After 15 years of being “out of the saddle,” this author decided to get back into riding motorcycles. After all, you only live once and, now that I have a motorcycle, there’s a good chance I won’t be alive for much longer. I’ve been poking around various dealerships for some time now, trying to figure out the bike that “gets me” -one that checked all my personal boxes. I wanted something simple and pure: two wheels, a motor, a seat, and some handlebars. That’s it. No fancy shit. No options. Taillights and turn-signals optional. Up to this point, I had ridden only used Japanese motorcycles, and had been a card-carrying member of the HRMC (the “R” stands for “Riceburner”). Harleys were not at the top of my list.
After months of reading internet reviews and lurking in dealerships in and around Philadelphia (and having ultimately decided to resist the temptation to buy a used ratbike / Turd-Star on E-bay or Facey Spacey), I narrowed it down to either a Triumph Bonneville variant (T120 / Bobber) or some flavor of Sportster (Forty-Eight / Forty-Eight Special / Roadster). All were around $13,000 new and all of them relatively good, basic models in their respective lineups. After much wrangling, I finally dismissed the Triumphs due to their relative complexity / increased technology, and because they apparently build these things in Thailand. Had they been manufactured in the U.K., I might have been able to see past all the technological bullshit (ABS, driving modes, water-cooled, etc.) -don’t get me wrong, these are all great things to have, I just wasn’t interested in these things and view them as potential complications. I’m fucking complicated enough as it is, I don’t need a complicated motorcycle.
Off to the Harley dealership I went… The dealership was full of bikes, and relatively *dead*. In fact, I think I was the only customer. Having visited Harley dealerships (elsewhere) in the past, I was used to being ignored so was surprised when the staff asked me what I wanted and made some suggestions (which should actually be expected!). Sales of Harley’s are down this year so most models are in stock and you even have a good chance of haggling on price, even in the middle of prime riding season. Without divulging too much info, I will say that there is a good possibility that you could get a base Softail model, for a few bucks over the cost of a TOTL Sportster.
My initial pick was a white Forty-Eight Special in billiard white -this caught my eye as it reminded me of my Father’s XLCH900. My ever blunt wife (who knows her motorcycle shit) was quick to ask, “Why the fuck would you want a Harley with an AMF paint job?” Good point I suppose, though for a brief second I did consider embracing the AMF-ness of this bike fully and stickering it heavily with flaming bowling balls, bowling pins, and league trophies…
Cutting to the chase: After going through options with the sales staff, and reading or watching every single review I could find on this bike (this took 3-4 days alone), I ultimately settled on the newly re-designed Softail Street Bob. Why? It checked all the boxes and the dealership made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. More importantly though, I couldn’t find a single damn negative comment about this bike. Anywhere.
WHY I PICKED IT
1. There’s a big “107” on the side of it…. as in, cubic inches. Glad to see this. This is ‘Merica and we don’t speak ‘Metric.
2. The PIPES – Mine came straight from the dealer with Vance & Hines Eliminator slip-ons. Much better sounding than stock; quiet when idling at a stoplight, but ready to roar when you twist the throttle.
3. The color -Harley calls this “Red Denim” but it’s more of a “Rust Brown” to me. Maxximus says it’s “Shit Brown.” Either way, the flat finish looks sharp, though the 90’s looking spaz logo kinda ruins any 50’s/60’s custom vibe you thought you might be going for.
4. The SOLO seat – “No, you CAN’T go for a ride with me.” Sorry motherfucker, get yer own… The rear end is extremely clean -there isn’t even a brake light (rear turn signals do double-duty) and the license plate is off to the side.
5. Wire wheels – Sorry, I know mag wheels are pretty too, but in my mind, a bike should have spokes. The black rim / chrome spokes combo looks especially cool.
6. No speedo / tach (or anything else). Everything is displayed on the calculator screen built-in to the handlebar clamp. The view ahead is uncluttered, though it can be distracting paging through menus at highway speed.
7. Mid-Mounted Controls – sorry, never was a fan of the La-Z-Boy stance on bikes (so-called forward mounted controls) and having mid-mounted controls on my next bike was mandatory. It results in a really comfortable position, despite the mini-apehangers. Note the Dodge Challenger Hell-Cat (fuck yes) in the background…
In Part II, we take this bitch out on the road…