I must admit, the “wow factor” associated with an unadulterated first viewing of a pair of new Harley-Davidson models was denied to this reporter. Times being what they are, images of the bikes had already appeared on the Internet before the official press unveiling and I’d wound up getting a peek that day, before I left for the reveal at Cook’s Corner, a popular biker bar in these parts. Nevertheless, when Jen Hoyer, media relations manager, and Paul James, director of product communications, from the mother ship in Milwaukee lifted the covering off of the new 1200 Sportster, dubbed the “Seventy-Two,” I couldn’t stifle a gasp. What can I say? My primitive drives and visual nature render me a fool for curvaceous and/or shiny objects. My initial impression can be summed up in two words, “eye popping,” while the term “unexpected” best describes my next impression. Let me explain. Considering the recent trend toward shadowy finishes, the bright paint and chrome-dominated scheme on this diminutive creation is a definite step in the opposite direction.
Last year I covered the Born Free Show at Oak Canyon Park near Irvine Lake in The O.C. It attracted upwards of 8,000 devotees and builders from all over the globe, and it was evident there that a significant number of the latest crop of builders has chosen to implement design styles reminiscent of those developed in the ’60s and ’70s. As I circled the Seventy-Two during my photo op, it struck me that this specimen would not have been out of place among the examples of industrial art on display at that show. The idea that the design team at The Motor Company, under the direction of Frank Savage, manager of industrial design, could manage to capture the essence of what this generation of cutting edge builders is turning out—and to do it in such a timely fashion—is a tribute to Harley-Davidson’s continuing policy of mindfulness toward industry trends as established by the best and brightest.
Let’s talk about visuals. I especially love the bodacious metal-flake effect on the old-school 2.1-gallon peanut tank but the “chimps” (10″ apes) are also a plus, as is the chrome-staggered dual exhaust setup. The angle of the rear header gives the impression that the Seventy-Two is booking along at a healthy clip even while languishing on its kickstand. The gray, powder-coated engine really makes the chrome pushrod covers pop. The overall lean profile is accentuated by a classic 21″ laced front wheel with a white wall tire, which ties the package up in a chrome-encrusted bow and serves as candy for these eyes.
The powers that be at Harley-Davidson named the Seventy-Two as homage to the builders who populated Whittier Blvd, in East LA, a favorite cruising strip back in the day. The boulevard was known as Route 72.
Next on the evening’s agenda was the unveiling of The Motor Company’s latest Big Twin offering, the Softail Slim. At first glance the Slim transports your imagination back to a simpler time. Remember when your dad or your uncle, or maybe a guy who lived down the way, would roar up hanging on to low-slung handlebars on a stripped down Flathead or Knuck with bobbed fenders? Your eyes would bug out and you’d get goose bumps hoping that maybe, just maybe, he’d ask you to hop on back and go for a ride. Yeah, I know I’m giving away my age when I admit to having memories like that one. (On the other hand, if your nostalgic repertoire doesn’t include memories like that I feel sorry for you. Maybe it’s time you made some of those memories for the kids in your life.)
When the Softail Slim’s cover came off my first thought was, I wanna ride that bad boy. While standing in sharp contrast with the Seventy-Two’s visuals, The Softail Slims possess a charm of their own. Check out those pipes. The chrome finish seems almost too flamboyant against the blacked-out, powder-coated engine and oil bag. The long, razor-straight shape of those pipes frames the Slim’s lower extremities with classic lines that speak to me. They say, “I’m outta here, compadre… You comin’?”
The ultra-low seat height should make this bike very popular with riders who happen to be vertically challenged. That said, the extremities attached to my 5’11” frame didn’t seem to be cramped in the least. With their wide bend, the Hollywood handlebars not only enhance the retro look, they also happen to be mounted within easy reach for a range of different-sized torsos and arm lengths. Considering its ancestral influence, black is an obvious color choice. And while the red paint job packs a wallop I’d also like to see a model featuring my favorite color, Harley-Davidson Cobalt Blue—maybe next year.
When Harley-Davidson Senior Designer Casey Ketterhagen designed the Slim, he left a gap between the nose of the seat and the tank. He reasoned, “I like to be able to look down and see what’s moving me.” He went on to state, “I’d personally like to strip the bike down even further.” I know what you’re thinking, Casey; that miniscule front fender is pretty much the main feature that differentiates the Slim from its ’50s roots. Hmm… All a purist would need to do would be to remove a few bolts and voila! But then again you probably never gave that a thought… Heh, heh.
The base price of the Seventy-Two is $10,499, and the Softail Slim starts at $15,499.