The Harley demo fleet was in town this weekend and a buddy of mine wanted to go check it out and see if he could pick up on some of that “special feeling” that Harley guys are always talking about. I’ve been curious about the new softtail line, and figured it would be a good way to expose myself to a few bikes outside of my typical riding style so I gladly went along.

The Harley demo fleet was in town this weekend and a buddy of mine wanted to go check it out and see if he could pick up on some of that “special feeling” that Harley guys are always talking about. I’ve been curious about the new softtail line, and figured it would be a good way to expose myself to a few bikes outside of my typical riding style so I gladly went along.

A quick into to my riding history, to hopefully better portray my point of view. My first bike was a clapped out bone stock ‘82 Yamaha XJ750 Maxim, which has gone through many transitions and is now your typical sketchy cafe racer type of bike. I adore this bike. My second bike was an ‘08 Harley Sporster 883 which I had for five years and fell in love with. This was the bike that flipped my perception of Harleys in general, and the bike that I found that “special indescribable feeling” on. My daily rider now is an ‘06 Yamaha Warrior 1700, which is a beast of a cruiser and an all around incredible bike. So in general I love a good cruiser, but like my bikes a little smaller in general, and can more than appreciate a good sport bike. Now, on to my short review.

We’ll start with the new Milwaukee 8 V-twin in general. This engine was, interesting. If an engine can be both smooth and rough at the same time Harley found a way to do it. Everything was remarkably smooth once you got moving, but while sitting still the engine shook in typical Harley fashion, but not in the “good” way. While my old Sportster shook like every Harley, the feeling was more of a rhythmic thumping, while the new M8 feels more like random misfire to me. Shifting was also very inconsistent, at times it felt incredibly smooth, making me question if I actually changed gears, and at other times very heavy and agricultural. The heavy shifting doesn’t bother me, but the inconsistency was odd. Power was good, as was torque, strong down low but running out of breath up top. Cruising at 80+ could be done with ease. These are by no means slow, but by bike standards they are not fast, I didn’t ride any of the Stage 1 or CVO bikes which I’ve heard are better, but overall I was pretty underwhelmed by what’s supposed to by Harley’s biggest baddest engine to date.

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The first bike I rode was a standard Street Glide. Outside of my typical preference zone as I’m not really a fan of baggers, I figured I’d give one a try. I was surprised by how much I liked this bike. While I love riding, I typically like to have a destination in mind, but with this bike I felt like I could wander aimlessly all day long and not get tired of it. Harleys have always seemed to have a very short stretch between the seat and the headstock and the Street Glide was no different. Everything was within easy reach and gauges are close and easy to read. This also helps the bike feel a bit more nimble making steering a bit easier and handling a bit more sharp. Overall I was surprised by how small an manageable this big bike felt. It’s not something I’d want to ride around town every day, but is very easy to manage when you do. My only complaint is that the windshield was a little short for me, causing a bit of buffeting at head level, an easily fixable problem. I’m not ready to move up to a big touring bike quite yet, but when I am, this bike will be on the shopping list.

The second bike I rode was the Sportster 1200 (but in white). The Sporster platform is old enough and has been reviewed enough times so I wont say much. What I will say is that this is objectively not a good bike, slow, rough, small, a little heavy, but this bike put the biggest smile on my face all day. I was however pretty disappointed in the power output of the 1200. While I didn’t expect it to be fast I did expect a substantial difference from my old 883, which just wasn’t there. In the end this bike brought back a lot of fun memories, and despite its flaws I really want to have another Sportster someday.

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My third ride was the Street Bob. Going into this, this was the bike I would have been most interested in actually buying, but by the time I left, it was the bike I was most disappointed in.The overall feel of the bike was great, big enough to handle highways and interstates, but still small and slender enough to give a lighter stripped down feel, exactly what I want out of a bike. The ergonomics of the Street Bob, for me, were terrible. The seat pushed me too far forward, the pegs were too high, and the seat too low. My knees felt like they were at my chest. I felt less cramped on the mid control Sportster. I’m also not a fan of the new gas tank shape. If I were to buy a new Street Bob I’d have to spend so much money on making it comfortable, and look the way I want that I wouldn’t even consider it, except for one thing, that dash. Harleys new low profile dash, which is integrated into the bar clamps is the greatest motorcycle dash ever. You can try to fight my on this, but I will not be swayed. The display is very small and sleek, yet displays all of the information you would ever need and is still very easy to read. I would buy this bike purely for the dashboard.

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The fourth bike I chose was the new Deluxe, which was on the complete opposite end of my personal spectrum as the Street Bob. Consistently my least favorite Harley these have always been way to retro for me, far too much chrome with those very old school white walls, and the ugly triple lights, the floor boards too high, and the seat and those beach bomber bars too low. But that gorgeous blue paint beckoned and today was about trying bikes I normally wouldn’t try, so I decided to give it a chance and see what it was all about. My friends, I have never been so wrong about a motorcycle. The minute we took off down the road I was floating in comfortable bliss. Everything was right where it needed to be, and despite the very overcast day the chrome and that incredible blue paint sparkled in my peripherals and brought a joy upon me that I never though this bike would. This is the bike that you take to a gently curving road and ride at 55-65 mph all day long, never pushing the limits, but simply relaxing, taking in the scenery and enjoying the day. I’d still take off those stupid auxiliary lights though.

The fifth bike, and final ride of the day was the Fat Bob. This retro futuristic bike has caused a good deal of commotion for Harley, and it’s easy to see why. While still based on the Softtail platform the styling and feel of this bike is very different from anything Harley has ever made. Riding it provides the same feeling. This bike is not a cruiser, nor is it a sport bike, clearly, this is a standard with slightly forward set controls. The seat keeps you very upright and provides a surprising amount of back support, and the drag bars and steepish rake make the bike very nimble, but that fat front tire fights the lean, trying its best to keep the bike upright. For my last ride I debated between this and a CVO Roadglide but my friend talked me into this one as he had just gotten done with it. I’m glad he did. This bike was by far the most interesting of the day, although not my favorite. My only complaint on this one is that the tank mounted dash was primarily a tach with the speedometer being a digital readout. That needs to be switched because this is by no means a sport bike and monitoring RPM for perfect shift points etc. is too far down the priority list for the tach to be displayed as prominently as it is.

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I’ve read various reviews and have always been a bit skeptical of the reviews that claim that each bike has its own unique personality, despite being built on the same platform, but after this weekend I can say that’s very true. If you’re into this type of bike, and can justify the cost they’re definitely worth considering. I’m still not of the mindset that it’s Harley or nothing, but I still think that they’re bikes hold up very well to the competition and are worth of at least some of the premium they command.

It was overall a really fun afternoon, despite the cloudy and cold weather. We got to check out a good variety of bikes, I experienced several bikes that I wouldn’t have normally considered, and had my mind changed on several. Everyone was very friendly and I met a couple of pretty cool people. Plus, any day riding is a good day, regardless of what you’re on.

Edit: Damn you Kinja and you’re ten thousand pictures.