Opinion: Is the Harley-Davidson FXDR the coolest bike available today?
St0ry: Donovan Fourie
Pics: Harley-Davidson Media
I’m sure the heading has caused some contention, a healthy mix of scoffing and “is it really?”
The FXDR is the first attempt by Harley-Davidson to reinvigorate their image, to give it a serious boost. The thing is that Harley is in quite a slump, with a regular decline in sales year-on-year, and not long ago they announced a whole concoction of new models from an adventure bike to a mixture of electric machines. We are pleased Harley is doing something, but this might not be enough – their problem is still deeply ingrained in the zeitgeist.
The thing is that Harley-Davidson, and in many ways the whole motorcycle universe, is no longer cool. By cool, we mean that youngsters – the future of the planet – no longer aspire to it. Older bike riders watched Easy Rider where Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper were two properly badass people that youngsters of the day went giddy for. And they were on Harley-Davidsons.
In the 80s, Arnold Schwarzenegger beguiled youngsters by being a robot from the future that nonchalantly aimed a shotgun at everything in a barrage of un-hindered masculinity. It was damn cool and he rode a Harley.
Nowadays, kids watch Easy Rider and Terminator, and go “this is lame”. It’s old, it’s corny and there is no CGI.
Step forward the FXDR. I didn’t actually have it to test – Mat grabbed that chance, so look out for a proper test soon – but he did bring it to one of our shoots. Inevitably, something went wrong and we needed a part for one of the cameras from a store not far from where we were.
“Gimme the Harley keys,” I smirked.
Now, two things need to be made clear – Harry and Mat had done a walk-around of the FXDR, and things didn’t look great. The press release boldly tells everyone that the non-colour digital screen is 2.1 inches. That’s not exactly a great Tinder profile. More so, there were problems – there were tacky bits that really looked horrid, raw steel bolts they just shoved in, cheap bits of plastic and the worst welding you have ever seen complete with weld splatter. This all on a machine that costs R300,000.
That’s up close, but take a step back and it’s everything mean, angry and badass in the world shoved into one. It’s not so much crafted in marble, but rather the rock was ripped apart by bare hands.
The second point to mention is that I had to, unfortunately, be there in a car, so I had only a helmet with me and thus set off in my T-shirt and jeans. This is an incredibly stupid thing to do, but then I’m not always the wisest of people. However, this did portray an image within the depths of my imagination. I was bare-armed and in jeans aboard a Harley, much like the cool guys of old. Imaginary muscles and tattoos on my arms appeared, and suddenly I was a badass. And it’s all down to the bike. The seating position is not exactly luxurious, but as far as modern Harleys go it also isn’t completely crippling. It’s just cool.
Then there’s that motor, the Milwaukee 8 motor producing something like a meagre 90hp but 160Nm of torque. It’s badass. You open the throttle and it growls, it snarls and it roars. You feel like every villain that has every bared tooth.
This was imaginary as I did the short ride to the film equipment store, but it became more of a reality when the guy who we had arranged to run out and give me the part opened the door of the shop, saw me growling up the parking lot and double took. For a moment he looked as though he wanted to close the door and hide, fearing for his life. It wasn’t until I stopped the bike and greeted him in my normal geeky manner that he relaxed.
It was a fleeting moment, but damn I felt cool.
Now Harley needs every badass in the cinema on one of these. And not old people’s movies. The new Wolverine needs to make this bike his staple diet or I’ll lose all faith in Harley-Davidson.
Mat will be doing a more thorough, less imaginary road test on the Harley-Davidson FXDR soon.