Limited edition bikes make return

THE 25-strong Harley-Davidson motorcycle range for 2011 is looking good, despite a lack of very many new models. There are five, but two are Sportsters (the lower-capacity, lighter-weight H-D range) and the other three are Custom Vehicle Operations (CVO) machines. These bikes, right at the top end of the H-D range with full-on styling and unique engines, make a welcome return to the Australian market after missing a year.

You'll read my assessment of the two new Sportsters, the SuperLow and the Forty-Eight, very soon in these pages. They are definitely good things, but what about new models in the rest of the range?.

Well, there might not actually be new bikes, but there has been quite a bit of upgrading. The four bikes in the Touring range get a new 103 cubic inch engine, and all the highly popular Softails get anti-lock braking (ABS). The pricing across the entire range looks rather good, too. H-D Australia has dropped some prices and has kept increases, where they had to happen, commendably low.

Talking of low: the new SuperLow Sportster lives up to its name with 648mm seat height and a recommended retail price of only $11,495. Along with revised front end geometry, it has new wheels and tyres and reshaped seat and handlebars – all designed to inspire confidence in new riders. The Forty-Eight, on the other hand, is a proper full-on factory custom. It also offers good value at $14,995.

All four Touring family models get the Twin Cam 103 engine. This offers a 9.6 per cent increase in peak torque over the Twin Cam 96 engine it replaces. That's especially useful for fully loaded passing acceleration and hill-climbing performance.

The rubber-isolated Twin Cam engine is fitted with Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI) and Electronic Throttle Control (ETC) and spins the back wheel by way of the 6-speed Cruise Drive transmission. Cruise control and ABS are standard, as are air-adjustable rear shocks.

Harley's Isolated Drive System compensator, integrated into the rear wheel hub, reduces noise and vibration for improved ride quality.

The Dunlop D407 Multi-Tread rear tyres have been designed specifically for the Touring bikes. The combination of a longer-life centre tread compound with a grippier shoulder compound is good for both straight-line performance and cornering, and offers an increase of up to 25% over a standard tyre.

Harley has always made good seats – the tractor seat on my old WLA is still one of the best I've ever used – and they have apparently become even better with the 2011 range. Re-shaped to enhance styling and to provide better lower back support, they also have a narrower forward section to make it easier for shorter riders to reach the ground.

Prices for the Touring range start from $28,995.

In line with the increasing introduction of anti-lock braking systems (ABS) from most manufacturers, all Softail models now have ABS as standard. The bikes also get new hand controls with more features, convenience, and cleaner styling. The 2011 VRSC bikes get Michelin Scorcher tyres and, like the Dyna range, new colours.

Softail prices begin at $25,750. The Dynas start at $21,995, while the cheapest VRSC costs $25,995.

At this stage, the three-wheeled TriGlide is still not available.

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