Today, I decided it was time to finally experience something that I have never ridden in the many years of my motorcycling journey. That being a Harley Davidson! Infamous to some, famous to others, these street crawlers and highway marauders are in my humble opinion a true icon of American motorcycling history and its gangland prominence that still exists to this day!

However, I was not the only one to be joined on this fine journey to ‘Freedom’. My father also came along for the ride, albeit so we could switch bikes and share opinions of both! Booked in and shown around the bikes we set off around the local area to gain our opinions, switch over and then gather some more for good measure.

The battle begins! Well so we thought. I started out on the Street Bob, coming in at 12,249 OTR as a starter price, this is no cheap motorcycle, some serious contenders outweigh it on every level from build quality to price. But this is not why those who ride a Harley buy them. Right off the first set of lights I realised this machine was full of torque, all 126Nm of it pulling at just over 3000rpm with 1690cc, shifting through the box surprisingly smoothly. Yet, the feeling of relaxation and total confidence was incredible, not to mention you could still do an identical launch at the lights towing 3 trailers and granny with her shopping!

For the weight of the machine it gathers speed quickly, and holds that speed without any feeling of stress on the running gear, I also found contrary to popular belief that this cumbersome monster was not a bone shaker, in fact it was comparable to a well worn arm chair. This momentary second of truly cottage like cosy feeling was unfortunately marred quite severely by the foot plates, gear and brake lever positioning. I am no small man… Liam quite often makes note of me being ‘Gigantor’ and he is not wrong in scaling. At 6′ 5″, with size 15 feet you will not be able to ride the Street Bob without cramping up! My guess is that at anything over 6ft you will feel pretty cramped unless this particular part of the bike is modified to your choosing. This was a real gripe for me, I really wanted to love this bike but the fact that my boot was sitting on the exhaust pipe, my ankles were numb and my upper thighs were clenching like a tightly strained rubber band was an instant turn off.

Dropping into a corner on the ‘Bob’ is nothing like a naked, with a little scrape going round a 70 degree bend at 30mph I was on constant high alert worrying that I could at any moment,lose the beloved chrome pipe to the asphalt! However, these bikes was never designed to be hitting the twisties hard so it can truly be forgiven.

Pulling over and swapping out I hopped onto the Forty Eight. Instantly the cramps in my legs were gone, the foot plates and gear shift are in the correct place for a tall chap! Huzzah! However, I was now leaning forward to grasp bars that were sitting just shy off level with the head stock, having long arms this isn’t an issue but to a slighter fellow, this could be a real gripe for long haul ‘road trips’ Once again the arm chair feeling settled as my buttocks found their path among the vast plethora of padded saddle and we were off.

In my experience many bikes that are of a lower capacity just don’t have the pull to excite me, I am pretty hefty along with my other gigantic assets and this bike was no exception. Or so I thought! I found the Forty Eight both full of vibration at 60mph plus, and seriously lacking in power over the Street Bob. So much so that I was convinced it was a sub 750cc category motorcycle contrary to it’s actual specifications of 1202cc and running 96Nm @ 3500 RPM. For me it just didn’t bring that level of oomph that the Street Bob made its mark with and it is also worth noting that the gear changes are not nearly as smooth, and being lesser powered come a lot more often in the mid ranges! I did however find that the Forty Eight can corner slightly lower and has more ground clearance between the twin pipes and the floor, which should be added. Look fantastic and comes complete with a friendlier price tag just shy of £10,000 OTR!

With the pipes in mind, looks definitely become part of these machines. To me they are both brilliantly designed aesthetically and capture exactly what an HD should be. The long upright sweeping bars that give that classic American feel of the Street Bob, with its chrome trim and the little fine details. It has bought a youthful spring to their more classically styled models but holds true to original design of road trip envy! As much as I didn’t like the ride of the Forty Eight, the styling is pure retro cool, loosely based on the current fad of cafe racer and scramblers you can see the styling ques all over this machine. The bars are wide and low, the exhausts are high up and tucked away, and the tank is nicely nestled into a small space just like a speedway bike with fat, high walled tyres to boot. There is absolutely no denying that to my eye the Forty Eight wins hands down! Before I had ridden these two bikes and based off looks alone I was definitely yearning to give the Forty Eight a go over the Street Bob. After riding though, it would have to be the Street Bob. Over its pitfalls of the foot placement this machine reigns supreme in every aspect for an enjoyable ride, both short and long haul!

To make life a little easier and for your own comparison, spec sheets are below for both bikes to get you down to your local HD dealership and blasting around on both of these machines!

Thanks for reading my first ‘VS’ review here at The Back Roads.

Bentley Jay Perkins


Street Bob

Engine:

Four-cycle, 45-degree V-Twin Air-cooled, Twin Cam 103™

Displacement:103.1 cubic inches (1,690 cc)

Bore:3.875 inches (98.4 mm)

Stroke:4.375 inches (111.1 mm)

Engine Torque Testing Method:J1349

Engine Torque:98.8 Pound-Feet at 3,000 rpm

Compression Ratio:9.6:1

Fuel System:Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)

Lubrication system:Pressurized, dry sump

Transmission:Six-Speed, Constant mesh, foot shift

Primary Drive:Chain, 34/46 ratio

Gear Ratios (overall) :1st: 9.311, 2nd: 6.454, 3rd: 4.793, 4th: 3.882, 5th: 3.307, 6th: 2.79

Chassis:

Exhaust:Chrome, staggered, shorty exhaust with dual tapered mufflers

Brakes, Front:Four-piston fixed front

Brakes, Rear:Two-piston torque-free floating rear

Wheel, Front:19-inch Black laced steel wheels and stainless steel spokes

Wheel, Rear:17-inch Black laced steel wheels and stainless steel spokes

Rake:29 degrees

Trail:4.7 inches

Dimensions:

Length:94.3 inches

Width:36 inches

Height:48.8 inches

Seat Height, Laden:25.5 inches

Seat Height, Unladen:26.8 inches

Ground Clearance:4.7 inches

Wheelbase:64.2 inches

Fuel Capacity:4.7 gallons

Fuel Reserve:0.9 Gallons

Fuel Economy: Combined City/Hwy:43 mpg

Dry Weight:637 Pounds

Wet Weight:670 Pounds

Maximum Payload:415 Pounds

Forty Eight

Engine:

Engine:Air-cooled, Evolution®

Bore:3.5 inches (88.9 mm)

Stroke:3.811 inches (96.8 mm)

Displacement:73.4 cubic inches (1,202 cc)

Compression Ratio:10 to 1

Fuel System:Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)

Drivetrain:

Primary Drive:Chain, 38/57 ratio

Gear Ratios (overall) :1st 9.315, 2nd 6.653, 3rd 4.948 4th 4.102, 5th 3.517

Chassis:

Exhaust:Chrome, staggered shorty exhaust with dual slash-cut mufflers

Wheels, Front Type:Black, Split Nine-Spoke Cast Aluminum w/ Machined Highlights

Wheels, Rear Type:Black, Split Nine-Spoke Cast Aluminum w/ Machined Highlights

Brakes, Caliper Type:Dual-piston front, Dual-piston rear

Performance:

Engine Torque Testing Method:J1349

Engine Torque:70.8 Pound-Feet at 3,500 rpm

Fuel Economy: Combined City/Hwy:48 mpg

Dimensions:

Length:85 inches

Seat Height, Laden:26.2 inches

Seat Height, Unladen:27.3 inches

Ground Clearance:3.9 inches

Rake (steering head) :30.2 degrees

Trail:5.3 inches

Wheelbase:59.3 inches

Fuel Capacity:2.1 gallons

Oil Capacity (w/filter) :2.8 quarts

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