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One for the Road: Never say never

By Shadow

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“I’ll never buy a new bike again.” That was my line of thinking back in 2003 when I acquired my gently-used 2000 FXD with only a few thousand miles on the clock. I figured, why pay a premium price when I can wait a few years and buy a still-great bike for a lot less cash? Since then, the Dyna has seen me through tens of thousands of miles but eventually, parts started wearing out on a regular basis. I began to think that maybe I needed something more dependable for all the long-distance travel I do.

I’d been thinking about a Road King but ever since 2007 when the six-speed was introduced to Tourers and the primary redesigned, I couldn’t put both feet on the ground at the same time! So when the brand-new 2012 Switchback was released in July 2011, it seemed like a bike made just for me—a Road King-like front end on a Dyna chassis with a low seat height. I scooted over to Tramontin Harley-Davidson to see what this new beast was all about. They offered me a test ride and, throwing caution to the wind, the deal was sealed. I was in love. For almost an entire year, the Dyna and the Sportster sat in my garage, with only each other to keep them company.

Ah, but she had a dark side, my Lucille. There seemed to be several inherent, shall we say, “quirks” in the bike’s design which, to be fair, the service department at Tramontin H-D did a yeoman’s job remediating. But it didn’t help things any when I started introducing some major aftermarket modifications into the mix. Several intermittent problems arose, accompanied by the difficulty of determining just which part was failing (was it a new component I’d just installed, or a stock part?). Darned near everything on the bike was computerized in some fashion, and I became fairly adept with computer diagnostics but that sure didn’t help while I was on the road—unless I wanted to pack a laptop every time I went somewhere. And somewhere along the line I came up with another oath, to never buy a first-year model again.

I’d been wanting to get an antique bike and learn to work on it, but I realized that, once again, I needed something more dependable. And then, this past August, Harley-Davidson announced the Milwaukee-Eight for their 2017 Touring models. Maybe the Road King was now a possibility. It wasn’t until the beginning of October that I had an opportunity to even seat test the 2017 FLHR. With the again-redesigned primary, I could now reach the ground with both feet—at the same time! So with Tramontin H-D salesperson Christian leading the way, I got my test ride. Once again, I was infatuated. And with 2/3 of the sales staff owning and clearly loving their own Road Kings, the deal was sealed. I put down a deposit the very same day.

In the weeks that followed, I spent time vacillating between, “What on earth did I just do?” and ordering new parts to customize the bike to my needs. The always-helpful and cheerful guys in the parts department answered my incessant questions and did the requested research without showing the least bit of impatience, with Paul, the parts manager, coming up with a very creative idea for tackling a challenge I’d set forth. Greg, the sales manager, made the entire purchase process extremely easy and pleasant—even fun! The guys in service installed the ordered parts as well as some take-offs from the Switchback in record time. And much of the staff, knowing my proclivity for wanting to understand how everything works, spent as much time as necessary to satisfy my curiosity.

A few weeks later, the bike was ready for me to pick up. When I arrived at the dealership, Ashley from MotorClothes surprised me with a lovely gift basket packed full of goodies. Nice touch, Tramontin! Before I saddled up the Road King, I went back outside to bid farewell to Lucille, feeling like I’d betrayed a good, if not always loyal, friend. This was the first bike I’ve ever let go, and it wasn’t easy. Salesperson Donnie stood by as I wrapped my arms around her windshield and sniffled, “Bye-bye, Lucille. I’m so sorry things didn’t work out the way we both hoped they would.” Donnie, sympathetic to my sorrow, remarked, “What do you mean? You had five great years together!” It’s true; five years and three months, to be exact. We’d been through so much and, for the most part, made a great team. I just hoped the new owner would appreciate her for more than her beauty.

The Road King and I are just now getting to know each other. I am discovering what I’d like to change for better ergonomics for my 5’4” frame. I already put on a Mustang One-Piece Low-Down Touring Seat to lower the bike a bit, but I would still like the bike to sit even lower. And the new hydraulic clutch is difficult for me to operate so I’m investigating solutions for that. But I can say without a doubt that she’s the most comfortable bike I’ve ever owned, due in no small part to the new Mustang seat. And this is the first bike I’ve owned where the mirrors never vibrate. And that had nice trim on the fenders. And made saddlebag guards that wrap all the way around, and that I could hang storage bags off the front of the saddlebag guards. I was always envious that FL owners had all these things, and finally, it’s my turn!

Watch for product reviews in future issues of Thunder Press. And those of you familiar with the wiles of baggers, especially the 2017s, I’d love to hear your suggestions. Until then, the Road King and I will be deepening our relationship. She has shown me her colors—Black Hills Gold/Black Quartz—but she still hasn’t told me her name.

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