By Marissa Baecker
As I pulled the bike up off the kickstand and made an attempt to roll it back, it took all the strength I had left in my quads to budge the beast. Granted I was in a gravel parking lot and my belly full of one famous gigantic Tickleberry’s two scoop (www.tickleberrys.com), I persevered getting the bike to the pavement. I was in some very elite company at the time – a group of Canadian motorcycle journalists invited by Harley-Davidson to try the 2012 line-up – and the group was playing musical bikes. Heading out from Tickleberry’s in Okanagan Falls, the seat behind bars of the 2012 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Custom would be where I would watch the scenery go by.
It isn’t every day that you have the opportunity to test out a brand new touring bike while actually touring. The next segment of our journey would take us from Okanagan Falls at the tip of Skaha Lake some 45 minutes South to Osoyoos. As we accelerated to highway speed, the protection from the elements that the full fairing offered was immediately apparent. Despite it’s rather minimal appearance, the added tiny windscreen at the top of the fairing combined with the low seat height of 26 inches, was the perfect combination to send the flow of air up and over.
As we rode down the highway, past the sheep herd of Vaseaux Lake I had to remind myself that this was one powerful machine. It was handling with such ease I suspected that I was garnering a false sense of security and as these roads were my back yard, I knew of the ensuing hairpin turns that I would attempt to be navigating on this 800 lb. two wheeled machine. Surprisingly, the pins were effortless.
Into the vineyards of Canada’s only desert I was becoming familiar with the Road Glide, its gauges built into the fairing, its fairing mounted mirrors and ‘Is that a stereo?!”
Through the 40-watt two speaker Harman/Kardon Advanced Audio System, “The mercury will climb to 28 by 2,” said the broadcaster as we rolled through Osoyoos and watched the throngs of tourists heading for the beach. Nothing like a group of Harleys rolling the pavement to turn heads and this bagger in sleek midnight black is a classic but then again, you can choose Chrome Yellow or Big Blue Pearl for extra effect.
The ascent from Osoyoos offers some of the most challenging hairpins partnered with some of the most spectacular scenery the Okanagan Valley has to offer so naturally, there is a pull-out up top to allow travellers to take it all in and so some 50 km and 45 minutes later, there nine of us stood on top of the world, basking in the mid-day sun wearing. . . leather.
I marveled with another journalist how smooth the Road Glide navigated the highway and how surprised I was considering my struggles in the parking lot. Discussion of the ‘shark nose’ frame-mounted fairing ensued. The handlebars of the Road Glide steer the bike without moving the fairing. The fairing is fixed to the frame explaining why I felt the bike was heavy in a parking lot but had no handling issues on the highway.
At the first sign of sun screen, it was time to mount up and ride on. In true musical bike fashion, another model was offered up to me, but I wasn’t ready to part with my Road Glide just yet (it had music).
Highway #3, the BC Crowsnest, takes you through tinder dry forests that in a mid-day heat you can almost hear wood cracking, the ultimate location for tarring roads. Riders can attest to the fact that the grooved pavement prior to paving can sometimes be tricky to navigate and to a new rider, they practically have to peel their fingers from the bars because of fear of going down. Grooved pavement does sometimes require a rider to ‘handle’ their bike as opposed to ride it but the Road Glide is not one of these bikes. Riding in low gear, at slow speed was balanced, smooth and surprisingly easy to operate.
The next hour and half we blazed a trail like a swarm of bees flying in formation (this bee pulling up the rear). If there is one way to improve your riding skills it’s riding with a group of seasoned riders. This group had a combined century of riding experience in comparison to myself and it showed. From the back, I admired their abilities and learned new things about how bikes handle and their limitations – or lack thereof.
The new air-cooled, twin cam 103 cubic inch engine (1690 cc) with a six speed transmission delivered the perfect ride. Boasting 100 ft. lbs. of torque at 3250 rpm, changing gears still produces the signature Harley sound.
As the odometer clicked past 120 km, we pulled in to Grand Forks to refuel. The Road Glide has a 6 gallon (22.7 ltr) tank offering 42 mpg (5.6L/100 km). By this point I had settled into my ride quite nicely. My body was sitting at ninety-degrees with full support from the floor boards; the handle bars were just my height and quite comfortable, the sculpted seat was designed for touring, and all the gauges were easily viewable.
As we pulled out of Grand Forks back onto Highway 3, I was second in the pack. I figured if I were near the front, the pace may not be as swift as you keep the pace of the rider ahead. Just as I began an internal debate that the sound of the chrome, 2-1-2 dual exhaust with tapered mufflers was quite sufficient and maybe I should change my loud Reinhart pipes back to stock, one rider passed by.
One by one, the tireless, exceptionally skilled and experienced squad went past me and I was once again pulling up the rear. Fatigue had begun to set in but my brain wasn’t quite willing to admit it and I tried, unsuccessfully, to hold the pace.
Even though the bike offers optional cruise control, I couldn’t seem to find the auto-pilot. As dusk set in some two hours later, we were descending the mountains into Trail. By this point, my brain was only computing as fast as my eyes could look for wildlife coming out of the woods roadside and the bees ahead were droning on flawlessly like a group of synchronized swimmers.
After 300 km, I pulled into the parking lot where the rest of group had already begun unpacking their bikes and making dinner plans. The 2012 HD Road Glide would handed over to another rider by morning. I still think it is a bit heavy for me in the parking lot but for the low speed handling, comfort, solid control on the road and the smoothness of the ride, I’ll overlook it.