Wild Hogs: Harley-Davidson ride to IBW 2019

1st Feb 2020 8:00 am

A Street Rod, an Iron 883, Fat Bob and Road King ride down to India Bike Week in Goa. Here's what it was like.

It was still dark outside when we left our hotel in Khopoli. Our jury round had us there the previous evening, but the fact that we had heaps of shooting to do along the way to Goa meant the 80-odd kilometres we’d covered from Mumbai would be of little significance. Luckily, we had four of the most culturally appropriate motorcycles to help reach Goa for the 2019 India Bike Week (IBW).

Harley-Davidson has been at the helm of motorcycling culture across the world and, in more recent times, over here too. Every year, thousands of motorcyclists from across the country gather at Goa to celebrate all things two wheels at the IBW. The convergence has been dubbed ‘The Great Migration’. This year, we decided to partake in the phenomenon – and what better way to do so than on a Harley. Now, the American manufacturer has over a dozen motorcycles on sale in India, but with only four of us to ride them, we decided to take just one from each family to get as wholesome an experience as we could.

The locals were amused by how a motorcycle could be this big, loud and shiny.

As the sun came up on our little endeavour, we’d made good progress. We were riding down to Goa on some of the widest and smoothest highways at this end of the country. Granted, it may not have been the most scenic option, but the bikes we were on were conceptualised to be in their element on roads like these. A Street Rod 750, an Iron 883 from the Sportster line, the Fat Bob from the Softail series and the giant (and perfectly named) Road King from the Touring family were our steeds of choice. Each remarkably different from the other but all four instantly identifiable as Harleys.

For instance, despite being the least powerful of the lot, the Street Rod 750 held its own – its relatively less weight and shorter wheelbase made it extremely fun. Over longer stints, the unusual riding ergos do get uncomfortable and this had us wanting to switch to one of the other Harleys. The Iron 883 did provide some relief, but that’s not what you’ll remember about the bike. You will, in fact, remember the engine. The Sportster family is the last in Harley’s line-up awaiting an overhaul and so it’s no surprise that it’s the most old-school one there. This is exactly what made it such a raw experience – a large air-cooled V-twin chugging away under you, accompanied by all its sounds and vibrations. Neither of these two, however, was able to match the sheer road presence of the other Harleys.

At the end of a long day of riding, a milestone like this is quite literally a sight for sore eyes.

The Fat Bob and Road King are powered by the same Milwaukee-Eight 107 that produces an upward of 145Nm of torque, which will whip your head back if you aren’t prepared. The Road King was also the motorcycle all of us wanted to be on. The wide, plush seat and slab-like footrests were extremely tempting, but once you’re on the bike you realise that the handlebar can put some strain on the shoulders. Another reason we all wanted a go on both was because of their sheer road presence. When the bikes aren’t attracting attention thundering down the highway, their proportions and styling kept them from drowning in the sea of thousands of bikes that were headed there.

As night fell, we kept riding. It was a 15hr journey by the end of it and the joys of shooting a video were solely to thank for it. As we finally pulled up to our hotel – ears still ringing from the obnoxiously loud in-line fours that’d repeatedly scream past us, only to stop to ease their agonised wrists and backs – I took a moment to reflect. We may not have been the fastest or the loudest, but the ride was analogue, visceral and, in its own way, rewarding. We’d arrived in style, all set for the next two days.

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