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Take it easy, rider; MATT KELLY GOES CRUISING - ON TWO HARLEY-DAVIDSONS.

BEING rushed upon by an agitated stranger in the main street of a busy city is always an unsettling experience. But if you choose a Harley-Davidson 72 to commute through town, you had better get used to it.

It happened to me twice in the single week I had Harley's shiny new chopper-styled 1200cc v-twin, the 72.

One guy - mid-50s, long rock 'n' roll hair, total mid-life crisis merchant - jumped from his Transit van and stood in the middle of the street staring at the bike, running his eyes over the yards of chrome piping, the peanut petrol tank in its lush cherry-red flake paint, the chopper bars, the big 21in front wheel.

3 The a He eventually stammered out, in a vaguely disbelieving fashion: "Is it... is that... is that all standard?" And that's the point of the 72. It's an out-of-the-crate standard with a gloriously custom look.

It's a pretty bike. Maybe too pretty. A little, well, slight (even effete?) to quite pull off the macho air you might normally associate with the Milwaukee manufacturers.

But like everything else they make, it is beautifully easy to ride. Torque-alicious. It's got so much pulling power it makes gear selection almost irrelevant.

And with it's low-slung saddle and forward foot position, it's comfortable to ride. Right up to the point you ride over a pothole and you realise your spinal column is the suspension. This is one place you'd be well advised to invest in a little customisation - some rear suspension with more generous travel.

Braking is something of an abstract concept. The 72 is the only bike I've ever ridden where I've had to use the rear brake in tandem with the front to bring the machine to a rapid halt. But then sharp braking and long-distance comfort was never on the designer's checklist. For a start, the teeny tank will give you little more than 50 miles' range.

The brief was making grown men feel like Captain America. And they fulfilled it magnificently.

It's co-star in the 2012 Harley-Davidson launch schedule is the burly Softail Slim. Now this is much more down H-D's traditional strasse. From the same range of machinery that includes the iconic Fat Boy - the Slim is a of m ic i onic Fat Boy the Slim is a ico stripped-down, mean mother of a bike - menacing in matte black, with beautiful attention to detail in chrome and leather.

Carrying on the long tradition of H-D creating bewildering permutations from their existing model range, the Slim is essentially the front end of a Fat Boy and the back of a Blackline - with new seat and handlebars.

At first sight, the riding position looks awkwardly low. But as soon as you sit on it and stick your boots on that big rubber-mounted footboard, you realise the ergonomics are bang on. This is a bike y bike that can, with a screen fitted, carry you long-distance.

I did 500 miles in a sitting and got off, if not fresh as a daisy, at least still able to walk upright.

a Feeling the lurch forward as you clutchlessly flick up through its six-speed gearbox is one of the great pleasures in biking.

c sp Its tank will, H-D say, give you 180miles for its 4.2-litre capacity, and the brakes are close to good.

1th But what this machine, with its 1690cc v-twin creating an awesome 93lb ft of torque at 3500rpm, is built for is cruising windy lanes, with all the time in the world.

There may be no better bike in the world... for riding slowly.

Harley Davidson Softail Slim Abvailable in Vivid Black, Black Denim and Red Flake. Prices start at pounds 14,695 on the road. More details from www.harleydavidson.

com Harley Davidson 72 Available in Big Blue Pearl, Black Denim and Red Flake. Prices start at pounds 8695 on the road.

CAPTION(S):

M 3 ENACING The Softail Slim is a mean machine GOOD n LOOKER The 72 is a standard bike with a customised feel
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:May 25, 2012
Words:674
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