Riding the Harley


My company had a meeting in Orlando, Florida this past weekend. While perusing my American Motorcyclist magazine I noticed an ad for Eagle Rider, an outfit that rents Harleys. I thought Iíd give it a shot. Called them (888) 500-0055 to see what they had available that weekend.

A Dyna Wide Glide had my name on it. (I placed the reservation over the web http:// https://www.eaglerider.com/reserve_1.html) for about $120 a day (10% AMA discount included).
I was ready to pack for Florida.

Pack. Yeah. What to do about my helmet? Eagle Rider has loaner helmets, but I decided to take mine. It WAS Orlando, after all. It gets pretty hot down there, and I know how much I sweat in my helmet. Somebody elseís sweat? Ewwwwwwwwww.
My Shoei didnít fit well in my carry-on bag. I was flying down from Maryland and with all the changes at airports I didnít want to have to check a bag. In order to make my 7:40 AM flight I needed to be at BWI airport at 5:40 am. I got up at 4:30 and drove to the satellite parking. The line through security was long, but only took about 45 minutes. I wish I had a picture of the sign, but you couldnít carry knives or guns (naturally). You also couldnít carry nail clipper with built-in nail files, butane lighters, scissors, and, get this toy hand grenades!!! Gee, I always take them with me when I fly. Anyway, while in line the (very pleasant) airport security personnel said you were only allowed one carry-on bag and one personal item, which could be a purse, camera bag, or laptop computer. So I packed my helmet in my carry-on. This made it too big to fit through the scanner, so I took it back out again. I figured, worst-case scenario, Iíll have to wear my helmet onto the airplane!

It turned out I got onto the airplane carrying my bag and helmet. (In my bag was a cable lock. Nobody in Baltimore asked about it. I had to take it out of my bag coming back, though.)

Well I arrive in Florida and take the van to the hotel. Drop my gear and get a cab to pick up the bike. After al the forms are filled out I get an orientation about the bike. It is a little different than my Ninja. You unlock the ignition, located on the gas tank, with the key, then pull the key out and put it in your pocket!!! Otherwise, the key will vibrate out and Iíll be liable. ($85.00) It had a passive alarm, which is armed 60 seconds after the ignition switch is moved from RUN to OFF. The fork lock is on the steering stem. You get a disk lock and a cable lock, too. Every time you park the thing, you are supposed to lock the ignition and fork, apply the disk lock and cable-lock the bike to some immoveable object. Otherwise YOU are liable in case of theft.

Just like a car rental, we did the walk-around, looking for damage. The gas tank was full, and there was a $10.00 fee for not returning it that way. That was it, time to ride.

I put my stuff in the saddlebags (I was glad for those) and fired her up. I was told to pull the choke out every time I started it, hot or cold. I nearly jumped when I thumbed the starter. BANG! The engine started easily, but that starter motor has more power than my ZX-9, or so it seemed. I was deathly afraid of dropping the sucker leaving the parking lot, but I discovered soon enough that Harleys are relatively easy to ride. The CG is very low, the long wheelbase makes it stable, and the enormous engine has plenty of low-rpm torque. Well, my meeting was starting soon, so back to the hotel I rode. On the way I had a few revelations:

  • The clutch was relatively light.
  • The engine does a pretty good St. Vitas dance between your legs.
  • Then again everything shakes!
  • Between the thick rubber grips, rubber mounted engine, handlebars and footpegs and well-padded seat, not much vibration reaches the rider.
  • My Ninja has a LOT more breaking power.
  • The seating position hurt my lower back. With the forward pegs I was doing a constant sit-up, or pull-up.

And lastly,

  • It was a very pleasant motorcycle to ride.

The trip back to the hotel was uneventful (as was the entire weekend). I chained it up to a tree. (I was glad I brought my cable lock, as the one they gave me wasnít long enough by itself.)

The next day (Saturday) we had the afternoon off, so I rode down to Kissimmee, to the Flying Tigers Warbird museum. It was about 25 miles away, some city, some highway. On the way down, I probably surprised a couple of sportbikers by waving. Once I pulled away from a tollbooth under full throttle. It was pretty quick, but no sportbike. All that low-end torque is probably masked by the weight.

I rode the bike back to Eagle Rider (gas tank full) and turned it in. I have to say that the staff was very nice, professional, and helpful. Iím glad I finally got a chance to ride a Harley, but donít expect me to leave sportbiking anytime soon.

BTW Ė Florida allows you to ride without a helmet if you have and carry proof of health insurance. I elected to keep my Shoei on.

Here are some pictures

Me on the Hawg Action Shot! Flying Tigers Museum: one of 14 remaining FW-190's.
B-17 wing on jig. This will be a P-38 Lightning (L-model) Yours truly leaning on a paper machť Spitfire. One of the few not blown up for the movie "Battle of Britain"