As I was drooling over the Harley’s new models at the Harley-Davidson of Manila (HDM) showroom at C.A.T.S. in EDSA, San Juan, I overheard a septuagenarian brag about his fancies with big twins. This man looked like the type who earned his living by cattle rustling. He had a Hummer parked outside and was escorted by a tall young lady who looked like a trapeze artist. I cannot comment on this because who knows, I might be him in the future.
The salesman obviously looked him over and probably felt the customer’s build would befit a Harley-Davidson Roadster. The walk-in arrogantly replied, “Ano? Ayoko yung maliit na model- pang beginner lang yan. Gusto ko malaki!” (“What? That’s for beginners.” I want the big models!”) I instinctively jumped into the conversation and mentioned to him not to underestimate on what is the most famous model in Harley-Davidson’s history. I tell him about it being the only American motorcycle that has won the most trophies in the Flat Track races, how Jay Springsteen showed the world how to drift at 120 mph on soil…” (I looked at them and have their apt attention. Either that or they’re thinking who the heck is this nitwit.) “… how Gary Scott can outrun other makes and more importantly how Evel Knievel leaped his Sportster-derived XR 750 over lions, snakes, cars, trucks, buses, sharks among others. He practically made the bike a household word singlehandedly.”
There was a moment of silence when the guy bemused, “Really? You seem to know a lot about..” I interrupted him, “You betcha. I’m an X Generation kid and it was the Sportster that was the most visible in pop culture such as-“ He blurted, “Have YOU ridden one?” I cocked an eyebrow like Spock. This guy knew how to pick fights. Not with fists but with words. I addressed the salesman, “Do you guys serve coffee around here?” The salesman replies, “Only brewed, Sir Patrick.” I said, “Excellent.” And point to the couch. “One for me and one for the gentleman over here.” I glance at his lovely companion and she shyly said no. She sits in a stool by the counter and flips her phone of course. She’d rather play Hay Day than hang with old geezers talk shop. We cross our legs and begin to talk like cowboys discussing who has the sharpest boot.
I rode a stock AMF Harley-Davidson Sportster 883 back in the early 90’s. It was the most beautiful motorcycle a kid only dreams of. As I rode it, I have never felt so much weight and vibration in my life. The loud pipes rattled people and is territorial in a sense that it leaves an oil leak wherever it’s parked. It was always hard to start and will make your neighborhood grease monkey your best friend with your frequent visitations. In spite of all these, it was a bike to behold.
Now almost three decades later, I give the Roadster a go. Just by sitting on it, it was oh-so different from the last one. For starters, it has keyless entry. That alone was a whole new world in the Harley Universe. I kick it in gear effortlessly and it accelerated like it didn’t want me to be sitting on it. The drag bars keep me in place and the mid-mounted controls keep me in an upright position. I fumble at putting my feet in place at stops. The suspension has more travel than other models which results to a comfortable ride short and long. I bank deep and the pegs are just at the right level.
I give Jana a ride and we travel around town. Even with its lovely suspension system she finds the pillion too small for comfort. So if you have plans of riding far with company, thicker seats are in order. This is after all a “Sporty” and not a bagger.
The motorcycle is propelled by the air-cooled, Evolution engine with a displacement of 883cc, which features aluminum heads and cylinders making it lighter than the old, and electronic fuel injection to give it its continuous beat. No more hard starting for this one.
The brakes! By all that’s holy this is probably the Harley that has stopping power. It is handled by a new set of brakes, which feature bigger 300mm brake rotors paired with a stylized front caliper with 34mm pistons and a stylized rear caliper to match. For enhanced performances the motorcycle is also offered with standard anti-lock brakes (ABS). Its lightning quick brakes is also greatly assisted by Michelin Scorcher tires with a deep-cut tread design which deliver a great grip and improved handling. This is a totally new Roadster.
The Evolution engine-known in certain crowds as the Blockhead—was first bolted to the frame of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle back in 1984. Born from legendary Shovelhead and Ironhead engines, the Evolution engine broke new ground in displacement innovation while maintaining the hunger for power, durability and proven reliability.
Pulling over at a convenience store, I look over at this historical bike. Much has changed that’s a given. But those changes are not visible to the eyes. Only when astride the Harley-Davidson Roadster will you know. It still has the trademark peanut gas tank plus the cool graphics, the beautiful-looking engine and the no-nonsense exhausts (but yearning for the Harley bass note). It was still sexy as ever. And it’ll look sexier with a girl on it I mumbled.
Harley-Davidson Roadster specs
Engine: Air-cooled, Evolution
Bore: 76.2 mm
Stroke: 96.8 mm
Compression Ratio: 9:01
Fuel System: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
Primary Drive: Chain, 34/57 ratio
Gear Ratios (overall) 1st: 10.41
Gear Ratios (overall) 2nd: 7.436
Gear Ratios (overall) 3rd: 5.531
Gear Ratios (overall) 4th: 4.584
Gear Ratios (overall) 5th: 3.931
Exhaust: Chrome, staggered, shorty exhaust with dual mufflers
Wheels, Front Type: Black, 13-Spoke Cast Aluminum
Wheels, Rear Type: Black, 13-Spoke Cast Aluminum
Brakes, Caliper Type: Dual-piston front, Dual-piston rear
Engine Torque Testing Method: EEC/95/1
Engine Torque:70 Nm
Engine Torque (rpm): 3,750
Lean Angle, Right (deg.): 32
Lean Angle, Left (deg.): 32
Length: 2,245 mm
Seat Height, Unladen: 760 mm
Ground Clearance: 141 mm
Rake (steering head) (deg): 29.7
Trail: 112 mm
Wheelbase: 1,520 mm
Tyres, Front Specification: 100/90B19 57H
Tyres, Rear Specification: 150/80B16 77H
Fuel Capacity: 12.5 l
Oil Capacity (w/filter): 2.6 l
Weight, As Shipped: 255 kg
Weight, In Running Order: 265 kg
Lights: (as per country regulation), Indicator Lamps High beam, neutral, low oil pressure, turn signals, engine diagnostics, low fuel warnings, 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, RPM/Gear display, ABS light, LED indicator lights