Is a custom bike still a custom bike if it comes direct from the factory as a custom bike? Ponder that one for a while as you feast your eyes upon the four latest offerings from the design team in Milwaukee, which were launched with the spectacular Croatian coastline as a backdrop.
Based on the super-popular Sportster 1200, the Iron 1200 and the Forty-Eight Special, both mark an acknowledgement from the Harley factory of both people’s desire for a custom style bike and also of the Seventies, the decade the world forgot.
Although the architecture is clear, the design team have added from cool retro touches to both bikes to allow them to reach out to a new segment of rider. Those that grew up in the roller skates, tight tee-shirts and afro hair era.
Not to be outdone, Harley has also given its venerable Street and Road Glide models some new colours and a few minor tweaks to keep them on the money.
Both the Sportsters have tank decals that really hark back to that time of disco and the bright colours that flowed from the scene into everyday life. Where Vellore interiors and funky side graphics seemed perfectly fine on your family car, so the bike industry followed.
Both bikes get Mini Ape handlebars and a 1200 Revolution engine, thankfully fairly chrome free. But then they head in different directions, with the Iron 1200 sporting a headlamp cowl, nine-spoke rims and a café racer style seat. The Forty-Eight Special keeps the single round headlight open to the elements (along with you) and a less ‘lipped up’ seat.
But it’s the tanks that really strike that 70s note on these two new models. The cool graphics can be had in a range of colours, including black, white and the amusingly named ‘Twisted Cherry’. The two Glides have to make do with some stunning paint jobs.
On the road there’s nothing new to report, as the 1200 Sportster underpinnings remain unchanged. The engine is large enough to get you up to some very un-Harley-like speeds, especially with the lower weight of the Sportsters.
The Road Glide and Street Glide are virtually unchanged, so still give you that solid, torque-laden ride that the big cruisers are known for. These are easily the two coolest cruisers in Harley’s range, so they fit perfectly with a bit of a retro touch.
If the Sportster range is more your thing, it’s worth remembering that these bikes also have the most ground clearance of the Harley-Davidson range, so given a decent road, you can actually hustle these bikes along a fairly rapid pace. Many a weekend sportsbike rider has been known to underestimate a good rider on a Sportster.
Add to that disco fever and maybe it’s time to grow a big fro’ to squeeze into your helmet and get your 70s groove on.