Dibbitty, Dibbity Duo
It is the most fabulous time of year –
the snow is receding and the temperatures are climbing. The official
season of motorcycling is about to 'kick off' for those of us in the
Northern Latitudes. Those of you on the south side of the snow line
should have already been riding through the shorter, darker, colder
days with the appropriate gear and tires. A tip of the hat to the
crew out on enduros, cross-sports and supermotos with knobbies that
braced snow for fun.
We did not have to wait for 6 weeks for winter to shed its' grasp on us – during February, Harley Davidson unleashed 2 'new' Sportsters to it's line-up for the coming moto-year. No, this does not give them a pass for Killing the Entire Dyna line last fall, but it is a nice olive branch. So without further adieu – meet the new bikes; same as the old bikes. Introducing the 48 Special and the 1200 Iron. Both bikes are essentially rehashed packaging of current rides, dressed in new decorative wrapping. And for what it is worth, that decorative wrapping borrows heavily from the AMF days of the 70's – so even that is not 'New'. According to the Motor Company, “The art on these two fuel tanks reflect contemporary trends we are seeing on custom bikes and in design in general, a move away from more complex and intricate art to a look that’s very simple and clean,” Brad Richards, Harley-Davidson VP of Styling & Design said, “It’s also important to note that these graphics respect the shape of the fuel tank and in the case of the Sportster, that tank shape is a classic design element in its own right.”
Maybe Mr. Richards wasn't around during that time - but it is not a 'Golden Era' for the Brand, those of us the rode those bikes - will never forget the stains and strains of the quality from the realm of bowling ball ownership.
The bars are the same height as those of the by-gone 72, so if you liked that ride, but hated the GLITTER, then this might be your ride. The carry-overs from the 883 sibling are the 3.3 gallon tank, mid mount pegs and a dunking in black, black and more BLACK . The engine covers, control levers and pipes are all have a firmly 'Anti-Chrome' Attitude. As a rider who hates polishing chrome - this is a WIN in my book.
Styling fails abound though. The gunfighter seat calls back to low slung pro-street rides of the 80's, the Graphics are ripped from the 70's and the mini-ape are all too much of a 60's throwback. It's a 'nice' bike - but I would have to dump Five Thousand into it to get it to where I like and need for my tastes - like nearly every other bike from Corporate Milwaukee. Pricing starts at 9,999 ~ so there is a budget to escalate quickly with hand picked accessories. The bike comes ready to ride in a
Vivid Black, Twisted Cherry, or Billiard White but the fairing remains in black no matter your hue choice. Here is the 883 Iron for Comparison.
Next for the Roast: The 48 Special.
Full admission, I never liked the 48 - it sells well, but I cannot stand the 2.1 gallon fuel tank. I like to RIDE my bikes, and having to stop every hour on the hour to gas up is a real pain in the ass. The SPECIAL version of the bike - does not solve that problem - it keeps the tiny peanut lodged between you and the mini-ape bars. I was not a fan of them on the 1200 Iron, I have not changed my mind on this rendition either. Comparing the two bikes directly, you can see the 48 gets wider tires dressed in 16 inches front and rear. This puts the bike more clearly in the laid back cruiser style than the canyon carving direction that the Iron is aiming for. The SPECIAL also gets a dose of chrome splashed across the engine bay. The devil is always in the details - and if you are going to dress your power plant in chrome, the air cleaner should also be shiny and plated. (the parts are available - just make them match already.)
The SPECIAL puts the riders pegs in the forward position for more of the traditional 'cowboy style' posture that is most associated with Harley Davidson. Front and rear fenders remain black whether you choose Vivid Black, Twisted Cherry, or Billiard White. Some bean counter somewhere is happy, but it feels like a cheap dodge from a company that prides itself on its paint and pin striping. Maybe they will do better next year. Here is the base model 48 for comparison.
I approve of the solo style set for both bikes, but the ground clearance is far too low for my liking ~ I am scraping pegs and grinding nubbies. In addition, the tall bars do not jibe with my style of riding. Harley Davidson has priced the 48 Special at 11,299 with an added impressive buy back offer if you return it in a year to the dealer. The current offer is for all Street & Sportster bikes, that you will receive full MSRP credit to a new bigger ride for 2019. While this is a sound trade-in strategy to generate traffic into the dealership - I do hate how they think everyone wants a bigger bike. Personally, I would like to see it shed 150 lbs and put it back at the weight of the Buell.
And now a word for the Text Impaired.
PS - for those of you that think I am being harsh on the brand - I have my own style and idioms, that probably do not match yours. Get out and ride. Tip of the hat to my 57 Dark Custom, built from a 2006 XL883R to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Harley Davidson Sportster.