Monday, 16 May 2011

Post Trip Review 1: The Benifit of Hindsight.

It's been over a week since I completed my trip along Route 66 and the PCH, and I'm back home now, and back at work. It seems so long since I was riding into Santa Monica, and then on to San Francisco, but it was only a short time ago. It's  really hard to believe.

I thought that it would be a good idea, now that the trip is over, the dust has settled, and normality has resumed in my life (kinda), to look back and review what went well, and what I would do differently, if I were ever given the chance to do it all over again.

First of all, I've got so say that there was the potential for the trip to go badly wrong: bike breakdowns, or an accident; meeting the "wrong" kind of people; or meeting no people at all! etc. etc. Thankfully, nothing like that happened. I believe that was down to a mixture of good planning, having my wits about me most of the time, and of course, a bit of good luck too.

So this is the first of a few articles that I'll post to look at various aspects of the trip and how it worked out. Hopefully this might give an insight for others planning a similar trip. I'll cover things like riding gear, accommodation, how the planning worked, and the various bits of gadgetry that I took with me. For this post though, I'll concentrate on:

The Bike:
"Black Beauty", my brand spanking new Harley Davidson ElegctraGlide Classic, was perfect for the job of transporting me and 3 weeks worth of supplies over most of the 3600+ miles that we travelled together.

The panniers and tourpack fitted everything with ease, and the purpose made bags that fit inside really helped there. The seat was so comfy that I was never troubled with numb-bum syndrome nor back ache. If I were doing this trip two-up then I would recommend going for the ElectraGlide Ultra, which has a few extra amenities and home comforts for a pillion passenger, plus additional luggage capacity in the form of a rack on top of the tourpack, which would likely be needed. But as a single rider, the Classic was perfectly suitable.

The bike is big, long and heavy, with a big lazy engine - just right for highway riding, long fast sweeping curves, and OK for puttering about town. The only time that it struggled was when negotiating the more twisty roads, like the Oatman Highway. Then it's size and weight acted against it. Wrestling it around the bends became tiring, and the gear box, which has a decidedly agricultural feel to it, was very heavy to operate. One redeeming feature though is the 96 cubic inch (1584cc)  v-twin engine. This cannot be called a responsive motor by any stretch of the imagination, but has so much low-down torque that if you do find yourself mid-bend in too high a gear, it is very forgiving and will haul you round and out of trouble at very low revs.

That big, air-cooled engine also generates a lot of heat between your legs. This is most welcome when the weather is on the cooler side, but when sitting at lights when the temperature has climbed into the 90s or more, it can get very uncomfortable, until you get moving again!

I spent more on fuel than I had anticipated for a number of reasons: Firstly, I did more miles than I had planned. Secondly, due to riding into a strong headwind for much of the way, the Harley's fuel consumption was higher that I had thought it would be. And lastly, fuel prices (whilst still half what we pay here in the UK) had increased. Those three factors together meant that for the whole trip I got through about 91 US gallons (346 litres) of unleaded, costing $366. Remarkably, as the whole trip was 3661 miles, so this works out at exactly 10c per mile on gas!

In conclusion then, there is no such thing as a perfect bike for all occasions and conditions, but the Harley came close for most of the riding I did on this trip, and being classic American iron, I can think of no other bike that I'd rather have riden.

Would I rent one in America again? Yes.
Would I buy myself one? Probably not.

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