Thursday, August 22, 2013

Baggers Get Wet, FLH Harleys Liquid Cooled

A wise man once said, “…..predictions are hard, especially about the future”. That little truism is ringing painfully true through the moss covered halls here at the Asylum. Not only did we go “0 for” in our prognostications as to the Motor Company’s 2014 line-up, we said that without question, Harley would NOT introduce liquid cooling on any platform for the upcoming year. Oopsie. Yeah, Milwaukee pulled a fast one and jumped into the water-cooled pool, albeit at the shallow end.

New for 2014 is the Twin Cooled High Output Twin Cam 103 to be found for the time being in the Ultra Limited, CVO Limited and Tr-Glide Ultra models. The motors in these three models employ essentially a combination of air and liquid cooling, meaning for the first time in 110 years of Harley history (sorry V-Rod, don’t count) an HD v-twin will not be utterly dependent on the atmosphere to keep its cool. And trust us fellow Chromies, this is huge, especially for the tradition bound folks in Milwaukee. No wonder they code named this “Project Rushmore”, there are truly historic ramifications in this long anticipated first step.

Liquid Cooling And Fresh Batwing Fairing
The system is well disguised into the fairing lowers on either side of the machine. This is key, because had HD adopted the styling/design cues found on the V-Rod’s radiator (about as subtle as a small billboard) there would have been pitchforks and torches marching on Juneau Ave. No way it would have been accepted by the faithful, which would in turn have negatively impacted the Motor Company’s ability to reach out to new customers with these wet willies. The bikes would have started out as damaged goods. Not cool.

Radiators Are Hardly Noticed
With two radiators (heat exchangers) , one in each lower, accompanied by individual cooling fans liquid coolant is funneled through the cylinder heads, around the exhaust valves and into the radiators. The fans are thermostatically controlled with an electric pump moving the coolant along its way. If you look at the photos it seems that the airflow drawn through the radiators will exit on the outside edge of the lowers, which makes total sense as having them blow directly through would only serve to toast the rider’s shins. All in all, this new system should provide a more stable operating temperature range for the 103’s, which in turn could boast performance levels.

Straight Forward and Simple, HD's New Cooling System
The issue with this system is that it has limited applications across the HD product range. For instance, say you wanted a bagger sans the lowers, bam, there go your radiators. Same goes for Softail and Dyna platforms, no way the current system will work. Clearly this first hurtle, while huge, is not the only one HD has to clear as the Motor Company rolls out liquid cooling throughout the line. There are some real challenges ahead. That said, we think they’ve managed to accomplish a significant goal (and a sadly necessary one given increasingly harsh EPA/CARB regulations) while mitigating negative blowback from the Harley community. They handled that whole form verses function thing pretty well, at least in round one.

Project Rushmore was even more comprehensive in its scope than the addition of liquid cooling on select models, it also included the following; a redesign of the iconic “batwing” fairing (and we have to say in the opinion of the crew at the Asylum, they nailed it) which includes adjustable air ducting for reduced helmet buffeting and increased rider comfort. Touring models were outfitted with a new high-output fuel injected Twin Cam 103 motors, a linked braking system  (we’re not thrilled about this one, let us determine which brakes we’re gonna use and when thank you very much, you had us at ABS), and LED “Daymaker” headlights, the former of which I have on my Road Glide and they are truly amazing, worth every ducket.

Sensory Overload? Up To You
In an effort to at least keep some of the more sophisticated touring rigs from the “other guys” in sight from a technological point of view, Harley upgraded the audio systems which is augmented by Bluetooth connectivity and voice-recognition software with text to speech (awesome….right?!). Step up to the Boom! Box option on the Street Glide and the Electra Glide Ultra Classic and a high resolution, glove friendly 4.3in touch screen can be yours. Other wiz-bang electric crap include Terrain Modeling, Point of Interest Library, Sirius/XM satellite radio……..the list goes on and on, as they say. Who needs this stuff??

All told there are eight Project Rushmore bikes comprised of the following models; Road King, Street Glide, Street Glide Special, Electra Glide Ultra Classic, Ultra Limited, Tri Glide Ultra, CVO Ultra Limited and CVO Road King.

Clearly Harley-Davidson feels 2014 represents major change for the Motor Company, and they’re right. How can you get much bigger than liquid cooling on a bagger platform? Simple answer, you can’t. They are clearly edging in a new direction, not there yet, but on the path. That said, we can’t help but say, “… that it?” Seriously, we have no completely new models, CVO lumps stay at 110ci, and there’s still nothing on the “sport touring” front. While we applaud most of the technological innovations (except for that damn linked braking system) we just felt they could have gone even further. Then again maybe we’re just still bitter that we goose egged our predictions……yeah, that’s probably it.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

2013 Road Glide Custom, Rockin the War Wagon on the Road to Sturgis

2013 Road Glide Custom, aka War Wagon
A new 2013 Road Glide Custom, some friends, eight days to burn, the Sturgis Rally, and a little Rocky Mountain detour, what’s not to love? Not much, I can tell you that. For those of you that have been keeping up on current events here at the Asylum, you know that my beloved Paint Shaker (aka 2006 FLHRCI, Road King Classic) and sick CVO Springer (2007 FLXTSSE) are no more, traded in to make way for a shiny, well not so much, as it’s black denim, new 2013 Road Glide Custom. Always wanted one of the shark nosed beasts, and given that the Motor Company had deemed it time to put the vaunted Glide on ice for a couple of years, I figured now was as good a time to score one.

Blacker than a Banker's Heart
The War Wagon is fairly trick; complete black-out treatment, Progressive Suspension front and rear (Monotube fork springs and 944’s out back), Klockwerks windscreen, Agitator wheels in black ice, braided brake lines, fully floating rotors up front, HD’s “DayMaker” LED lights with Custom Dynamics LED running/brake/turn lights, Vance and Hines True Dual headers with four inch round mufflers out back, and Screamin’ Eagle air cleaner and tuner. Le Pera seat is coming, and we’ll wait until the warranty is done before we start really working over the stock 103. All in all, it’s a pretty tidy rig. 
Lunch at Orlando's in Taos, yummy!

Our shakedown cruise began in the steaming cauldron of the Fort Worth Metroplex, when you think Texas in the summertime, think oven on self-clean mode and you get the idea. The sooner we could get to the high desert of New Mexico, the better. The three of us, Dan (my boss), Joaquin (e-com guru) and myself droned along the interstate just as quickly as John Law would allow. Staying overnight in Amarillo, we got a late start from work, have to pay the bills, right? Our goal at the end of the second day was Durango Colorado where we would meet up with renown bike builder/designer Jesse Rooke and a couple of his buddies. From there it was on through the Rockies for some great two lane tango.

The Wolfpack on the Great Divide
I’ve gotta say the Glide is such the better bike than the old Paint Shaker, and it really pains me to admit it, but truth is truth. Obviously being a post ’09 FLH model, it benefits greatly from the new frame and swing arm. For the most part the hinge in the middle of the frame is gone. Sure at really high speeds in long sweepers, if you hit a bump you’ll experience a little shimmy-shake, but nothing too dramatic. And if you have the good sense to install Progressive bits on both ends, you’ll be amazed at how well the beast will handle. The brakes are outstanding, to the degree that I doubt I’ll throw on aftermarket calipers, they are that strong. I gotta say I love the frame mounted fairing, not just for the sinister profile, but the wind protection is outstanding, as is the stability. Having grown up riding sportbikes, I prefer the frame affixed units to anything mounted on handlebars.

Hank and Doug on the Open Road
From Durango to Sturgis was a blur, Jesse and Doug set a blistering pace over one mountain pass to another, whether  it a goat trail or a four lane road, we were hauling the mail. And trust me, the weather never cooperated with our “optimistic” route schedule. But that’s the adventure of the open road, right?

DI5H Crew Sonny, Z, HD, and Flash (starting third from left)
 One turn it’s a  herd of mountain goats, the next it’s a black and white, or maybe Jesse’s Street Glide saying, I’m not gonna start at during a thunderstorm at over 12,000 feet. Its always something, and that’s what’s so great. Over Loveland Pass, through Trail Ridge Park and the wilds of Wyoming our little wolfpack was never passed by a single vehicle of any type; car, truck, motorcycle…..nothing. That includes sportbikes of every stripe. We were making some pace, and having a blast.
The Biker's Choice Big Rig on Lasalle

Rockstar Girls Rocking in Sturgis
Jesse Rooke hams it up in Deadwood
Once in Sturgis, it was the usual scene; Main St., Black Hills HD, the drags, flat track, Deadwood. We took it all in, while dodging (mostly unsuccessfully) some of the worst weather I’ve ever ridden in. As a matter of fact, it rained some part of the day for six of the eight days we were on the road……that’s a lot for this Cali transplant!! But as they say, there’s no bad weather, only bad gear. I’m not sure I fully buy into that, but my Firstgear rain gear did keep me dry, and the Road Glide was steady as a stone as we punched through some pretty gnarly precep.

Rooke's Super Sick Street Glide, Fast!
For three days we met with industry folks, looked at bikes, ate food, lots of food, and were more or less chill. We didn’t do a lot of local riding, but we did cut through Rushmore (how appropriate given the new 2014 HD’s huh?) and Custer Park on our way back to Tejas. Given time constraints we pretty much took a straight shot south, two lane when we could, interstate the rest of the way. And oh, yes, the rain continued to the last day, with the worst of it as a matter of fact in Kansas. By that time we were all done with the wet stuff.

Why We Ride
All in all, I’ve got to say I’m loving me the War Wagon, it’s smooth, reasonably quick (we’ll work on that later) and stops better than any Harley I’ve ever owned. But I have to say, without a doubt, it’s the badass stance of the machine that puts it over the top. It’s got class and style in spades……..ace of spades, as in blacker than a bankers heart. This is the start of something good…….

Vince and Paul Sturgis Bound