My Spousal Unit, The Car Guy, has ridden motorcycles for many years. He started with a Honda 50 Cub in about 1963. When he outgrew that, he graduated to cars, owning a string of them through the early years of our marriage. In about 1982 he decided to ride again, and purchased a 1979 Yamaha 750 Triple. This was sold, and then replaced with a new 1984 Honda V65 Magna.
Road trips with his buddies were replaced with road trips with his wife, when in 2005 he purchased his first touring bike – a BMW K1200 LT. The BMW, still in pristine condition, was put up for sale in order to make room in the garage for the new bike, a 2011 Harley Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Classic CVO. As the kids say, we are spending their inheritance…
The BMW and the Harley are both, of course, top of the line touring bikes. And though the Harley is brand new, the BMW is technologically as modern.
So why replace the BMW with a Harley? A number of things, really. One is the sound. The Harley sounds like a motorcycle, the BMW doesn’t. As the author Ted Bishop points out about his BMW in his interesting book, Riding with Rilke “…at idle mine sounded like a Water Pik, at full throttle it sounded like an angry blender.”
Another consideration is the distance from the top of the seat to the ground. My husband is a generous 6 foot 2 inches in height, while I am a full foot shorter than that. The BMW really is designed to be ridden safely and comfortably by taller people, while the Harley can accommodate somewhat shorter riders. The lower seat height, and subsequent slightly lower center of gravity of the Harley make it easier to handle in city traffic. And the Harley is certainly easier to get on and off for both of us.
The Harley has more luggage space. The back trunk is more convenient because it flips open sideways, while the BMW’s flips open onto the passenger seat, meaning you can’t leave your helmet and jacket there while you rummage in the trunk for stuff. We live in a country where we can start riding in the morning in temperatures just above freezing, and end the day with bathing suit temperatures. Storage space for the appropriate clothing is a must.
The Harley offers more variety for driver foot position, and has an anti-vibration foot pad. The BMW only has a single placement foot peg. The Harley has a heel-toe shifter which can be used as a toe shifter only, while the BMW is just a toe shifter.
The Harley and the BMW have heated seats. The location of the toggle is more convenient to reach on the Harley than the BMW, and more clearly labeled. The Harley also has more ground clearance, which will be nice when going over speed bumps or other unavoidable obstacles like that.
The BMW does have a few features that we’ll miss. The BMW has a reverse gear, an adjustable windscreen, and an electric center stand. It has a larger gas tank, and gets better gas mileage. The BMW paint type and color doesn’t show dust and dirt the way that the shiny Harley paint does. The BMW luggage trunks feel stronger and more durable, though time will tell… The BMW has larger rearview mirrors.
Update: 2017 – The Honda is still in the garage, the BMW was sold, the Harley was written off in an accident that ended The Car Guy’s motorcycle riding days. The Harley was rebuilt and went through two owners before it was purchased by our son-in-law.