The un-usual suspects.

Not since H-D released the V-rod in 2001 has there been a new model that has polarised Harley owner’s opinions so widely.

It’s therefore quite fitting that the 2019 FXDR fills the gap left by the discontinued V-Rod in a number of ways.

As one reviewer succinctly said way back then: "The V-Rod was intended to bring in more than the usual suspects, and it did."

So too will the FXDR attract a range of different customers, regardless of how much its appearance and style has incensed some of the rusted-on old-school Cruiser owners.

This is a bike that covers some of the ground recently broken with the 2017 Fat Bob, but takes it to the next level. It’s a bike with enormous potential.

Quite simply, this is a wonderful motorcycle to ride. It’s powerful, smooth, responsive, handles well, has excellent cornering clearance, is surprisingly comfortable and I think it looks great. And that’s just in the standard trim of the ‘Bonneville Salt’ coloured Press bike. I had a glimpse of its potential too with time spent in the saddle of two other examples that were fitted with performance upgrades.

But first, the Press Bike.

I spend two weeks dodging the early October monsoonal rain squalls around Brisbane on it and rode it every chance I could. Every time I rode it I liked it even more than the time before. To say it grew on me is an understatement. By the end of the test I was in serious lust.

At its heart is the Milwaukee 8 power plant in 114cubic inch trim. It’s 102x114mm bore and stroke displacing 1,868cc is the smoothest running, most responsive, sweetest revving stock 114 cube I have ridden - significantly smoother than the 114 Breakout tested in Heavy Duty #159 and even smoother that the 114 Fat Boy tested issue #156 which was silky.

Some of that is no doubt down to the big ‘Drag Bike style’ air intake and redesigned exhaust. Giving the bike a handful from the lights or on the on-ramp sees the traffic getting very small in the rear view mirrors very quickly. The speculation is that the DR part of FXDR stands for ‘Drag Racer’. It’s not hard to see why. With 160Nm on tap it’s also a delight to roll it on in top gear and the torque surge is very satisfying.

That engine is slung in the best handling M8 I’ve ridden. Some of that is down to its improved dry weight – under 300kg – and some is due to the inverted cartridge front forks, upgraded rear shock and reliable Softail chassis. (It takes over the ‘Best’ plaudit from the Fat Bob via its better clearances.) The near-33 degree lean angles meant that I was scraping the edges of my size 12’s well before the anything else touched down.

I punted one example up the western side of Mt Glorious, through a succession of 20kph posted left and right handers at 50 to 60kph, and didn’t touch the pegs down once. It was very, very enjoyable. H-D claim that a feature of that big muffler is that it doesn’t interfere with cornering clearance. It doesn’t - in normal conditions anyway.

The big, twin disc, 4 piston front brakes with ABS are also very good. Tipping the bike in under hard braking, with the forks, chassis and stoppers all working in unison is simply superb.

Side to sides and tight apexes are remarkably easy for a bike with a 240 section rear tyre. The only time I really noticed the fat rear end is at very low speed and slow U-turns, where it can be a little uneven, but at normal speeds it feels remarkably well planted and solid on the road - outstandingly so – and the ride is firm as befits its sporty nature.

I found the bike to be comfortable and the seat is a lot more compliant than it looks. I did need a ‘seat break’ after around 2 hours non-stop in the saddle, but up until then the ergos were near perfect. The fact that it has a great range of adjustment available from the clip-on style handlebars helped. They rotate on the fork legs and when pushed well forward gave me a seating position that was perfect for the bike’s attacking nature – especially for a tall guy.

The Daymaker headlight is brilliant, the digital instruments and gauges set into the handlebar riser are surprisingly legible and easy to read - and the stretched fuel tank gave a range in excess of 300km. It all performed as a nicely rounded package. Although I was a little surprised by the lack of cruise control.

But then there is looking at it.

There were a number of days when it was just too wet to enjoy riding, but found myself wandering into the garage, cleaning and casting an eye over the FXDR. I enjoyed its modern and striking lines, matte finish paint and gorgeous wheels.

I had no trouble ‘getting past’ the rear fender assembly. Particularly after I saw some of the images on our Facebook Page with a Tail Tidy fitted. That rear guard and taillight assembly is probably the most ‘contentious’ appearance issue on the bike and removing it won’t make much difference to the wet weather ride either. Neither it nor the front guard are particularly effective at subduing wheel-spray. But then, that’s not what this bike is about anyway. It’s about sports and leisure riding and it does that quite brilliantly.

It’s also about potential. Have a look at the HD-A web site and check out the full noise Screamin’ Eagle options available for the FXDR and you get some idea of where the bike can go custom-wise.

I was lucky enough to have some first hand experience with a few of the customisations options available. While the Press Bike was having its first service the crew at Morgan & Wacker threw me the fob for their ‘Wicked Red’ Dealer Demo unit. It has been fitted with a Bassani exhaust system and a tuner. I took it out west of Brisbane and into ‘them thar hills’ for the day and had an absolute blast.

The pipe and tuner combined with the stock air cleaner open the breathing up even more. The top end becomes stronger and the motor vibrated even less at higher revs - and the sound is great. If you are in Brisbane, see if you can score a test ride. It’s a beautiful thing.

Then when I was in Gladstone later in the week the crew at Harbour City H-D have fitted their Black Denim Demo unit with a genuine Screamin’ Eagle Slip-on muffler and  S&S Cam. Those additions made theirs tap out longer, stronger and smoother than the previous two. It’s a fantastic ride. Likewise, if you are in Gladstone see if you can wrangle a ride. It will not disappoint.

New Direction again.

The FXDR represents a new direction for H-D: an air-cooled Muscle Cruiser with real get-up-and-go. In the marketing they say ‘it will move you like you’ve never been moved before’.

The FXDR is priced at $35,495 in Aus. It will appeal to buyers who wouldn’t have considered a Heritage styled bike, but may invest in a modern take on an excellent muscle bike.

One that will appeal to the ‘unusual suspects’.

ENGINE 1 Milwaukee-Eight® 114
BORE 102 mm
STROKE 114 mm
FUEL SYSTEM 3 Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
EXHAUST 2-into-1; catalyst in header
LENGTH 2,425 mm
TRAIL 120 mm
WHEELBASE 1,735 mm
PRIMARY DRIVE Chain, 34/46 ratio
WHEELS, FRONT TYPE 9 Gloss/satin black, split 5-spoke, Ace cast aluminum with laser etched graphics
WHEELS, REAR TYPE Gloss/satin black, solid disc, Ace cast aluminum with laser etched graphics
BRAKES, CALIPER TYPE 4-piston fixed front and 2-piston floating rear
LIGHTS (AS PER COUNTRY REGULATION), INDICATOR LAMPS 8 High beam, turn signals, neutral, low oil pressure, engine diagnostics, ABS, security, low battery voltage, low fuel
GAUGES 2.14 inch viewable area LCD display with speedometer, gear, odometer, fuel level, clock, trip, range and tachometer indication

Test riding the FXDR

The rain held off long enough to get in a long ride in on the FXDR today.

I’ve been able to get plenty of miles in the saddle in between (and during) the last two week’s worth of pretty solid rain here in Brisbane, but today it dried out enough to really give it long run.

I left home about 7:30, fuelled up, and made my way south on the M1 to hook up with ‘Spook’ and his very well sorted Breakout at Reedy Creek.

On the Freeway I find the FXDR is a delight. Its clip-on style handlebars have a good range of adjustment available as they can rotate of the fork leg. I’ve got them pushed right forward on the Press bike and it gives me a really good ‘lean into the wind’ riding position and the whole setup I find very comfortable.

Plus, the bike feels so well planted on the road - absolutely rock-solid. The cartridge forks, redesigned rear end and Softail geometry work really well together. It all makes for very relaxed Freeway cruising.
The only thing I find is a little surprising is the lack of Cruise Control.

By 8:45 we were heading towards Tomewin Mountain road – only to find it was closed due to a bicycle race. Fortunately Spook knew a side way up the Mountain and we re-joined near the summit and punted the bikes through the reasonably twisty descent into Murwillumbah.

Again the FXDR was superb. It’s the best handling Softail I’ve ridden. It also has the best cornering clearance.

Down hill, hard on the (very good) picks, into a tight left or right hander is a thing of balanced beauty. The ergos make getting a (Forest Gump voice) ‘Butt-Tock’ off the seat really easy and putting some body English into its cornering is VERY rewarding. It took a serious lean to get anything more than the heel of my boots to touch down. How Harley has managed to get a 240 section rear end to behave as well as it does is equally remarkable.

From Murwillumbah we headed over the Burringbar range and ‘Spook’s Playground’. It’s a smooth main highway with a series of 40 to 80kph long sweeping bends, dual laned for the most part.

The FXDR’s aforementioned rock-solid stability and planted feeling made this seriously good fun. So much so that we stopped for a leak at Mooball and headed straight back over the range and hit it again.

From there we took the turnoff to Stokers Siding and made our way along some twisty country back roads in what had turned into near-perfect conditions. It’s a naturally beautiful part of the world, particularly after two weeks of heavy spring rains followed by a few days of bright sunshine – the valleys are so lush they almost glow with emerald green.

The FXDR nailed it on this road as well. The sporty nature of the beast means that it’s a firm ride and you feel all the undulations in the road surface, but for sports riding the feedback is spot on. This is most definitely NOT a ‘soft’ bike.

From Stokers Siding we continued ‘bush’ to Uki and Tyalgum before stopping for a break at Chillingham.

We had a good chin wag and a very nice pie as a procession of bikes were making their way in both directions, most checking out the FXDR as they passed. Personally I like its looks but whatever the opinion - it’s a real attention grabber.

From Chillingham we made our way up the Numinbah valley and the ascent to the border. The spectacle of the valley’s spring colour was uplifting, and not even the stops for the road works on the Queensland side could put a dampener on our mood. (Read: two idiots sitting on their bikes dancing to the MP3s playing in their helmets while they waited at the red light.)

At the head of the Valley the road starts to run alongside the Hinze dam through to Advancetown - and this is another slice of road that the FXDR carved up.

In parts there are series’ of double apex, sweeping, 40 and 60kph corners that the bike absolutely devoured. No worries about dragging hard parts or having the occasional rough surface throw the bike off line. Simply hunker down, move some weigh and screw on that 114cube torque hammer as you hit the exits. It was seriously, seriously good.

Spook turned off at Nerang and headed home and I made my way back up the M1 to east Brisbane base. I got home a bit after 1pm.

The fuel warning light came on at 260km and was showing 114km range to empty when it did. I didn’t stop to refuel on the way but I will tomorrow and post the mileage it returned in the comments. Overall the ride was about 340km and it’s still showing 40km left.

I did stop for a quick leg stretch before I got on to the M1 at Nerang, but made it all the way home without any saddle-soreness and still in good comfort – and good spirits. Even though a date with the lawn mower waited.

Some of the comments I’ve read about this bike have said that ‘Harley has lost its way’. After a big day today, riding the bike in Freeway, back-country, mountain roads and highways - I think they have found it. This is a very good motorcycle.

The full test is in Issue 161 of Heavy Duty.

Triumph Speedmaster Test

It was me.
I admit it.
For a long time early in the 2000’s I was that guy who wore a Triumph tee shirt to a bike show. Naturally I also wore the barbs that came with it.
Springer Bob: “Hey Dave – what do you call a bloke on a Triumph with a bunch of Harleys?”
Dave: “Dunno Bob?”
Bob’s brother Al: “Unemployed!”
To gales of laughter from the other 5 Harley riders I hung out with most weekends.
I told them “that was OK - I’ll still wait for them to get to the pub”.
But that was a long time ago and the Hinckley Triumphs were emerging pretty well from the shadows of the Meriden Co-operative and a Lucas electrical past.

After all this time, when Brum emailed me to advise that a new Bonneville Speedmaster was available for Heavy Duty collection at Oliver’s in Brisbane, it didn’t take long to dig out a Triumph tee shirt again.

I was also very keen to try the new 1200 HT engine – ever since it was released. I had a long history with Speedmasters. We go right back to 2003 and the original Hinckley 790cc model I tested.

2018 is a whole different story however. Triumph have come up with a low-down, retro-styled package that is great fun to ride. With very spirited performance for its class… actually, compared to the ’03 it’s a missile - and it has a much bigger grin factor.

Its numbers are very similar, power and torque-wise, to the last bike I thought was this much fun around town, the Indian Scout 60 – but with better suspension.

The Speedy has that same knack of feeling long and low, with a ‘sat upon’ stance. I call it ‘skidder’ - and it dares you to give it some stick.

That turns out to be rewarding, too. The Liquid cooled 1200cc, 8 valve, SOHC, 270° crank angle parallel twin is smooth and strong. It produces 76hp at 6,100rpm and 106Nm of torque at 4,000. At idle it’s dead smooth. At riding speeds there is a gentle throb that feels a bit sweeter than the 360 degree cranks on other Bonnes. It helps feel just how pleasant and refined this engine really is.

The ride by wire setup allows for two riding modes: Road or Rain. The throttle response is, as you would expect, ‘by-wire-crisp’ and the fuel injection didn’t stumble once. Early Hinckley owners will appreciate the significance of that too. I didn’t particularly notice the ‘torque-assist’ clutch other than it felt light and easy to engage.

I also think that this is probably the best looking retro-styled, liquid-cooled engine to date. It’s free from the hoses and ducting that took-away from many earlier efforts. It still has a big radiator, but the plumbing is very well disguised.

Triumph have persisted with making the fuel injection units in the shape of a carburettor – or ‘fauxburettors’ as we call them.

Overall the bike does have some nice angles though and with a ‘chromed stainless steel, 2 into 2, twin-skin exhaust system and chromed stainless silencers’ it sounded quite tasty too – especially for a stock system.

Truimph also point out in the release’s design notes that it has, “the minimal bodywork, single clock, classic rear ‘drum brake’ inspired hub, heritage-inspired battery box, and central mudguard ridges’ which add to it’s old-school appeal.

They were also keen to note that the Speedmaster is “designed for customisation with two inspiration kits and over 130 custom accessories. These include a ‘Highway’ kit which has a full soft luggage pannier set, a ‘Maverick’ kit for a stripped back, mean attitude which includes single seat and raked out bars, plus accessories for style, detailing, comfort, touring, and premium Vance & Hines exhausts.”

They are making a serious attempt to get a piece of the customised cruiser market.

I gave the Speedy a run up the mountain from Brisbane, down to the Gold Coast - and did plenty of inner city rides. Overall comfort was good and the pull back bars, forward controls and 705mm saddle height made for a relaxed riding position – even for a tall guy. It became more of a ‘standard’ riding position with my long legs and it felt quite light and chuck-able on the road. It weighs-in at 245.5kg dry and its manners are obviously helped by a reasonable low COM.

I really liked the new engine and the way it goes. The big 310mm twin disc front brakes with twin piston Brembo callipers are very likeable too. They were so good I hardly brought the 255mm single disc rear with Nissin into play at all. It has ABS both front and rear.

The Speedmaster shares it chassis with the Bobber model and has the same hard-tail looking ‘cage’ swinging arm. The shock sits just under the rider’s seat. For a monoshock rear I thought the KYB unit worked well and gave 73mm of travel. The front features 41mm KYB cartridge front forks with 90mm travel. They are good suspenders and it’s a typical mid-size cruiser’s sporty and firm ride.

Combined with the 1510mm wheelbase, fat 130/90 B16 front and 150/80 R16 rear Avon Cobra tyres it make for a pretty sweet handling cruiser too. It runs out of its (reasonably good) cornering clearance well before it runs out of handling.

The twelve-litre fuel tank gave a range of around 200km before the warning light appeared on the well-presented single instrument cluster. The instruments feature the usual array of warning lights mounted into the analogue speedo, as well as a number of trip computer and various data functions set out in its inset LCD display.

The left hand switch block has an ‘i’ button to cycle through the various trip meters and countdown fuel range options. It also houses the ‘one button’ cruise control switch, while the right hand block has an additional toggle to change riding modes and traction control.

The bike has some very nice touches, the LED headlight with running light is good and the immobiliser is built into the key is clever: no key – no go.

It has great brakes, good suspension, a lovely motor and it has some really nice old school angles to look at. Priced at $21,500 ride away, the new Bonneville Speedmaster will fill a market niche for riders looking for something a bit different to the existing v-twin, mid-sized cruisers – something they can hop up a bit – and it does it well.

I might have to get some new Triumph tees though.

Old and New Classic Brits

Brum said that he wanted some riding shots to go with the Speedmaster, so I got my pal Douglas to ride it past the camera a few times. I also asked if he would take his tidy 1973 Norton Commando along for the shoot. “Just so we could do some side-by-side ‘old Classic Brit Vs new Classic Brit’ comparisons”.
After a morning around the Bayside we both agreed that the Norton was the better looking of the two, although the Speedy was still a good looking package. Unlike the Norton it has to comply with a heap of pollution and noise regulations.
“You also don’t have to put up with a whole lot of crap”, Doug pointed out as he was turning the fuel taps off on the Norton so it didn’t flood while he was on the Triumph.
When we finished the shoot he noted that “Everything is so soft and compliant with the modern bike. There’s no effort. It all just works. Works so well and you don’t have to wrestle with it like the old girl.”
“That Speedmaster is a very nice bike” was his final take after riding the two.
We then ran a few side-by-side roll on tests and gave them both a handful on the local on-ramp.
Even with a significant weight handicap (me) on the Speedmaster it was easily seven or eight bike lengths faster to 100kph. Interestingly the Norton had better top gear roll on from 90kph – the benefit of being a lot lighter and with fewer gears.
When I got on the Norton the old girl started first kick every time, but after stalling it several times and trying to get used to brake and gear pedals being the other way I couldn’t wait to get back on the Speedmaster – Doug had both covered.

Type Liquid cooled, 8 valve, SOHC, 270° crank angle parallel twin
Capacity 1200 cc
Bore Stroke 97.6 / 80mm
Compression 10.0:1
Max power 77 PS/ 76 Bhp (57 kW) @ 6,100 rpm
Max Torque EC 106 Nm @ 4,000 rpm
System Multipoint sequential electronic fuel injection
Exhaust Chromed stainless steel 2 into 2 twin-skin exhaust system with chromed stainless silencers
Final Drive Chain
Clutch Wet, multi-plate assist clutch
Gearbox 6-Speed
Frame Tubular steel cradle
Swingarm Twin-sided, tubular steel
Front Wheels 32-spoke, 16 x 2.5in
Rear Wheels 32-spoke, 16 x 3.5in
Front Tyres 130/90 B16
Rear Tyres 150/80 R16
Front Suspension KYB 41 mm forks with cartridge damping. 90mm travel.
Rear Suspension KYB monoshock with linkage and stepped preload adjuster, 73.3 mm rear wheel travel.
Brakes front Twin 310 mm disc, Brembo 2-piston floating calipers, ABS
Brakes rear Single 255 mm disc, Nissin single piston floating caliper, ABS
Seat Height 705 mm
Wheelbase 1510 mm
Rake 25.3 ยบ
Trail 91.4 mm
Dry Weight 245.5 Kg
Tank Capacity 12L

H-D Iron 1200 Sportster

Oscar Wilde once quipped, “I can resist anything but temptation” and that’s the essence of what I enjoyed most about the 2018 Iron 1200 Sportster.

I guess like most of us, the temptation to pin the throttle on a nice motorcycle, to bask in the thrill and rush that comes with rapid acceleration, is a big attraction of the way we ride.

The problem with a lot of high performance bikes theses days is failing to resist that temptation means you are in the licence disqualification zone within a matter of seconds. Thrilling though that may be, having to look at your bike sitting in the garage while you wait to get the paperwork back isn’t so much fun.

Well, that’s the beauty of the Sportster 1200. You can pin it, hard, often and not jump immediately to light speed. With 97Nm on tap it’s not a slug by any means – but it’s seriously good fun, leaning on the throttle, on just about every launch and corner exit. The way the 88.9 x 96.8 bore and stroke Evolution engine with 10:1 compression revs and taps out is just so sweetly … pin-able.

Weighing in at 256kg in running order it’s potent enough that you still don’t get the chance to fully wind it out around town (with legal riding anyway), but it’s such a sweet engine and one that is so very rewarding to spool up. It had me sporting the kind of grin that reminded me of my Buell XB every time I did give it the gas. The staggered, shorty exhausts gave it quite a pleasant note when doing so too. A set of stage ones would be glorious.

The clutch is light and it’s been a long time since I dealt with a cantankerous gearbox on any Harley. This one is true to form and shifted surely and reliably. It didn’t miss a single shift in three weeks of testing. The belt final drive sends it all to the rear wheel with a direct and slop-free feel befitting the Sporty’s nature.

Apart from that sweet power plant there are plenty of other aspects of the bike I really enjoyed too.

It stops and tips in well.

Harley has been making Sportsters continually since the first Ironheads were introduced in 1957. It’s fair to say they have the frames and geometry of the platform well sorted. The bike’s road manners are good. The relatively short 1,515mm wheelbase, 30 degree rake, 117mm trail combined with its low centre of mass make for a package that is both nimble when tipping it in and quite stable when cornering – even over irregular surfaces. No wallowing, no bucking – just steady manners.

It has 27 and 28 degree lean angles that are helped by the mid-mounted foot controls and the way they allow the rider get some weight off-board when really hooking in.

The conventional 39mm forks have 92mm of travel and the rear coil-over shocks are pre-load adjustable with 41mm of travel available. It’s a firm ride that also fits well with the sporty nature of the beast. The only real limitations to how far it tips are the slammed, low-down nature of the package and those lean angles. It’s not hard to get either peg on the deck carving up your favourite roundabout.

The dual piston callipers with ABS both front and rear pull the bike up well. They aren’t the killer stoppers like those on a new Softail, but they are good brakes with good feel and bite nonetheless. The front has a 300mm floating disc and the rear is a 260mm. I gave it a few controlled hard stops and the ABS was very comfortable.

It’s running the fat Michelin Scorcher “31” tyres front and rear. The front is a 100/90 and the rear is a 150/80 and they too are well suited to the bike’s style. I rode in some heavy showers and the grip was good and predictable.

The C word.

Yep, comfortable. I found the Iron to be surprising comfortable for a big guy like me. The Mini apes were the key, but the saddle is soft and gel-like and sits at 735mm high, which is a good compromise for us longer of leg that should work for shorter inseams as well.

The LED headlight is nestled in the ‘Speed Screen’ and the beam is wide and flat. The Screen is part of what a lot of people commented and complimented about the bike’s great presentation.

“That’s a great looking Sportster/Harley” I heard from total strangers a number of times during the test. The old school AMF livery went down very well with the bike’s target market too. (Though some of us who are old enough to have lived through those AMF days might smile wryly.) Overall the styling of the machine was a hit – from the apes to the solo seat, funky nine-spoke cast aluminium wheels, Screen to the traditional peanut tank – people loved it.

The Iron’s tank holds 12.5 litres (as opposed to the 48’s which holds 7.9l). I was getting around 165km before the warning light came on and then topping it up around 10 litres – so a 200km range would seem viable. But that’s also taking into consideration that I was quite hard on the throttle a lot of the time – remember that ‘all so pin-able bit’? Better economy would be do-able with a bit more … errr ... restraint.

But then restraint isn’t the reason you’d buy this motorcycle. It’s one that beckons to be ridden hard – a Sportster indeed.

It has some of its bigger Softail brother’s retro-tech, but not all.  The advanced trip computer is missing, but the LCD mounted in the analogue speedo displays the usual tacho and odometer arrays.

But that’s also in keeping with the bare-bones-basics and part of the attraction and what makes the Iron one of the last ‘old school’ Harleys. The engine still vibrates, has big torque, taps out sweetly and it’s sitting in a great looking, retro-styled temptation machine.

Air-cooled, Evolution™
BORE 88.9 mm
STROKE 96.8 mm
FUEL SYSTEM Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI) EXHAUST Black, staggered, shorty exhaust with dual mufflers
LENGTH 2,200 mm
TRAIL 117 mm
WHEELBASE 1,515 mm
WHEELS, FRONT TYPE Black, 9-spoke
WHEELS, REAR TYPE 7 Black, 9-spoke
BRAKES, CALIPER TYPE Dual-piston front, Dual-piston rear
LIGHTS (AS PER COUNTRY REGULATION), INDICATOR LAMPS 6 High beam, neutral, low oil pressure, turn signals, engine diagnostics, low fuel warning, low battery, security system, ABS

GAUGES Handlebar-mounted electronic speedometer with odometer, time-of-day clock, dual tripmeter, low fuel warning light, low oil pressure light, engine diagnostics readout, LED indicator lights