Had a blast putting the new Dyna Switchback through its paces yesterday. Read the full story in American-V 48, out in early October.

Spotted one of these going round a roundabout in Worcester, and how could I not drop in? You'll struggle to find bigger fans of S&S.

Riding back from Ludlow on Thursday up the A49, approaching Wem, there was a bloke changing a car tyre on a fast blind bend. He was wearing a Hi-Viz vest, and as a result I saw him clearly and was alerted to the potential hazard.

And it made me realise something VERY important: something that I've always known but have never been able to voice coherently.

If every motorcyclist were forced to wear a Hi-Viz jacket, I wouldn't have paid that poor sod as much attention, and nor would the heavy wagons using that route. A flash of Hi-Viz over the hedgerow wouldn't have said 'warning', but would have said motorcyclist, and I might not have been alerted to the danger he was in, or that he represented to me as an obstacle.

The message of 'Hands off our personal freedom' is a good vote winner among motorcyclists, preaching to the converted, but it will cut no ice with a safety lobby who is determined to protect us from ourselves. They couldn't give a toss about us except as accident statistics and would legislate us off the road for their personal convenience if they could, so we need to point out the perils that compulsion would represent to others.

The message we need to get to the debate is that compulsory Hi-Viz jackets on motorcycles compromises the safety of EVERY pedestrian or stranded motorist - in fact it undermines the advantage of Hi-Viz jackets for anyone who is outside their vehicle on the road network (and is increasingly required to wear a hi-viz jacket in EU countries to alert others to the danger they present), because:




Simple messages that play to the legislators. The downside of taking that course of action will be that cars and motorcycles will need to carry hi-viz jackets for drivers, riders and passengers to wear when they are stationery, but that is an idea that has some merit, and having been at the side of the road with a dead bike in the dark I personally wouldn't object to: such a jacket could be very lightweight because it wouldn't need to be robust enough to stand-up to 70mph winds, so could fit in a tiny compression bag.

It's also worth mentioning that hi-viz jackets flap about, adversely affect fuel economy and can actually represent a threat to the motorcyclist.

More positive, pro-active and constructive that  a dozen or more bloody stupid piecemeal go-slows on the motorway network wearing "Hand Off Bikes" t-shirts, which will say nothing to anyone unless MAG has got something spectacular up their sleeve that will glue them all together in the mind of the public.

At last: we've only been suggesting that Harley do an FLD for half a dozen years (sixteen if you include previous magazines), and Harley have finally brought out a Dyna Road King, albeit known as the Switchback (well, we assume it's the switchback). Modern 17 and 18-inch tyre fitments beneath full mudguards, the new 103 motor, FL forks and nacelle, footboards and a QD screen and new QD slantbags.

Basically, it's a 4-speed FL lookalike and, subject to a roadtest, is at the top of my personal wishlist: practical, flexible and hopefully comes with a choice of other wheels, 'cos I could live without the 5-spokes.

All of a sudden, the lack of a standard Road King isn't such a great loss.

Just hope they price it with the other Dynas: no prices yet.

In case you were wondering, The Electra Glide That Never Was in AmV14 shows what the undressed version could look like with laced wheels. Stunning.
Early 2012 model news coming in points to an upgrade to Harley's Softail family for 2012 with a new 103-inch - TC103B - engine across the board, as will a couple of the Dyna models. 

The Softail range will comprise the 'yet-to-make-an-impact' Blackline, ever popular Fat Boy and Fat Boy Low - which we'll take as being a Fat Boy Special in the UK - the evergreen Heritage Softail Classic and the recently reintroduced Softail Deluxe. As previously mentioned, the Cross Bones and Rocker C have not been carried over.

On the Dyna front, both the Wide Glide and Fat Bob get a TC103 engine while the Street Bob and Super Glide Custom stick with the TC96 for the time being. The BIG news, though is a new model: the Switchback.

Well, we assume it's a Dyna because it is listed with the Fat Bob and Wide Glide but that could be a red herring: there's no model designation offered so it could be a new Softail. One thing is for certain, which is that it will be a convertible, and the FXR/FXD range has a history of convertibles.

The Sportster range looks like it will be short of an 883, with the 883R not showing for 2012 unless there's a form that hasn't been filed yet, but otherwise continues as 2011 - colour notwitstanding.

There will also be an Anniversary V-Rod - in the form of a Night Rod Special Anniversary Edition, to celebrate 10 years of the watercooled motor - which will run alongside the Muscle and the regular Night Rod Special.

And in the Touring family, the Road Glide will be replaced by a Road Glide Custom, and we think it's about time that Harley reintroduced the Road Glide here - even if it's in limited numbers - because there's just a chance that its time has finally arrived: we're more willing to accept a bagger without a Batwing, and the Vision is just so much better than the Ultra in the long haul stakes, and we reckon that's because of the frame-mounted screen.

The 110-inch CVO models for 2012 will comprise the Softail Convertible, Road Glide Custom, Street Glide and Ultra Classic Electra Glide.

More as we get it!

Amanda is still laughing ...

Breaking news from Cyril Huze:

I'm up to my neck in deadlines, and the release from Polaris speaks for itself, but I can't see this being anything but good news for both Indian and Victory, and all of us who enjoy American motorcycles.

Both companies will presumably maintain their current course - Indian couldn't build the Vision any more than Victory could build a Chief - and it will force Harley to raise their game, because this is amounts to serious competition, especially if they sell Indians in Victory dealerships and vice versa.

It will be interesting to see what happens to their respective manufacturing bases.

The much maligned Blackline is with us, and you've really got to ride one to appreciate what Harley have managed to achieve with it!

Mechanically, it's a proper Harley for the Shovelhead generation, even if it's supposed to be aimed at youngsters trading up from Sportsters. The Dyna FXs have got some serious Softail competition.
An interesting new exhibition opens at Manchester's Museum of Science and Industry this weekend, showcasing the history of Harley-Davidson motorcycles in 34 carefully selected bikes.

From early, single-cylinder beginnings through war and racing, technologies and lifestyle, to the modern day and a room showcasing the current state of motorcycle customising, the exhibition sets out to give visitors an opportunity to see iconic motorcycles up-close and personal, nicely laid out in an exceptional space within a building that has plenty of heritage of its own, with plenty of space round each bike to really appreciate it, and the journey that Harley-Davidson as a company has made.

Each bike is set in the context of its time, to give an idea of the age it represents, with a few singled out for a full diorama treatment, notably the WLA45 and ELC Knucklehead outfit, and a 1948 Panhead that was one of the bikes taken to the Arctic by W&W Cycles – an epic voyage that is played out in a small video theatre.

See the full story in American-V 46.

The exhibition will run for six months, with some bikes - all loaned by private owners - being switched after three months, and will make an excellent destination over the summer, but make sure you allow a full day for the visit, because it's at the heart of a museum that covers all aspects of technical history from full sized steam engines down to the minutiae of the things that have shaped social and industrial history.
In the absence of an official statement from Sheldon Coleman, CEO of Big Dog Motorcycles, we can only take the comments of Mike Simmons, President of Big Dog Performance Products, at face value, when he says in a piece published by Powersports Business on April 7th:

Big Dog Motorcycles was foreclosed upon on Wednesday afternoon, and the company has closed. 

Big Dog Motorcycles, LLC has been foreclosed on, its assets seized, and it is no more. The custom motorcycle OEM has struggled to survive for about the last 18 months. Its primary lending institution had worked with the company to help keep its doors open, but ultimately decided to go forward with a foreclosure. There’s been a variety of factors that have caused a lot of companies to go out of business the last two years, mostly dealing with the economy,” Simmons said. He added that retail lending availability was a big factor in Big Dog Motorcycles’ demise. Dealers and customers will feel an effect of the closure, above and beyond the supply of bikes. There is no longer a manufacturing company to supply dealers with motorcycles. There are no warranties”
However, in the wake of the closure, another company has been formed. Motorcycles Enterprises LLC, doing business as BDM Performance Products, will sell parts and accessories for existing Big Dog Motorcycles, and other models’ products will be added in the future. We plan on offering parts and accessories for other American V-twins. Clothing and other apparel will likely be available in the future as well. I will act as president of Wichita, Kan.-based BDM Performance Products, and its 20 employees are all former Big Dog Employees. Initial news about Big Dog Motorcycles’ closure and about the new company will be delivered to dealers through phone calls. Later, dealers will likely receive e-mail and direct mail communication about the change.”

The vultures are circling already, accusing BDM of failing to move with the times, but at the end of the day time ran out for a company that was moving into Europe where the motorcycle market has remained strong, and introducing new models that took it to different price points and into new markets.

Having been impressed by the build, material, finish and ride quality of the three EU Homologated models I rode just a fortnight ago, I'm doubly disappointed, but I'm also more hopeful than many that the work undertaken in creating a premium line of custom motorcycles will not be wasted.

We believe that there are complete motorcycles among the inventory purchased by BDM Performance Products and that these will be available at a bargain price, which BDM's European distribution arm has been trying to secure. BDM EU are currently suggesting that they will be able to meet the warranties on these bikes, and with S&S engines and Baker Drivelines the mechanicals are covered, while BDM Performance Products, it is hoped, will be able to supply any other parts required.

As soon as the dust settles and any final decisions are made - or lists of available bikes made public - we'll let you know.

Our thoughts are with all those businesses and staff affected by this news.

If you're up to speed with the blogosphere, you will undoubtedly have heard that Big Dog Motorcycles - the world's biggest producer of factory custom motorcycles - had closed their doors for good. 

That's not actually the full story.

We've got a statement from Jos Dewit - the CEO of Big Dog Motorcycles Europe - pictured centre on the K9 Chopper a fortnight ago in Belgium, flanked by UK Distributor, Yeti Edwards of The Hogfather Motorcycles on a PitBull, and Ivan Dewit of BDME on his own Coyote: full story in AmV46 - who are closer to the source than the bar-room experts.

It reads ...


We would like to inform you regarding the latest news on BDM USA.

You may all seen blogs on the internet with rather less than accurate information in them – or at least not the full story, it is not our normal policy to react on this, but we feel obliged to our appreciated dealers and customers to give some more information.

Weeks ago BDM announced to its worldwide network of dealers that there was to be a restructuring in many departments within BDM due to the changed market circumstances.

The plan was to restructure till the end of 2011, and to enter 2012 with the new structure in place. However BDM have seen an opportunity to bring this forward and most leaks have not caught the facts. The main company has closed their activities for several reasons but created at the same time more responsibilities for the company subsidiaries.

Big Dog Motorcycles Performance Products will be the subsidiary first to be re-engineered to start manufacturing new and more parts and accessories, which is good news for all Big Dog riders who want to continue to enjoy their bikes. A core of Big Dog Motorcycles LLC remaining employees will be probably be re-hired for the new parts business. Also there is still a stock of BDM motorcycles for immediate availability. When receiving future orders Big Dog Motorcycles will restart production at the appropriate time.

It is the absolute intention that BDM will not only continue to be the manufacturers of the world's best selling production custom motorcycles, but will be able to produce more efficiently and better able to expand its horizons.

J. Dewit
CEO Big Dog Motorcycles Europe

Having been in Belgium a week before the story broke, as guests of The Hogfather Motorcycles and BDME, there was talk of that restructuring and the availability of 'off the peg' motorcycles rather than the usual full bespoke package, and there was much discussion on how that news should be phrased to avoid the negative speculation that would greet the news of discounted bikes if not handled carefully. That is why we have waited until now to make comment, checking the story against the situation as we were aware of it. 

As soon as we get an official statement from Big Dog Motorcycles in the US, we'll update you.
While down at the California Dreamin' pre-event party, we got the chance to swing a leg across Battistini's 'production bobber' - the Venti - and it would have rude not to.

Read all about it in AmV46, out in early May 2011.

Not sure which will happen first: posting a message or docking! Sod this, I'll wait till we're in range of a uk transmitter!

... looking comfortable in a larger 'modified Harley' class

Sorry, couldn't resist it: stunning sidecar on a sidevalve

I'm sure someone will know what this fuel tank was originally off ... something small and Japanese from the seventies, I think

One of three outfits at Custom Chrome's show on Mainz, any of which I'd love to take home with me

Ding ding,  ... Yes, I should have thought to shoot the bikes but with a handful of SLR amd a 3CCD video cam to cope with, I was occupied enough

Ready for sailing: Hogfather's Yeti Edwards contacted Tatton Brewery to meet up with four firkins of their winter ale. The first was drained before the ferry left Harwich. The second saw us through Holland, into Belgium and was finished off in Germany, a third went North with the Big Dog Motorcycles Europe crew to a dealer event in Norway, and the fourth one gave the local beers a run for their money at Custom Chrome's show, if you knew where to look ... usually within a few feet of Yeti :-)

We really must get our act together re the Blog: too much to do, too little time.