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First Ride: 2019 Harley-Davidson Heritage Classic 114

Santa Clarita, California—I’m chasing Robert Patrick up Placerita Canyon Road in central California and the pace is hotting up. He’s on a big Road Glide Ultra, but considering the bark that’s emanating from his twin Vance & Hines pipes, it’s a good bet that the motor isn’t stock.

And Patrick isn’t afraid to twist the throttle, every stoplight seemingly a chance to dump clutch and squeal tires. Patrick does like to ride fast. More specifically, he likes riding fast Harleys. It’s doesn’t matter if it’s a Road Glide, a Dyna or a Softail; as long as it can squeal tires, he’s good to go. In fact, he likes them so much he bought a Harley-Davidson dealership — Harley-Davidson of Santa Clarita — just so he can ride said steroidal Road Glides, Dynas and Softails pretty much as he pleases.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Why should I care about how fast Robert Patrick, a Harley-Davidson dealer somewhere in the middle of nowhere California, rides his motorcycles?

You shouldn’t, actually. On the other hand, you might want to know that Robert Patrick, the Terminator, rides his Harleys like he’s chasing Arnold Schwarzenegger again. You know that scary chromed dude in Judgment Day that morphed like plasticine every time the T-800 — that would have been Ahhhnold — hit him with a shotgun, a car or whatever loose metallic piece of scaffolding was hanging around. That that Robert Patrick riders like a man — actually, a machine — possessed might be of passing interest.

As to how this passion for Milwaukee started, as Patrick tells it, when Judgment Day shooting wrapped, Schwarzenegger and a few other big stars — no resentment there! — were given brand new Fat Boys, the bike that Arnold’s T-800 jumps over a bridge. But Patrick was just a newbie actor. He wasn’t even James Cameron’s first choice for T-1000. Director James Cameron actually wanted Billy Idol in the iconic role but, ironically, he had to pull out because he got injured riding, you guessed it, a Harley-Davidson. And even though Patrick went on to have something of a bang-up career — playing the heavy in Flags of our Fathers, We Are Marshall, and even George Clooney’s Men Who Stare at Goats — at the time of Terminator 2, he was a nobody, not deemed worthy of similar largesse. Indeed, as he tells it, he had to buy his own Fat Boy from Ernie Snare who, because this story isn’t filled with enough irony, now works as his sales manager.

So, anyhoo, lucky for me, considering the pace the Terminator is setting through California mountain roads , the Harley-Davidson I am riding — a 2019 Heritage Classic is powered by The Motor Company’s latest Milwaukee-Eight. The new 114 cubic inch V-twin may maintain The Motor Company’s traditional 45-degree cylinder format but perches a freer-breathing four-valve head atop each. It may only pump out 85 or so horsepower at the rear wheel, but it does boast 118 pound-feet of torque, qualifying it as seriously powerful by Harley-Davidson standards.

The reason I am riding the Heritage — the full gamut of Harleys was available for testing — is that it is the most comfortable of the new Softail lineup. Unlike the rest of Milwaukee’s lineup, for instance, the Heritage doesn’t have feet-forward footpegs, the riding position allowing the uprightness that soothes lower lumbars. Indeed, as long as I scootch my feet back as far as they can go on the floorboards — just the front of my soles are planted firmly — the seating is righteously comfortable. More than that, the Heritage’s seat may be the best — or, at least, the best for me — in Harley’s lineup. This is the kind of cruiser that just eats up the miles. If you’re in the market for a Harley and, like me, are plagued with sciatica, the Heritage Classic is worthy of a test ride.

Especially since the ride isn’t half bad either. Softails all get new dual-bending valve front forks and a superior monoshock design. The Heritage boasts 130 millimetres of travel in the front and a whopping — by custom Harley standards, at least — 112 mm in the rear, so there’s less Boom! Crash! Bang! over bumps; there’s much less suspension bottoming compared with previous Softails. Truth be told, there’d be no problem taking the Heritage out for a long tour, especially as its lockable, pseudo-leather saddlebags are spacious enough for serious luggage. Waterproof enough to keep your unmentionables dry, they’re also top hinged for easy stuffing.Apple-converted-space”>  Fit one of the many accessory tailpacks to the backrest and both bike and its luggage capacity would easily be up to a week-long tour.

The Heritage is also (semi) convertible to a bare-bones street cruiser, the barn-door windscreen quickly detachable. Strip it off and its Softail, uhm, heritage, partially disguised by the touring accoutrements, shines through. In other words, Marie Antoinette notwithstanding, you can have your style and your comfort too.

As for performance, I won’t bother reminding you that this isn’t a sportbike and that superbike horsepower and tons o’ ground clearance are not part of the package. But the Heritage offers more than adequate power — even two up — and enough lean angle to satisfy.

If, however, you can’t live without more power, Harley does offer Screamin’ Eagle packages all the way up to 120 horsepower. That’s still doesn’t put the Heritage in Hayabusa territory, but if you’ve never driven a 120-hp V-twin — especially one with apehangers and floorboards — let me assure you it is “adequate.”

Indeed, my major criticism surrounding the Heritage is the same as it ever was, namely that Harley, for some inexplicable reason, still outfits the front of some of its Softails with but a single disc brake. This was already decidedly uncool when Milwaukee’s finest boasted but 88 cubic inches, but now that there’s 114 cubes at the ready — with eight valves, no less — there’s even more temptation to get into trouble. I can’t believe that HOG owners cherish the look of one clean fork leg enough to jeopardize safety. Certainly, the lack of Whoa! power makes the standard ABS system all but unnecessary. C’mon Willie G. or whoever’s designing Harley’s these days, symmetry isn’t a bad word.

Other than that, there’s not much to complain about the Heritage. And I suspect if it’s fast enough to keep up with the Terminator, it should be fast enough for you.

The 2019 Heritage Classic 114 starts at $25,599 for basic black and tops out at $26,799 for a multi-coloured paint scheme. A 107 cubic inch version starts $22,999 with the two-tone version touching $23,849.


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