On the run with Harley-Davidson - the Iron Run that is
HARLEY’S ANNUAL IRON RUN IS NOT SO MUCH ABOUT THE BIKES AS THE PEOPLE WHO RIDE THEM
As you get older, making new friends can become more difficult. But I think I’ve found the exception to that: motorcycling.
To those who ride this isn’t a revelation. After all, we don’t ride just because it can be a thrill, but also for the people we meet.
I was invited on the recent Harley-Davidson Iron Run media ride, and it never ceases to amaze how this brand’s community is so different from the way it is portrayed. To call hanging out with a large number of Harley owners the polar opposite of expectations wouldn’t be far from the truth.
The Harley-Davidson Iron Run 2016 in Paihia, Northland. Picture / Brad Boniface
Alternating between the South and North Islands, the run is the brand’s annual event, open to riders of all makes and models.
This year’s event headed from Auckland to Paihia in the Bay of Islands, with hundreds of riders making the trip from all over the country.
“Each year the Iron Run is getting bigger and bigger,” said Harley-Davidson Australia and New Zealand’s managing director, Nigel Keough.
“From the number of riders participating to the local spectators who come and cheer the procession on, it’s a fun couple of days for all the family as we showcase and celebrate the world’s best-loved bikes and the exciting lifestyle motorcycling offers.”
Radio Hauraki presenter Jay Reeve on his 2002 Softail Springer
For Harley-Davidson, the lifestyle attached to ownership is important. Along with organised rides and bike-focused events, the Iron Run is foremost a gathering of like-minded individuals. And nobody throws a gathering like Harley Davidson, with its New Zealand ambassadors — former All Black Josh Kronfeld, actor Danielle Cormack and Radio Hauraki’s Jay Reeve — coming along for the ride.
Our route took us from the Auckland waterfront up the west coast via Waipoua kauri forest to overnight at Omapere on Hokianga Harbour, then across to the East Coast and up to Paihia on day two.
Harley-Davidson lent me a 2016 Fat Bob for the event, possibly the least touring-focused new bike in the collection.
Reeve was the only person with a less touring-focused bike: his 2002 Softail Springer, with its coil-sprung front end and offset front wheel. The bike didn’t have the modern comforts of the luxurious Road Glide ridden by most of the event staff, but it was easily the most charming.
In its favour my Fat Bob had the best lean angle and ground clearance of the pack, which we soon put to the test on reaching the winding roads of Northland.
With footpegs instead of footboards, leaning the Fat Bob right over to the point that my boots were gleefully scraping along the highways along with the pegs was easy.
If you’re inclined to think a cruiser can’t handle the incredible corners our country is renowned for, think again.
Actress Danielle Cormack on the 2016 Harley-Davidson Softail Slim S
Upon entering the stunning Waipoua forest with its 18km ribbon of tight, snaking turns, kauri so close to the road you can reach out and touch them, you’d expect the pace to slow considerably if you believed the Harley-haters.
It’s safe to say that modern Harley-Davidsons have come a long way in handling since the major upgrades of 2014’s Project Rushmore.
Following a pair of Road Kings and a Road Glide through the forest, it was incredible to watch the big bikes effortlessly carve through the tight corners among the kauri at a pace some cars would struggle with.
During a compulsory stop to soak in the majesty of Tane Mahuta, one of New Zealand’s oldest and largest kauri, we ran into a husband and wife who had ridden their Harley from Palmerston North to attend the Iron Run.
Speaking with them, it became clear that serious passion for motorcycling was making its way to Paihia.
Harley-Davidson brand ambassadors Josh Kronfeld, Cormack, and Reeve (right).
After spending the night in jaw-droppingly beautiful Omapere we rode east. Opononi, famous for its friendly dolphin Opo, was the first of many classic Kiwi towns we rode through.
After winding through some of the best riding roads in the country we arrived in Paihia and my final stop at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds.
After a powhiri welcoming the Iron Run to town, we set off over the bay to Russell for a party at the historic Duke of Marlborough Hotel.
An embarrassed Harley-Davidson Australia/New Zealand managing director, Nigel Keough, has happy birthday sung to him.
A secret kept from the group for most of the day was that it was Keough’s birthday — there is nothing that proves the Harley riders’ community spirit better than watching a crowd of them sing Happy Birthday.
I was loathe to leave the Iron Run. Not only is the Far North a riding destination like no other, the people I came across during my short time on the ride made it a fantastic experience.