OPINION: It would take a long boulevard in Los Angeles with the sun sparkling off the sea, gleaming on the light oil slicking the golden skin of underclad wannabe film stars cruising the beachfront and reflecting on this bike's glorious array of chrome and paint, to truly appreciate Harley-Davidson's 72.
Spring in the Manawatu is not the same, but sunny skies still show the bike off at its glorious best - and that's what this machine is for, showing off.
From those high-rise bars to the tiny teardrop tank atop that mighty engine and from the 21-inch front whitewalls to the skinny single seat, this bike is designed to be admired; the glitter paint with its red flakes the icing on a handsome retro cake.
For this handsome bike was designed to evoke the 1970s and prompt customer comparisons from a machine that's rolled straight off showroom floors, and at a reasonable price for a brand that gets away with charging a premium.
Perhaps, not surprisingly given the brand, the company does it by borrowing from other machines and their style.
The 72 uses the 1200cc small-block engine underpinning other Harley 1200s, with the current generation delivering the familiar rumpy-pumpy idle and deep-throated roar under acceleration, along with a relatively free-revving character and plenty of torque at lower revs. It is a combination that suits New Zealand roads.
The original of this Evolution engine debuted in 1984 and led to the Shovelhead and Ironhead motors. It now has fuel injection and is rubber- mounted, so the iconic vibe that rattles your sunnies at idle smooths off once you get underway - while still delivering the throaty, relaxed beat that helps give Harleys their character.
The gearing favours bottom-end pull - throaty exits from the cafe or off the lights, rather than race-track shenanigans - and there's still the agricultural clunk as you change gear.
The look does bring with it some handling compromises. Those forward-mounted pegs and high-rise bars are designed for cruising comfort rather than high-speed efficiency, while the high front and lightly damped shortened rear shocks transmit more road vibration direct to your hands and spine, with the skinny seat supplying little extra padding. The upright riding position is comfy enough for cafe-hopping jaunts, but leaves you hanging in the wind at cruising speed.
Though there's more room to move around than expected it's not comfy long distance, which is not really a problem given the tank's modest eight-litre capacity.
And that means you soon get used to seeing the fuel light come on and plan longer rides accordingly. Expect to get a ribbing from your mates as they disappear into the distance, while you pull your wallet out yet again.
Fortunately, you won't need much in there to pay for the few litres you squeeze in each time.
Once again ready to go, you'll find this isn't a heavy Harley to heave off the sidestand; the stripped-down look suggests most of its 253 kilogram wet weight is in the engine that forms the visible heart of this bike. And it's only really noticeable when you need to stop suddenly, the front twin-piston brake feeling a tad spongy and needing hands of steel to engage as strongly as I'd like while seemingly fading too soon. Fortunately, the rear brake is excellent and the two together work efficiently enough.
What Harley has done very well is the detail. Seventy-two happens to be the highway number of Whittier Boulevard, an LA road that allegedly attracts cruisers like bees to nectar. It was also a year in which the West Coast chopper ruled - the style this bike was built to emulate. And it does look every millimetre the custom cruiser, with that high-front stance, its skinny front wheel and whitewall tyres; its stripped-back look with the single, tiny speedo up front carrying the idiot lights and that circular air filter cover reminiscent of 1980s Harley twins; with the tiny peanut tank reminiscent of those that debuted in 1948 and the bobbed rear fender. Plus, of course, that paint finish.
Harley says the finish uses hexagonal flakes that are seven times bigger than the particles usually used in metallic paint. They're coated with aluminium film before being painted and they gleam in even dull light, and come alive when the sun hits.
Apparently other Harleys will get this soon and I'd love to see it in green, though I'm told the gold virtually calls for welding glasses to see past the glare in bright sunshine.
As it was, with the sun firing red points of light off the tank and reflecting it in the chrome bars, you need a good set of 1970s sunglasses if your own bike isn't to blind you. And as for passing under street lights - no wonder this sort of finish was popular with the hippie generation.
And speaking of popular, this isn't my favourite 1200 sporty.
I prefer a more conventional, less cruisy layout, a plusher seat and bigger tank.
But I couldn't help admire the character of this bike; how well it imparted that from the movie Easy Rider's California feel and how great it looked.
But it's not a good all-rounder. Long distance cruising - especially off the main highways - could require planning around fuel stations and mandates regular stops to add petrol and rub your butt. The bike features much better cornering clearance than the stretched-out big-block Harley cruisers, but the riding position isn't arranged for nimble handling, or for long distances at highway speeds.
This is a Harley for solitary Sunday cruising - adding a pillion pew would rather spoil the 70s flavour - or for going from cafe to beach and back and doing it in style.
AT A GLANCE
How much? $17,150 Engine, transmission: 1202cc air-cooled fuel-injected Evolution V-twin, five-speed chain drive Power and torque: Power N/A, 98Nm at 3500rpm
How big? 2275mm long, 710mm seat height, 1525mm wheelbase, 253kg wet weight, 8-litre tank
Suspension and brakes: Front forks and dual preload adjustable coil-overs with single disc and dual piston front and single disc, single piston rear brake
Wheels: 16-inch rear and 21-inch front wheels with 150/80B16 71H tyre rear and MH90-21 54H tyre front
For: Gorgeous 70s looks, affordable for a Harley
Against: Not a good all-rounder
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