I was very pleased to see Frank’s piece on the H-D Spotter in RC137 because I have one. I owned a Royal Enfield KX1140 side valve twin for some 25 years, using it for day to day use until reluctantly selling it some fifteen years ago. It gave me more pleasure than any other bike I’ve ever ridden. So six years ago I had the hankering to get something similar, until I realized what had happened to the prices of such things in the intervening years!
I bought the nearest modern machine to it that I could find, an 883cc H-D Spotter. I haven’t been disappointed – same seating position, engine configuration, exhaust note, rigid feeling ride, low speed torque, plus a starter motor but not much more in the way of performance. If anyone wonders what it is like to ride a large capacity pre-war V-twin, that’s the answer.
My Spotter’s also a bit special in that it’s a 2004 model, the year the rubber mounted motor was introduced, but before fuel injectors came along. So there’s no remapping hassle if you want to play around with the exhaust or fuel settings. I think that one of the reasons the previous owner sold it to me was its continual spitting back at low throttle, even when hot. It was running very weak, presumably to comply with US emission regulations, because the mixture screw in the carburetor was sealed over with a lead plug to stop any adjustment. With it drilled out and a bit of tweaking, running was transformed.
Frank is right about the comments which the Spotter provokes. They were annoying to begin with but now just cause amusement. My previous next door neighbor remarked that Spotters are completely useless because ‘they’ve got silly little headlights and only five gears…’
The next time he passed on some of his wisdom was when I was about to go for a run on my G3L after a bit of a lay-up. I was following the usual procedure (tickle, kick with clutch pulled to free the plates, two kicks with exhaust valve open, feel for compression, ease over it about 20 degrees). I had returned the kick start to its resting position and was about to give a good shove when I realized he had been watching over the fence. ‘If you can’t start it, then you’re too old to ride it, ‘he opined. Giving him what I hoped was my best withering look, I kicked. It started! Sometimes silent prayers are answered.
I don’t blame Frank at all for getting the H-D. Really like the look of them and the spec is very attractive; air-cooled twin, ohv two-valve (aren’t they hydraulic tappets too?), belt final drive. I’ll bet they’re pretty rugged, too. Very tempted to test drive one but afraid it would end up in a trip to the bank manager and some brownie point winning to do for the Better Half. The only thing that might put me off is the strange, disparaging opinion some people have for Harleys and their keepers. Still I’m old enough to know I really shouldn’t worry about what anybody thinks!
Thank you for the excellent article on the Harley spotter, I really enjoyed reading it. I like to see the odd write-up of a modern classic-type bike in your magazine. When I bought my 2009 Harley 1200 custom Spotter a year ago, I had a slight feeling of disloyalty to the classic bike world and maybe the bike world in general. A Harley for goodness sake. I’ve found riding it makes me feel the same thrill and excitement that I had when at 16 years old I first started riding bikes on the road, and I’m 62 now.
It has enough manageable power to excite when required or it’s just as happy thumping along. It sounds and feels great, some vibration but not too much. It does have louder silencers (not too loud) because as I’ve never owned a Harley I wanted it to sound like one. Yes, it’s got chrome but it’s mostly black, I don’t think it’s too over the top. The thing with Harleys is that you can make it yours by fitting an endless choice of aftermarket parts without it affecting the re-sale price by losing originality. I fitted higher handlebars, a seat that is more comfortable, Hag on shocks and the already mentioned pipes.
I also own a 1947 AJS Model 16 which I enjoy thumping around the local lanes on and I wouldn’t part with it. I recently sold my 1954 BSA Golden Flash which I had previously rebuilt, nut and bolt, as I no longer felt entirely confident on it. I couldn’t get my feet firmly to the ground, the brakes were poor for modern riding conditions, the front forks seemed to dive excessively on applying the front brake and vibration was bad at anything over 55mph. Maybe these things could have been improved with modern upgrades but it was very standard and I didn’t want to change that. I also own a Yamaha Virago 535. There’s nothing wrong with it at all, it’s a nice bike and I’ve done many reliable miles on it. But the Virago has no soul … so that’s why I thought I would try the Harley. I’ve not been disappointed at all. It puts a grin on my face.