Americans are leery of the Madison Avenue crowd. We are very susceptible to the hype and circumstance these gifted folks can bring to the table to justify grabbing your checkbook and dashing out the door to upgrade everything from the family chariot to the television, with interim stops to check the latest offerings at Lowes in the lawn care department, where one could peruse the latest zero turn mower in either green or red paint. Recently, I decided to replace the toilet seats in our home and was faced with a bewildering array of choices from seats with built in night lights to seats that close themselves quietly with just a gentle nudge from folks vacating the throne. So, it should come as no surprise that I was cautious when considering the latest offering from a distinctly American producer of motorcycles, Harley-Davidson. The 2017 Harley-Davidson touring and trike models are being delivered with a new rendition of the fable V-twin engine, which has been designated the Milwaukee 8. This engine looked very much like the existing and proven Harley-Davidson offering that was powering my current iron horse and I avoided stopping at a dealership for a test ride. Finally, after sorting through pounds of advertising stuffed into my mailbox on an almost daily basis, I relented, grabbed my helmet and stopped at Denny’s Harley-Davidson for a test drive of a new Street Glide, equipped with the Milwaukee 8 engine. The Street Glide and Milwaukee 8 engine is now sharing space with Sharon’s Mini Cooper in our garage.
One doesn’t have to be a motorcycle fan to appreciate American ingenuity and engineering. Set aside your adversion to the noisy and seemingly impractical mode of transportation that invokes images of leather clad, long haired demons tearing up and down quiet neighborhood streets long enough to consider the folks who enjoy the thrill of a law abiding ride through the countryside with nothing more on their minds than a good bar-b-cue sandwich and the camaraderie of like minded folks who are going in the opposite direction for a pizza near where you just left. Most of us are addicted to internal combustion engines, and what better way to surrender to this addiction than astride a motorcycle, particularly the distinctive offerings from our own Harley-Davidson Motor Co. Let’s talk technical for a bit and perhaps you can see why I was pleasantly surprised when I cranked the big Milwaukee 8 for the first time.
The Milwaukee 8 is based on a legendary V-twin engine that has kept Harley-Davidson at or on top of the motorcycle world for decades. It produces 10% more torque than the engine it replaces, and folks, these V-twins are all about torque. This improvement is courtesy of a higher compression ratio and increase in valves to four from the previous two per cyclinder. This engine breathes better. As in aircraft engines, the Milwaukee 8 features two spark plugs per cylinder which serves to increase burn efficiency thus contributing to the infamous, broad, flat power curve and incredible low end torque. The old twin cam configuration is replaced with a single cam, thus preserving the already tremendous weight to horsepower ratio. This engine is both balanced and rubber mounted to reduce the vibration inherent to a V-twin, and is both air and oil cooled as opposed to the generally air cooled engine it replaces. From a performance standpoint, this engine is 11% quicker from 0-60 MPH and another 11% quicker from 60-80 MPH than it’s predecessors. The idle speed has been reduced and rider comfort increased by the reconfiguration of the exhaust system to move the catalytic converter further back in the exhaust chain. The charging system has been redesigned to deliver 50% more power, important in this age of electronic communications and sound equipment, which also powers the dual spark plug ignition. Clutch lever effort has been reduced by 7%, important to guys like me with bionic thumbs, and the bike is equipped with an slipper and assist clutch to help in managing the increased power. What does all of this techno stuff mean?
The acceleration, already strong from this great engine, is stronger. A lot stronger. The engine is quieter while still delivering the mellow Harley-Davidson exhaust note, a pleasant, resonating, familiar sound to discerning ears. The Milwaukee 8 and refined drivetrain deliver a rather dramatic increase in acceleration and overall performance, while running cooler and with far less vibration. We are talking about nearly 800 pounds of motorcycle here that possesses cat like quickness and touring comfort, two considerations that typically are not found together in a single motorcycle. Move over BMW. Harley-Davidson has engineered their way into your world of sophistication and refinement, while maintaining the originality that establishes them as a leader in the world of motorcycles.
I stopped at Denny’s to reinforce my skepticism concerning the introduction of the Milwaukee 8 and came home owning one. You have to love America! (As a side note, I also purchased the self closing toilet seat, a marvel that takes precisely 10 seconds to close, with no slamming of a dropped seat!). What will they think of next?