A while back, Prubert posted that he had a few coupons for a free Harley rental. I jumped at the chance and had my coupon shortly thereafter. I then had to figure out where I could use the coupon. We have a rather large Harley dealership here in town but they donít do rentals, so it was a three-hour ride to get to a dealership that actually had rental bikes.
Schaefferís Harley Davidson in Orwigsburg, PA was the dealership I would be using for the rental. I made all the arrangements using the online rental reservation system. The entire process went smoothly. I showed up and was directed over to John, the rental consultant. After a few minutes of paperwork, it was back outside to have John go over every aspect of the bike. This wasnít a typical walk-around-the-bike-and-send-you-on-your-way type of deal. John literally went over every button on the bike and what it did in detail. He obviously knew the product well and was a true professional.
So, what bike did I end up with? Well I wanted to get something that both Mrs. CB and I could have a fun time on, so we went straight to the touring line as these were the only bikes with a backrest for passenger comfort/security. We ended up with an Ultra Classic Electra Glide FLHIEKFISYEOFPDHSUER&* or whatever the letter designation was.
Since Beth was still at work, I rode home on my own. With no maps or GPS I just meandered west and north until I got across the mighty Susquehanna River and knew where I was. The weather was going downhill a little since we were expecting a few cold fronts to move through. I was basically just pointing toward brighter skies and hoping for the best. That worked out well until I was about 20 minutes from home (typical). Then the sky opened up. I got dumped on for about 10 minutes then the sun came back out for the final push home. I think this was the first time that the bike had seen rain. It was now properly filthy.
By now it was dark outside, so weíd have to wait until the next day to test out the two-up ability of the bike. We did just that the next day on the way back to the dealership, just meandering across the Pennsylvania countryside on our way back in time for the 4pm return time.
Oh, the return was easier than the pickup. Park it out back and drop the keys in the key drop box. Overall, the entire rental process was quick and very professional.
So, on to my impressions of the bike.Fit and Finish:
Overall it was very nice, especially the engine finish. I love nice machining. However, I didnít really see what all the fuss is about Harley paint. Was it nicer then my C14 paint? Of course. However, I didnít think it was better than my Weestrom paint. That said, all paint eventually gets worn if you actually ride a bike so itís not a big deal. One minor annoyance was the throttle tube. You could jiggle it up and down on the handlebar as if itís just floating on there. A minor detail but one you are aware of any time your hand is on the gas.Suspension:
SoftÖvery soft. The back wasnít too bad but the front end wallowed in turns. Especially turns with crappy pavement. I added air to the rear shocks according to the manual for our two-up duties on day two and that seemed to do a good job of soaking up all but the biggest bumps. For the purpose of just cruising in a straight line, I would call the suspension adequate, but it would need some work, especially up front, if you want to go in search of twistier sections of road.Accommodations:
This seems to be where Harley really put their focus and for the most part it really shows. Like most bikes, the seats are soft. Good for the showroom but bad for burning your ass after a few miles on the road. The bike had a stereo that worked surprisingly well. Just about every function is available at your fingertips, although the turn signals and horn buttons are not in the ďstandardĒ places. I did honk my horn once or twice when going for the left turn signal. The automatic canceling signals work well if you are prone to leaving your signals on. The cruise control is probably the best Iíve tried to date; I probably rode for about 5 miles with both hands in my lap, steering with foot pressure. The highway pegs offered some relief from a sore ass just by giving you more options to move around. Two items in particular really did annoy me though. First, the heal/toe shifter. I only wear a size 9 boot and had a hard time finding a place on the floorboard where I could rest my foot. Iíd have to take that off right away. Secondly, was the windshield. At my height (6í0Ē) the top of the screen was directly in my line of sight. I got around this by assuming the Harley slouch. Sitting about 2 inches lower had me looking though the windshield which was a little odd at first but I got used to it fairly quickly. Then came the rain. Once it started raining, I saw the real flaw of the windshield. The water doesnít clean from the windshield. There seems to be a little negative pressure zone that just lets the water droplets sit there. The other bad thing is that since the shield is blocking you from air flow your visor also does not clear itself of rain without leaning over into the wind stream. Oh youíll also be soaked by the time the third raindrop hits since the bike really offered no weather protection other than that windshield.Engine and Transmission:
The transmission sounds clunky. I say it ďsounds clunky,Ē because the shifts felt smooth. They are just accompanied by a very loud clunk. I thought that was a little odd. The 103ci engine would have to be the biggest disappointment. It just didnít have any guts. At idle, it shakes like a paint shaker. That smoothes out as soon as you are in motion. However, it just seemed to lack power everywhere. You could get up to 50 mph just fine but if you donít pay attention you are bouncing off the rev limiter in no time. The powerband is very small. Top gear roll-ons are non-existent. We were on the highway and rolled it to the stop and nothing Ė I mean NOTHING Ė happened. I realize thatís not the purpose of the bike but I consider it a safety issue if you are in a position where you need to get out of the way NOW. Around town the engine seems adequate as long as speeds are below 60mph.Passenger Accommodations:
Iíll let Mrs CB chime in here. From my perspective, our C14 seems more spacious.Final Thoughts:
Having ridden most of the Japanese and Eurotrash offerings, I was glad to have had the opportunity to give a Harley a shot. Overall, I would say the Electraglide is a decent motorcycle given itís design parameters and expected use. I found that we were cruising at a much more relaxed pace and taking in the scenery more than just blazing down the road, and I guess thatís what itís all about. You donít buy a touring Harley to tear up the mountain passes and challenge the road. You buy it to cruise along and smell the flowers and it fulfills those duties in spades.
Thanks again to Prubert for making this possible.