25 February 2009


It's been over 12 years since I last had a motorcycle - this was back in MEXICO - so it comes to no surprise (at least to me :) that by the end of 2008 I could not wait to get back on "fast" wheels and decided to give to myself a little 'Xmas' present - and what a present as - I ended up with a 2009 Harley-Davidson Sportser 883 Low dark blue wich I bought in MELBOURNE - my home town since August 2004. The selection process for such a 'beast' was simple - I got a lovely piece of ART and timeless engineering which looks like a bike, sounds like a bike and feels like a bike.

Despite the ocasional critique that Sportsers are 'baby' Harleys is simply false. The Sportster is a really powerful, nice and solid machine. It is also aesthetically pleasant to the eye, the tact, the ears ... it actually turns few heads around - I could understand that if riding along Lygon street or Beach road, St Kilda beach but to my surprise it also turned few 'red-necks' in outback country - I then realised that HDs seem to have some sort of charisma. A 883cc V-twin engine is certainly not a 'blender' - it actually is a classy piece of cast iron and steel with plenty of grunt, torque and vibe to indulge the senses! I can asure you it does complies with the "feel-good" factor!

Guillermo at the age of 16 years old [Puerta de Hierro, Estado de Jalisco, Mexico].

My reference point to the above appreciation is a 1976 HD Electra Glide 1200cc which my Dad owned until the late 90's. - and which I rode a number of times as a pilot and as a pasanger during my teens (Left: GAM near Tequila town mid-west Mexico). The Electra Glide is such a nice and comfy 'princes' on the open road but a cumbersome 'beast' in the city. My Sporter has a similar feel to my Dad's Harley still, it is way more compact and easy to manoeuvre in town ... by the way one thing that has no changed for Harleys over the years is its "cranky" gearbox! I find this to be quite a distinctive feature of HD's - to the extent that Willie G. Davidson should also 'patent' such precise imperfection! (Below: Eden, Victoria 28.12.08)

In 1992 – before starting my architectural degree – I visited the original Harley-Davidson factory on Juneau Avenue, Milwaukee Wisconsin (my cousin Adrian Revuelta who was studing at UWM kindly hosted me for the summer – sure we also visited the Budweiser brewery and attended to a couple of air-shows not to mention my discovery of the architecture of Frank Lloyd-Wright in Wi. and Ill. and also Louis Sullivan’s Chicago’s School – where the movement for steel high-rise construction began).

So back to the biking world - my Sporster is better know by my mates as "Zafiro" named after the gemstone Sapphire in Spanish (Zafiro is also a species of hummingbird found only in Mexico). Few days after her arrival Zafiro and I decided to hit the Australian east coastal road for a little spin of about 5,500kms up to Carins and Port Douglas all the way from Melbourne (by the way I refer to her because motorbike is a 'female' noun in Spanish - "La Motocicleta"). The original plan was to reach Darwing but the roads were literally washed away as a consequence of intensive storms in central and north Queensland and could not go beyond Mount Isa so I had to head back to the coast. I eventually made it to Darwin by other means of transport!
The return trip from the Northen Territories of “Terra Australus” was on the legendary “Ghan” which is a train service running from Darwin to Adelaide and back. The Ghan was named after the Afghan explores who first managed to cross the Oz. continent by land. The train journey lasted for three days and two nights and would recommend it to anyone who wants to sense the vastness of the Australian Outback safely and within few hours (under 100 hrs :)

Where next? My next big adventure will be to New Zealand, Mexico and South America... a shorter more immediate one will be to Tassie. It is perhaps time to catch up with those obnoxious creatures, the Tasmanina Devils! :)
Copyright © Guillermo Aranda-Mena

Dear Harley lover(s),

I cannot go nearly as far as Guillermo regarding the historical analysis of these Harleys.

But I am able to comment that they look mean, brutal, minimalist, thoroughly original and just aching to be ridden off into the sunset, with a gorgeous young thing on the pillion seat (Guillermo, you had Paul on the back seat, but I guess we can't have everything in life, can we?).


Geoffrey P Outhred

Guillermo Aranda-Mena 23/03/11 14:36

Thanks Peter,

A proper Harley indeed! No messing around!

Built sixteen yrs after the firm was established in 1903 in a little shed on Juneau Av. Milwaukee, Wisconsin (I visited that same location factory - still operating today a zillion times larger - with my cousin in 1992 ... same time when I chose "Frank Lloyd-Right" over William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson - HD - and enrolled into bloody architecture, yes, to the utter disgrace of friends and family! ... and never regretted it ;-))

This bike is one of the first models with the V-twin engine (i.e. instead of earlier models with single 2 stroke cylinder). The very early models were bicycles with an engine!
  • The V-twin engine technology came from aviation - i.e. the radial engines you see in WWI planes. Torque and durability their asset.
  • The 45 degree V-twin is what gave HD a trade mark for the sound potatoe, potatoe, potatoe....
  • Those early bikes had a "band" instead of a chain (you can see that clearer in the other bike behind - background) ... so "hard-core" Easy Riders have no case to argue against the new kevlar band that is for "washing machines"!!!
  • The gear-shift lever is on the left side of the petrol tank i.e. shifting with the hand and foot clutch!! Very tricky when starting from hi
  • Suspension under the seat (check for the spring) more like tractors had! .... the frame is called "hard-tail" .... you don want to go on that one to Sorrento Paul!!

Lovely bike indeed ... and after all HARLEYS do innovate!! ... at the "laggards" rate for technology.... at the innovators rate for "marketing" "branding" "business development" "TQM" and all that "managerial" paraphernalia!! A highly successful business today listed on the stoke exchange.... 30 yrs after temporary ownership by AMF (American Machine Foundation) which literally saved the brand from collapsing in the mid 70s!


Dr. Guillermo Aranda-Mena
Senior Lecturer
R M I T - M E L B O U R N E - A U S T R A L I A

Peter Edwards 23/03/2011 01:33 pm

See attached. That is what a proper Harley should look like!


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