Tinsel town twin

By Jacqui Madelin

It may be a subtle old style design, but this hog's sparkly red paint makes it a worthy Christmas decoration, writes Jacqui Madelin.

Harley Davidson 72. Photo / Jacqui Madelin
Harley Davidson 72. Photo / Jacqui Madelin

Rolling down the waterfront with sun glittering off chrome and sea, you feel the grumble of a Harley twin between your knees and hands resting lightly on the grips of high-rise bars as summer soaks into your bones like warm honey.

Pull into a kerb-side cafe and sit with a little glass of something, watching as the passing parade admires your bike. But if it's the 72 you're riding, you'd best keep your sunglasses on.

For the bike features a new Harley paint finish that's uniquely suited to the 72's pared-back lines and peanut tank, a red sparkle so assertive it puts Christmas tinsel to shame.

The 72 is billed as an urban cruiser and styled to evoke 1970s LA, the decade ruled by the West Coast chopper that took over the city of angels' Whittier Boulevard, Highway 72.

So there's a skinny 21-inch wheel and fatter 16-inch rear clad in a modern take on whitewall tyres; a skinny front guard and bobbed rear fender; plus that 1200cc small-block Evolution engine capped off with a tiny peanut tank aping a style that debuted in 1948, and those audaciously curving bars.

The finish is achieved by using hexagonal flakes Harley says are seven times bigger than the particles usually embedded in metallic paint, particles coated in aluminium film, then painted; particles that seem to seek out the light so they gleam even in the dimness of my garage.

They even light up like a disco ball under street lights. I'm told the gold version requires extra-dark sunnies.

But this is a Harley, and though it's right at home outside any cafe, it's also meant to be ridden.

Swing a leg back aboard, fire it up to feel that characteristic rumba at idle, clunk it into first - it wouldn't be a Harley without that emphatic gear-change - and wind it on, the modern engine with its fuel injection and rubber mounts smoothing as you ride, the roar of an American V-Twin turning heads then riveted by sun lasering off that extrovert paint.

Sitting deep into the bike means you're partly protected from open-road wind blast and enjoying the strong low-end pick-up, and soon we're tipping it off the highway and onto bendier roads, climbing into the hills round home.

And it's here we find a few handling compromises imparted by the forward-mounted pegs and the high-rise bars, a format designed for cruising, rather than the back-road scratching that a sportster's spare lines might otherwise encourage. The front brakes feel a tad spongy and require a forceful approach, fortunately ably backed up by the rears. And the high front and rather lightly-dampened rear shocks don't do much to cushion your spine from bumps. That alone might make you stick to urban roads, but add the limited range from that eight-litre fuel tank, so small it's virtually drained as the 1200 twin clears its throat.

Frequent fuel stops serve to ease your butt, for this skinny seat's a triumph of style over comfort, though I suspect buyers won't mind. You don't choose a bike with such OTT custom lines without being ready to make some compromises. At least you don't have to pay through the nose for this look. Throbbing glutes and restricted range aside, the 72 costs $17,150; rarely has such a custom-look Harley been so affordable. If you love the finish, but prefer greater comfort, this paint will roll out to other models in 2013.

- NZ Herald

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