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Street Bob Journal: Week 5

Street-focused bike surprises on a road trip across Europe

There is a part of me that’s disappointed in the Street Bob’s performance when covering more than 2,200 miles last week, running from Cardiff to Prague and back. When I had first thought of the road trip it struck me as hilariously terrible – on par with the four dudes I met on the way home who were driving to Moscow packed into a 1983 Austin Metro. But it turns out the Street Bob is built for this sort of thing.

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Well, the engine and chassis are, at least. The chassis is the exact same you’ll find in the Heritage Classic and Sport Glide, bikes that are all-day comfortable. The engine is the same, too. The Street Bob’s 1753cc Milwaukee Eight 107 is the same moon-sized V-twin you’ll find standard in all of Harley-Davidson’s big twin machines, including the touring line-up.

The Street Bob is the lightest of the big twins, but even when hauling the weight of a Road Glide the engine isn’t stressed by long-haul duty. It drones on mile after mile after mile after mile…

Tony Carter’s trip to Prague wasn’t as trouble-free as my own.

Well, usually. Moto-journo Tony Carter was riding a CVO Street Glide that conked out in Germany amid his spirited riding. We think the oil pump failed but we’re not sure, because it started up and ran fine the next day – after it had had time to cool down. Tony has a long, proud tradition of pushing bikes (of all makes) past their limits, however. And I suspect there are very, very few Harley owners – let alone CVO Harley owners – who would ride their bikes the way he does, banging against the rev limiter in every gear.

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Because I am in stupid love with the Street Bob I tend to ride the thing as if I owned it. Sure, I pushed it to 185 kmh several times (that’s 115 mph, to which the bike is speed-limited) on the autobahn, and my interpretation of various speed limits was liberal at best, but I wouldn’t say I was thrashing the bike. Everything I did felt very much within the big engine’s capacity.

I remember trundling along in Belgium at one point, holding a steady 140 kmh (87 mph), and thinking: “This engine could carry on like this forever.”

I strapped a US flag to the sissy bar because I was riding on the 4th of July. The other guys on the trip thought it was so cool/amusing that they insisted I not cut it off and throw it away, as I’d planned. It is now hanging – battered but proud – in my office.

My butt, however, could not. In my stewardship of the Street Bob I have thus far racked up close to 3,500 miles and that seems to be about 800 miles longer than the stock seat was intended to be used. It still looks in perfect condition, but the padding has squished right at the point where my two butt bones press down.

Butt bones. Highly technical writing here on TMO. Hopefully you know what I mean. I’m a slender guy, so I don’t have a great deal of natural padding back there. On the way home from Prague I found it increasingly difficult to stay in the saddle long enough to burn up the Street Bob’s roughly 170-mile tank range.

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In fairness, the Street Bob was not really intended for long-haul journeys. And one of the selling points of any Harley-Davidson is that it’s pretty much a Lego bike; you can switch out parts easily to make your own creation. To that end, I’ll do a little digging in the Harley-Davidson accessories catalog to see if I can’t find something new that could go on the bike. I want it to be comfortable, but I also want it to fit the look/feel of the bike.

I highly recommend Kriega luggage. Here I used a combination of the US30, two US20s, and a US10. The bags are easy to secure and once they’re set up, you can pretty much forget about them for the rest of the day. I never had to readjust/tighten the straps, even after riding at 115 mph for long stretches. They also served as a great backrest on the Street Bob.

A while back I had someone suggest that I get an AirHawk seat, which might be a good comfort solution but I fear would look pretty “old man” when I was off the bike. But, you know, “old man” solutions are often pretty good solutions. As Andy Goldfine once said to me: “I’m happy with looking cool, but I’ll always choose the thing that allows me to ride more.”

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To that end, the screen that I really did not like the look of was a fantastic tool for the trip. It clamps to the top of the forks, and as such can be moved up or down about 3 inches. The buffeting rattled my head a little but not in a negative way. It was pretty damn useful when we encountered sudden rain storms in France and the Czech Republic, keeping my core nice and dry.

I’ll be writing more about the road trip in the next week or so.