Sunday, 11 January 2015

Do Harley-Davidson Riders Secretly Admire Sportsbikes?


To many who ride chrome-laden and heavy Harley-Davidson motorcycles, mixing with the sportsbike crowd doesn’t often happen. Sportsbikes are too fast, too dangerous and ridden by young guys dressed up like Power-Rangers. Similarly, sportsbike riders think Harley’s are slow and ridden by old men (and women too) who want to look like weekend warriors in lots of black leather.



Brothers, or distant cousins?

The two groups don’t have a lot in common. Or do they?

Both groups love the open road, riding with friends, seeking out new places and hanging about in biker-friendly establishments. Take the Ace Café, in north London, where one day the distinctive rumble of Harley-Davidson V-twins can be heard and the next, the high-revving exhaust note of sportsbikes dominate. The personal lives of individuals of both groups are often defined by the machines they ride and their like-minded friends. Most important, both groups love doing the same thing, riding their motorcycles.

Personally, I’d love to have a go at riding a sportsbike. I would like to appreciate the power, the handling and being able to take corners at a higher speed than I am used to. I don’t want to own a sportsbike as my middle-aged spread would look ridiculous in tight leather and I enjoy being able to tour comfortably while carrying lots of stuff on my bike, but still, I would like to try it. I don’t want to have gone through life without never having ridden a fast sportsbike. I don’t want to feel any prejudice I might have has stopped me from trying and understanding something.

I suspect I am not the only Harley-Davidson rider that feels the need to try a sportsbike at least once. I know many that love to watch motorcycle racing, especially the sheer power and speed of MotoGP.

How can any type of rider, not matter what they ride, not appreciate the sheer excitement of this…. (you have to click to watch it on YouTube).....



Many years ago, I regularly went to watch motorcycle racing, but a more recent visit showed me that things have changed considerably. I will be going again……


21 comments:

SonjaM said...

Both are different species, neither of them bad. Admiration or envy even? I don't think so.

Personally I do not like the Tupperware bikes and the power ranger outfits, but that is a simple matter of taste.

However, I would not mind riding a naked, nimble, and fast bike such as the Triple.

Ryan C said...

For a few years (in the US, anyway), too few, we openminded riders had access to a best-of-both-worlds beast: Harley's XR1200 nourishes the rider with those oh-so-satisfying v-twin vibes while allowing one to keep pace with the crotch-rocket pack (see the link below). It's what I ride when carving with a mixed group. I've been told that US distribution was discontinued for lack of interest from Harley's typical rider... A crying shame.

Regards,
Raindog

http://www.motorcycle.com/manufacturer/harley-davidson/2008-harleydavidson-xr1200-review-80682.html

Charlie6 said...

Gary I've often suspected that were I to try a sportsbike AND not scare myself silly, I'd get addicted to the power too easily.....and then, I'd get on the URAL....it would seem even more tractor-like!

Gary France said...

Sonja - I agree, neither are bad. I like the idea of a naked nimble street bike. Maybe an old Triumph flat tracker.....

Gary France said...

Ryan -The XR1200 looks to be a very good bike and as you say, the best of both worlds. It is a shame they discontinued it in the US. We see them every now and then in the UK.

Gary France said...

Charlie - I can see the addition to the power being a problem for many. I don't feel the need to ride fast, but it might be nice. Then I come back to reality and suspect I need to stick with my Harley. I am not sure I could ride a Ural though. Maybe I need to try.

Axel said...

I am sorry Gary, but its all a question of center of gravity. You and I are not in the featherweight class anymore (I actually never was), and riding a motorcycle is all about to where you elevate the center of gravity. While our apple-shaped bodies cant not move the gravity of a heavy chrome loaded Harley up ver much, on a lightweigt powerful sportsbike we move this center of gravity above the handlebars (if we manage to reach them at all), which is not a nice ride feeling :)

Chris Cope said...

Ryan C -- The problem with the XR1200 was that it didn't have true sportbike power (its max was 90 bhp at 7,000 rpm, which is woeful performance for a 1200 in sportbike terms) and lacked anything resembling a sportbike suspension. Additionally, there were problems with quality. So, H-D made a bike its traditional base didn't want and a bike that wasn't good enough for sport purists.
I think they should have stuck to it, though. There's something in the idea, and we can see that now in the new Indian Scout. I would expect to see a Scout coming in the next year or so that at least has "traditional" sit-up-and-beg ergonomics, if not something even sportier.

Canajun said...

Like you I'd love to ride one just to feel the power. However after many years of riding cafe-styled bikes with clip-ons and rear-sets I came to the conclusion some time ago that my back was no longer happy with the forward leaning, head and shoulders down, weight on the arms riding position. So I'll stick with my Dyna.

Lucky said...

I'm firmly in the "Why yes, I would like to ride that motorcycle" camp, regardless of what the bike is.

If you find yourself in my neck of the woods, Gary, I'll be happy to let you take the Triumph for a spin.

Dar said...

The closest I've been to a sport bike was the Honda CBF 500. I loved it! I loved the handling, fast acceleration, smooth fast handling and couldn't believe how fast I was actually going. The forward seating position was definitely not what I was used to after sitting a cruiser. It took a bit yo get used to the seating & foot position. I took it down some long slow twisties and it was awesome, then I took it for a rip up the highway and it was like a bullet. But will say for long rides in the saddle it would not be my choice as my middle age babka & hips could not deal with that long of a ride. So I think I am going to look for a sport tourer at some point, now the problem is to find one low enough for my under-tallness.

WooleyBugger said...

It's not the Sport Bikes I don't like, because a lot of them are appealing, it's the large majority of riders on them who are nuts. Around here a host of them are way louder than any straight piped Harley and that stretched look swing arm thing, what's up with that? Those with a stretched swing arm are good for the straight stuff but they will never make it on some nice twisty roads.
The problem with riding one is the undeniable urge to twist the throttle hard. To many new riders get these bikes and have no idea how to control them and wreck them pretty soon.
I like them okay but as long as somebody else is riding it.

Gary France said...

Axel – Sigh, you are correct. Bring on the diet!

Gary France said...

Canajun – I am going to stick with Harley too, but wouldn’t it be nice to try, just for an hour or so…..

Gary France said...

Lucky – I met someone the other day who was a motorcycle test rider for a magazine. He could ride a different bike just about every day and loved his job. He was a happy man!

Gary France said...

Dar – See, you are someone who tried riding a totally new type of bike for you, and loved it. I get it, I really do. Loved the bit about under-tallness. LOL.

Gary France said...

Wooley – I am with you on this. There are sensible sports bike riders but they are all tarnished with the reputation caused by a few idiots. Such a shame really. I don’t understand the swinging arm thing, but then again, I have two Harleys that are not exactly sensible!

Greybeard said...

Started riding "on two wheels" when I was twelve, 56 years ago.
Rode Harleys until my Viet Nam stint, then decided to try a Kaw 500cc two-stroke triple.
Not having to stop and pick up a license plate that had fallen off due to severe vibration/metal fatigue was a revelation. (I know... Harleys ARE better now.)
But I've coined a phrase-
"I want to put gas in this hole, oil in this one, and I want to RIDE the damn thing."
I'm blessed to be able to own several bikes. I'd buy a Harley if they'd offer something I would not continuously have to tinker with. So far, they're offering me nothing attractive.
But your topic is wonderful...
Do I love Harleys? You bet. Try as hard as they might, NOTHING sounds like a 45-degree V-twin.
Also LOVE being able to look at the bike and see what produces the "GO" and how that power is transmitted to the rear wheel.
I'm just delighted to hear/view Harleys owned by others while mounted on my "Tupperware" clad horizontal/opposed six as "She who MUST be obeyed" and I cover 500 miles in one day.

Viva la difference!
We're all bikers.

Gary France said...

Greybeard – I am glad to hear that you are still riding bikes. I have started to wonder at what I age I will stop riding and I guess different people will stop at different ages, depending on a wide range of factors.

I like what you have written, because it is a balanced view. Often, one group of riders have little time for riders in other groups and that is sad. Your approach is much better and I welcome it. Being able to see and appreciate what others ride is the best way. I will raise a glass to you tonight Sir!

Chiller tek said...

As the only sportbiker amongst everyone here, let me put in my 2 cents.
There are a lot of generalizations here in this very article. I'm definitely not a young guy at(41). Riding a sportsbike long distance is no really an option as you get older as I'm starting to feel the 600+km days now. I'm not as young as I once was. I can quite happily ride 500kms of twisties but 500km straight road is a killer. They are not built for comfort. I got addicted to the power and handling in my 20's and still love it. As long as I am still able to ride one I will, until that time then I'll probably look at a sports tourer.

I've never been one to think about buying a harley, I suppose I never saw the point of them. And yes I have ridden one, a road king to be precise. What did I think of it. Slow, no power couldn't go around a corner, and a round about(nearly went straight through it, brakes woefully inadequate. Made me wonder how people ride them without killing themselves on it, felt so unsafe compared to my ZX-9R sportsbike.

That said I was comparing apples and pears, one isn't built to do what the other is.

You are completely right in saying that the 2 groups are the same - in that they love their bikes and they love to ride them, anywhere anytime. I've ridden with harleys before on my sportsbike, I bet we both laughed at each other under our helmets, they laughed at me on those long straights when I was stretching and uncomfortable with that hard seat and head down bum up, and I was laughing at the ridiculously low speed they were taking the bends at.

All in all I've nothing bad to say about Harley riders, each to their own I say. It would be a dull world if we all liked the same thing.

Sergio Freddson said...

My uncle is a Harley Davidson enthusiast and he definitely has a healthy respect for sportsbikes. I don't think he would ever buy one but he does like to ride them. I think even the most tried and true Harley fans can respect the amazing machinery and performance of a well-built sports bike. Thanks for sharing your opinion on the matter! http://www.edgehd.net/default.asp