Dark Customs launched in Tokyo
Tokyo was the setting for Harley-Davidson’s Pacific launch of the new Dark Custom range, newly updated versions of the Forty-Eight, Iron 883, and Street.
Harley have taken aim at the younger generation of riders with the Dark Custom range, so you won’t see much bling on these machines. In Harley’s words, the Dark Custom bikes are “Hard-nosed machines that offer an authentic, affordable experience to a new generation of riders.” Just what we want in a Harley.
“With Dark Custom, we embrace the basic motorcycle structure,” said Adam Wright, Director of Marketing for Harley-Davidson Australia & New Zealand.
“Dark Custom reaches back to our styling roots, but also invites the rider to move forward, to make the Dark Custom motorcycle his or her own with accessories, ingenuity or riding experiences.”
While we’ve briefly covered updates in Driven’s Wednesday issue, there simply wasn’t enough space to cover each of the bikes more in depth. Exclusive to driven.co.nz readers, here’s the full low-down on the new Harley-Davidson Dark Custom bikes, direct from typhoon soaked Tokyo.
The new Forty-Eight sits in any carpark with real presence that screams “look at me!”.
The signature 130mm thick front tyre is suspended by all new, and equally large 49mm forks which are secured in massive forged aluminium triple clamps. This gives the Forty-Eight a very solid looking front end that only increases the overall masculine appearance of the bike.
The classic 7.9 litre peanut fuel tank creates a narrow waist that allows for easy viewing of the 1200cc motor as it rocks between your knees. Chopped fenders expose the tyre rubber in all its glory, while a perfect balance of black, colour and chrome gives this bike a bold visual presence.
“The low handlebar and forward foot controls put the Forty-Eight rider in an aggressive posture, so we picked up on that with the styling,” said Harley-Davidson Industrial Designer/Stylist Ben McGinley, the lead stylist on the project.
“The big front wheel is like a steamroller coming down the street, and we went with the smaller round steel air cleaner and some chrome on the exhaust to draw your eyes to the engine, which looks larger under the peanut tank. I’d describe the theme of this bike as functional muscle.”
The fuel tank styling features horizontal stripes, a throwback to 1970s style that’s re-appearing today on custom bikes. The lines are repeated throughout the bike, including in the seat stitching, slotted exhaust shields, rear sprocket and belt guard.
New lightweight cast-aluminium wheels feature nine split spokes and a solid black finish with machined highlights. Combination stop/tail/turn signals keep the rear fender uncluttered and looking great.
The new 49mm forks feature a cartridge design tuned to complement new emulsion rear shock absorbers with progressive-rate springs and a threaded pre-load adjustment collar, a combination that was near perfect at soaking up bumps, and produced a controlled ride over the roughest urban pavement Tokyo had to deliver.
A shock adjustment spanner is stashed under the solo seat, which has been formed to support the rider with all-day comfort.
Riding the Forty-Eight gives an instant feeling that you’re someone special. With your feet pushed forward to the pegs and your arms stretched out you can’t help but feel that outlaw biker spirit. It’s a cool feeling and thanks to the redesigned seat the Forty-Eight was the more comfortable of the three bikes I rode in Tokyo.
Touring will be problematic thanks to the tiny fuel tank, but that is such a large part to the visual appeal to the Forty-Eight you’re knowingly buying into that problem.
If touring is on the cards, you can easily buy a spare tank from Harley’s huge 10,000 plus parts catalogue to swap on for longer rides. Otherwise keeping an eye out for fuel/coffee stops can be a fun way of meeting people and showing off the Forty-Eight’s incredible look.
The 2016 Forty-Eight is available in four solid colours: Vivid Black, Billet Silver, Velocity Red Sunglo and Olive Gold. Hard Candy Custom options include Hard Candy Cancun Blue Flake and Hard Candy Gold Flake.
Taking inspiration from the garage-built bobber movement, the new Iron 883 is chopped and drilled, with an intentional feeling that the bike is a little raw and rough around the edges.
Clipped fenders, blacked-out engine and exhaust, drag-style handlebars and a solo tuck-and-roll seat cover evoke a feeling of bare-knuckle street performance.
Bullet-hole details on the belt guard, exhaust shields and front fender brace emulate a racer’s effort to lighten the bike in an effort to drop the weight down and increase performance.
Colours and finishes for the Iron 883 were selected to help hide the grit and grime of riding and living in the urban environment, a blessing for riders who struggle to wash their bike religiously every weekend.
“It’s always been my vision that this bike will look better with some dirt or patina,” said Harley-Davidson Senior Stylist Dais Nagao, who led the Iron 883 design project.
“It’s quick and nimble and encourages the rider to be aggressive. As it’s ridden it may get some scuffs, scratches or other character marks. We can’t do that at the factory. That’s the privilege of the owner, and becomes part of the story of the bike.”
The Iron 883 is powered by the 883cc Evolution V-Twin engine tuned to power away from stop lights and deliver satisfying performance. Something it achieved breathlessly in Tokyo with the 883 feeling more up to the task of stoplight racing than the larger capacity Forty-Eight.
A blacked-out floating front brake rotor complements nine-spoke cast aluminium wheels finished in black with machined highlights that reduce unsprung weight by a combined 3.6 kg eight pounds to improve ride comfort and handling.
Ride and handling have been improved by new cartridge-style forks and new emulsion rear shock absorbers with progressive-rate springs and a threaded pre-load adjustment collar that makes it easy for the rider to dial in shock performance to match road conditions or passenger weight. Just like the Forty-Eight, the shock adjustment spanner stows nicely under the seat.
While the Iron 883 comes out of the box with only a solo seat, a pillion seat matching the tuck-and-roll seat upholstery will be offered through Harley-Davidson® Genuine Motor Parts & Accessories.
Colour options for the 2016 Iron 883 are Charcoal Denim, Black Denim, or Olive Gold with an eagle-and-shield tank logo, or Hard Candy Custom Gold Flake with a flame detail paired with black fenders.
For 2016, Street receives new front and rear brake systems with a 300mm brake rotor and a powerful, stylised front caliper with 34mm pistons sourced from Brembo at the front. A matching rear caliper combines for improved confidence in the brakes, something that was lacking in the 2015 model.
Other braking system upgrades include an improved aluminium integrated rear master cylinder with reservoir, aluminium front master cylinder with reduced friction and higher efficiency, and new brake lines.
Overall after riding in through the streets of Tokyo the braking system update was the biggest relief considering the atrocious riding conditions.The rear brake pedal has a new position with much better ergonomics so you no longer feel like your right heel is coming off the peg to engage the rear brake. Knowing we could now trust the brakes to do exactly what was asked of them made for vastly improved confidence in Harley’s newest offering.
The clutch and brake levers have been restyled to look and feel more robust, though the clutch feel transmitted through the new lever was something that still needs a little work, feeling notchy and making it a bit tricky to smoothly get off the line from a standstill.
The horn mount has been tucked behind the radiator and a modified wiring harness has been installed to overall tidy up the appearance of the baby Harley.
Place the Street next to the Iron and Forty-Eight Sportsters and its diminutive size becomes apparent. While the Iron 883 previously held the title of the smallest bike in the Harley-Davidson lineup, the Street now slots in beneath it with shorter dimensions overall. The 17 inch front wheel looks positively tiny next to the Iron's 19 inch unit but size isn't everything and the combination of the 17 inch front and 15 inch rear wheels suit the look of the Street perfectly.
While in New Zealand we get the 500cc LAMS approved version, in Tokyo we rode the international 750cc model. While the extra capacity does wonders for the bike, giving it a spritely performance compared to the 500, Harley-Davidson currently doesn’t have any plans to introduce the larger capacity bike into New Zealand at this stage. That could change however if demand shows in the market.
The 2016 Street 500 will be offered in Vivid Black, Black Denim and two new colours, Superior Blue and Fire Red.
The pick of the bunch
When it comes to the bike that embodies the best of the Dark Custom spirit we can’t look past the Iron 883. Formerly shunned as the ‘piglet’ of the Harley-Davidson range it has come into its own with the introduction of the Street below it.
With mid-mounted footpegs and an upright riding style is was by far the easier of the three bikes to ride around Tokyo during the launch, in possibly the worst conditions we could have expected.
Ergonomically the rider is comfortable, even if the mid-mounted pegs were a shock to my thigh muscles after hopping off the Forty-Eight, with a commanding view of everything in front of you and good leverage on the bars.
A narrow width of the dragster bars means blasting through gaps in traffic is an easy maneuver, while the tuning of the Evolution V-Twin makes getting ahead at traffic lights is all but a certainty.
While the Forty-Eight and Street have their fans, the all-round ability of the Iron 883 is very difficult to look past.