Friday, June 5

JIM WALSH: HARLEY-DAVIDSON FXDC SUPER GLIDE CUSTOM


It's not cool to feel manly anymore. When the nice chap at the shop explained about not needing a key and thumbed the starter, the noise from the slash cuts had me a bit worried about "upsetting people". Just to confirm my apparent emasculation, my first act upon attempting to launch is - a nice big stall. No one will notice. Why can I hear sniggering? The last time I rode up this driveway I flopped a nice Buell 1125R on it's ear avoiding a pedestrian, so my personal manliness indicator is jammed firmly on the Metrosexual end of the scale.

I limp flaccidly up the driveway and out on the the street. Within 50 metres, I'm thoroughly at home, Van Halen's "Hot For Teacher" is hammering out the opening drum riff in my head on 11 (or is it those pipes?), and I'm in a pretty damn good place. I'm baaaack. My name isn't Waldo and I'm laughing at the dude winding his window up next to me at the lights.

Within the space of a few years I've gone from shaking my head at the deluded fools wobbling around on Milwaukee iron, to looking forward to a new model. The Dyna's have been comprehensively upgraded with beefier forks, the bolted together frame down tubes have given way to bigger TIG welded units of a heftier construction and the steering head area has undergone significant strengthening. Harley have done something to the brakes too, because even though that's a single disk on that smooth rim, spoked 19 inch front wheel, it works well enough to need only two fingers around town, and the weight actually transfers to the front, with none of that characteristic "cruiser push" that comes from big weight and a low centre of mass.

The Super Glide sports a pair of handlebars that are a new bend, "mini pullback", and they are the most comfortable cruiser bars I've ever grasped. They're at a comfortable height for the average man, wrists aren't bent painfully outward, and it's no strain to operate any of the bar mounted controls.

Out of town and on the highway is where the Super Glide was meant to be and the music in my head has changed tack from '80s hair metal to '90s dub/funk. Freak Power's "Big Time" sublimates its way into my consciousness providing a laid back groove with a hint of menace (the opening line is, "Mofo, I'm gonna kick yo ass"). I thumb the indicators to change lanes (not very manly, but the Metrosexual still seems to be in charge of my social responsibility) and people move out of the way. That's quite unexpected, and I set my inner bloke to hunting the Metrosexual down and giving him a good kicking.

You'd never expect such a weighty machine to be so nimble. Dodging the cat's eyes on the motorway is a piece of cake and more than 120nm of torque means squirting into gaps is a piece of cake also, irrespective of gear selection. Third, sixth, the fuel injected twin cam 96 cubic inch (1580cc) engine doesn't care. I tried a Rocker a couple of years ago and loved it, but found sixth provoked a torturous hammering sensation at legal speeds on the motorway. Not so the Dyna chassis. Super Glide is a well deserved epithet on smooth roads. When it gets bumpy is where things get a little interesting, but it's never bad interesting, the bars move around a little, the rear gets out of sync with the front, but it never stays out of shape, and every little thing is telling you what just happened, what is happening, and what will happen. You can't say you weren't warned.

A glorious Winter's day, no place to be, and a bike putting me back in touch with my smelly arm-pitted, unshaven self. Less cruising, more fun. Aiming a big block Harley at a favourite set of smooth and twisty tarmac seems somehow sacrilegious, but by organising yourself, taking big sweeping lines and listening only to the internal soundtrack, now switched to Velvet Revolver's "Sucker Train Blues" (I think the bloke has put the Metrosexual in ICU) you can hustle along at improbable speed. Everything reacts to the lightest touch, and it's a piece of cake to match engine speed to transmission, brilliant fuel injection reacting instantly to the slightest tweak of throttle. Seamless gear changes are a piece of proverbial. You'd have to be a barbarian to make a co-pilot knock heads with you.

Did I really just drop a late model BMW M5 at the lights? My self restraint has ebbed, and I really don't give monkey's banana what anyone thinks. Every set of lights or overtake is another excuse to revel in that most un-potato like exhaust noise, to change up and down that gearbox with a flick of clutch and a fistful of revs. I'm dead set against taking this bike back and wondering how far I could get before her indoors demands the Sensitive New Age Guy comes home. It takes a loop around Oriental Parade, so my inner beast can openly check the late lunchtime talent out (If she didn't want me to stare so hard, she should have worn a decent sports bra. I'm on a Harley for goodness sake!) and changing the mental jukebox to Marilyn Manson's anti-conformity anthem, "Mobscene" to settle the bloke down enough to steer the Super Glide back from whence it came. By the time I get back, it's already sold to an undoubtedly, smelly, hairy bloke with a prediliction for Tui and black T-Shirts

"Be obscene, be, be, obscene
Be obscene, baby, and not heard
Be obscene, be, be, obscene
Be obscene, baby, and not heard

BANG, BANG, BANG, BANG, BANG"
Lyrics by Marilyn Manson, © EMI BLACKWOOD MUSIC INC.; SONGS OF GOLGOTHA; CHRYSALIS MUSIC


Thanks to Wellington Motorcycles and their most valued employee Pete McDonald, for letting me out on someone else's bike.

Specifications can be found here

Price as reviewed with optional wheels and slash cut mufflers $26,750