This is my mate Simon. A good all round bloke and pretty handy on 2 wheels. Raced for a bit, then went through the stages of trying to slow himself down on the road. Super duke 990...nope. Built a Triumph Trident engined bobber to try as well, sadly didn't work either.
So imagine my surprise when a few months back, up he popped in my Facebook feed shaking the hand of an orange and black clad Harley-Davidson branch manager in front of a brand new HD '48'.
Curious about it, as these sorts of bikes don't really do the rounds in my social circle, turns out it is, for a Harley, kind of sporty...ish. Adjustable suspension, OK brakes, and I don't mind the peanut tank, though looking through some customs clips are the way to go style wise.
A quick chat with Si later, and we had arranged a chilly winter shoot with the Harley, and special added guest of his partner and her M3. Gear loaded, girlfriend briefed on her duties as driver/assistant/support and we were off to meet them at a secret location (Solar farm corner, B1090 between Sawtry and Abbots Ripton).
First thing that grabbed me about this bike in the flesh was the seat. Looking at the HD website, and plenty of Google images, this one was different. Si had made and fitted his own springer seat, and I loved it. Normally saved for hardtails to give some level of comfort, this seems purely aesthetic and I can fully appreciate that. Tied in with the stick on pillion seat of the same material, and it really brings out the low profile of the bike.
Waiting for Simon to turn around further up the road for another pass, the noise is incredible. His previous Triumph was loud, but the Vance and Hines are basically some matt black scaffolding. What packing may or may not be in there certainly isn't doing any job it was designed for, and I love it.
Panning shots in the bag, we headed off for the parts I wanted to have fun with, trackers. For those not in the know, this is how a lot of automotive editorial shots are done. It boils down to the subject vehicle following the camera car, which in this case was my 2004 Mondeo TDCI, while the photographer, myself, either hangs out of the window or the boot. Have a wide enough lens to convey speed, with a slow enough shutter speed, and voila...20-30mph becomes 60-70mph.
Up and down the road a few times, plenty of hand gestures and the occasional 'CAR!!' coming from my Girlfriend in the drivers seat, and it was time to move on to the static shots. A nice quiet road is definitely preferred. I had wanted something more urban in fitting with the bike, but being a Sunday just before Christmas, everywhere will be busy and traffic heavy, so off to a quiet road that leads to a very small industrial estate where I shot my first images of my Speed Triple.
I have been trying to capture detail recently. The kind of things that you notice after having the bike for a few weeks. The little stamp of 'Triumph' here or the Yamaha Tuning fork pressed into a part, Ariel are fantastic at this kind of thing. Now, Harley are good at branding things. T-Shirts, chaps, cups, key chains, coasters...the list is endless, but for the 48, it barely begins. While it looks well built and solid, it is lacking in any real finishing details. It is very much a production line bike. With the tank raise kit on (a welcome piece of carbon fibre amongst typical Harley steel) it exposes a very unfinished looking piece of plastic that holds wiring and the like down the backbone of the bike. Fluid hoses, cables, wires...it is all just routed, with seemingly no thought put into it. Shame.
Moving the bike around, it is surprisingly light too. An advertised 247kg is carried very low down making it a breeze to walk around with. The clocks are easy to read too, with one dial giving speed and a row of all the needed flashy bits. All the controls are easy too, although the grips are less than ideal being basically smooth and grip-less.
At the beginning of this piece, I had said that Simon was trying to slow himself down, but looking for detail led me to the foot pegs, and the beginning of ground down 'hero blobs'. Tag that with the thump his partner gave him when they arrived for drifting out of corners in front of her on the way up, tells me he may be physically slower, but only through performance capability of the bike, not himself.
All in, I like it. Loud, mean, and ridden like a sportsbike. Whats not to like. Would I get one? I don't think so. The amount that HD charges for, not only the bike, but the added price of joining the family, I personally can't justify it, plus not until HD gets rid of the Wi-Fi alarm fob that clearly (as my tinnitus is still telling me) doesn't work.