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Author Topic: Harley Evolution Engine Life  (Read 34183 times)

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Harley Evolution Engine Life
« on: January 09, 2006, 02:19:39 PM »

Okay so I'm bitten by the Harley bug. I have the urge to go with a Sportster 883 Custom when I get rid of the Ninja 250. I rode that bike seriously for about 2 months before the weather started to get bad...I put almost 2,500 miles on it in that time. So I'm concerned how long I can get out of a Harley engine before a rebuild. Any input?

Strings

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Harley Evolution Engine Life
« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2006, 03:44:51 PM »

don't Harelys need a rebuild pretty much every other day? Tongue

 Let me put it this way: I walked into a Harley dealership shortly after i got my license. The salesman told me "yeah... Harleys are now almost as reliable as the Japanese bikes!". This was meant as a selling point...

Gewehr98

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« Reply #2 on: January 09, 2006, 04:24:31 PM »

Dunno about the Evolution engines, but my Shovelhead works just fine, as long as the oil stays inside and off my pant legs.   Wink
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Harley Evolution Engine Life
« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2006, 03:44:41 AM »

As much as I dont like harleys in general, I really dont think that they are prone to an early demise. They seem to have some mechanical problems from the get-go, but I have seen a whole lot of old high-mileage bikes that seem to be running as strong as ever. All bikes have the capacity to die young, it just depends on dilligant maintinence and luck. HD motorcycles are prone to some probablems (all bikes are) but I dont think that any of them are fatal, just annoying.

A kawa EX250 to a Sportster should be an interesting change. I would imagine that you will grow tired of the bike (for something bigger/faster/shinier) long before it has given up the ghost.

Bikes can run for a pretty long time unless they are crashed or neglected (which is probably the ultimate fate of %80 of motorcycles sold in America). If you are comfortable with doing regular repairs there is no reason you cant keep one for quite some time. I have a CB750 in my driveway with 55,000 miles on it that still gets ridden every day, which is probably why it is still running, through three owners I dont think that bike has ever sat for more than a week or two at the most. Of course, high-mileage motorcycles always take on some bizarre personality traits, they start to behave more like organisms than machines and require a lot more attention than new bikes. Its all just a matter of how much you are willing to put up with.

For example here is the current starting proceedure for my dinosaur:

Shift to Neutral (push the bike around a bit untill the lever moves)
Petcock: on
Kill switch: on
Key : on
Depress start button (if starts go to section B, if not continue:)
Drop into first gear, push bike forewards and backwards against transmission, repeat in second gear, depress start, repeat.
If that fails, hit starter motor with medium sized wrench
Failing that; bump start

Bike is running with choke OFF
Wait untill motor begins to lag, slowly pull to 3/4 choke, count to five, adjust to mantain 2000RPM
At about 1/4 choke the bike is ready to ride.
Kickstand UP, drop into first gear (*thunk*)
fully close choke after a couple blocks or when engine begins racing in neutral.

That procedure works every time, and it is a significantly greater PITA than it would be with a new bike, but this is the price of keeping the dang things around for so long. If its something that your willing to put up with, then you will enjoy a high-mileage motorcycle, otherwise you should stick to newer bikes.

CatsDieNow

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« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2006, 04:26:50 AM »

*Smacks Dan upside the head*

*Twice*

Harleys are rhinestone butt jewelery.  You take them out in the driveway and polish the chrome to impress your friends.  It's all a marketing and branding social club.  If must have a cruiser, anything but a Harley...Triumph perhaps.

Fatcat

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Harley Evolution Engine Life
« Reply #5 on: January 10, 2006, 05:07:51 AM »

No idea on the evo motor, though they've had a while to perfect it.

I can tell you that my dad has put almost 50,000 miles on a VROD in the last 2 years, and it's still going strong. If I were forced to buy a Harley, it would be something with that motor. The fact that it can actually get out of it's own way is a plus, too.
"The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one."

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Harley Evolution Engine Life
« Reply #6 on: January 10, 2006, 05:37:07 AM »

I know you didnt actually ask about the sportster itself, but I figured Id comment on it anyways cause im bored.

I think the 883 is a bit of an anomolous bike. It is a fine standard, if not a bit over priced. The thing is that there are a lot of bikes that do the same job a lot better for a lot less. However, those bikes dont say HD on the tank. The thing is though that the only reason to pick the sportster is the name. However the sportster (particularly the 883) is the least of all Harley Davidson motorcycles. The same people that will give you a hard time about riding a japanese bike will give you a hard time for riding a "ladies bike". My thinking with HD is that its an all or nothing type of deal. If you really want to have the cache of the name then you need to get a bike that really represents what HD is all about. It just seems to me that the sportster is considered by many to be the ultimate HD poser bike.

For the price of a 1200CC sportster you can start looking at the FLAGSHIP cruisers made by Japanese companies. Yeah, people will give you a hard time for buying an import, but at least you will have a faster, more effecient, more reliable, and better made machine. If you get a sportster all you have is a HD that is a "girl bike" that is slightly worse than any other HD motorcycle. Really, the only thing that HD purists can make fun of with impunity is a man on a Sportster because their bikes really are better.

Dont get me wrong, the sportster does a fine job of what it does best. The problem is that "what it does best" is filling the role as a general purpose motorcycle, which is not what the current Harley Davidson company is all about. To give an idea of perspective the $800 POS Honda that I mentioned earlier was built to the exact same purpose. Despite the fact that it is beat to hell, 15 years old, and ugly as sin, it will out perform a brand new 883 in every category except for appearance. For half the price of an 883 you could pick up a lightly used Suzuki SV650 which is quite possibly the best middleweight V-twin in the history of motorcycling as we know it. It is practicle enough to be an everyday ride, effecient as anything else, boringly reliable, long lived, and has enough performance that it is becoming hugely popular as a track-bike. It is not however, a particularly pretty bike, and like I said, it doesnt say HD on the tank.

Gewehr98

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« Reply #7 on: January 10, 2006, 08:27:50 AM »

I dare somebody to smack me upside the head and call my Shovelhead FXR "Rhinestone Butt Jewelry".  I also have a nicely restored 1942 Indian 442, I can only imagine what unflattering names that might incur from those who dislike them.  Not everybody wants a CBR-900RR to do wheelies and nose stands these days...

BTW, I had a Triumph Speed Triple for a while in 1996.  Cantankerous would be the best way to describe that bike. Hope that's not indicative of a Triumph Bonneville cruiser.
"Bother", said Pooh, as he chambered another round...

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Nathaniel Firethorn

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« Reply #8 on: January 10, 2006, 08:36:43 AM »

Buy Harleys. Lots and lots of Harleys. I own some HDI. Cheesy

- NF
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Michigander

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« Reply #9 on: January 10, 2006, 09:12:05 AM »

I have owned a Honda 250 and a Honda 750 V45 Magna.  Even with minimal maintenance (checked oil level once in a while), I never had any problems with these two bikes.  The V45 had a quite a few miles on her and she had obviously been dumped more than once, and the engine (cam?) forever knocked, but it always started, always ran.

Now I own an Harley-Davidson 1200cc Sportster, never wrecked (that I know of), well maintained, and low mileage.  In the last two summers I have probably put only 100 miles on her.  I've had it at the shop numerous times, etc. blah, blah, blah...

But, I will get her running good this summer and if I don't, I'm going to sell her and use the money for a down payment on a . . . . . . . .  new  . . . . . . . . .  Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail.

Why? Because there is nothing like the feeling I get on a Harley! Nothing compares! I've ridden some of my buddie's bikes, Ninjas, Yamahas, Kows, etc.

Bottom line:

There is nothing like the feeling of riding a Harley-Davidson.
What if the hokey pokey is really what it's all about?

CatsDieNow

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« Reply #10 on: January 10, 2006, 10:03:23 AM »

Is that the feeling of having your fillings knocked loose?  Cheesy  I meant no offense to you HD guys, I was just trying to be funny.

Look, if you actually ride your HD, then you are a class above the ones that I see around here.  We got rich guys who never take their bike out for more then one trip around the block per year, but take it out every week to polish the chrome.

Restored classic bikes are an entirely different matter.  Don't confuse the issue...I only object to the overpriced branding that HD is infamous for.

Strings

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Harley Evolution Engine Life
« Reply #11 on: January 10, 2006, 11:43:44 AM »

CDN, you're thinking of the average RUB: bought a Harley when they hit their midlife crisis because that's "the biker bike", but have no clue how to ride it...

 Ask Monkeyleg about such "bikers". You'll get an earfull!

Gewehr98

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« Reply #12 on: January 10, 2006, 12:58:54 PM »

Regarding Sturgis and Daytona...

We call them WHORES - We Haul Our Rides Everywhere

They trailer the bikes to within a few miles of the gathering, then ride refreshed and smelling like a rose the last couple miles into the event.  

Myself, I know every nut and bolt on my Shovelhead - because Harley refuses to work on it, it's not an Evo or TwinCam.  A poseur I am not.
"Bother", said Pooh, as he chambered another round...

http://neuralmisfires.blogspot.com

"Never squat with your spurs on!"

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Harley Evolution Engine Life
« Reply #13 on: January 10, 2006, 01:34:54 PM »

Thanks for the input everyone!

CDN- My primary motivation is the cost of insurance. I'd really like the 636R or at the minimum, an SV-650S, but the insurance cost is close to $2K/year for me. I can definitely afford it but I definitely don't want to pay $2K a year for insurance on a bike. So, if I am going to go the cruiser route, I just HAVE to get an H-D to satisfy my intense need for tinkering and aftermarket parts. The plan would be to get the 883 Custom, do the 1200 swap, and do some minor cosmetic stuff such as new wheels. Insurance runs about $600/year for this option... I'll do some more insurance shopping since I've only talked to 3 or 4 insurance companies so far.

Monkeyleg

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Harley Evolution Engine Life
« Reply #14 on: January 10, 2006, 01:45:14 PM »

Never been to Sturgis or Daytona, and have no intention of going. I can't stand the HD fashion crowd.

My '89 Springer has about 115,000 miles on it. It would be more like 140,000 or more if I'd had the money the last couple of years  to take a vacation.

Maybe I'm a masochist, because I love my bike, in spite of all the problems:

1. Gone through three Kevlar belts (a small stone in the sprocket will destroy a belt in a matter of minutes). Two-day job for a shade tree mechanic.

2. One tranny rebuild. Cost $1000. (I don't know tranny's, so the dealer did it).

3. Replace rear rocker box gaskets every other year, and replace rear cylinder base gasket every two to three years. Both front and rear gaskets every three or so years. A six-hour job.

4. Untold number of burned-up voltage regulators.

5. Black box went south.

6. Two alternator stators (that's a full day job, or more).

7. One tappet that went bad and destroyed the camshaft. Happened on the road, so about $750.

8. Intermittent short in wiring.

9. New speedometer at 56,000 miles.

10. Three headlight assemblies. (Vibration cracks the mount).

11. New steering head bearing at about 55,000 miles. That's a two or three day job for an amateur mechanic like me.

12. Too many other things to list.

The only part of the bike I haven't had to touch is the bottom end.

In all fairness to my bike, most of the miles I've logged have been on 5,000 to 7,000 mile trips out west in the summer heat. 500 to 700 miles a day in that heat, combined with a hard-mounted motor, will take its toll.

I had a sportster before this bike, and really enjoyed it. Nimble and quick.

Every trip I've taken seems to put me in Montana when the BMW club is having their national rally. I've compared stories with those riders, and their bikes have just as many problems.

I had dinner with one of the race crews for Ducati when they were at Laguna Seca, and they had numerous stories of problems.

I've also stopped and helped Gold Wing riders whose bikes had broken down.

If you're going to buy one (or any bike, for that matter) buy some tools and learn how to wrench.

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Harley Evolution Engine Life
« Reply #15 on: January 10, 2006, 06:56:55 PM »

OK, chiming in here because I have a Sportster engine, rubbermount engine just like the newest Sportsters but mine is a '97.  With about 105hp at the crank right now (91 stock), a genuine 150mph bike.

A Buell S3:

http://www.motorcyclespecs.co.za/model/buell/buell_s3_thunderbolt.htm

What I like about it: from a chassis/suspension point of view, there's nothing better.  Literally.  It's Ducati-grade stuff in every way.

The motor is the same as a Sportster except "pumped up" from the factory.

It is stone-axe primitive: aircooled, two valve per cylinder, pushrods, etc.

But all that said, here's what's RIGHT about it.

It's overbuilt...tougher than it needs to be.  It can be disassembled and rebuilt by any idiot with a basic set of wrenches.  The valvetrain is hydraulic, which means they never need adjusting.  High-strung sportbikes need their valves tweaked as often as every 5,000 miles - less in the case of Ducatis.  And the process is ugly on the Japanese bikes, downright hideous on Ducatis...doing your own valve adjust on a Jap sportbike is barely possible if you're GOOD, impossible on a Duc.

The power delivery is smooth and strong, but not "peaky" like a hyperactive Jap 600.  I'm making as much power as most of them, at half the RPM and with a powerband twice as wide.

Even though the engine's bottom end and transmission are in the same block of metal in a Sportster, the oil pools are separate so each gets the right type of oil.  Japanese practice is to run one pool of oil for both and then use oil that's a compromise between the two needs.

The Sportster bottom end and tranny are tough as nails and are unlikely to break.  The top end CAN but it's pretty tough too.

That's not to say you can do stupid stuff.

Example: when I bought my Buell about six months ago, it came with a super-high-flow air intake (Forcewinder) on the stock carb, and only about 4,000 miles on it.  I asked the seller whether or not the carb had been re-tuned for that intake and moderately good Yoshimura exhaust can, he said "yes".  Silly me, I believed him...should have had it metered and checked.

So about 1,500 miles later at 80mph down the freeway on a hot day, the lean-out condition got wild enough to burn a hole in the front piston.  

Sigh.  The good news was, I got the bike at a real good price so I wasn't TOO screwed.

A bit of research later, I started ordering parts.  I decided if I was going to tear it all down, I'd build it up right, basically replaced the barrels, pistons, rings, heads and while I was at it, put in a good Mikuni carb to replace that stock CV type.

Two weeks after placing that order (about $2,500 [WAIT, on edit the bill was $2900] worth of go-fast bits) I didn't just have the parts, I had the bike back together and running strong...doing all the wrenching myself and this was the third engine I'd ever rebuilt to this degree myself...none prior were Harleys of any sort.

This is NOT possible on a japbike.

Why $2900?

Instead of a 1200, I now have a 1250 - with ceramic-lined barrels, 10.5:1 compression forged race pistons with the 1998-era dome pattern, with 2004-spec bigger-valve heads with better port flow re-cut to the domed pistons (very hot setup), special adapter to let the 2004 heads work on the '97 frame.

The only way I could have gone hotter is with the 1450cc cylinder/piston kit but that means machining the original cases.  The 1250 kit is a drop-in.

Now.

You want a hot Sportster?

Here's what you do:

Find an old 883 Sporty in good shape, mostly stock.  5speed tranny if possible but the 4sp ain't bad.  Maybe one so old it's chain-drive, but still Evolution instead of "Ironhead".  18" rear rim versus 16" if at all possible...better handling potential.

First just ride it a while.  Do minor mods to the suspension: fork brace, better rear shocks if you can find some at a good price (stock won't be too bad unless it's a "hugger", avoid those at all cost).  Put steel-braided front brake lines in, and swap handlebars to something more "Cafe".  Then dig around for a used set of "rearset" foot pegs, check the various sportster forums esp. http://xlforum.net/index.html - check the "cafe" subforum there, see what other people are building.

While the motor is still mild, learn to ride this thing right.  Follow some friends who know what they're doing on sportbikes, follow them around the twisties and track their lines.  Work up slow, feel what the frame is telling you as you push it.

Now you're ready to get cookin'.

You wanted to start with the 883 because while the motor's bottom end is the same as a 1200 (or my Buell for that matter) the 883's flywheel is lighter.  It has more go-fast potential than the 1200.

Shop here, these guys rock:

http://www.nrhsperformance.com/

At a minimum, you want a 1250 barrel/piston kit with the Axtell Nikasil barrels and forged pistons - about $1200.  You can order them set up for 883 heads and the results won't be too bad (your heads will need minor local machining or send them in to NRHS for matching to the barrels/pistons), but for best results get new heads to match.  I went with stage 1 2004-spec.

But let's remember, my Buell already had good cams.  You might get a more cost-effective boost with your existing heads and some wilder cams - talk to NRHS.  I also strongly recommend the Mikuni 42 carb.

Running your stock heads, you could come in under $2,000.  What you'll get will be both way hotter and tougher than stock.

It'll also be cheap to insure and will be a "sleeper" from hell Smiley.

Smith

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Harley Evolution Engine Life
« Reply #16 on: January 11, 2006, 04:49:19 AM »

I'm shocked.  Didn't you own an M3 man?  What happened?  Harleys are the anti-M3.  You should go to your local BMW/Triumph dealer and take a few free test rides.  Then start watching the used market.  

A few websites to drool on:
http://www.triumph.co.uk/usa/
http://www.bmwmotorcycles.com/home
http://www.triumphrat.net
http://www.sport-touring.net/forums/index.php?
http://www.advrider.com/forums/

Yummy..

On the other hand, you got your 250 about 2-3 months before I got my 500 and I have already put on over twice the milage you have...albeit not all on the 500.  If you are not going to ride a lot, then a cruiser might be ok (please get a Japanese one though!).  If you plan to put on a lot of miles then really consider something else.

CDN, is it wrong for me to already be thinking that I want a BMW GS in a few years (in addition to my current Sprint ST)?  You know, I might want to go to Tierra del Fuego or something... Wink

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Harley Evolution Engine Life
« Reply #17 on: January 11, 2006, 09:22:57 AM »

Dick- Thanks for the info, that's what I was looking for: how well it will do with longterm ownership.

Jim- Thanks for the technical rundown, I'll have to give those guys a call when/if I decide to do the 883 conversion.

Smith- My problem is that I'm guilty of liking...well...everything! I like M3s, old musclecars, modified Civics, Harleys, Japanese cruisers, superbikes, cafe racers, and on and on and everything in between. I don't want to be a weekend dragstip hero or be at full lean at every corner. I just like being on two wheels, taking in the scenery, and only occasionally going wide open. I'm planning on putting a crazy amount of mileage on my next bike; why do you say to stay away from a cruiser for that?

CatsDieNow

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« Reply #18 on: January 11, 2006, 10:41:12 AM »

I give up trying to keep you boys in line.  Wink

Smith, you have my blessing to get an adventure-touring bike.  (Not that any of you need it, of course).

Dan, maybe you want a touring bike instead?  Something with bags, a comfortable seat, and a windscreen?

Strings

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Harley Evolution Engine Life
« Reply #19 on: January 11, 2006, 10:54:06 AM »

>Dan, maybe you want a touring bike instead?  Something with bags, a comfortable seat, and a windscreen?<

Think long and hard about that decision. If you plan on doing a fair amount of driving within city limits, you REALLY don't want a touring bike: they're great for hopping on the highway and goin' long distane, but suck for "just around town" driving...

 I've got a '76 Goldwing (we call it the Hondapotomus). On the highway, it ain't bad at all: very comfortable. But in town, it handles with all the agility of your average aircraft carrier...

 I love cruisers. I wouldn't mind having a touring bike, but only for long range trips. I'll be getting a newer simple cruiser this spring, and retiring the Hondapotomus...

Smith

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« Reply #20 on: January 11, 2006, 01:21:20 PM »

Ahh, the lure of the sport-touring rig.  Many folks find that they can put more miles onto a sport-tourer than a cruiser.  Worth a look.  A sport-tourer will have the looks of a sport bike with relaxed ergonomics for long distance trips.  Take a look at the ride reports on the ST.N site and the ADV site I gave in my last post.  Then see if you really want a cruiser.  Wink  If you want to out "serious" miles on a bike, go for something with legendary reliability and comfort.  This is where test rides come in handy.  Though admitedly Triumph isn't known for reliability, the latest ones are getting good marks in that category, and that's the reason I accepted them as a prospect.  BMW is THE distance touring bike, but they are really pricey.  Others include the XX and even the YZF600R.  Find something that will put a smile on your face every day, and make you curse driving your car.  Sit on EVERYTHING and ride anything they'll let you ride.  BMW and Triumph have test ride programs just for this occasion...some Japanese companies do, some don't...and it's worth calling ever dealer in your area about it, and not just stopping at the first place that says no.

Monkeyleg

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« Reply #21 on: January 11, 2006, 01:51:07 PM »

Nothing at all wrong with BMW's, except one thing: resale value. For whatever reason, they don't hold their value as well as HD's.

A neighbor picked up a limited edition 1998 model in showroom condition for under $6,000. That bike originally sold for over $11,000.

As for sport-touring bikes, Smith is right. I had the opportunity to ride a Honda ST1100 (I think that was the model designation). Great handling, smooth, good ground clearance. It seemed like the perfect balance between a street bike and a touring bike.

With my Springer, I put a T-Bag on the passenger seat behind me. It makes for a full-length backrest, and makes riding hundredss of miles every day very comfortable.

In the end, I have to be able to like the way a bike looks, and I don't think any bike looks as good as mine. Wink

Strings

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« Reply #22 on: January 11, 2006, 05:02:44 PM »

>In the end, I have to be able to like the way a bike looks, and I don't think any bike looks as good as mine<

At least, until you climb on it, right? :neener:

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« Reply #23 on: January 12, 2006, 09:28:11 AM »

Quote from: CatsDieNow
I give up trying to keep you boys in line.  Wink

Smith, you have my blessing to get an adventure-touring bike.  (Not that any of you need it, of course).

Dan, maybe you want a touring bike instead?  Something with bags, a comfortable seat, and a windscreen?
I would never buy a touring bike as my only one...maybe as a third but never a first. I've narrowed it down to two options this spring:

-Kawa 636 w/ liability/theft/uninsured motorist insurance
-H-D 883C w/ full coverage

...who am I kidding, you know it is 90% that I'll end up with the 636 anyway...

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« Reply #24 on: January 12, 2006, 09:47:39 AM »

While debating in my head which bike I want to pursue I stumbled on this:

Quote
I raced a Harley today and after some really hard riding I managed to PASS the guy. I was riding on one of those really, really twisting sections of canyon road with no straight sections to speak of and where most of the curves have warning signs that say "15 MPH".

I knew if I was going to pass one of those monsters with those big-cubic-inch motors, it would have to be a place like this where handling and rider skill are more important than horsepower alone.

I saw the guy up ahead as I exited one of the turns and knew I could catch him, but it wouldn't be easy. I concentrated on my braking and cornering. three corners later, I was on his fender. Catching him was one thing; passing him would prove to be another.

Two corners later, I pulled up next to him as we sailed down the mountain. I think he was shocked to see me next to him, as I nearly got by him before he could recover. Next corner, same thing. I'd manage to pull up next to him as we started to enter the corners but when we came out he'd get on the throttle and outpower me. His horsepower was almost too much to overcome, but this only made me more determined than ever.

My only hope was to outbrake him. I held off squeezing the lever until the last instant. I kept my nerve while he lost his. In an instant I was by him. Corner after corner, I could hear the roar of his engine as he struggled to keep up. Three more miles to go before the road straightens out and he would pass me for good.

But now I was in the lead and he would no longer hold me back. I stretched out my lead and by the time we reached the bottom of the canyon, he was more than a full corner behind. I could no longer see him in my rear-view mirror.

Once the road did straighten out, it seemed like it took miles before he passed me, but it was probably just a few hundred yards. I was no match for that kind of horsepower, but it was done. In the tightest section of road, where bravery and skill count for more than horspower and deep pockets, I had passed him. though it was not easy, I had won the race to the bottom of the canyon and I had preserved the proud tradition of another of America's best bikes.

I will always remember that moment. I don't think I've ever pedaled so hard in my life. And some of the credit must go to Schwinn, as well. They really make a great bicycle...
Hilarious!
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