A quick recap: I passed my test at the end of October 2015, waited out the winter and then got a Harley-Davison Iron in the following March.
I learned an awful lot – it’s amazing how much you pick up when you consciously ride every day – covering about 5000 miles on it in my first five months.
So it’s safe to say that I got very used to the bike, how it handled and what it was like in most situations.
I then got itchy for change…
The reason I finally got into riding after many years of just talking about it, is because – apart from my wife’s influence – I developed a huge infatuation with the custom scene.
These days it’s hard to get something all of your own, and I think that ones soul yearns for it, so custom bikes had an innate appeal that talked to me on an unconscious level.
I wanted to get me some.
But what I didn’t want, because I’m not ready for it yet, is an old bike that’s been customised. As much as I love the idea I don’t, as yet, have the necessary mechanicing chops to keep myself running.
I think as a new rider, you’ve got enough going on your mind just to keep riding to your destination without having a constant nag that you’re going to break down.
I’ve got friends with beautiful old bikes, but they need to give them constant attention just to keep them running.
I plan to be able to ride like that in the future, but right now I know I’m not ready.
(As an aside, I find it incredibly fascinating when people drop a bunch of cash on a custom with no spanner-wagging ability – what do they do when something goes wrong? Answers in the comment section below please!)
Anyway, I digress… the logical answer for me was therefore to get a new bike, but one with inherent customising potential, hence the Iron. It had everything I wanted for my first bike – which I’ve written about before – and there are so, so many good examples of customised ones out there.
The H-D Custom Kings competition is probably the pinnacle of this, with some jaw-dropping sleds on show just this year alone.
Warr’s Harley-Davidson’s Charlie Stockwell is at the top of his game right now, producing beautiful new build customs – you can see his output via his regularly updated Instagram here, and I’m going to write some more about Charlie early next week, as he’s doing ‘a thing’.
Anyway, I wanted a bit of that vibe for myself. But again, this being my first bike, I didn’t want to muddy the waters with other peoples’ parts – as much as I seem to love everything that comes out of places like Biltwell and Roland Sands Design.
To keep true to the H-D ideal, I’ve gone down the road of pouring over their parts and accessories catalogue, making some high-impact visual choices.
I’m not going to list everything, but some of the big stuff: Screamin’ Eagle Street Cannons, headlamp visor, turn signal relocation kit, red calipers, Café Solo seat and Sportster Clubman handlebar with Edge Cut grips.
Now then, the reason for my pun fancying headline…
Changing the bars from standard to the Sportster Clubman set has been a huge eye-opener. Of everything I’ve changed, this has had the biggest effect on not only my bike’s visual impact, but also on my position and therefore how I handle the bike.
My riding position is now very café: low and forward. To the point that I get to pretend I’m Valentino Rossi through corners.
But also, because of that position, my weight distribution is better for not only riding through those corners, but also at low speed to.
This is something I didn’t expect! Slow speed riding is one of those things that gets drummed into you while training, and that I’ve felt pretty comfortable with all along, but now it’s like I’ve broken through to another level thanks to this position.
Granted, it’s not as comfortable as it was, and there’s a lot of pressure on my wrists (if you ride a sports bike you’ll be familiar with this already I imagine), but from a handling perspective I can’t recommend the change enough. It’s helped to raise my confidence levels and also feels quicker through corners (I don’t know if this is the case mind you, it might just be psychological).
The other area that’s had the highest impact on my actual riding is the addition of the bikini style fairing ///UPDATE: thanks to Sportster Sickness UK member Al Luck I now know that using ‘bikini fairing’ in this instance is incorrect – it’s just a screen!///.
I live coastally, so it’s mostly bloody windy. Adding the fairing has cut down the effect of that and made riding much more enjoyable – I can even hear the Screamin’ Eagle Street Cannons better too with my head out of the wind!
So anyway, get some custom bits for your bike. It’s not just good to look at, it’s also better to ride.
Plus, I now get people chatting to me at traffic lights about how much they like my bike, which never happened when it was a standard affair!
*When the three rules of Hibbard family comedy are ‘puns, puns, puns’ it’s hard to ignore one once you’ve thought of it, sorry.