the centre of the fork leg, and there is no visible wiring. The mudguards were no pushover to do, the rear ones are one trailer mudguard cut in half, with both halves being widened by two-inches. I couldn’t find any lights I liked, so I made my own, cutting up an old Granada rear light to make the lenses, and for a modern touch, using LED’s to light them. The front ’guard too took ages: it’s an old British rear one, shortened and narrowed ¾inch, and when’s the last time you saw a mudguard on a Springer front end running so close to the tyre? The engine: my beloved Indian engine. It’s a 1942 741B left here after the Second World War. Originally 500cc, but not any more, it now runs severely modified Royal Enfield pistons, huge Peugeot


205 valves, modified heads, and gas flowed: who says you can’t tune side valves? Capacity is now 600cc and this thing really shifts. I’ve retained the hand change and suicide clutch because an Indian wouldn’t be an Indian without them, and because I like them. But to make life easier I put the gearlever – the handle off an old Pirate’s pistol – on the left and moved the twist grip to the right as, unlike American policemen, I don’t need to fire a revolver whilst riding. Most of this thing’s powder-coated in metallic gunmetal, apart from the mudguards, which I sprayed. Look closely at the chrome, because it isn’t, it’s a new powder finish by the boys at Aerocoat in Yarmouth, called ‘Chromex’ and you just can’t tell until you’re a few inches away, even the springs are powdered, and the centre section of the diff isn’t copper, it’s ‘Copperex’, also a powder finish. The seat’s hand tooled leather. So what does it go like? Pretty damned well, the engine starts first kick and pulls like a train, and the handling is superb, like driving a roller skate. Some of you may be aware I run “Brit Chopper” magazine (can I mention this, gaffers?): not a rival to American-V, but more for petrol heads, and the whole purpose of this ‘build’ was to show folks you can build nice stuff at home without having to rely on other people. I also took it for a full MSVA test to show our readers it was nothing to be afraid of: it passed ... eventually. There’s not enough room to write about everything that went into building this, but if you want to read more, log onto www. and click the forum button. Then click on ‘Bike Trikes’ and ‘BritChopper Indian Trike’, there’s the whole build featured as it happened. The trike’s for sale – less engine, obviously – as once again it’s time to change it, probably back to a Chop but I’ve not made my mind up yet, so if you’re interested, email me on or give me a ring on 01493 733695.

Words and Pictures: Chris Ireland

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American-V: Contents 37

Reader Survey 1. What is your main Motorcycle: ® Harley-Davidson: go to which Harley-Davidson ® Buell: go to which Buell ® Victory: go to which Victory ® Indian ® Custom: go to what type of Custom ® Other .................................................................. ® Don’t own a motorcycle ... yet

Which Buell: ® 1125 ® 985cc ® 1200cc spar frame (XB) ® 1200cc tube frame (S1/X1/M2/S2/S3) ® Older .................................................................. Which Victory: ® 106/6 Vision (Tourer) ® 92/5 ® 100/5 ® 100/6 ® 106/6 (Vegas/Kingpin/Jackpot/Hammer) ® V92 What type of Custom: ® Built ® Commissioned ® Bought new ® Bought used How many other: American ........................................................ Other .............................................................. 2. Standard or modified? ® Standard (go to Q3) ® Modified How modified: ® Cosmetic: bolt-on ® Cosmetic: weld-on/fabrication ® Cosmetic: Full custom restyling ® Stage 1 performance ® Stage 2 performance ® Stage 3 performance 3. What kind of dealer do you use? Official Independent Recommend. Purchase ® ® ® Servicing ® ® ®

5. American-V: Good or bad? n/a bad ok good great News ® ® ® ® ® Reviews ® ® ® ® ® Roadtests ® ® ® ® ® Customs ® ® ® ® ® Classics ® ® ® ® ® Events ® ® ® ® ® Tech ® ® ® ® ® Righteous Brothers ® ® ® ® ® Adverts ® ® ® ® ® ............................. ® ® ® ® ® How long have you been buying American-V ................................................... How many other people read your copy of American-V .......................................... Editorial Balance: too much okay News ® ® Roadtests ® ® Customs ® ® Classics ® ® Events ® ® Tech ® ® Words ® ® Pictures ® ® Dodjy inglish ® ® ................................... ® ®

too little ® ® ® ® ® ® ® ® ® ®

6. What else would you like to see in American-V? Yes Maybe No Relevent Triumphs ® ® ® Other Cruisers ® ® ® Relevent comparisons ® ® ® Clothing reviews ® ® ® Touring features ® ® ® “How-to” features ® ® ® Industry columnists ® ® ® Anything we’ve not thought of? ............................... ................................................................................. And that’s it. No intrusive information, and no prize unless you include ‘a better magazine’: American-V exists to inform and entertain you, and to recognise the achievements of designers, builders and owners. This survey is available on-line in electronic form so you don’t need to cut up your magazine. See for details.

Send completed forms to: American-V Survey, PO Box 336, Crewe, Cheshire. CW2 7WY

AmV37.Questionnaire.indd 64

Which Harley-Davidson: ® 883 ® 1200 Sportster (XL) ® Evo 80 ® TC88 ® TC96 Dyna (FXD) ® Evo 80 ® TC88B ® TC96B Softail (FXST/FLST) ® Evo 80 ® TC88 ® TC96 Touring (FLHT/FLHR) ® 1130cc ® 1250cc V-Rod (VR) ® CVO: ................................................................... ® Older ..................................................................

4. Club membership: ® HOG ® HDRCGB ® HDC Club ® FHDCE affiliated club ® MAG ® IAM ® ............................................................................

5/10/09 17:47:39

SUBSCRIPTIONS y r y r e v e i v l i l e e D D s s s s e r e r E Exxpp r ddoooorr!! r u u o y o y ttoo

01778 392484 Still SIX for the price of FIVE!



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AmVwhoneeds:Layout 1 05/10/2009 21:33 Page 1

Who needs 1600cc? who needs turbo chargers? Who needs chrome? Who needs custom paint? Who needs billet? Who needs to ride all day for the hell of it? Who needs the wind in their hair?

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Event: South of England Rally 2009

SOFER You’d think we’d be running out of things to say about rallies we repeatedly attend, but no: every year is different, especially at the larger shows where you physically can’t fit everything into one event. One such event is the South of England Rally, at Bisley in Surrey, which never ceases to impress. It’s partly due to the other-worldliness of the National Rifle Association’s headquarters, trapped in time, and partly the scale of the event, but much of it will be down to the atmosphere which is just remarkably laid back, and the organisation which is pretty-much invisible. The whole place just runs like clockwork, and not in a regimented manner but an unhurried, relaxed way. In many ways it is the opposite of the full-on festival atmosphere of the Bulldog Bash, with which it clashed this year, trading the raw adrenalin-pumping noise and fumes of that celebration of the motorcycle for a rural idyll, wanting only for the sound of leather on willow to epitomise a rose-tinted England: there’s the sound of not-too-distant gunfire instead. Both events have their appeal and previously I haven’t been forced to choose, but certain in the knowledge that Rich and Mandie would be bouncing at the Bulldog, and partly because I was absolutely knackered after the last deadline and just needed to chill-out, we dropped some magazines and subs forms off for prizes in

the Bulldog’s custom show, took a quick tour of Long Marston to catch up with the people we’d miss, and we pointed our wheels south.

First impressions can live with you for a long time, and 2009’s was the sight of sixfoot-six Nij Jones overseeing the Harley Demo rides, dressed head to toe in pink.

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Event: South England 2009 Xl1200C Vs of Dyna LowRally Rider

I’m not absolutely sure whether he or Neil Hall, Cheltenham Harley-Davidson’s DP and similarly attired, won that particular bet, but I was much relieved to see him returning to his normal self-effacing stars and stripes on Saturday in some odd blend of Evel Knievel and Uncle Sam. For all its potential, SofER is a quiet affair in its way. Not that there isn’t a wide range of bands playing into the night, but more for the numbers. Ticket sales are capped to a comfortable number for the site and, spread out across the lawns either side of the main access road to the Pavilion, there’s no sense of cramped conditions, but it’s more with regard to the available space round the Pavilion in the evening, which does get busy, and the band room. And on balance, I think they’re probably right, although that does mean that it will be booked-up increasingly early by those determined to get tickets: new visitors only admitted when regulars fancy a change ... but the alternative could be a change in the character of the event, even if the camping areas could probably hold 50% more without people tripping over each other. Many visitors take the opportunity to ride round the Queen’s back garden while they’re there on one of the organised mass ride-outs, and it’s astonishing at how many names you’ll recognise in so small an area, based in the thickly wooded countryside between Bisley and Windsor. It’s an excellent place to dig out your Eye-Spy book of Posh Places, or else rejoice in the Royal protection of the forests, because it means there’s very few houses, lots of good roads and not a lot of traffic: superb riding country. The ride-outs return by the early afternoon in time for the custom show, followed by the chapter challenges which give the judges time to look round the bikes in relative peace. I was excused judging duties this time round, thanks to Paul from Zodiac and Andy from Custom Chrome being on-hand, which was a blessed relief with a very high standard of work in evidence. Other than the custom show, the main focal point of the event is the Pavilion,

home to the main bar with an adjoining dining room and the main function room that hosts the late bands, but the party spreads out throughout the camp sites and open spaces, a good-sized outdoor beet tent and an increasing number of lodges around


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the site that open their doors as restaurants and bars. We seemed to spend most of our time in the trader’s area wondering whether Adam, the incendiary parts man from Oxford H-D, would drop his fiery baton, or whether Gary from Sick Boyz Customs would use it to burn Sticky before he managed to get the fuel-doused bare-metal frame to catch light for – hopefully – a dramatic picture. Not that the record number of traders were still trading: apart from the Sick Boyz they’d shut up shop at dusk and were eating, drinking and generally making merry ... or standing around wondering which was the more flammable: steel or Sticky? In the end, the generator went off and the beer tent beckoned after hoots and howls failed to get it switched back on again.

I’m not quite sure how we managed to completely miss the main bands, although it was possibly because while I’d heard of Amen Corner, I couldn’t bring to mind anything they’d done – apparently they were brilliant – but then you can’t do everything and you’d be foolish to try. But that just gives a good reason to go back next year, when hopefully the calendar will be back to normal and I can get my quota of Bulldog Bash excess too. Words: Andy Hornsby Pics: Andy / Amanda Wright

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3/10/09 19:17:39

’Ello ’ello ’ello,

what’s all this then? If you read the articles on the Institute of Advanced Motorcyclist course over the last two issues, do yourself a favour, forget them, read this and then go back to the beginning and read them again. Well, except for one bit: the bit about initial motorcycle training teaching you how to pass your test, and the observation that it’s only after passing your test that you really start learning how to ride, because that’s what the Bridging The Gap ‘workshop’ is all about: a police-led initiative that has been designed to fill an identifiable gap between the motorcycle test and advanced training. The intention is to engage as many riders as possible, to spread the word about the need for further training, and has even been taken up by the likes of Shell, for the benefit of workers who commute by bike, holding workshops on site. The goal? To reduce rider casualties. It makes us safer and gives the Police less work to do: the last thing they want to do is end up scraping someone off the road for being an idiot or, worse still, for simply not being aware of the hazards. Of course there’s an element of PR in there, but it’s all positive and the Police reckon that BikeSafe is probably the ultimate tool for them to engage with likeminded individuals who have a passion for riding bikes. The workshop comprises two individual classroom-based presentations which feature heavily the use of 3D computergenerated reconstructions of everyday riding scenarios, together with live footage films,


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complimented by a one-to-one observed assessment ride, followed by a Police Class 1 motorcyclist, where you get to put the classroom theory into practice out on the road. Volunteer observers with credible riding qualifications do assist with the onroad element in certain areas which is great because it is bikers helping other bikers. On the course I attended there were twenty men and four women covering an age range from a guy in his thirties to another in his sixties, demonstrating that it doesn’t matter how long ago you passed your test, it’s never too late to enhance the skills you’ve got. Our presenters for both evenings were Andy Griffiths and John Hughes. Both are serving officers, Andy is a patrol motorcyclist and John is assigned to the driver training unit, but both are also offduty riders who get wet like the rest of us, and have to deal with exactly the same hazards. After introducing ourselves, through our choice of bikes and experience, to break the ice in so varied a group of students, we’re introduced to the system operated by the Police, which they call Roadcraft. Roadcraft involves creating an everchanging riding plan as you ride, through observation: constantly scanning

what is ahead and to the sides in a 180degree semi-circle of peripheral vision, constantly referencing the mirrors when changing road position or speed, and using lifesavers when and where appropriate. The mantra is to “make room for what we can see, what we can’t see and what we can reasonably expect to happen”. And as with the IAM, the mnemonic IPSGA – Information, Positioning, Speed, Gears and Acceleration – is used to formulate your riding plan. The first classroom session concentrated on filtering and junctions, which are used to introduce the importance of observation. Information and observation links are highlighted as a really important facet of the plan; for example, the more paint/ signage there is on the road, the greater the likely hazard will be for that stretch of road, while in terms of observation – especially in built up areas – look at the reflections in shop windows to see what information that can give you.

3/10/09 10:20:35

Training BikeSafe

John and Andy were both well aware that they were skimming the surface of skills and techniques, but they were covered with enough depth to get the importance across without overloading us with the full detail, and followed it up by inviting questions from the floor. Then it was time for the videos and computer-generated scenarios, which further reinforced the lessons by applying them to familiar situations, able to run through the full range of outcomes – good and bad – without the pain. The second session covers cornering, overtaking and group riding, and again places emphasis upon the ever-evolving riding plan, which gives us time to react and to stop in the distance we can see to be clear. Cornering is about using the riding plan as a logical sequence of events and constantly processing observational demands, positional decisions, the nature of the road layout and surface: always position for advantage, which would typically be for vision but not if the preferred line is on a poor road surface which would be inherently less safe. If safety is compromised then maximise position for safety. Using the ‘flexible’ gears is an interesting one for me, because I still make the mistake of not quite being in the right gear at times. Riding in the right gear for a given situation offers the flexibility to be able to get you out of trouble, and gives you smoother constant acceleration round bends. Safe overtaking was explained through live footage and the theory of effective and safe overtaking practice, and was ultimately backed-up beautifully by a demonstration from PC Andy on the ride-out, and I was impressed by how graceful he made it look. I’m anything but graceful, but watching PC Andy made me realise just how effective it can be if you are riding to a plan as there is no room for doubt: if you find there is room for doubt, then stay back and wait until the planned opportunity arises. Group riding is an obvious one for me to be included in such a workshop: many a time I have seen a group of bikers with the slowest at the back under pressure to keep up with the faster front-runners, and it is not a good position to be in! Best practice in group riding was explained as a matter of common sense in that you always ride to the speed of the

slower rider, you agree on signals to be given that have particular meanings before the ride, don’t ride too close together and always ride to maximise each other’s positioning and forward vision. And never ride to the person in front: been there, done that! So, the classroom as a place to learn about how to ride? How does that work then? We all know the famous dictum, Tell me, and I will forget. Show me, and I may remember. Involve me, and I will understand: Confucius circa 450BC. Having Dyspraxia, I am very aware of my short attention/concentration span. As a student, I dreaded lectures as I would frequently shut-off from what was being said and go into my own little dreamworld (to the extent that I used to have to record lectures), so I was a little wary when I discovered there would be two 3-hour presentations as part of this course. It soon became apparent, however, that I was not going to be allowed to lose concentration as the video presentations were remarkably engaging and I found myself not wanting to miss any of them. The computer generated films are marvellous, well thought-out reproductions of ‘what if ’ real-life road riding scenarios which couldn’t conceivably use live footage as the people involved would have been seriously injured or killed. In a room of twenty-four students the verbal response to some of the footage was great ... the graphics were convincing enough, to the point that I found some of my reactions physically gut wrenching. I found them a huge benefit to myself, and judging by their reaction, to most of the other folk on the course, as they genuinely made us stop and think about the possible outcomes. But, most of all, they supported what the presenters were drumming into us about riding techniques, to the point that there was no room for any misinterpretation. The true value of these visuals came on the ride-out, as you were able to apply the visual theory to real-life, real-time riding ... though not the crash scenarios, obviously! In

“Oh no, what have I done now?”

You canterms: never criticise Confucius’ I was shown andanother then on the ride-out I was involved, it wasthan a very man’s driving, any and more empowering learning experience for me. you can call any mother’s I think it would be very useful for the baby ugly, but are we really as police to make these visuals available to the good as we thinkcourses we are? IAM for their advanced – maybe Amanda’s going tosession. take it on even in a planned classroom The IAM,chin, being aso charitable organisation, the we don’t have to: probably wouldn’t have the money to fund such visuals, and when such high quality learning aids already exist, it would seem extravagant to recreate them, and a waste not to get the maximum benefit from them – it might even bring some IAM members across to some of the more focussed Police training initiatives. But then one day you wake up to face the reality that you’ve got to go and meet your police assessor – in my case PC Andy Griffiths from the classroom sessions – at a predetermined time and location. Upon arrival, you are given a preride briefing about what the ride will encompass and are given the opportunity to clarify any questions you may have before the ride. While the ride follows a predetermined route, you are given ownership over what you want the ride to involve – it is tailored entirely to your needs – and over the course of the ride, PC Andy followed me, gave me a run-down of progress made at pre-planned way points, finishing off with a demonstration ride based on the areas of weakness – and my strengths – that he had identified in my riding, showing me how these could be improved upon and turned into positives, before returning to his observer’s position again for the home leg and a final debrief at the end of the ride. The ride itself covered around 50 miles of dual carriageways, A-roads, B-roads and town riding, and all was done within the legal speed limits.


A couple of common-enough scenarios, real world situation, the aftermath of which the police deal with all too frequently. No dumb animals were hurt in the filming of these accidents thanks to the use of 3D video recreations. If you don’t want to know the results, look away now; but be aware that they are avoidable.

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Training Xl1200C BikeSafe Vs Dyna Low Rider

BikeSafe Rider Development Form

Name: Machine Make/Model: Weather Conditions: Observer Name: BikeSafe Area: Simple Eye Test Passed: Date:

Any heinous crimes listed at the debrief? I need to be less insistent on picking my line for maximum visibility when the road surface is poor, and I failed to notice an approaching HGV that was visible over the tops of tall hedges, which I should have seen and could have accounted for earlier, if I’d had have been scanning properly, factoring it into my riding plan, both of which underlined why ever-evolving riding plans are so essential every time we ride. And you know what? I had a whale of a time and loved every minute of it: the constructive criticism and absolute professionalism from PC Andy could not be faulted. With the Cheshire Police, BikeSafe costs £50 for the whole workshop, but it does vary in price across the country due to the funding they are given from external sponsors. To me, it is worth every penny, and if you put it into context, what can you buy for £50 that could help save your life and doesn’t wear out?


I really enjoyed this course, in fact I thought it was brilliant (can I do it again, please?) and learnt so much from it in so short a period that it has been difficult to do it justice here. The courses vary in how they are delivered in each police region, but the training pack is the same in terms of visuals and subject areas covered. Of course, I need to retake my IAM test at some stage in the near future, but I will do so with greater confidence than before because a lot of the theory makes more sense. And if you are considering taking the BikeSafe workshop as a route to advanced training, I don’t think you would regret it. But even if you don’t plan to take any advanced level training, treat yourself to a BikeSafe workshop: it may be the best personal investment you can make in yourself. And it could be a great Christmas present for a loved one: check availability in your chosen area by visiting their website:

“Public place or not, I need a cigarette: I’ve just been followed by a Police bike for miles”


Although the BikeSafe course is presented as a ‘workshop’ it does cover loads of areas that make it much more than that. My report sheet could have done with a few more ‘A’s, and more importantly fewer ‘C’s, but PC Andy explained that the bar has been set deliberately high: perhaps to make sure only the very best riders come away with straight ‘A’s. To be honest, I’m delighted there are no ‘D’s and that I’m comfortable with what I need to do to raise my game in those areas where I got a ‘C’. If I had known about this course prior to the IAM course, then I would have done this first as it is the stepping-stone to advanced training, but, I didn’t; BikeSafe reminded me of all the skills I learnt on the IAM course and reconfirmed them. Perhaps it is a bit self-indulgent, but I’m getting a real kick out of doing bike training ... I think I have found my new ‘fix’. Thanks to Andy Griffiths, John Hughes, Phil Edwards and Sarah Carter. For more details, see Words: Amanda Wright Pictures: Andy Hornsby

Moving Off Stopping Observation Planning Machine Control Acceleration Braking Gears Signals Positioning Cornering Overtake / Filter Attitude*

Amanda Wright Harley-Davidson Rocker-C Dry/overcast PC Andy Griffiths (4705) Western Cheshire Yes 19/9/09 A





A = Consistently high standard: Low risk B = Good standard: Low/medium risk C = Reasonable standard: Medium risk D = Inadequate standard: High risk

Amanda, you have demonstrated a relatively safe competent ride to include some good overtakes. I have identified a few key areas for you to further develop your skill level. I would recommend you continue in your IAM training to achieve this. Mirror checks almost non-existent – remember these (both sides) when altering speed i.e. entering or exiting speed restricted areas. Your overall positioning was relatively good. Avoid sacrificing position for safety especially when the nearside road surface is in a bad state of repair (A534 towards Broxton). Understand the advantage of cross views (narrow twisty B5130 towards Churton) where the white HGV roof was clearly visible over hedgeline. These early observations will give greater flexibility to your riding plan. Exit signals on roundabouts given too late. Indicate in good time to inform other road users of your intentions. Lastly, try not to get drawn into slower moving vehicles (tractor) expecially when hazard frequency is high. If in doubt hold back and allow situation to unfold. Good effort, well done!

Interview with PC Andy Griffiths 4705 Q. How long have you ridden bikes for? A. I’ ve been riding bikes from a very young age. Became road legal in 1990 passing my full motorcycle test in February 1996. Q. How long have you been a police motorcyclist? A. I’ve been a Police motorcyclist since June 2003 riding to an advanced level on both road and off-road bikes. Q. Do you ride your own bikes outside of Police duties? A. Outside of work I ride a Triumph Daytona 955i and a Honda Varadero 1000v. Q. When did you become involved with BikeSafe? A. I became involved in Bikesafe in 2007 – presentations within the western area of the county to include ride outs, county-wide. Q. What do you feel that BikeSafe can offer every rider, regardless their level of experience? A. Bikesafe can offer unbiased rider development advice, based upon a proven riding system for full motorcycle licence holders regardless of experience post test. It also provides the all important attitudinal side of crash avoidance and risk management on the road. All this at a reasonable cost which is important in these financially challenging times. Q. What is the most important piece of advice you could give riders that you feel would make a difference to their overall riding experience and safety? A. The most important piece of advice I could give riders would be to get yourself assessed, and then go on to undertake accredited training and re-training periodically into the future with trainers from the Register of Post Test Motorcycle Trainers (RPMT) who deliver Enhanced Rider Scheme (ERS), IAM or ROSPA. Q. Any truth in the rumours that you fancy a V-Rod, or a Night Rod Special? A. The Night Rod seemed to ‘float my boat’ ... * This is the first time I’ve ever got an A for attiitude: marvellous!


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3/10/09 10:20:47

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1/10/09 15:55:38


Readers of last issue will recall the Krazy Chica, and the suggestion at the end that more production bikes will be coming out of custom shops sooner rather than later: this is the specific bike I was referring to. 74

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New Production Bikes: Skull Chopa / Tattooes Optional ‘La Rocka’

A quick glance through the specification could make you wonder whether there has been some collusion between Krazy Horse and Richard and Matt at Skull Chopa, but other than each being aware that the other was planning such a move, the only common thread is that both shops’ commitment is to build bikes for riding. Richard Millard has been in the game for good few years as Skull Chopa, but with long time friend Matt on board, a refugee from the world of sport bikes, and trading as Tattoos Optional / Skull Chopa they’ve changed their focus from one-off show-winning builds and commissions to limited edition production bikes alongside the bespoke stuff. Why? Because they felt the custom bike world had lost its way and that it was about time that the bikes should return to their roots ... or rather to where those roots could have taken them if they’d continued along the route of modification for performance more than prevailing fashions. ‘Sometimes it’s easy to forget that motorbikes are for fun and not just for show’, they argue. ‘For ripping around the lawns, going place and actually getting out there, rather than standing around looking at pretty show bikes’. Those first custom bikes were lightened to make them ride better, handle better, stop better than the factory bikes but that got lost somewhere in the mix because they also looked a lot better into the bargain, but don’t get the impression that style isn’t important – well, look at the pictures. It might be their mission statement to put the right components together and build, weld and machine them to create a perfectly functioning motorcycle, but it’s got to look cool! Sounds easy, doesn’t it, putting the right components together? But it’s not. And it’s not only making them fit together right, mechanically, it’s making them fit together right, visually. That’s is where a lot of the welding and machining comes in. It’s also where the builder’s eye comes in. You can throw a lot of expensive parts together and make a motorcycle that is just wrong, or scrape together the wildest assortment of bits and pieces from breakers yards and scrap merchants and build perfection: the difference is in the vision ... the ability to see the finished article through the old paint and virgin steel of the component parts, which is another reason why reproducible Shop Customs are attractive propositions to professional builders.


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3/10/09 17:29:35

New Production Bikes: Chopa / Tattooes Optional ‘La Rocka’ Xl1200C Vs Dyna LowSkull Rider

Rather than spend hours interpreting someone else’s vision into a safe and rideable motorcycle, they can concentrate on making the very best motorcycle they can, calling upon all their experience and contacts to put an aspiring custom bike rider into the saddle of a bike that they wouldn’t have a hope in hell of building, or probably imagining at component level. And having sent a happy punter away happy, on a bike that will go, stop and steer, to embark upon the next stage of their personal journey, our professional can build another, knowing exactly what problems they’ll face in the build, and how much it’s going to cost. And it only gets better, because they’ll still be built to order, leaving many of the final details down to the punter: certainly in terms of paint, which can make or break the bike, but also some fundamentals like fork type, and wheel selection so the chance of seeing an identical bike anywhere is remarkably unlikely unless they’re victims of that horrible debilitating affliction that plagues the terminally unimaginative: the cliché. Still even they’ll be happy, ’cos they’ll have a sense of belonging. And the ‘La Rocka’ is Skull Chopa’s contribution to that newly emerging world. A classic hardtail proto-chopper, just on the cusp of getting silly with fork length but more stylised than a bobber, it would be harder to explain its place in the food chain if it weren’t for Harley’s reinvented Wide Glide, but it’s an altogether purer form. Absolutely nothing unnecessary has been bolted on, and nothing fundamental has been omitted ... okay, so it’s short of a set of indicators, but if you want them, I’m sure they can be added. It’s based round a Kraftech duplex rigid frame running a 30degree rake without any stretch, and a pair of 2-inch understock SJP Retro-Line forks. The sense of height at the front end is provided by the Cole Foster tank, sitting low over the front of the frame, and the low-slung seat on classic torsion springs that picks up from the trailing edge of the tank and follows the line of the seat stays, sympathetic to the straight line from headstock to spindle. That line is interrupted only by the bobbed Triumph rear mudguard, held in place by the RSD stylised but functional sissy bar.


The extensive use of black powdercoat puts it back to a previous time of austerity, and chrome is used very sparingly, as an engineering finish more than a cosmetic flourish. The lustrous black finish not only takes the radially laced, 52-spoke DNA Mammoth wheels – eighteen-inches at the rear, twenty-one at the front – back to a time before such things were dreamed of, but ties them in beautifully with the blacked-out cast iron barrels of the massively important bit I’ve been held in reserve for a couple of paragraphs now: Jammer’s 88-inch Pandemonium motor. Other engines are undoubtedly available, but why would you want anything else at the heart of this homage to the dawn of proper custom bikes. The Pandemonium provides a proper old-school heartbeat that recreates the past courtesy of its 35⁄8 x 4¼-inch long stroke motor, hemi heads and a modest 8.25:1 compression ratio from its forged S&S pistons. But it’s no nut and bolt reproduction of the original: it has been re-engineered to modern tolerances and comes with dual plug STD heads and a RevTech crank with heavy-duty rods running in STD generator cases, improved top end lubrication, S&S timing and idler gears, JIMS pinion and their Big Axle tappet bodies running American-made hydraulic tappets, with a RevTech crankshaft, heavy duty con-rods and an Andrews AB grind cam for

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useable power. And while it looks like a generator motor, thanks to a clever bracket an oil filter sits where the old 6v generator used to live and an alternator provides the charge: all the more reliable to keep the Mallory Unilite auto-advance distributor running sweetly. Keeping with the black theme it comes in ‘Black Addition’ form – black Vulcan Engineering billet cam and rocker covers, black S&S airfilter hiding a Super-E carb, black RevTech oil pump, tappet blocks and oil filter bracket – everything except the pushrod covers which Richard has replaced with the chrome originals which lifts them, their extra length making it much more obvious that it’s not a modern motor with Xzotic covers. The marriage of ancient and modern continues with a modified and blacked-out Ultima 2-inch Old School belt primary hooking the modern incarnation of the Panhead motor to an S&S helicalcut gearbox, its end cover blacked-out and machined to match the Pandemonium’s cam cover. But it’s not even the power-train that’s the star of the show, but the way the whole bike hangs together: the detail touches. It’s not just the overall shape and economy of line, any more than it’s the deep rich tone of the subtle yet quite intricate paint, it’s all of it together: the collective whole that is significantly greater than the sum of its parts, uncompromised by production economies in an accountant-driven factory, it is the real deal: a finished statement and a bike that is intended to be ridden. Granted, the enthusiasms of a rider will be tempered by the limitations of the rigid back end, although that’s something that you either get or your don’t: a well-sorted hard-tail can be infinitely better than a badly set-up swing-arm, once you’re used

to picking your line more carefully to miss the bigger potholes. And then there’s the size of the fuel tank, which at 2.35 US gallons marks the bike out as a bar-hopper as it will peg its maximum range to a hundred miles or so of steady riding, but that’s a tradeoff that has been made by successive generations of riders. There’s still an astonishing number of people who consider a hundred mile round trip to be an epic journey, but it might just be that something more raw would fire something in their soul, in which case they’d better learn how to navigate by fuel stops ... but that’s do-able. And the price for this indulgence? A fiver short of £25k, which will go half-way towards filling the fuel tank, which can sound expensive if you think in terms of Harley’s own limited edition specials, but this isn’t a CVO and it’s not trying to be. Exactly the same as the Krazy Horse Chica, it’s not a massproduction bike. It’s built with passion as much as for profit, and that shines through..

Words and Pictures: Andy Hornsby

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I grab a handful of throttle, as my eyes tear-up, the blacktop begins to blur, I enjoy the shot of adrenalin, the rush of wind and the feel of the V-twin’s vibration. Once again I’m headed for Sturgis and I feel more alive than I have in a long, long time.

Roadside trees and bushes flick past faster and faster, giving an intoxicating burst of shadow then light, shadow then light; all accompanied by the most gorgeous sound in the world, the deep resonating boom of an American V-twin motorcycle. The Lakota, a native South Dakota Indian tribe have a saying, “it’s a good day to fight; it’s a good day to die”. I’ve no idea why this incantation has suddenly come into my head, but I back off instinctively, after all, I’ve had enough travel problems getting this far, there is no need for me to create any more! At the end of the first day’s ride I spend the night in the shadow of Mt Rushmore, at a tiny campground on the outskirts of Keystone (population 311). As I drift off to sleep under the stars, I can still hear the sound of big bikes passing in the night. I wake to find picturesque craggy mountain ridges flanked by pine and spruce forests. The town itself is immersed in mining history, and dates back to 1883 when gold, feldspar and tin was discovered for the first time, but today it is the work of sculptor Gutzon Borglum and his son that draw most visitors to the town, to see a quartet of sixty-foot heads carved into the rock. It is the sort of thing that is not easily forgotten, especially as the heads depict the American Presidents, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.


As I get closer to Sturgis other bikes come up fast from behind, in pairs or flights of three, four, five or more. A patch club flash past in their magnificent glory with wellordered and disciplined riding, full colours at the front, prospects following to the rear. I’m running slower now, savouring the last of the ride: it feels good to be ‘home’, to be in an area where I recognise all, or at least most, of the landmarks. If anyone had told me in 1989 that I would return each year for the next twenty, I would have thought them nuts. This year’s rally was the 69th. Next year, a landmark year, will be a real humdinger, mark my words!

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Event: Sturgis ’09 Part 1

If you study a map of North America you will see that the Black Hills are situated near the exact geographic centre, in the northwest corner of South Dakota. The Sioux Indians, like the Lakota believe the Black Hills, which they call Paha Sapa, to be one of the great power centres of the country, but when the white man discovered one of the hills’ majestic mysteries and started to dig up gold, no heed was paid to, nor respect given to the epicentre of Indian spirituality. The gold rush that followed, as well as the railroad, ran roughshod over the Indians and their beliefs – little, it seems to me, has changed!

Heavily tattooed arms, burnt dark by the sun, beer bellies, oil stained denim, road worn leather and faded Harley-Davidson T-shirts surround me as we wait to exit the freeway onto Junction Avenue, the road that will deliver us to Main Street. Bikes seem to swell and fade as if affected by the moon as I ride ever closer to the fiveblock street of my dreams. I’m filled with the sort of excitement a young child feels on Christmas morning, but unlike most children, I know for sure that I will not be disappointed. Sturgis: a word that is full of meaning for the bikers who have already attended the world’s largest motorcycle rally. Sturgis is a mecca for bikers the world over, it is home to the rally that draws the largest annual attendance, where Main Street is transformed from sleepy small town into a sea of rumbling, glimmering, polished metal practically overnight at the start of the rally. When I arrive, Main Street is quite literally pandemonium: stock and custom, some preposterous, some fabulous,


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3/10/09 21:45:57

Event: Sturgis ’09 Part 1 Rider Xl1200C Vs Dyna Low

bikes of all descriptions line both sides of the street with an additional double row parked down the middle. Cars are banished for the duration of the rally, and while I think about that, I note another thing that is missing, I’ve hardly seen a helmeted head in the past fifty miles. Bikers stumble and fall on and off the crowded pavement and in and out of bars, I will join them soon enough, but for now I’m already drunk on the atmosphere. My first port of call is to visit my friend Arlin Fatland (custom bike builder extraordinaire) and his long-suffering girlfriend Donna at their shop, the infamous 2-Wheelers. Arlin is a sharp businessman;


he owns shops on both Sturgis and Daytona’s Main Street as well as his original hometown store in Denver Colorado. Stepping into 2-Wheelers is like stepping into a biker’s Kasbah: you instantly know that Arlin is a hoarder, and you never know quite what you will find. He has vintage Harley toys, custom bike parts that have been long forgotten and a myriad of clothing and a large selection of what he likes to call ‘novelty items’. His store is a firm favourite with locals and visiting bikers alike due to his keen prices, happy-go-lucky staff and constant friendly banter. Back on Main, the mom and pop stores that are there the rest of the year have been given over to out of town vendors, vendors that probably pay them enough to cover at least six months mortgage on the property! The pitches sell everything a biker could

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ever want, and tons of crap besides. There are useful items such as tyres, gleaming new exhaust systems and leathers, but there is also a lot of tat, cheap and nasty jewellery, tie-dyed t-shirts and tools that will break the first time you try to use them: basically everything you can think of is hawked on Main and its parallel road, Lazelles. It still strikes me as incredible – even after all of these years of seeing it first hand – that so much stuff is available for a biker nation whom you would think would like to travel light! It’s big business for the city too, the vendors pay big bucks for a licence to trade on arrival: this year’s permit cost $600 and then they still pay taxes on their sales before they leave town. Main Street has undergone one hell of a transformation in recent years. During the rally, visiting bikers typically outnumber residents something close to a hundred to one, but the rest of the year downtown Sturgis is a peaceful, five block business district of mostly single and double storey shops with no more than a handful of motorcycles in sight, where the talk in the barber shop, restaurant or bar is most likely going to

be about the price of cattle or corn, but permanent ‘Biker Bars’ have sprung up – enterprises such as One Eyed Jacks and Loud American Roadhouse – but I have to wonder what is ‘biker’ about them after the rally, when the only men left are farmers, hunters and cowboys. Even with the heavy traffic, the sound of the big motor loping along leaves me feeling relaxed. In town there is no real need to get stuck in heavy traffic as the roads are set up on the grid system, but heading out to the legendary Buffalo Chip is a different matter altogether. The road has a ridiculously low 35mph speed limit and cops are everywhere, and in recent years a vast array of massive biker bars have opened in the area: it’s a snarl-up at best, and at peak times can be a real nightmare. Jay Allen’s all-new, out of town Broken Spoke Campground, offering one of the best deals of the rally – camping for the duration for $99 – is also out this way, so I find I’m doing the stop-start shuffle on a more or less daily basis. The Spoke is located on Route 79 heading north near the county line, and as with anything that Jay Allen does, it’s more than

just a bar and campground: he’s built what he claims to be the largest outdoor biker swimming pool and sun deck in the world. What better than to relax by a pool at the end of a days ride? Oh, it gets better, the campground is flanked by the beautiful Bear Butte State Park, there’s a bikini-clad cocktail waitress poolside bar service, and a stage for live acts to perform. Still not convinced? Perhaps the daily wet T-shirt competitions can persuade you to check out this out of town venue, or the free concerts held nightly. In all there are three stages within the 6000-acre campgrounds that sprawl over some of South Dakota’s finest land, with what felt like bands playing night and day. Whether you are camping or not, there’s never a cover charge to party or to watch the bands at the Spoke: and bands that included the legendary Foghat, Nashville Pussy, .38 Special and the Kentucky Headhunters. Did I mention the two massive hot tubs? Wow! Sturgis is really starting to feel like a vacation! Way to go, Jay! The bar itself spreads over 45,000 square feet: you can literally ride your bike right through it, and beer will only cost you a maximum of $4 a pop for a 16oz served in a spun aluminium bottle. Ever the showman, Jay had also laid on mechanical bull rides, an erotic silhouette striptease, loudest pipes competitions and, of course, the Miss Broken Spoke competition, which is a must-see.


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Event: Sturgis ’09 Part 1

Somehow I end up with press credentials to attend an major event, coordinated by Buffalo Chip campground and the Deadwood Chamber of Commerce: the 2nd Annual Legends Ride – a celebrity tour through the hills, headed by Aerosmith’s lead singer, Steven Tyler. The tickets were limited to 250 and were all snapped up very quickly – even at $150 a piece – but the numbers of entrants were further swelled by an additional fifty or sixty riders that were made up of celebrity bike builders and members of the press. Starting from Deadwood, where Wild Bill Hickok drew the dead man’s hand – aces over eights – just before being dispatched, we hooked up at the historic Franklin Hotel for a press reception, where we learned that, with the surprise help of John Paul Dejoria and the entry fee money, two Black Hills charities – Children’s Home Society and the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum – found that they had $61,000 of donations to split between them. Dejoria surprised Darla Crown – the children’s home chairwoman – with a $10,000 donation when he discovered that the home catered for abused and neglected children. Crown said that the money would help the fifty-two children that are currently in residence to wake up feeling safe each morning. The ride itself took about two-


hours to complete before we ended up at the Buffalo Chip for a pre-concert reception. Dejoria and his wife Eloise, rode a restored 1938 Indian Chief with a sidecar during the Legends Ride, but they had another surprise up their sleeve when the run ended at the Buffalo Chip, donating the splendid Chief outfit to the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum. Dejoria – owner of the So-Cal based company John Paul Mitchell hair care products – has long been associated with charitable donations and works, and was inducted into the Sturgis hall of fame in 2004. Other celebrities on hand for the ride included Steven Tyler (Aerosmith) Lorenzo Lamas (Actor) Toby Keith (Country singer) as well as prominent custom bike builders, such as Paul Yaffe, Cory Ness and Eddie Trotta, plus a slew of yellow shirted Hamsters. It had been a hectic day, I started early so that I could get to The Horse, Back Street Choppers 3rd Annual Bike Show, a great place to find custom bikes that are actually

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ridden: this year’s judges included the ever popular Phil ‘Z’ from Choppers Inc. (standing in for Billy Lane), along with Bill Dodge, Paul Cox, Roadside Marty and Keino. The show was hosted by the Full Throttle saloon, who also threw a wet Tshirt competition, plus I got to breathe in what is sure to be carcinogenic fumes near their burnout pits as exuberant bikers let off a little steam. As the sun went down on another 18-hour day, I realized that I hadn’t made it to the 7th annual Mayor’s Ride, but Sturgis is like that, you can’t do it all, and you can fit it all into one issue.

Thanks to my assistant John Tackett for the loan bike, Ken Conte (Rise Above Consulting) for media credentials, and Arlin Fatland for the endless beer and friendship.

. ... to be continued Words and Pictures: Steve Kelly

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What you’re looking at here, if you did but know it, is a 2000 Suede Green FXDL bought new by Richard, and is a near perfect example of the evolution of a Harley-Davidson to suit its owner.


It was a fairly predictable start and in line with common practice in the dark days of strangled carburetors, Richard took it back to Big Rock to be staged at the earliest sensible opportunity, and while he was at it he started to think about a few cosmetic changes. The brake lines were upgraded to stainless braided hoses, presumably more for appearances than stopping power because 2000 was the year that the Low Rider got 4-pot calipers on its twin disks, and a two-piece P&A saddle was fitted together with a chrome dash in place of the black textured one and a set of forward controls, and he was good to go. But he didn’t stop there ... obviously. It’s probably worth mentioning that Richard’s a designer in the ceramics industry and has got a pretty good eye for detail, so he started to run through a few ideas in his head. Basically he wanted something chunkier than Harley-Davidson made in a Dyna form back then: more functional and fit for purpose – for ceramics industry, read Denby Pottery – and a fat front end was an obvious and relatively inexpensive way to start. So he returned to Big Rock, sat down with Workshop Manager, Kev French, and started to outline his vision of where he wanted to take it, and Kev’s knowledge of the parts book made it possible, starting a partnership that continues today. The Zodiac wide glide conversion was the obvious choice, and it didn’t initially seem important that Zodiac hadn’t caught up with the new generation engines at the time, although it turned out there were a few essential differences between Twin Cam and Evo Dynas in terms of cycle parts too, but nothing that machining or remanufacturing the affected parts of the fitting kit couldn’t fix. The new front wheel was the original double-sided flat hub, re-laced to a chrome steel 3½x16-inch rim, and the original oem brake rotors spaced out to line-up with the 4-pots on the original fork legs and a new mudguard colour matched to the suede green paint. And while the parts book was out, they picked-out a colour-matched P&A chinspoiler for the front of the frame, a lay-down number plate bracket, clear lenses on the indicators and a pair of inch-and-a-quarter Knuckle bars, and Richard pronounced himself happy.




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Custom: Richard’s Different Dyna



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Custom: Dyna Xl1200CRichard’s Vs DynaDifferent Low Rider

Certainly happy enough to run it for the next three years ... before the next overwhelming urge came upon him. By that point, Kev had set up shop, Le Rock, in nearby Mansfield, so that’s where Richard went to take it to the obvious next stage: a fat back end, not least because Kev had already demonstrated it could be done on a Dyna – in fact on the bike that graced American-V 4’s cover – but he wasn’t going to settle for a 190, even though that could’ve been done without an offset. It had to be a 250-section. A full 120mm wider than the original MT90 doesn’t sound like much until you realise than an MT90 is about 130mm wide. To put it another way, the 3-inch rim was removed from the original hub and an 8½x18-inch chrome steel rim was laced-up. It wasn’t going to be an easy job, starting with taking a gas axe to the back of the frame where the mudguard brackets usually mount, but at least with a UHS 250 kit providing most of the bits, a lot of the calculations had been done. A quick word of caution here, in the spirit of “don’t try this at home, children”: before taking a gas axe, or an angle grinder – or even a hacksaw – to a

frame, make sure you know where the wiring harness runs: in this case down the main spine: thankfully Kev already knew that. There’s always a trade-off with wide-tyre kits: to offset the primary – hanging it further off the bike – or to offset the wheel, and there’s some jiggery-pokery that can be done to recover every little scrap of extra clearance offered on the stock bike, including using the narrowest belt available, or even revert to a chain which is thinner still, if dirtier. In the end, the original primary case was offset by 35mm to keep the rear wheel aligned within the new UHS kit’s box-section swing-arm, the kit’s rear mudguard got the suede green treatment, and the lay-down plate and oem taillight was replaced by an integral custom unit. Kev reckons the original pipes would just about have wriggled past the 250 back end with a bit of thought, but a pair of Samson Street Sweepers were brought in and finished far enough forward for them not to be an issue, and in the second major bout of tidying up the brakes were upgraded to floating rotors all round, a pair of Progressive 412 heavy duty short-throw shocks were fitted to keep the profile low, matched to Progressive fork springs at the front, and a Forcewinder air-filter made sure the engine could draw air in as easily as the Samsons could breathe it out. Rather than clutter up the new clean back end with too much, a pair of bar end indicators were slotted into the Knuckle bars. It was a look that will undoubtedly have caused a few doubletakes – especially in its original livery – and gave Richard another three years ... until the onset of winter 2008 and a new vision. The current changes are by far the most noticeable, transforming a customised big twin into a cross between a board racer and a Sportster on steroids, and brings much more of Richard’s design experience to bear. It’s amazing what a difference the change in tank makes. Why hasn’t anyone ever put an XL tank on a Dyna before?



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Probably because it doesn’t fit ... at least not in the same way that a seventies Sportster tank would fit a Superglide. Well, not without first cutting the bottom out of this XL883R tank and creating a new one from scratch – or from the bottom of a Dyna tank, if you want to be reckless – because the Sportster’s tunnel is markedly narrower than the FXD’s. You really don’t need reminding that petrol fumes are more volatile than liquid fuel itself, do you? Or that angle grinders and welding torches will ignite any fuel residues? No? Good. And there’s another obvious problem in fitting an XL tank to a Low Rider that can be explained in two words: tandem dash. There’s always the twin clock bracket that bolts to the handlebar clamp, but this was about tidying the bike up. The ‘motogadget mini’ was the solution: tiny but ridiculously easy to read, and with a graphic tacho bar running across the top of the display, it’s small enough to drop into a precision-cut slot in a Harley handlebar clamp, and Kev took no chances with dodgy castings and did precisely that using a billet clamp ... just weeks before motogadget started making them. The shape of the tank created a wholly different impression and it was pretty obvious that the suede green wouldn’t bring out the best in the resulting final bike, which presented Richard with the

challenge of coming up with a colour that would work. And while that was taxing his grey matter, the rest of the bike was being restyled to live up to the impression of an old-school racer. A 3-inch open belt drive replaced the original chain and cases, which wasn’t as easy as it sounds because while Dyna belts are starting to come through now, they are typically for Evos or for the 6-speed Dynas, capitalising on the popularity of the Street Bob. The 1999-2005 5-speed FXD Twin Cam falls between a rock and a hard place, so a BDL belt drive for a Softail was extensively modified to fit. Included in this batch of upgrades were: a modification to the UHS swing-arm to add bracing, more for visual effect than actual strengthening, and all the more visible for having been dropped in the chroming bath; the Samson Street Sweepers have been partially wrapped for a different look again; the Knuckle bars have been angled down, which apparently doesn’t aid rider comfort but they look brilliant; and the engine output has been bolstered a little more, replacing the original CV with a Mikuni HSR-42. The original P&A seat didn’t make it this time either – it would have looked a little clumsy behind the smaller tank – but they resisted the temptation to strip and resculpt it and replaced it with a Le Pera that Kev knocked as flat as he dared without compromising its ability to mate with its complementary pillion pad. The amazing thing for me in this evolution, is just how many of the bits that have been added at the individual stages have been reused with each new re-emergence: I don’t think there’ll be much more than the laid-down number plate bracket and clear lens kit for the indicators sharing the box of ‘take-off ’ parts with the original seat, stage one filter and slip-ons. Almost everything that has been added over the years has made it through to its current form: cleverly, they’ve just been treated differently to make them work with the new scheme. Which brings us back to the paint, laid down by Big Steve’s Motorcycle Paintshop in Mansfield. There’s no doubt that race teams know a thing or two about the impact that the right scheme can make – hence Harley’s ubiquitous black and orange – but this is a horse of a very different colour. Actually Kev was quite adamant that it shouldn’t be black and orange because it would have less impact, and Richard agreed fully, which has been borne out in the growing trophy collection – he’s just taken Best Custom at the MFN Show against a strong field. Chuffed? Oh yes. It more than makes up for the three pairs of jeans he’s wrecked in the belt drive. So. Can you see what it is yet? You’ll kick yourself if you haven’t, especially if you went to Goodwood: they are the racing colours of the all-conquering Gulf Oil GT40s at the end of the 1960s and later used on the team’s Porsches. Richard went as far as approaching Gulf to see if he could get the full colour spec but heard nothing back, but then Richard knows a thing or two about colour too! Words and Pictures: Andy Hornsby

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Street: 21st Century Bob



For this issue’s thrilling thr installment of “What’ to do with a Street Bob” – well, it might as well be a regular feature – we’ve got the bike created for the MD of Norwich HarleyDavidson.

It’s a very different proposition to Warrs’ Retro and Thundercity’s Bobbed Bob, and the flexibility of the base model possibly goes some way towards explaining why so many dealers – in the official and independent sector – are doing so much with them. We used to refer to the FXD Super Glide and FXST Softail Standard as blank canvases, but the basic no-frills Street Bob seems to have captured folks’ imagination in a way that the plainer bikes didn’t. As one of the new boys in the Harley dealer network, it’s interesting to see how their preconceptions of the base bike differed from Europe’s oldest dealer, and an established custom shop’s, because without the baggage of Harley’s heritage experienced first-hand, its styling cues will have triggered a different response and the resulting bike is more Roland Sands than Von Dutch: looking forward rather than rejoicing in the past to create a 21st Century bobber that demonstrates the breadth of the potential in the Dyna that changed the fortunes of the model range. And it is very different. Darker, harder, sharper and more intimidating than the classic and the old school styles. This is the sort of make-over that was preserve of Softails no more than five years ago, which is either an acknowledgment of the ground being made up by the Dyna, the relative costs of the two families, or else that a generation of riders are coming on-stream who grew up with twin shocks and swing-arms. It’s not a million miles from an accessorised Dyna Night Train, and it’s only having made that association that I’m wondering whether that might be on the cards with Harley realigning their ranges. Hmmm ... There’s no prizes for spotting what the primary theme here is: black. There’s just enough extra shiny metal to lift it from the shadows, in the form of the Clean Sweep Slammer ’bars, deep dish billet headlamp and the billet spokes of the Arlen Ness Bones wheels – an assertive 21-inch up front and Arlen’s favourite, an 18-inch on the back - but the rest has been blacked-out: levers, the Ness Micro Mirrors, V&H Short Shots, RSD Velocity Stack, the Black Diamond cables and hoses, the fork legs and yokes, and any engine case that’d easily unbolt has been replaced by, or refinished with textured black – even the indicator lenses are tinted? Inevitably, the mid-set footrests have been replaced by forward controls – black, obviously, with milled black footrests, to match the handlebar grips – and they’ve chosen to retro-fit the Nightster’s fold-in, side-mount plate and lose Harley’s version of the classic Sparto taillight, filling the mudguard to cover any trace. And it’s not all just for show. Well, you couldn’t make something this aggressive and let a stocker keep pace from the lights: that would be silly. It needs an edge, and it’s got it: the 1690cc kit with the Screamin’ Eagle cams. The 103-inch engines are held as being the quick ones: quicker than the CVO 110 – at least until the extra horses are let out by fitting cams with less overlap – and to make sure it gets round the next corner as quickly as it gets there, Progressive Suspension front and back will keep it tauter while a minimal La Pera solo seat will keep the centre of gravity low. And with the low profile 180/55ZR18 rear and 120/70-21 front tyres from Avon’s Cobra range, it’s got plenty of rubber on the road to make sure it’ll grip! All-in-all, an excellent and very different treatment for the custom world’s favourite Dyna Glide ... at least until the 2011 Dyna Night Train comes out: c’mon Harley, you know you want to. Next? Yes, seriously: if you’re doing something different with a Street Bob – trade or private, official or independent – let us know!

Words and Pictures: Andy Hornsby

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Event: Shipley Rally 2009


Now this might come as something of a shock to you – it did to me – but despite riding Harley-Davidsons for twenty years, I’d never actually been to Shipley.

In fact the closest I’d ever got previously was watching the massed ranks pass by while at Castleford on a Cossack outfit, in long-distant days before I discovered that bigger pistons in decent quality metal make a better and more consistent bang; but I’ve always known of the place that it holds in the Harley calendar. And this year that date was all the more important, because while it didn’t mark the thirtieth anniversary of a dozen or so Harley riders first camping at Dobrudden Farm – that was apparently in 1976 – it celebrated that increasing gathering’s


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elevation to a proper rally in 1979. The Riders’ Club arrived in 1980 and adopted it as their International rally for the next twenty-one years and the rest, as they say, is history. Now held to be the longest established Harley rally in the UK, it’s going from strength to strength and still attracts big numbers from Europe as well as the UK, despite clashing with the relocated Riders’ Club’s International and Dunedin HOG’s

Thunder in the Glens in Aviemore, all taking place on August Bank Holiday. And the most positive thing to come out of this year’s August Bank Holiday were record numbers at each of those events. And you can see why it’s popular, with a big social element down in the village of Baildon itself where the Malt Shovel acts as the main focal point. Taking the party into the community has ensured the Shipley Rally’s survival and local support here – as at Talgarth, Kirkby Lonsdale and Market Harborough, to name but a few – ensures that they’re welcomed back every year.

But it doesn’t mean it has to be sanitised, under the microscope of public gaze. A lively party atmosphere back on-site lets things get a little more raucous without testing the sensibilities of some of the locals: smoking a rear tyre is a burn-out to normal society, and they wouldn’t appreciate the additional skill involved in dong a burn-out on a hand-change, footclutch flathead Model-U! Thank God for marquee tent poles, is all I can say: there wasn’t a chance he’d have held it on the front brake! Sadly, the weather wasn’t especially kind up on the moors, but it had calmed down by the time I arrived. There was much evidence of gaffer tape holding together some canvas casualties of the previous days’ gales, but no suggestion that it had kept people away. The traders had packed up by the time I’d struggled up from Notts on late Sunday, and there were a few gaps in the camping field – the lack of bikes next


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Event: Shipley Rally 2009

to the flattened patches of grass suggested they hadn’t merely blown away: even with a bank holiday weekend giving an extra day there are always early departures, but the village was still buzzing, thanks in part to the band playing from an open curtainsider in the Malt Shovel’s car park, and partly because the ale was still flowing, as people summoned the energy to climb the bank back to the event’s Rugby Club site. I was distracted, first by a number of bikes that I’d not seen before, and then by a memory card problem in the camera which cost me the afternoon’s shoot and left me scrabbling round in failing light retracing my steps to catch the bikes I’d caught in the afternoon, inevitably missing a few. Unfortunately, as a result, you’ll have to use your imagination in conjuring up a bobbed Night Rod Special – a V-Bob? – with a minimal plank seat, bobbed rear mudguard, side-mount and a Bates headlamp I think, which looked a hell


of a lot better than it sounds from that description but was strangely compelling, and an interesting 45-styled XL complete with a Thompson machine gun stock popping out of the holster, that pulled out to reveal it was an umbrella: how’s that for a convertible! Even with a fully functioning camera, however, I’d have struggled to capture and reproduce the Dutch guys’ party piece as they formed-up, circling the roundabout in the town square, friction-drive sirens wailing, waiting until they were all rolling before heading to their next stop: a repeat performance of leaving the site at Walesby the previous morning in their way North, but all the more impressive for the more sophisticated choreography afforded by the roundabout. Time will tell whether there’ll be a mass return to Shipley next year, with the Riders’ Club’s International being hosted at Kirkby Lonsdale on the weekend of the Summer

Rally (8-11 July), and it will be interesting to see whether the Shipley die-hards will make the first move in supporting that, promoting a return to West Yorkshire in August. Life’s too short. Let’s party.

Words and Pics: Andy Hornsby

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Complete Workshop Facilities inc: • New and Pre owned Bikes for Sale • Full Custom Bike Design and Builds • Customisation • Custom Paint and Repaint • Crash Repairs & Insurance Quotes • Servicing & Parts Fitting

• • • • • •

On site Tyre Fitting Diagnostics Polishing Shop Full w/shop Facility @ £35.00 p/h + VAT In House Fabrication Parts & Accessories Sold

Come and visit Nick Gale’s Motorcycle World at our Wembley Showroom open Monday – Friday (Saturday by appointment). Tel: +44 (0)20 8998 6775 or +44 (0)79 51 74 13 52 E mail; Unit 5 Montague Works, 250 Water Road, Wembley, Middx HA0 1HX

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Order your copy now or download at Call +49 (0) 671-88888-0 for the dealer nearest you.

*Suggested retail prices including 17,5 % V.A.T. Custom Chrome Europe Planiger Strasse 154 55543 Bad Kreuznach, Germany

Phone:+49 (0) 671 - 8 88 88 - 0 Fax: +49 (0) 671 - 8 88 88 -100


American-V issue 37  

Full edition

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