Photo By John Benedict
This is the first Harley I have ever owned out of six motorcycles in 30 years of riding. All my previous bikes were Japanese makes consisting of four Hondas and one Kawasaki. This '05 Sportster and a 1996 Honda 750 Nighthawk were the only two that I purchased brand new and my Harley ownership has been more enjoyable in most respects but less enjoyable in others.
I have received many nice compliments from bikers and non-bikers alike on the look of the machine and it is a real hoot to ride. However, in comparison to the other motorcycles I have owned, I have been a little dismayed with the reliability and total cost of ownership.
The biggest difference between this hog and my other bikes is it's V-twin engine vs. the inline 2 and 4 cylinders on my old rice burners. I had never ridden a bike previous to this one where the engine bogs at less than 2000 rpm at any speed below 5 to 10 mph. I have found that I usually have to downshift two gears to provide the same acceleration that downshifting one on my previous bikes usually would bring. The factory clutch pull on this HD was treacherous and I had to install an aftermarket kit to make it equal to what one should actually expect. The transmission has a very clunky sound when shifting and reminds me of shifting the tranny on my garden tractor. I really wonder about design here, since the bike shifts smoothly only when the engine is cold or lukewarm. At normal engine temperature I have learned to let the engine revs fall off or the shift from first to second gear is almost always pretty nasty. Harley-Davidson synthetic lube in the transmission helps a little but not much. Another characteristic common to most CV carbureted Sportsters is a dead spot as you start out from a stop and occasional backfires through the carb. To me, the solution should be a properly designed fuel system, not a re-jetting of the carb and the addition of a high flow air cleaner and mufflers commonly referred to as a stage one kit. The dealer offered to sell me this so called upgrade at delivery but I had it done later. This $700 dealer installed addition cured the dead spot at takeoff, carb farts, and increased horsepower as promised; however, it caused an unbearable high frequency engine vibration from 58 to 65 mph. The dealer reversed the modifications and the motorcycle returned to it's old designed self. They were a little hesitate at first to make the situation right but were nice about it once they figured out that I was not a happy camper and that I was not going to back down. In my personal experiences and opinion Harley engineering has a ways to go before it will equal the quality of foreign makes. After all, shouldn't a brand new motorcycle run close to perfect off of the showroom floor?
Regardless of it's shortcomings, this motorcycle looks and sounds cool. It handles and stops very nicely and gets around 54 miles to the gallon. The paint job, chrome, and expensive H-D accessories look and work well. Even with it's 1200 cc engine this bike is no crotch rocket but it does cruise nicely with plenty of power. I highly recommend upgrading to a K&N high flow lifetime air filter as it has made a world of difference in the overall stock performance of this hog.
I would never advise first time buyers not to buy a Harley-Davidson and I don't know why. I do; however, tell them to expect a very high total cost of ownership compared to other makes even if they can do most of the routine maintenance themselves. $35 for an air filter and over $140 for a set of front brake pads speaks for themselves. And if they are planning to add genuine H-D accessories, prepare to bend over. There is a common joke in biker circles that says that HD really means: Hundred dollars
I have enjoyed riding this motorcycle more than any I have ever owned. I am just a little nervous about it's long term reliability considering it's total cost of ownership and also about how the things that might have been engineered differently will hold out after the warranty expires. The fact that Harley has marketed the '06 and '07 Sportsters with a easier pulling clutch, smoother shifting transmission, and fuel injection leaves me wondering about the H-D tattoo on my left arm and all the HD motorclothes hanging in my closet.
If it turns out to be a lemon compared to the other bikes I have owned, well, at least the gorgeous yellow pearl will be the right color for the job.
Once the Harley-Davidson bug has bitten you, there is no turning back.
The information contained herein is intended and only intended to reflect upon my personal ownership experience of one Harley-Davidson motorcycle purchased new. It was produced in the spirit of free speech and is in no way intended to influence any person directly or indirectly from purchasing any Harley-Davison motorcycle or product. The HD logo is a registered trademark of Harley-Davidson and it's sole purpose here is to provide brand identity that is not clearly discernable from the photographs. This page is protected by copyright laws in the United States of America and may not be reproduced or used in any negative manner except as authorized by law.
Photo By John Benedict
My first hog 05 Sportster XL1200R
2008 Electra Glide (mostly stock)
Parked by an Ultra Classic
Always wear a Helmet
Helmet from my crash in 1979. My head hit a tree at around 50 mph.
I am all for personal freedom but please consider these points:
Try running toward a wall as fast as you can and ram your head into it. Congratulations! You have just simulated a motorcycle crash at 6 mph.
"Crash statistics show that un-helmeted riders are 63% more likely to suffer a serious brain injury in an accident involving trauma to the head." *
* source-The Hurt Study 1993
See y'all down the road....
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