The proof is in the riding

Oxford (23 October 2012) - When Harley-Davidson announced its model range for 2013, which consisted of new models, updated machines and the eagerly expected 110th Anniversary bikes, there was a rush of enquiries from every corner of the UK’s biking media all asking when the new bikes could be seen in the flesh, or when could they be tested. The reply was instant: a UK-only media riding event was being organised to allow first rides on many of the 2013 range of bikes.

If you happened to be riding the scenic roads of Leicestershire, Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire on the first three days of October, it’s quite likely that the group of eight or nine bikes you passed and nodded at by way of mutual respect for our love of bikes was the UK specialist press enjoying the merits of Harley-Davidson® motorcycles. Their starting point began at Donington Park, and took in 160 miles of differing roads; from scenic A-roads to bumpy B-roads and a dash down the A1 thrown in for good measure. It would be fair to say the bikes and riders went through the mill, especially during one bout of heavy rain.

Because of the vast range of bikes available for 2103, only selected and available models were fuelled, polished and presented for riding. It would have been good to have at least one example of each new 2013 machine, but there simply are too many exciting models to choose from. Plus it would have meant taking the chance of ownership away from perspective buyers, especially with the limited edition110th Anniversary models.

To give you an idea of what models are available from your local dealer, there are four new fully customised and unique CVO™ models, one of which is the limited build, all-new, never seen before CVO Breakout™, plus nine limited edition 110th Anniversary bikes (including CVO versions). All are resplendent in their unique colour schemes and commemorative solid bronze fuel tank badges and other identifying items such as Derby cover logos and plaque stating what number bike it is from the limited production run.

You can also add to the list the Hard Candy Custom paint range, which includes 16 new “big flake” paint finishes, but only three (Big red, Coloma Gold, and Lucky Green) of which will be available as a colour option on the Seventy-Two™, Street Bob®, Softail® Deluxe, and Forty-Eight® motorcycles for 2013.

So, for the start of the UK riding test, a decision was made by Harley-Davidson UK to present a range of bikes to ride that would give the riders a taste what Harley has to offer. Without any doubt, the bike that received the most attention was the new XL 1200CA Sportster® Custom Limited…

The XL1200CA is based on the long-serving 1200 Custom but comes with a glorious red/black/white tank paint scheme, drag-style bars with neat dash arrangement and midway positioned footpegs. There are more detail changes like the five-spoke machined aluminium wheels, but it is fact the paintwork and flat bars draw you straight to the bike. Riding this motorcycle confirms this bike is a little more special than you first thought.

The CA’s low bars aren’t that low and are a cinch to reach. The pegs are positioned for boots to simply lift up and onto but feel wide apart because they have to allow for the width of the engine. But altogether it’s a comfy riding position and every rider agreed it helps to make this one of the easiest bikes to ride ever regardless of leg length. That easy to ride, many of the riders would take corners without blinking an eye even when the peg tips touched tarmac.

This is not to say the CA’s brother/sister, the XL1200 CB with mini-ape bars and topped with black denim paint, didn’t get a look in. It most certainly did and was considered to be equally cool among the fans of traditional custom Harleys.

Talking of paint, let’s not forget nearly all the existing range of bikes get new colour schemes for 2013. One such bike is old favourite Street Glide® from the Touring range. There are two outstanding detail changes to feature on this much loved work horse, the first being the bright yellow paint scheme to earn it the nickname of Bumblebee, as in the Autobot of the Transformers films.

Secondly the rear suspension gets an upgrade and now features a rear shock - with remote preload adjustment it makes easy work of spring tensioning the suspension units to suit light or heavier loads. The Street Glide keeps its ‘slammed’ look and the shock makes a big difference to cornering stability when loaded. The funny thing is, even though the dramatic yellow paint was subject to humour, all first timers to Touring were converted by how easy and comfortable the Street Glide is to ride. But especially how cool it looks. Stalwarts of the Harley Touring range also appreciated the Street Glide’s suspension revamp.

And then there was the revised-for-2013 Street Bob®, which has a harder profile with new blacked-out triple clamps, chopped rear fender with combination stop/turn/tail lights and blacked out engine. The handlebars are mounted on new risers to allow handlebar customisation from a wide range of genuine accessory handlebars.

Needless to say the Street Bob in Hard Candy Big Red Flake paint looks a million dollars. Not just from the big-flake paint but the total appeal of paint and tidier rear end. It looks every part the classic off-the-shelf bobber and is appealing in the same way riding solo is when you want to clear your head. Stylish indeed and this model grows on you with every mile ridden. If the chance is available to take a demo test ride then book it as soon as.

Other big news is the Dyna bikes of Fat Bob® and Wide Glide® gain the Twin Cam 103™ (1690cc). The 103™ engine is a belter in terms of outright get up and go. “It’s surprising how much better the throttle response is,” said one journalist after getting off the Fat Bob used for the riding launch. “Not just at the bottom end but also mid-throttle, which is greatly appreciated when going for an overtake.” Nobody disagreed with this statement.

Literally just off the boat in time for the riding launch were two 110th Anniversary models: Fat Boy® Special Anniversary and Electra Glide® Ultra Limited Anniversary. It was the Ultra that was used the most of the two because of its ability to carry so much riding equipment – mostly waterproof gear for all the riders when the sun did shine.

There’s no getting away from it, the Ultra is a marvel at clocking up big miles in comfort. And considering the bumpy B-road sections were a test of teeth fillings let alone motorcycles, the Ultra coped very, very well. It didn’t back down on the faster section of sweeping A-roads. It’s a lot more nimble than you think when it’s rolling. Yet again more converts to the big boys of the Harley range were created.

Even more pleasing is the fact that everyone liked the colour scheme of the Anniversary models. Not loud, not understated; just enough of both to make it plainly obvious these are going to be rare beasts on the planet’s roads. For example, there will be just 1,750 Fat Boy Special Anniversary bikes manufactured – that’s not a lot when you consider how many Harley dealers there are on this planet – and this is the reason why some will be bought as collector’s items.

Even though the Sportster models Seventy-Two™ and Forty-Eight® are not new models, the addition of Hard Candy Custom big flake paint also caught the riders’ attention. From hint of dark gold interspersed with niblets of black, the Forty-Eight’s fuel tank took on a look of bright twinkling gold the moment it was pushed into sunlight. As a fan of the Forty-Eight, I never thought its appeal of street-bike-with-attitude could be bettered. I was wrong. So very wrong.

For more information on the wide range of Harley-Davidson bikes visit Or better still, go to your nearest Harley-Davidson dealer where you can get the information in your hand and meet the people who ride, live and breathe Harley-Davidson motorcycles. And remember, a demonstrator ride is only a question away.

UK Model Range for 2013 Launch


UK Model Range for 2013 Launch