A Glide Through Island Life

What better way to escape the winter non-riding blues, or build into a family vacation…?

 

TENERIFE – SMALL, BUT PERFECTLY FORMED

On a human level, Tenerife is not a large island. You could lap it completely by car in a couple of hours – it’s compact, with everything where you’d hope to find it; coastal resorts, nightlife and high mountain passes, all nestled close.

 

On a geological scale, it’s massive, sculpted layer-upon-layer by successive volcanic explosions that go back millions-upon-millions of years and rises to a peak of 3,718m above sea level.

 

It’s also very much an enclave of Spain – part of the Canary Islands – tucked away just off the coast of west Africa. 300km from the border of Morocco and the Western Sahara, to be precise. So it feels, familiar in so many ways, but isn’t in a variety of others and for most of Europe is just a 3 to 4-hour flight away.

 

And the good news: the roads, and scenery, are stunning. It makes sense to start in the south, and head north (and up). But first get some bearings – the TF-1 is the highway that cups most of the south side of the island, it’s useful but a little dull. The TF-5 services the north-eastern side; there are two airports, TFS in the south, TFN in the north.

 

Don’t, to start with take the well-trodden path up to the volcano (El Teide) via Arona and the TF-51. It’s a great road, but nose-to-tail with hired-from-the-airport, slow moving hatchbacks (see DO…). Instead off the TF-1 take the TF-54 through San Isidro and keep going to Granadilla.

 

You’ll question why, until you take the sharp left, then right on the TF-21 signed to Vilaflor. You’ll be mildly entertained by some fun hard-topped single-track – but still wonder what the fuss is about – until the road opens out into a glorious stretch of two-lane Nirvana that snakes alongside the Montana Colorada national park. Of course, going back and forward a couple of times is par for the course – it’s what the locals do.

 

Then carry on the climb; pass through Vilaflor, still on the TF-21, and simply keep going. The road is amazing, the views stunning and then, as you start to drop down, everything changes. Suddenly you’re in a volcanic hell frozen permanently ­– for the time being – in time and the lava fields seem to go on forever. El Teide is another 1,000 metres up and there’s a cable car that will take you to the summit – the highest point in all of Spain.

 

But carry on and you’ll be rewarded, as you drop down the north side of the island with a complete change in surroundings; as the road twists and turns toward Santa Cruz everything around becomes lush and green, due to the climatic (as in wetter) differences between the north and south of the island.

 

Another distracting route down the south western side is to take the TF-38 down to Chio from the TF-21 – in its upper reaches it is cut straight through a vast lava field (formed only a few hundred years ago…) and as the road drops away provides an amazing view to the left, out to sea and the small island of La Gomera.

 

And just a small note – the restaurant/bar Las Estrellas on the lower section of the TF-38 has a wonderful panoramic sun deck, and is a great place to stop for coffee or lunch…

 

THE HARLEY-DAVIDSON SPORT GLIDE

Is much like Tenerife itself. After an absence of 25 years in the H-D range the Sport Glide name is back in action, on a motorcycle that’s 9th in the line of 2018 Softails – the likes of which include the mighty Fat Bob, iconic Fat Boy, bare-boned Street Bob and classic Heritage – but adds a little chemistry all of its own into the mix.

 

For a start, while its mini-batwing fairing takes styling cues from the fully-dressed Street Glide it’s a much more compact, manageable proposition with a relaxed riding position and easy ground reach thanks to the carefully contoured seat and forward-set footpegs.

 

The curvaceous handlebars sweep back gently to meet you and instantly you’re at home. And while 1745cc Milwaukee-Eight engine maybe familiar now, it doesn’t fail to impress with its easy, effortless torque – 107lb-ft (145Nm) @ just 3,250rpm – that drives that fat back tyre into Tarmac and the Sport Glide toward the next horizon.

 

Controlled by Throttle By Wire (TBW) the rider’s connection to all of that torque is superb – you’d almost say there were a couple of perfectly setup carbs nestled between those two mighty cylinders instead of fuel injection. And while the engine is solidly mounted, twin balance shafts (plus 115 years of experience on the job) ensure that the almost undefinable H-D character and soul is in full effect, from the very first rpm.

 

The gearbox is precise and each ratio snicks home sweetly, and it’s the little details you notice while on board that are the tell of how much effort H-D have put in over the past couple of years, first with the powertrain itself and secondly with building the rest of the bike around it.

 

Everywhere you look you notice how clean the overall design is; no messy cables, pipes or plumbing on display. Just a glorious black and chrome V-Twin engine that you could mount on a wall and stare at, surrounded by a carefully made (check out the weld quality, even where it’s less obvious…) motorcycle.

 

And make no mistake the Sport Glide, with its monoshock Softail rear suspension (with easily adjustable spring preload) and Dual-Bending Valve front forks tied together by a stiff tubular steel frame, handles. The grippy roads around Tenerife are a good test of any bike and the Sport Glide passed every exam; many corners sharpen up on the way to a tighter-than-anticipated apex – especially the TF21 from Granadilla to Vilaflor – but no matter what the Sport Glide would gather up the situation with a nudge on the bars, a brush of brake and a gentle dollop of throttle.

 

Then there’s the flexibility designed in. The svelte fairing comes off with just 30 seconds’ effort – and can’t be removed when the steering lock is on. Likewise the lockable rear bags unclip rapidly, so you can go from practical commuter/tourer to long ‘n’ low cruiser fast.

 

Or a mixture of the two; while the fairing’s wind protection is noticeable at highway speeds (110/120km/h) strip it off and roll at a more relaxed pace, maybe with bags attached for convenience. Or not, even. And there’s a USB charging port tucked away to the left on the steering stem – a nice touch that’s appreciated by anybody that needs to power and charge a phone or GPS.

 

The Harley-Davidson Sport Glide feels very at home on European roads, especially the gorgeous routes around Tenerife. Yes, it’ll bash out big distances in a straight line, and jink through a busy city with absolute ease. But in truth it lives for the corners; haul it up hard with both front and rear brakes, carve a beautiful arc to the apex, pick up the gas elegantly early and FIRE it out of the corner, to the next, and next with a beautiful rhythm.

 

A little un-Harley like, you may say but many who’ve had a test ride would beg to differ – and the whole new Softail range proves the point. And the Sport Glide is every millimetre a Softail. Perhaps it’s also a bit more…

 

For more information of the Harley-Davidson Sport Glide, and the rest of the 2018 Softail range, visit www.harley-davidson.com

 

DO

Ride H-D on Tenerife

Ride as part of a vacation on the island. A simple Google search – Harley-Davidson Tenerife – will take you straight to the door of the authorised H-D dealer. They’re based in the north, and will happily rent you a bike – maybe even the new Sport Glide.

 

Pick your time to go

Tenerife is a well-trodden tourist destination that serves up year-round sun to beach-loving holidaymakers. In the winter it’ll still be (a bit) busy on the roads, but the weather is good, 15°-20°, though it can get cold – and even snow – at the base of El Teide. So pack waterproofs! The south side of the island gets sun most of the day, the north nowhere near as much so frost and ice can be an issue…

 

Keep a close eye on…

…Rental hatchbacks driven at 15km/h with the passenger waving a selfie-stick out of the window. They’re about to; stop randomly/perform a U-turn/reverse wildly/do all three in succession. They definitely won’t be looking out for motorcycles.

 

DON’T

Expect to ride for weeks

While Tenerife is the largest of the Canary Islands, at 2,034.38 km2, there’s only so much to explore – enough to keep you busy for 2/3 days though.

 

Entirely trust a GPS

If you’re using one – what seems like a perfectly sensible short cut to link up two pieces of great road may rapidly turn into a vertical, gravelled climb…

 

Forget to pack

And apply sunscreen, especially at altitude as the effect of the sun’s UV rays is multiplied and it’s easy to burn very quickly.