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Harley-Davidson!

15 January 2019


Last week I mentioned that this August Harley-Davidson is releasing a production electric bike called the Livewire - for nearly $30,000. The reception of this price in the media has been overwhelmingly negative; most reviewers are calling it a sales disaster in the making. Harley also released some information on their lower-cost electric scooters/mopeds/bicycles/e-bikes/I'm not sure what to call them.  The one with the skateboard floorboards looks decidedly odd.

14 January 2019

Friday was fun. Despite the cold I still got a ride in, knowing that snow was on the way. After much discussion about heated grips, heated gloves and heated glove liners with the parts guy at Classic Iron Motorcycles in Fredericksburg, I bought some Highway 21 battery-powered heated gloves! I used them shoveling snow - details below. They work great! (VIDEO.)


On Saturday my wife and I did errands and I returned the Harley-Davidson gloves I bought on 12/26. They were good - just not good enough. Me and the fellow who bought my Suzuki were trying to organize a pre-snow ride for Saturday afternoon but we were too late - the snow started coming down before we could get ourselves sorted out and on the road.

11 January 2019

It's a Friday and I have the day off. Am I going for a motorcycle ride? Yes. When? Right now it's 29 degrees... when it warms up a bit! The high today is supposed to be 37 and sunny, which is still riding weather. (With the proper gear, of course.)


The other day I mentioned that the details of Harley-Davidson's much-anticipated Livewire electric bike were released (110 miles range on a charge, 0 to 60 in under 3.5 seconds, nearly $30,000). Since then the comments in the motorcycling media have been overwhelmingly negative regarding that price - and no wonder. The slogan they came up with was "More roads to Harley-Davidson" - in other words, this is one way they intended to attract new, younger riders. But not at that price! Harley guy Matt Laidlaw rides an electric Zero bike and compares it with the Livewire and makes a case for that price point, but, whew. I can't help but feel that a $30K Harley electric bike was a serious miscalculation by somebody in Milwaukee. 

9 January 2019

The Top Three Oddest Things I Have Seen While Riding a Motorcycle (So Far)

(3) As I was riding down I-95 one day I noticed something odd in my peripheral vision. Looking to my right I noticed a rider on a Japanese sports bike of some kind, standing on his pegs, doing about 60 mph or so. Why was this fellow being the Human Sail? I cannot say.

(2) On another occasion I was in Fredericksburg, preparing to get on the ramp for I-95. A guy on an old school, 1960s-style chopper was sitting in front of me. He was wearing a "brain bucket," or one of those half-helmets. To my amazement he pulled out a cigarette and a Zippo lighter, lit up, and when the light changed, merged onto the freeway, cig clenched between his lips. How does anybody sustain smoking in the face of a 70 mph gale (that's how fast he was going)?

(3) So I'm stopped at a light on the Fairfax County Parkway with a guy on a Harley Street Glide in front of me about eight feet away. He's got one of those devices that grip a smartphone onto the handlebars, and he's idly flipping though photos on the phone. It doesn't take much long distance vision to realize that he's looking at photos of nude women. At a stop light. I laughed loudly (I do that a lot), and he turned to look at me and then shrugged, as if to say, "Hey, I was bored, okay?" The light changed and he rode out of my life.

***

Yesterday I was on the Parkway on my Harley when I saw my church pal (of 31 years) John, driving his 1982 Toyota Supra; it has over 270,000 miles on it and John proudly does his own engine work to keep it alive. He'll never sell it. I honked, but he appeared to not recognize me. An email confirmed that he did not; I was in the glare of the sun.

I rode to the Harley dealership in Fairfax to buy a touring suspension pump. Yep, it works just fine. The air shocks need to be kept to about 27-30 psi to support my Homeric frame. While there I also noted the Road King Classic chrome passenger pad covers. Mine are black and a little too minimalist. Some chrome is needed. A possible birthday present!

While there a crusty old sales guy favored me with a lecture about the difference between an FLHR, a standard Road King, and an FLHP, the police model Road King I have. The FLHP has an heavy duty stator to produce the extra electrical energy needed to power flashing lights, a siren, radio and other cop accessories. It also has a different stainless steel cam that produces a bit more torque, "kinda sorta" like a Stage 2 Screaming Eagle cam improvement. COOL! I didn't know this.


And, finally, this:


What is it? A painting of Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention as a motorcycle gang from Guy Peellaert's Rock Dreams, a pictorial book I bought on the occasion towards the end of boot camp (December 1974) when the USMC Drill Instructors let us use the Base PX. They insisted upon inspecting our purchased goods; I was asked, "What in the hell did you buy that for?!?" I paid about five bucks; I see copies on e-bay for anywhere from $40 to $75.


I need to get the gear to look like the guy on the left. I bet I can manage the facial expression.

8 January 2019

The big news in the world of motorcycling is that last night Harley-Davidson announced the specifics about their new electric bike, the Livewire, which goes on sale this year. You can now pre-order one. And if I had Donald Trump's money, why, I suppose I'd do just that.

In a nutshell: (1) An electrical bike represents heresy for HD, as the traditional Harley is powered by a celebrated big, noisy, gas-powered V-twin engine. An electrical bike represents a new business and target customer for the 115 year-old company. (2) The Livewire goes about 110 miles per charge. (3) It comes in three colors (orange, yellow and black), (4) It'll do 0 to 60 in under 3.5 seconds (that's supercar territory), and (5) It starts at $29,799. That last one is surprising, because you can buy a base Zero electric bike for $11,000. I'm not sure how Harley is going to compete there, but I'm reasonably sure the comparison rationale "But it's a Harley!" isn't going to work with the impoverished Millennials (who aren't inclined to ride motorcycles) that Harley is supposed to be targeting with the Livewire.


One thing's for sure: I want to test ride one!

7 January 2019

On Friday I did a Harley ride: VIDEO.


And yesterday morning I did another: VIDEO. I was told there's a Sunday morning motorcycle "scene" in Clifton, VA in good weather. So there seems to be. The star of yesterday's show as far as I was concerned was an old kick start Royal Enflield kitted up to look like a British service bike. That  as cool.

3 January 2019

45 degrees this morning - I didn't even need my usual long johns (aka L.L.Bean "base layer") for the bike ride into work this morning. It only took me about 15 minutes to commute; I think that may be a new record. I like commuting on the Harley; I get a fun bike ride to look forward to at the end of the day.

2 January 2019

T'was a warm ride into work this morning; it was a balmy 44 degrees. That's a whole lot better than the high twenties! I took the I-395 Express Lanes into Shirlington (zipping past stalled traffic on the normal lanes) and parked in the free parking structure - it's only a 18 minute commute that way.

I rode around some yesterday after finishing up the Christmas decorations put away effort. The weather was in the sixties/high fifties. That being the case, Cari rode as a passenger. We both agree that a passenger backrest is needed for two-up riding. The seat is too slippery and the Harley accelerates too well!


Yesterday while exiting the gas station I saw the elusive orange and black CVO Ultra Limited Harley ridden by a guy in my neighborhood. I've heard his bike before but haven't had a chance to talk to him until I followed him home yesterday. Turns out he's one of the original homeowners in the area and grew up there. We chatted for a while. Nice guy. And he works on his own Harley so he's a valuable source of information and advice.

31 December 2018

Motorcycling: Every clear day I did some riding. Here's a Quantico National Cemetery video taken 12/26. This is actually a repeat of a ride I did on the day before, on Christmas day. I saw one fellow who apparently dismounted from his wheelchair and sat between a row of stones, obviously grief-stricken. It was a very sad thing to see on a Christmas day...

On the 26th I went to the nearby Harley dealership and bought a new pair of (hopefully) warmer gloves. We shall see! I also rode to nearby Rippon Lodge - a place I had never heard of despite being a Virginia resident for over thirty years.


During the break I sold the Suzuki for about what I paid for it via craigslist - goodbye Marva. My first three "interested parties" were Internet scams. But the fellow who bought it lives only a little over a mile from me, so now I have an occasional riding partner!

21 December 2018

Hey - what's the difference between a Hoover and a Harley? The location of the dirt bag. Ha! Got that one from a BHS classmate on Facebook. (But then, he "races" a stock 1961 VW Beetle...)


I put Marva up for sale yesterday on craigslist. After a iPhone message scam I got two promising leads. This bike might just be sold during the weekend!

20 December 2018

On a motorcycle, tire pressure is important. After all, there are half as many tires as on a car. And the way the road is handled via those two bits of rubber is critical, so last night after work I rode over to the air pump at the big Shell station in West Springfield to check my tire pressure.

Problem is, getting to the stems on the wheels of the Harley are difficult: the disk brakes get in the way. And, worse, while the stiff attachment on the end of the hose presents no issue for car tires, it's a major production to get it in place on the bike. I need a fitting that is manipulated from the side. So after much crawling around on the ground and finagling around brake units I did a suspect job of checking the tire and, fearful that the pressure was all wrong, I rode to the custom cycle shop in Springfield to get the air checked properly there. As I guessed, they had an air fitting adapted for use, and after some sport at my utter newness, checked my air. It appears that in order to properly get to the rear tire stem a saddlebag has to come off. (Not a big deal.)

I need a compressor of my own with a fitting that will work! I may be heading over to Harbor Freight to find one this weekend. I can't have checking tire pressure be this much of a production... I have to do it too often. Without becoming lecturesome, I will state that responsible and safe motorcyclists check their tire pressures often.


And, by the way, I am a motorcyclist, not a biker.

19 December 2018

My porch thermometer read 27 degrees this morning... but I rode into work anyway. And yes, my fingers were icy when I got in. Doesn't matter! I got my big V-Twin to keep me warm! I agreed to show my Harley to a guy at work and now it's sitting in the parking structure, awaiting its debut.

18 December 2018

I took another Getting To Know You Ride yesterday... I have put 395 miles on the Harley already! That Harley is so good on interstates. Smooth and powerful. And while yesterday was gusty it wasn't much of a big deal with that heavier bike. I noticed it's not going to get the same gas mileage that my Suzuki did. But then, a Cadillac burned more gas than did a VW.

At one point I was in stop and go traffic because of road work; this required a lot of first gear and friction zone manipulation with the clutch, which is somewhat stiff and new. An experience like this is like using one of those grip strengtheners! My son-in-law's mother rides a Road King. When I was on the road I reflected that she must have a grip like iron.

All I want to do is ride that Road King - which will be a challenge in the next few months. I will take it out in the cold, but I will not take it out when there's ice on the road!


Fun fact: 2018, my first motorcycle year, has been the wettest on record in the D.C. area. Oddly enough, however, there weren't many occasions when I got caught out on the road when it began to rain.

17 December 2018

On Friday I took a Getting To Know You Ride (these used to be known as Better Than Nothing Rides). It's supposed to be sunny, dry and in the fifties today. Hmmmm. Hmmmmmmmmmm.


I'm more confident with the Harley than I was when I rode it home... I think the unfamiliarity with the handlebar type and placement has gone away. Over the weekend I put the Suzuki under a cover and fitted the Harley in its parking spot in the garage, in front of the VW. After a good cleaning I took a bunch of photos of the Suzuki in order to sell it - album here. It goes in craigslist soon.

14 December 2018

Friday! It was supposed to rain all day today, but it looks like it'll hold off until the afternoon. So guess what? Me and the Harley are going out for another Getting To Know You session.

Yesterday after donating blood I rode over to my local independent bike shop to show the guys my Road King and ask advice. The best response to my issues regarding the handlebar is, "Don't change a thing until you put about 1,000 miles on the bike," which I planned to do anyway. So I spent the next three hours simply riding around.

I rode to Clifton along the usual wooded and twisty road. I rode out to a gigantic unused parking lot alongside Eisenhower Avenue in Alexandria to do turns and panic stops at various speeds - those Brembo brakes are good. Two wheel ABS disk is a real improvement over the front disk/rear drum arrangement on the Suzuki.


By the time I got back home I was much more comfortable with ordinary non-interstate riding on that bike. It's just taking some muscle memory training. So I plan to do more of that as soon as I shower and the temps rise to at least 40 degrees. (I have discovered that while temps in the high twenties and thirties feels cold, anything over that is perfectly reasonable biking weather and I don't become objectionably cold. My biggest problem is cold fingers.) 

VIDEO

13 December 2018

I rode into work today on the Harley... the short I-395 high speed Express Lane ride gave me no problems at all. I can easily keep up with traffic. What was tricky was low speed riding on city streets and, especially, activating turn signals in the dark! I haven't gotten used to the turn signal button placement on the handlebars yet. My Suzuki had a big red switch that stuck out - the Harley's are black and flat. Clearly, I need many hours of practice on this new bike.


I'll get some more of that later today. I donate blood at work, and when I do I get a few hours off. The temps are reasonable - mid-40s - so I think I'll just buzz around town and come to terms with the min-ape hanger handlebars on that Road King. I'm still trying to figure out exactly how my hands fit comfortably on the grips. (By the way, the temps were in the mid-30s on the ride into work. I didn't even notice any cold. I guess I'm becoming motorcycle weather acclimatized.)

Tomorrow is Friday and I have the day off. Will I be on the Harley? Probably not. They're calling for rain. And I need to prepare Marva for sale and storage.

12 December 2018

After some logistical arrangement getting to Fredericksburg and the Classic Iron dealership via VRE train and Uber, I did it! I bought my 2016 Harley-Davidson FLHP Road King!

VIDEO - If I sound unconvinced about the soundness of my decision it's because I'm unused to the bike. It's very different from my Suzuki Boulevard... the handlebars are higher and narrower, the bike is heavier, there's the big shaky engine at idle, the clutch and brakes, getting my feet on the foot boards, etc. In fact, my very first action on the bike in the parking lot was to stall it! (I had the same issue with the Harley Trike I test rode.) The clutch's pull and friction zone take some getting used to. The turn signals on a Harley are different, too: the left one is on the left grip, the right on the right grip. On my Suzuki they're both on the left grip. And on a Harley they're self-cancelling, which is a real blessing.

When I first went down Route 1 to get on I-95 north back home I had a constant refrain of OH MY GOSH HAVE I JUST MADE A COLOSSAL EXPENSIVE MISTAKE?!? running through my head. I'm sure it's just initial nerves; I had the same sorts of thoughts running through my head when I got the Suzuki...

One fact was immediately apparent: This bike loves the freeway in a way that my Suzuki did not. It'll do 80 without breaking a sweat. 70-75 is achieved at a stately 2,500 RPM and feels very smooth in 6th gear. And the cruise control! Wow. It works fine and is very nice. (We took the LDS missionaries out for dinner last night; one is a motorcyclist. When I mentioned the cruise control he said, "Whhhaaaat? Is that a thing?" The poor lad rides sport bikes.)

Popping off and replacing the windshield is very simple compared to my Suzuki. No tools required. (Of course, that windshield will be staying on for a few months more. Baby, It's Cold Outside.)

Photos:

Saddlebags - Note the smoked turn signals and brake lights. They all glow the appropriate colors when lit, but I do like the grayed variation. The brake lights are LEDs which do a sort of stroboscopic HEY LOOK AT ME effect when activated. Those pipes are perfect: louder and deeper than stock but not obnoxious and not what are called "neighbor-haters." Once again, the idea there is HEY BE AWARE I'M HERE.

Instruments - It's a police model bike (FLHP), which means that Harley installs a separate speedometer so officers don't have to look down at the tank. The tank gets a tachometer. I prefer this. Lots of chrome. I like chrome.
Safely in the garage...

Front end - This, to me, is what a proper motorcycle looks like. That windshield, three lights, chrome, crash bars. I guess I've been programmed by cop bikes from my youth. Note the smoky turn signals in front, too. When deployed by police departments the side lamps are equipped with red and blue lens and can flash. Clear lights are installed for civilian use. (Fun fact: Using a red light will get you into trouble. I know. Go here and read the first paragraph under "Some Cruise Highlights.")

Back fender - To seal the deal they threw in a chrome four point attachment bracket for a passenger backrest (to be purchased later). That went in where you see the slots. The cool thing about a Road King is versatility: if you want nothing you add nothing. Take off the windshield for simple trips around town or put it back on for highway cruising. If you want a passenger backrest and/or a flat luggage rack you can add that via the attachment brackets, or if you want a full-blown lockable upper storage case with an integral passenger backrest you can add that, too. With a Road King you get everything you need and nothing you don't need.

I'm going to be starting over with this Road King, taking it to an empty parking lot to practice ABS panic stops, riding on city streets using turn signals, stopping and consistently finding neutral, in and out of parking spaces, etc. The freeway stuff is easy - it's the low speed stuff that takes practice.

But there it is... I'm one of them Harley guys now.

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Merry Christmas! I'm in the process of buying a 2016 Harley-Davidson Road King! It's the black police bike I linked to yesterday. (Photo) I have to either wire the money to Classic Iron in Fredericksburg or bring them a cashier's check today; I might even be able to ride it home depending upon road conditions down there. (They got eight inches of snow on Sunday night, but I'm told that Route 1 and I-95 are both clear and dry. It was sunny and above freezing yesterday and the forecast is for the same today as well.) Obviously, more on this later!


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