The Great Ocean Ride.
Riding Pics by Lou Martin H-D

I wondered if you need a Deed Poll to change a 'Nom De Plume'?

Sure ‘Big Dave’ fits well enough, and has stuck tight since the Ed pinned it on me all those years ago, but the way things panned out on the 2010 Harley-Davidson model launch I should seriously consider establishing what exactly the protocols are for a change to ‘Lucky’.

‘Lucky’ Dave? I mean, ‘You lucky (insert suitable expletive here)’ is the most common response from folks when I ‘casually’ mention the KR gig to start with, but the way the cards fell my way on the two-day blat, up the Great Ocean Road out of Melbourne, with a fleet of brand new Hogleys, were pretty tall odds indeed.

About the deck.
Five vehicles are featured for 2010. I originally typed ‘new vehicles’ and the factory marketing materials and descriptions are peppered with the word ‘new’, but in the shadow of the Global Financial Crisis the 2010 range seems more an evolution with some nice refinements to existing models, and the re-introduction of a personal favourite – in name at least.

In the pre-ride introduction Sales Boss Adrian O’Donaghue stated that Harley are ‘focussing on expanding their strength as one of the most personal and emotionally connected brands in the world’.

Their proposed means of achieving this were outlined as better Dealer premises and operations, new insurance products with extended warranties (from Swann Insurance) and better efforts to ‘get closer’ to their customers.

This will include supplying a raft of personalised information about their customer’s individual vehicles, a ‘Freedom Rewards’ loyalty card and upgraded HOG publications.

Bigger Rallies are also planned with the likes of Jimmy Barnes booked for the next Aus event, which will be open to the general public.

Adrian also noted that they have been ‘fairly aggressive with pricing’ and a quick glance at the price list had me raising an eyebrow. Some existing models have come down in price. And then it was on to an overview of the 2010 NZ Products

The first card shown was the 883 Iron.
It has made its way to the NZ market with a RRP of $12,750. 

Not bad for a stylish Harley-Davidson that is a bunch of fun to ride. I thought it’s a great looking motorcycle and a good fun Harley that suits a compact rider. I enjoyed pinning it.

‘Big’ Dave looked pretty funny on board. I only needed the long shoes and red nose to complete the act, although I was quite comfortable on board.

So was the regularly sized Isabel, from H-D, who tagged along to keep the Journalists under control. She rated the machine as much fun as I did.

The fun factor comes from the Evolution 883 V-twin engine that doesn’t mind a bit of a rev. It also comes from some of the all-round coolness and feel-good of the machine. It’s a Fonz type bike.

It’s also a low bike with a 64.3cm saddle height and it handles tidily within the cornering clearances afforded by its ‘lowness’.

I found it has the same attraction as numerous mid-power, retro style motorcycles. Machines I enjoy simply for the way the throttle is pinnable on the road.

As is often Harley’s way, they don’t publish a horsepower claim, preferring to nominate 70Nm / 52 ft. lbs @ 3750rpm and a 30 degree lean angle as the key performance criteria.

They present the bike as a platform for customising and it’s got some nice places to start from. The Harley security system, some really funky standard wheels and ‘Dark Custom’ style cues, like Black crinckle finish, abound and the paint is finished in Silver or Black ‘Denim’ Paint. (I’d call it a matte.)

Next we were presented with the XR1200X.
Schwing! OK Multiple Schwings - to the factor of a trouser tent. (Thanks Stretch.)

Several of the moto-noters agreed that this is their favourite Harley. It’s a refinement and styling exercise of the XR1200 we rode last summer.

As a Buell owner I find it close to home performance-wise and the black on black with blacked-out blackness simply delicious.

Claimed 90hp / 67kW @ 7000 rpm and 100 Nm / 74 ft. lbs @ 3700 rpm to go with the 39 degree lean angle tell part of the story.

The 3-way adjustable USD front forks and piggy-back rear shocks, adjustable for pre-load and damping, help the set up.

Dunlop Qualifier rubber adorns the 120 front and rear180 rims that cover a 2225mm wheelbase.

Nice to look at and very nice to ride. At $17,250 we should see plenty of them on the roads.

Next card shown was the $28, 995, FLSTFB Fat Boy® Lo.

I gave the Fat Boy a ‘BD Bike of the Year’ accolade a few years ago, on the back of living with a Press bike for a few weeks and completing one of the most enjoyable cruises around the Coromandel Peninsula.

The Dark Custom Fatty produces 125 Nm / 92 ft lbs @ 3500 rpm and a 26 degree lean angle, but as any Fat Boy enthusiast knows – this machine is all about the feel and this one feels low.

‘The lowest seat height for any Harley-Davidson’ proclaims the marketing material. Said marketing also uses female riders quite extensively in a pretty good pointer as to whom the machine also suits.

It’s low and a good looking motorcycle.

Wide Rebirth.
Next off the deck (and the personal favourite making a re-appearance) is the FXDWG Wide Glide. One of the first bikes I reviewed in KR was AMPS Wide Glide. Enjoy it as I did, it turns out that the bike formerly known as the Wide Glide is a bit of a ‘truck’ compared to this latest incarnation.

It feels smaller, and this vehicle is a tight unit, the gearbox is slick, the throttle response impressive and any semblance of ‘breathing difficulty’ and catalytic converter wheeze are gone from all of the ’010 models.

Sitting on a Wide Glide and looking down at the Spartan front end is one of the nicest on-board views on a motorcycle. The new one makes it perform and handle like a $28,000 modern bike should.

126 Nm / 93 ft lbs @ 3500 rpm and a 28 degree lean angle, but this one is about ‘the look’, (which it has in spades) and the feel good from the 1584cc Twin Cam 96 engine.

The missing cards in the ‘new’ deck were the Ultra Classic Electra Glide and the New Trike, the Ultra features on the coved of February KR.

The Ride Hand Man.

So there’s the four aces covered, now here’s where I got lucky. The invitation was forwarded by the Ed with grumpy face icons. ‘I can’t go – got a mag to put to bed’ on the email.

The Great Ocean Ride was the title given to the event. A pun on Victoria’s Great Ocean Road, the selected route.

The agenda was that a bunch of the region’s Moto-noters arrived in Melbourne, had a lovely meal in Swanston Street with the H-D folks and then an early night in at the Mercure.

Next morning the van transported us to The Docklands Convention Centre and the introductions to the event and the bikes with a croisant.

The destination for Day 1 was Apollo Bay, not a huge ride, but with numerous photo calls and refreshment stops along the way it took most of the day to get there.

The ride was split into four sections, mornings and afternoons, to provide a good ‘shift’ riding each bike.
After the briefing from Ride Captain Chris Hughes, with two or more examples of each new model in tow, the convoy set off.

We had Chris, the Journos, two ‘Wingmen’, two H-D staffers on bikes, a van with PR Lady and photographer Lou, and Mitch driving the Company truck as back up.

If you want an example of how to conduct a group ride, these guys are the textbook. Lead and sweep are connected by intercom and all the photo calls are really well marshalled.

But it was the luck of the ride order that had me looking for the nearest lotto agency.

Melbourne traffic has its moments, but on the whole the city is laid out in a grid on a wide, flat plain with little in the way of natural barriers. It’s not like Auckland with two harbours and seven volcanoes or Wellington’s mountainous landscape to navigate.

Big ol' four lane freeways fan out from the city centre from West to North to East.

So it was straight lines pretty well all of the first morning’s ride past Geelong and to Torquay - and I drew the Wide Glide.

Purrrrfect. This is what the machine revels in I thought as I admired the reflections in a passing Fuel Tanker. A freeway speeds the motor purrs, you can stretch legs out on the forward controls and watch the 22-wheelers roll by in excellent comfort.

We did swap bikes regularly for the photo calls, and I did get an opportunity to put it through some of the twisty bits later on, and it handles tidily too, but for the most part the freeway was Wide Glide heaven. Ace number one.

Coffee at Torquay, Lunch in Lorne and as the landscape change, so did my bike.

Aced again.
The terrain changed from coastal plain and freeway. The escarpments get steeper at the beginning of the Great Ocean Road and the roads reminded me very much of East Cape – except with a lot more double lines, cars and people.
Still a truly spectacular ride nonetheless and it was my turn on the Sportsters for the twisties. 
The 883 Iron comes with some of the longest hero pegs I’ve seen. The must project over 50mm from the bottom of the pegs proper. It’s good because it’s handles quite tidily and it is exceptionally easy to get them on the ground.

It was here that I did enjoy the character of the engine pulling out of the corners and the way it spooled up.

After pleading ‘I’m really too big for this machine’ one of the factory boys handed over his XR1200X for the late afternoon shift into Apollo Bay and I felt like I had three aces.

Glorious twisty road and even the weather conditions were starting to look like East Cape.

The XR1200X was just delightful. My knees were glad I was on the Wide Glide for the Freeway, but out here on the Big Hill the Sportie was quite joyous. It sounds unique, has the grunt where it’s needed on the road and has got Showa suspension all round.

I was a little underdone on the pre-load and was off the pace of the lead bunch of riders when I first jumped aboard, Next morning the crew jacked it up for me (Oh yeah – us journos don’t adjust our own suspension any more dontchaknow) and subsequently I was comfortable up near the front for the 2nd morning. Worth noting that if you are test riding the vehicle - make sure the shop dials in the suspension for you. It makes quite a bit of difference to the handling of this delightful machine.

Overnight at Apollo Bay was quiet after a nice meal in the town. It’s the kind of place that ‘Seachange’ was written about.

Next morning I was ‘officially’ on the XR1200X again and we headed into the Ottway range as the loop back to Melboune began.

More fantastic motorcycling ensued. The roads were wet and occasionally muddy. ‘You Kiwi based blokes seem pretty comfortable on wet twisty roads’ Photographer Lou Martin later remarked.

I was just comfortable on the XR1200X to tell the truth. Properly dialled in it was a ride to remember and the conditions were very similar to a jaunt through the Waitakeris, only there were Gum trees and about 80 kilometers of empty, prime road.

When we finally emerged from the bush and back onto the plains we stopped for lunch before heading back onto the superslap. Fourth Ace, Four lanes of it I had the Fat Boy.

Footboards, a built-in back rest and a ton of torqueyness. Not to mention feeling just a little bit bad. It’s like there’s some Siren in the machine singing for me to do a burnout. But I resisted and we rode in formation back along the freeway and to the city in the afternoon peak hour. Fat Boy perfect. Relaxed and I just enjoyed looking at the machine.

It too pulls to the rev limiter with any hint of running out of breath along the way. The new lowness comes at the expense of some of the cornering clearance, but you wouldn’t buy a Fat Boy to do anything but relaxed riding anyway.

Full house.

I think that was one of the best things the ride demonstrated. There are a range of Harleys now that suit a wide varity of riders and conditions.

The Ultra Classic on the way is at one end and the XR and Sporties at the other. With the V-rod variants too they have a wide range of vehicles so it’s a matter of picking the one that suits the individual’s application the best.

The ‘010 Engines are the best stock Hogs I’ve ridden yet, the XR is the best performer so far too.

The ride and launch gave ‘Lucky’ a chance to use them in conditions for which they were well suited and with stock on your authorised dealer floors now I have no hesitation is recommending you play your cards right and go take one for a fang.

Thanks to H-D Aus for the opportunity. Top Show.

I should be so lucky…lucky, lucky, lucky…I…..err, sorry.

First Published in KIWIRIDER 2009

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