Photography by Kevin Win...
Even though the parking lot held plenty of eye-catching iron, this motorcycle drew his attention immediately, and he made a beeline for it. He walked around it once, took a closer look at a couple of pieces, frowned faintly and asked, "Who built this bike?"
"Oh, Willie G., Louie Netz, and their mob."
The frown deepened, and he looked up to see if we were pulling his leg. He looked back at the bike again. "It's factory?" he asked. "Lock, stock and 1450cc barrels," we confirmed.
He pondered this Harley-Davidson for a few more moments, then nodded his head. "I guess that's why it has those ugly, black brake hoses."
A narrower drive belt permitted...
A narrower drive belt permitted the designers to install the fattest rear tire ever used on a stock H-D. The disc wheel drew kudos.
Harley-Davidson's latest ego vehicle creates understandable confusion. Assembly-line motorcycles just don't look like the Deuce. They don't have these sort of sexy curves -- all that chrome and those super-clean details. You're supposed to visit a professional customizer if you want looks of this caliber. Judging from the comments our sample bike elicited, the Deuce is the best-looking full production motorcycle gracing any showroom.
The custom style starts right up front. The 21-inch wire-spoke front wheel could have been dipped in chrome. Hub, nipples, rim, and spokes are all coated with the shiny substance. The chrome permeates the front end, extending from the axle nuts all the way to the steering head nut. Only the brake components, fender, rear tire, reflectors and a few pinch bolts missed the shiny stuff. The fork juts out at an aggressive 34-degree rake, kicking off the long, low profile. The fork sliders have a unique, curving, narrow-waisted shape similar to those of some aftermarket items. Curved, swept-back five-inch risers lift the low-rise handlebar, which like other Harley-Davidson bars, is stainless steel.
With this stretched 4.9-gallon...
With this stretched 4.9-gallon tank, Harley joins the few manufacturers now installing seamless fuel tanks on its cruisers.
From the handlebar, your eye drifts down to the fuel tank, another original component created -- like the fork sliders -- for the Deuce. Longer and narrower than other Harley tanks, the tank makes a major contribution to the long, low, flowing look of the Deuce, although it holds 4.9 gallons instead of the 5.0 on other current Softails. No visible seams mar the tank's profile, and instead of the familiar Harley tank-top instrument console, the stretched fuel vessel sports a chrome housing for the speedometer and ignition switch that extends the length of the tank, emphasizing its length and creating a divider.
Below the tank, the counterbalanced 1450cc Twin Cam engine wears black and chrome livery. Even the external oil lines are chrome. The elliptical airbox design of the new engines meshes nicely with the long look of the bike as do the shotgun dual mufflers, which now have their crossover tube behind the engine. Forward foot controls stretch the rider out in a posture that emphasizes the style too.
Behind the engine, the oil tank -- which wraps around in a U shape to show up on both sides of the frame -- glitters with additional chrome. The Softail rear suspension banishes the dual horizontal dampers from sight beneath the engine. That leaves the new rear end uncluttered. Uninterrupted by visible fasteners, swooping chrome rails bracket a fender that's vaguely reminiscent of the original FX Super Glide style. Small, clean turn signals and a shallow, semi-recessed taillight create minor visual interruptions and presumably push the regulatory limits for size.
Thanks to a good foam choice...
Thanks to a good foam choice inside, the pretty saddle that tops the Deuce feels better than we expected, though it's a bit narrow for touring.
Above the fender, a thin, almost seamless saddle glides from the tank up to atop the fender. Below, a disc-style 17-inch cast-alloy wheel carries the widest rubber ever to grace a stock Harley. The hulking 160/70VB17 Dunlop K591 and solid wheel (which is not chromed) create a stark visual counterpoint to the tall, narrow, almost spindly front wheel.
Overall the look of the Deuce shows that Harley has been paying attention to the work of aftermarket custom builders and is willing to ask its production people to give the extra effort needed to make a bike this clean. This motorcycle, which replaces the Softail Custom, goes much deeper into the territory previously occupied only by custom builders. However, it is not intended to eclipse them either. "This is still a canvas they can work with," Willie G. Davidson, Harley's Vice President of styling, told us. As the rider gawking at the Deuce in the parking lot observed, it isn't difficult to find things to change, even if you don't want to change the basic lines and style of the bike. Prettier brake hoses, foot controls, grips and other cosmetic components such as those found on Harley's limited-production CVO models, are obvious bolt-ons for someone looking to extend the production Deuce toward full-house custom.
Harley's Deuce is the first...
Harley's Deuce is the first factory bike with chrome fork sliders, and the sliders' curving profiles make them particularly noteworthy
Street Wise, Highway Smart
One of the major differences between this bike and a complete custom is that this production bike emphasizes function as much as fashion. No, it's not as comfortable as a Road King or as at-home heeled over in corners as an FXDX, but the Deuce does those things more competently than we expected when we first saw it.
Credit the latest incarnation of the Softail frame for the Deuce's steady handling, whether running straight down the road or bending through a smooth corner. The new frame is rigid and keeps the wheels pointed in the same direction much more effectively than the Evo-powered chassis. We expected the disparity in tire widths to create problems, but that didn't really happen. The weak link turns out to be the suspension, which is tuned for a plush ride. When you encounter bumps in corners, the lack of damping lets the bike bob around considerably. We were surprised at how much lean angle the Deuce delivers. The limit in smooth corners is the sidestand on the left; the right has a bit more cornering clearance.
The suspension makes up for its faults in bumpy corners with a compliant ride across small and medium-sized bumps. Sharp-edged irregularities slide past more smoothly than on most cruisers. The suspenders also offer enough progression to lessen the impact of large bumps well. The dual counterbalancers of the Twin Cam engine now powering the Softails diminishes vibration to a point where it's no longer a comfort issue.
The riding position, which places your legs and arms out in front of you, pleases some riders, but drew complaints from most, especially on long rides. If you rarely venture out of sight of city limits, you probably won't find much to complain about, and the aggressive look complements the bike's style. However, after a couple of hours, the riding position gets old. Part of the problem is that it puts a lot of weight on your butt, and though the saddle's padding offers better support than its thin profile suggested, it is relatively narrow. With the footpegs so far forward, the seat carries most of your weight. It works while patrolling the boulevard but loses its charm when you chase horizons. Passengers took a liking to the position they are offered but wished for a bit more padding and width on which to sit.