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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Went to the Stockport Harley Davidson place yesterday and had a test ride of a couple of H-Ds. I figured I'd been slagging them off for about a quarter of a century without ever riding one, so it was high time I acquired a more authoritative opinion. Shying away from the worst excesses of chrome, and the whole 'lifestyle' thing (you can even buy a H-D sleeping bag, bar stool and table - that'll come in handy on a long run...:rolleyes:), I'd booked an XR1200 and a V-Rod, just to see what all the fuss was about.

The XR was pretty good, handled better than I'd thought it would, but the finish and detailing were pretty basic/poor, and the engine, although engaging, was so agricultural at tickover it made a boxer twin seem like a gas turbine... Some odd ergonomics, too - terrible mirrors, and clocks which were more style than function. Brakes were good, if not very progressive, but it seemed to run out of urge fairly quickly, too - I'd be surprised if it was anywhere near as quick as the Vara (now that's a phrase you won't hear every day :D )

The V-Rod, on the other hand, was a different class of bike. Stonking engine - the XR had made me smile with its power delivery (up to a point), but the V-Rod made me whoop out loud. Good brakes, and a bike that long, and with that rake of fork has no right to handle that well (once you have the concept that the front wheel merely exists to get the stupidly huge back wheel pointing the right way...) I was on the Muscle (is it only me that thinks a manufacturer which sees fit to call models things like Muscle and Bad Boy is trying a bit too hard?), which apparently has the more extreme riding position, and therein lay the rub - after 40 minutes, I couldn't wait to get off the thing.

To save you all the bother of arranging a test ride, here's quick test you can try at home to see if you'd be comfortable on a V-Rod Muscle at any sort of speed: sit on the floor at home in your bike gear, with your legs out straight in front of you. Now grasp the toes of your boots, and have someone kneel behind you and pull your shoulders back. Hold that position for, say 35 minutes, and repeat out loud "This is a bloody great seating position, I look dead cool and hard." It's a testament to the quality of the engine that it makes you want to do this at all, much less check out the upper levels of performance. In carefully controlled test conditions on a private airfield I've just made up, I got to around the ton mark before I noticed my arms beginning to lengthen, and realised I was having difficulty swallowing. If you like to drive any distance at a reasonably high speed, and would like to arrive at the other end looking like an Orang-Utang with lumbar issues, the V-Rod is the bike for you.

When I staggered back into the sales rooms, the salesman looked sympathetic as I recounted my discomfort in low, strained tones. "Yeah," he said "I can't ride that one for long either." I was going to ask why then in the name of God he'd sent me out on it without explaining the risks to my vertebrae, but another shooting pain pinged up my shoulder blades, and I decided to retire hurt for the day.

Getting back on the Vara was like getting into a warm bath - everything fell pleasantly to hand, I went back on the motorway at some speed, and the experience was effortless. Heading up the bypass, a HD rider (a Sportster, I think) who'd left at the same time as me got all Marlon Brando from the lights (and, to give him credit, he was trying pretty hard - as was I, for comparison purposes), but I was delighted to see him falling back as we passed 70, hunching down behind his bars as the inevitability of air resistance on a seating position akin to a star jump took its toll. I could have smoked a pipe, and indeed I quite felt like doing so. It only took a couple of hours on inferior machinery and a moderate amount of physical discomfort to reaffirm what a great bike the Vara is.

And yet...and yet...can I have a Vara with a V-Rod engine in it, please? :blob7:
 

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Next time have a go on the Buell Ulysses... I think the engine is similar to the XR, but it's setup as a dual sport.

Come back and tell us what it was like, as I'm quite curious :)

Thanks for a balanced view! Like the look of the Sportster and the XR1200, and since the sportster is the cheapest bike to rent should you ever rent a bike in the US, I'll probably end up riding one sooner/later when I've got enough money to waste on a bike trip to the US...

JB
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Buells: While I was hanging around the dealership waiting for the chaps there* to manoeuvre the V-Rod out of the doors (no mean feat for something so long - I think HGV experience would help), I threw a leg over a Ulysses, and nearly went straight over the other side as my foot failed to reach the floor properly. Gawd, they're tall. And they don't sag, either, even though I'm a test for any suspension. I'm definitely going to return for a go of a Ulysses, possibly next weekend if I've got the time (and they'll let me :D).

The XR is indeed a very pretty bike, I just fret about the longevity of some of the finishes/components should it be used every day in all weathers, but then that's probably not the main H-D market sector. I've always fancied a bike trip the States, and I'm a firm believer of when in Rome**, so the Sportster would be the ideal mount for that sort of thing. I just can't imagine riding through Monument Valley on anything else...

Awww, Snap, go on go on go on go on.....:blob7:



* No, not that sort of chaps. Although I'm pretty sure you can buy a pair of those, too...:rolleyes:
** ...ride a Vespa: I've always tried to get hold of local bikes in whichever country I've travelled in - an Enfield in India, a Honda C90 in Cambodia, an odd trail bike in Thailand. USA = Harley, a no-brainer.8)
 

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Awww, Snap, go on go on go on go on.....:blob7:


NOSODOFFYOUAINTGETTIN'ONE



USA = Harley, no-brain err.8)
Dont really like the Chopper HD thing, but I appreciate good engineering and I'd love a cafe racer. Spotted this at the weekend at Bikers Farm
Prizes for guessing the donor
 

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That engine would out last every mod done and still be going Original Gold wing by the looks of it.
 

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A couple of years ago my wife and I were at an open day at an HD dealership. I tried a Buell - amazing, but unbelievable and unliveable vibration - and a couple of Harleys, and quite enjoyed them.

BUT at the end of an interesting day, getting back onto the Vara, it was like settling into a nice comfy chair in comparison. That cured me. I quite like the look and sound of most Harleys, but they're not for me!

And I couldn't stand the whole HOG thing or the guys in leather bunnets and headscarves waving to me....:confused2:
 

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I remember when Honda released the first twin over here, my mate had a triumph and sat them side by side ticking over, the triumph moved back and forth quite a lot the Honda did not move an inch
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
That's got to be the portliest cafe racer I've ever seen - points for insanity, though. Once spent half an hour up in the Lancashire valleys chasing an original Gold Wing, which was being thrashed unmercifully around every bend. I couldn't get near him, and I was on a Gpz at the time. Half the time I was riding through showers of sparks from the Wing - he must have taken about three or four pounds in weight off his bike by the time we reached the motorway. And all on (IIRC) 110 section crossplys...

One thing I did notice when riding the V-Rod, though, was that other bikers were less inclined to let on to me. They'd nod (more or less) if I nodded first, but it was evident there was less enthusiasm in it. Car drivers and the general public, however, were goggle-eyed, and riding through a town centre, you could see heads swivelling to follow you all the time.

Mind you, they could've been thinking "God, he looks uncomfortable on that thing. Why are his feet all the way up there?"
 

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That's got to be the portliest cafe racer I've ever seen - points for insanity, though. Once spent half an hour up in the Lancashire valleys chasing an original Gold Wing, which was being thrashed unmercifully around every bend. I couldn't get near him, and I was on a Gpz at the time. Half the time I was riding through showers of sparks from the Wing - he must have taken about three or four pounds in weight off his bike by the time we reached the motorway. And all on (IIRC) 110 section crossplys...

One thing I did notice when riding the V-Rod, though, was that other bikers were less inclined to let on to me. They'd nod (more or less) if I nodded first, but it was evident there was less enthusiasm in it. Car drivers and the general public, however, were goggle-eyed, and riding through a town centre, you could see heads swivelling to follow you all the time.

Mind you, they could've been thinking "God, he looks uncomfortable on that thing. Why are his feet all the way up there?"
Same thing happened to me in France, me & my brothers were riding (2 ZZR's, 1 SV650 and an F650ST) through the mountains, pretty pleased with the speed we were doing, when we are overtaken by a guy on a Goldwing, 2-up, radio blaring from the speakers, grinding the sideboards in every corner... We felt pretty stupid after that...

With regards to the HD, I think this is due to a lot of the Harley riders not bothering to greet other riders... Dunno why, maybe they need both hands to keep the handlebars on, or if they let go with one hand, they'll never get it back up to the handlebars :D

Have to agree with you on the HD through the US. Sportster (the 883) is the only Harley I'd consider doing it on, as they others are just too big & heavy. Alternatively, you can rent 1200GS's in the US now too, but they cost an absolute fortune!

JB
 

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One thing I did notice when riding the V-Rod, though, was that other bikers were less inclined to let on to me. They'd nod (more or less) if I nodded first, but it was evident there was less enthusiasm in it.
Harley, BMW and Gold Wing riders - especially on their convoy runs - often seem less inclined to wave or acknowledge other bikers.

Is it some sort of superiority thing or are they basically car drivers out for a bit of fresh air? Or are they worried about being sniggered at....:D
 

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Goldwing riders don't acknowledge other riders, since they don't know which button to push to greet other bikers...

:D:D

JB
 

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Goldwing riders don't acknowledge other riders, since they don't know which button to push to greet other bikers...

:D:D

JB
I resent that Buggles - I've got a button clearly marked 'Wave' or is that for the jacuzzi?
 

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I resent that Buggles - I've got a button clearly marked 'Wave' or is that for the jacuzzi?
No that one is for the parachute in case you lose the brake levers.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
OK, the Vara vs... saga continues - this weekend it was a Multistrada. Apart from the initial disappointment in the colour of the test bike - black (I know that sounds a bit mincey, but the natural colour of Ducatis, like Ferraris, is red, and any other colour, as we all know, is an abomination unto both nature and any local deity who might be hanging around :D), I was impressed with the spec: the 1100DS, with the nicey nicey Ohlins kit.

Enjoyed the bike, it handled sublimely, and I like how they look, too - as long as you don't linger over the front of the fairing too long. That fairing, though, gives some relief from the elements, and there are larger ones for the more nesh amongst us - like me;) Just a few ergonomic niggles got on my nerves - mostly useless mirrors (although better than the H-D efforts last week), and a nasty tendency to slide forward on the (hard) seat into the tank :toothy3: when braking. That last one highlighted an annoying tendency in sales staff too - to pass off issues: when I mentioned it, he said "Yeah, that's a common issue - the seat's too smooth. Just fit the gel seat and the problem goes away." OK my friend, if we're talking about £9.5k for a bike, why don't YOU fit the gel seat, and not supply the problem in the first place? :rolleyes:

Overall, I liked the bike a lot: feisty, agile, quick enough (albeit without the "yee-haa!" factor of the V-Rod) and sublime on the bendy bits, but for daily use in all weathers? The test bike was an 08 with less than 2k on the clock, and looked like it had been standing in the sea for a few weeks - lots of furry and rusty corrosion on the lower areas. The salesman's response?
"Well, we leave it out in all weathers."
"What, all the time?"
"Well, during the day."
"Do you clean it?"
"Yeah."

So, you leave it outside 9-5, it doesn't get ridden in the rain much, and then comes into a garage overnight. And it's got plenty of speckly brown furry bits inside 2k.

That, I'm afraid, rules it out for me for my circumstances :(.

It's made for sunny days, and real-world roads, and I'm sure you could take it to a track day and have beyond fun on it. If I had the opportunity to have a multi-bike garage, the Multistrada would be in there, definitely. But then I'd employ someone to clean it all the time, too...:cool:

So, back home on the Vara again, and more pleased than ever with it. I was beginning to take it for granted, but all it takes is a bit of perspective to point out what a good job Honda have done.

Mind you, the next couple of test rides could be trouble: it's off to the KTM dealers in a few weeks when I get back from my hols...:blob7:
 

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Go try a Tiger 1050 next, yeehaa with a comfy seat, comparable and perhaps better quality paint and fittings in some areas than a Honda (according to Bike I think) and I defy anybody not to like that engine.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I tried a Tiger 1050 last year (posted my impressions somewhere on here), and liked it. But not enough to buy one. I'd put it on a par with the Multistrada - I enjoyed the Trumpet engine more, but thought the Multi handled (even) better. Oh, and the Tiger's prettier...

It did make me ride like a hooligan, tho :D :blob7:
 

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It did make me ride like a hooligan, tho :D :blob7:
:headbang: never really felt like hanging my:bootyshake: off till I rode one, tried a friends Tiger with uprated front springs and rear shock and I would think it would bear comparison with most things this side of pure sports bike, the same guy has an R1 in his garage too, says the 1050 is more :D
 
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