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Those who know me well likely consider me a bit of a riding snob. Since getting my license (and occasionally before) I have always ridden sportbikes. I enjoy the video-game-like sensation of staying hyper-alert, body poised for quick reaction, zooming and dancing up highways and through traffic. Those who’ve ridden with me know that I view traffic and its omnipresent dangers now much as I once viewed Frogger on my Atari 2600.

It is, however, an extremely intense riding condition.  Doing a 6-hour (or longer) ride on my Triumph Daytona 675 is a very draining experience, hard on the back of your 6’4″ author, and during the summer months a rather sweaty endeavour.  When I do the Music Therapy Ride every year I am generally the only pure sportbike rider, which leads to lots of wacky photos.  Even on the short ride to Whistler I notice that the Harley guys are much more relaxed and less tweaked than I am.

So it was with real enthusiasm that I entered the Profit Ride contest and was selected for the Top 3 .. and invited to join the senior executives from Deeley Harley-Davidson Canada on a ride thru the Niagara Valley, which we embark on tomorrow.  Today I got my first taste of riding a Harley Fat Bob, which I expected would compare to my Daytona like difference between a Cadillac and an Audi.

Hopping on to the bike I expected a whiffy, approximate ride with all the nimbleness of a freight train.

Wrong.

From the start, The Fat Bob makes light use of technology in really useful places — like a keyless ignition system, meaning you can lock or unlock the ignition and start and stop the bike whenever you like.  With my Daytona, stopping for gas is always a something of an operation, since the key both needs to be in the ignition to prevent the alarm from self-arming, but is required to unlock the gas filler cap.  So the keyless ignition is a SMART practical feature that shows H-D clearly watches and learns from its riders.  Impressively, everyone I’ve met at Deeley so far in Toronto (and in the Vancouver store) is a rider.

Other useful technologies on the Fat Bob include a right and left turn signal on the (gasp) right and left hand grips.  No fumbling for the toggle switch here.  But for the most part, the Fat Bob delivers the spartan cruiser-focused experience its riders expect.  The electronic speedo is very accurate but feels very old-school.  Is easy to see when you’re watching the other bikes in your convoy and checking for hazards, etc.

One of the concerns I had about sitting atop a 1584cc Twin-Cam engine was, how shall I put this politely, the effect on my tenderer parts.  Past encounters with Buells and other twin-cam bikes had left me a little annoyed.  The dampening on this engine, however, is extremely effective.  And while you certainly know that there’s a heckuvalot going on between your knees, it’s most certainly contained.  That translates to the ride as well.  A great deal of sound and fury, to be sure… but the bike almost feels like you’re coasting.  On our brief ride today I wasn’t really able to wind up ol’ Bob but there is power-on-demand and plenty to spare.

The biggest surprise was cornering.  This thing corners beautifully, dare I say more comfortably and more smoothly on street corners after an hour of riding than after 4 years of riding my Daytona, which can be twitchy. The Cadillac out-turns the Audi.  I am longing for those big sweeping highway turns that we’ll hit the rest of this weekend and out of the traffic where I can really hunker down and unload the throttle into some curves.

That whets my appetite for the rest of this weekend, when I’ll have the chance to broaden my Harley riding experience by trying bikes from across the lineup, and where I’ll get to know this Fat Bob a little better in the hopes that I’ll win it come this time next week.

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