Motorman’s Tips, Tricks and Techniques
A few weeks ago, a young lady attended one of my classes on a Harley-Davidson Softail Deluxe. The Softail Deluxe was designed by the Motor Company’s engineers to have as low a seat height as possible. Obviously, they had women and shorter riders in mind with this bike. In addition to lower fork springs and a lowered rear shock, the frame under the seat was lowered as well. Thus, they were able to obtain a seat height of only 24.5 inches. I’m sure the engineers spent hundreds, if not thousands of hours making sure they had reached the lowest seat height possible while still maintaining a ride-able, functional, and safe motorcycle.
Apparently, all the work the engineers did on the Deluxe wasn’t enough. The reason I say this, just about every woman who has ever come to my rider class on a Deluxe, including the young lady who attended a few weeks ago, have had their Harley Deluxe lowered even further.
The problem with lowering a bike, especially an extremely low bike like the Deluxe is you severely limit the lean angle. Since a motorcycle must lean in order to turn at any speed above 15mph, floor board brackets and even the frame will now scrape the ground even at moderate speeds. When hard parts hit the ground, they tend to lever a tire off the pavement. When a tire leaves the pavement, you’re going down hard and fast.
I know you may be thinking, well, I’ll just go real slowly around the turns. Well, you can do that, but it’s going to cause problems for people riding or driving behind you. Plus, if you have to make a quick swerve to avoid another vehicle or even a pothole, you may very well hit the frame at the worst possible time. Even if you don’t lever the tire, the loud crunching of hard parts on the pavement will cause you to panic, straighten up the bike and you’ll hit whatever you were attempting to avoid.
If that’s not enough to give you second thoughts about lowering your bike, keep in mind that a lower suspension will give you a much stiffer ride and will frequently bottom out. I know the reason women lower their bikes, they want both feet absolutely flat footed on the ground and their legs bent a bit for stability when stopped and when duck walking the bike around at low speeds. They feel they need this because their bikes are big, heavy and clumsy anytime they drop below 20mph.
So, what can you do instead of lowering the bike? The answer is, learn the proper techniques for low speed handling. Concentrate your efforts on learning to use the friction zone, i.e., clutch and throttle, and at the same time, a little pressure on the rear brake. If you think you know how to use the clutch and throttle just because you can start off from a stop without stalling most of the time, you’re dead wrong.
Here’s how you can test your clutch/throttle coordination. From a dead stop, turn the bars half way to the left and take off as normal, without first straightening the bars and without duck walking the bike. If you can’t do that, you need to practice until you can. Believe it or not, once you master that maneuver, your bike will suddenly feel like it lost 200 pounds. It will become as nimble as a bicycle and you’ll no longer have to plant your feet on the ground and or duck walk your bike. Thus, you won’t have to lower it and ruin its ride and handling. Your confidence will go way up and you’ll enjoy riding much more.