Finally, after years of dreaming, I did it. I rang the Freedom Bell...
Honestly, I didn't realize the dealer, Harley-Davidson of Asheville, even had a Freedom Bell. I had just stepped out of the finance office and everyone was looking at me, "Ring it!" I stood there in brief confusion as I did a quick look around; then I looked up and realized I was practically standing under the bell... #shortpeopleproblems.
I've done hundreds of motorcycle deals while previously working as a financial manager at a Harley dealership myself. I must admit, being the person on the other side of the desk purchasing my first motorcycle and ringing the Freedom Bell was a surreal experience. I had monitored and built my credit and savings by watching it religiously since graduating college just for this moment. Of course moving to North Carolina did a number on my savings and set me back a tad. But last year on my birthday I declared that within the year I would have my own Harley... and that I did.
While trying to decide which bike would be a good fit for me, pretty much next to everyone suggested a Sportster. At times, I feel the Sportster is deemed the small woman's motorcycle ... because it also is small. Sportsters are small in both height and width making them light and easy to handle; the perfect motorcycle for beginners and smaller riders. Several articles you'll run into online will point this out so I'll save you the details.
Don't get me wrong; Sportsters accrue a devoted following of their own made up of all different types of riders. I wouldn't mind having one to customize and cruise around town, they're a lot of fun. But for myself, I wanted something a little bigger and comfier for those long rides which are more my style.
Although I have no real street riding experience, it had been a year and a half since I took the riding class, and even longer since my days of cruising around on dirt bikes. I knew I could handle a motorcycle bigger than a Sportster. I'm confident in my riding skills, my ability to operate a motorcycle, and my physical strength to handle the weight of a larger bike.
A lot of riding flows fairly natural for me. By no means am I saying I can hop on a motorcycle and ride like it's all I've ever done my whole life. However, with my background and comfort level with riding, I knew a slightly larger bike would give me something I could grow into.
So I decided to go with a Softail Slim... when I went to the dealership and sat on the Vivid Black Softail Slim S I couldn't live without it.
- I think it chose me, we were made for each other obviously... (I'm going to run with that excuse anyway!)
I chose the Softail Slim model for several reasons:
1. I can comfortably touch the ground flat footed. The Slim has the lowest seat height of all Harley models at 28.2 in. and 23.8 in under 180 lbs of weight. To put that into perspective for those of you on the shorter side, I am 5'4" 120 lbs and didn't have to make any adjustments to ride it as it sits. The seat also tapers in toward the gas tank seating you more into the bike making it easier to maneuver and reach the foot controls.
2. Coupled with the Slim's low seat height, the bike is, well, slim and handles amazingly. The large front tire eats pavement like a boss making the bike a smooth ride. Cracks and uneven pavement are barely noticeable in the handling like they might be on a bike with a thinner front tire.
3. The fuel capacity is slightly larger with a 5-gallon tank compared to the Sportster family's Forty-Eight & Seventy-Two's 2-gallon tank and the Super-Low & 1200 Custom's 4.5-gallon tank. A larger fuel tank means fewer stops for gas which equal more ground coverage. Danny and I would be riding together so the Slim would allow for gas stops at relatively equal intervals to his 6-gallon tank Road Glide.
4. Other than touching the ground, the most influential reason I chose this bike was because I wanted a bike I could comfortably ride long distances. I want to go on long trips, I want to do Iron Butt challenges, I want to ride from sun up to sun down if that's what I feel like doing and I want to be comfortable. A rigid 2-gallon tank Sporty is not the bike I want to do any of those things on. Some people do, they pack on extra gas cans and they head out. I'm not saying it can't be done, but long trips are not comfortable on any Sportster.
So what's the difference between the Softail Slim and the Softail Slim S? ...
1. The biggest difference is the Screaming Eagle Air-Cooled Twin Cam 110B engine. The Slim has a 103ci, 1690cc engine. So of course, I chose the 110ci, 1802cc engine; on a chopped down bobber style motorcycle... need I say more?
2. Appearance. The Slim S in vivid black is completely blacked out and I love that.
3. Cruise control comes standard, not an option on the Slim.
4. Security comes standard, $395 add-on for the Slim.
5. Hydraulic clutch. The Slim comes with a cable clutch. A cable clutch is just as good as a hydraulic clutch; each has their pros and cons. Hydraulic clutches are typically used on bikes that have higher powered engines. Simply put, this is mostly because as engine power increases so must the springs in a cable clutch which can make the clutch more difficult to squeeze. Hydraulic clutches are a more powerful clutch that can still be easy on the rider's hand.
When I first sat on the Slim it felt the most comfortable to me. I admit the size of the motorcycle was intimidating at first and I slightly questioned my purchase mostly because I would die in horror if I dropped it. (God forbid it ever gets a scratch). But I realized most of what I was afraid of was coming more from what others thought (and the expressions on their faces) than what I believed I was capable of.
Was I afraid of dropping the motorcycle? Um yes, but who isn't? Was I afraid I couldn't handle a larger motorcycle? No. Was I afraid I wouldn't be able to learn to smoothly ride a larger motorcycle? No. Was I afraid if I bought a Sportster I was wasting my money on a bike that I was going to want to trade-in in a year for a bigger bike? Yes. There was my answer. Sometimes you just need to sit down and ask yourself what it is that you're truly afraid of... maybe it ends up being nothing and you're just accepting other people's fears as your own.
My advice for those of you searching for your first motorcycle, follow your intuition. That's my advice for everything, but really. If you're looking at a smaller bike because you're a beginner and that's what you've been guided towards. But you're questioning it because you think you could probably handle a larger motorcycle with a little practice. Get the larger motorcycle. Conversely, if you're looking at a larger motorcycle, maybe it's the same bike your friends have or you found a good eBay deal. But you're getting that sick feeling because you're not sure you're ready for it. Don't get it. You deserve the right to start with whatever bike you feel comfortable with.