Today I wanted to do a little experimenting with shooting some GoPro video and I'm glad I did. I shot a short video of starting the bike and riding out of the driveway and it captured for me some of what I feel every time I get on the bike. And that feeling is that the bike is a living, visceral thing.
I believe the primary reason it feels that way is because the engine is a Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200 engine. It has that inimitable lumpy idle and guttural rumble that make it a Harley and I love it. The more I look at, listen to, and ride this bike the more sure I am that the Sportster engine is the choice I want. Sure, I could put a refined Japanese in-line four cyclinder engine in it. It would probably make more horsepower. It would be refined, silky smooth and maybe wind up to a bit of a scream at the top end but it would never have the vitality of that lumpy Sportster. It shakes the bike from head to toe at an idle. It smooths out pretty well as the revs rise, but it shakes the headlight, the handlebars, and the brake reservoir vigorously as it sits on the side stand. And it makes you feel like you're about to try to tame a beast when you get on it.
It's a pretty fair beast on the road too. This engine has a lot of torque. Not as much horsepower as a higher revving engine, but lots of torque and it's torque that makes a motorcycle accelerate. This thing gets up to speed pretty nicely. Just a handful of seconds to get to 70 or 80 mph. It has great passing power too. Passing cars is effortless. You just twist the throttle and before you know it you're along side and flying past. It's addictive.
This bike is all about a simple, maybe even primitive appearance. It harks back to a much simpler era of motorcycle. No electronic aids, no high revving 150 hp engines. The Sportster engine is perfect for it. Simple bike, simple form, simple engine, great character. Perfect.