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Author Topic: Ride report: The Milwaukee 8 Harley  (Read 371 times)
EZMark
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« on: March 25, 2018, 06:03:58 AM »

Ride report: The Milwaukee 8 Harley.
Most people who know me know I'm not a big fan of Harley's. I've always thought they were overpriced and under-performing. I'd heard the new engine was a big improvement over the twin cam, but I heard the same thing about the twin cam when it came out. I rode 4 different models, one with the 107 cubic inch, two with a stock 114 cu in, and one with the stage one hopped up 114. Here's my take on the new bikes.
1) Performance, 107 cu in. The 107 is pretty strong. I also rode an Indian Chief with a $3700 factory hop up kit and I think the stock 107 was stronger. It's been a few years since I had my 1700cc Yamaha Warrior, but I think the 107 ran about as good.
2) Performance, stock 114 cu in. The 114 pulled STRONG. I was immediately impressed with not only how hard it pulled, but how fast it revved for such a big engine. Probably the strongest stock big twin I've ridden. If I bought one of these bikes, I would definitely spend the extra $1300 and get the 114.
3) Performance, stage one 114 cu in. Again, very strong. I'm not sure it would be worth the extra money over the stock 114 to me. But if you're going to get loud pipes anyway, which I wouldn't, you might as well get the whole stage one package.
4) Brakes. Finally, a Harley with real brakes. Even with the single front disc, the brakes are strong and predictable. I'm not a fan of floorboards, partly because they make the rear brake awkward and touchy, but the rear brakes on these bikes were strong and modulated well without any tendency to lock up the rear wheel.
5) Heat management. I rented a Rushmore twin cam dresser a few years back and was stunned at the amount of heat the engine puked out. I found it intolerable and it wasn't even hot that day. These test bike were running non-stop all day and I ran the absolute CRAP out of them, but I felt very little heat coming from the engine or the exhaust. When I test rode the Indian the same day, I noticed the engine heat that bothered me when I rented one of those a couple years ago, so I don't think it's faded memory. Excellent job on the heat management Harley. A huge improvement over the twin cam.
6) Handling. Two of the bikes I rode were Fat Boy's which now have 240/40R18 rear tires. I'm not a fan of giant rear tires, since they make the bike want to stand up in the corners and these were no exception. If I lived in Florida where the only corners are on the highway exit ramps, it probably wouldn't be an issue, but it's not good for my riding preferences. The two non-Fat Boy's with their 180/70B16 rear tires were better, but still mediocre handlers compared to some other cruisers I've had.
7) Comfort. The Fat Boy's seating positions were perfect for me. The others not as much. I like the fact that the bikes with floorboards didn't have heel/toe shifters, since they lock your foot in one place and defeat the purpose of the floorboards.
8) Shifting. Most older Harley's shifted like someone was dropping an anvil inside the engine. These engines shifted almost as good as Japanese bikes. The clutch pull was very reasonable as well, especially for a non hydraulic clutch on such a large engine.
9) Vibration. These Softail models have counterbalancers in the engine to stop the vibration. They still vibrate a little bit, but it's actually a pleasant vibration. I'm not a fan of the rubber mounted Harley's with their engines hopping around in the frames, so I didn't bother riding the dresser models.
10) Conclusion. I'm going to say something I have NEVER said before. I would recommend the new Harley's with the Milwaukee 8 over any cruiser on the market today. Their performance finally justifies their price.




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« Reply #1 on: March 25, 2018, 03:09:41 PM »

 Before making a blanket statement like #10, I'd have to ride all the other cruisers. Comparing a Harley to and Indian is like six of one, half dozen of another. I find it hard to believe a harley is a better running, stopping, handling, looking cruiser than what the Japanese cruisers offer-especially if you factor in value. I get being a big improvement(for the most part) over the previous models, but it would take more than adding a counter balance shaft-at least twenty years after everyone else- and brakes that actually stop, to get my recommendation over every other cruiser out there. I will grant harley one thing ....they DO know how to make a comfortable seat. Also, to their credit, it's good to see that, at least on some models, they're finally getting with the 21st century.
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« Reply #2 on: March 25, 2018, 06:30:54 PM »

Finally having decent brakes on a big-twin Harley is a welcome novelty, a little more power is good, and considering Teresa's 103 Deluxe doesn't really vibrate enough to mention, a smoother yet 107 would be even better.

But the cost!!!

The depreciation hit I'm taking on my two year old Indian Vintage has taken an awful lot of the fun out owning any of these 'premium' brand motorcycles if purchased new.

The 'cure' for this situation is to either keep a bike for many years and run the wheels off of it, or simply have so damn much money that trivial things like 40% depreciation in 24 months isn't a concern.

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EZMark
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« Reply #3 on: March 26, 2018, 12:25:19 AM »

Before making a blanket statement like #10, I'd have to ride all the other cruisers. Comparing a Harley to and Indian is like six of one, half dozen of another. I find it hard to believe a harley is a better running, stopping, handling, looking cruiser than what the Japanese cruisers offer-especially if you factor in value. I get being a big improvement(for the most part) over the previous models, but it would take more than adding a counter balance shaft-at least twenty years after everyone else- and brakes that actually stop, to get my recommendation over every other cruiser out there. I will grant harley one thing ....they DO know how to make a comfortable seat. Also, to their credit, it's good to see that, at least on some models, they're finally getting with the 21st century.
Of course, this is my opinion. I've ridden many big twins. The only ones I think might run stronger are the VTX 1800 and Vulcan 2000, both of which are no longer in production. And I'm not sure they are stronger anyway. Note I said BIG TWINS, not V-maxes, Ducati Diavels, or Triumph Rocket 3's. Big twins also don't include the 1250cc V-rod or the 1200cc Indian Scout.
And for the record, Harley has had counterbalanced Softails since 1999.
You are right that Harley has always been decades behind in technology, which is why they never impressed me before. I'm talking today, not 1995. And I'm talking about the 4-valve per cylinder Harley, not the 2-valve twin cam.
I did say the handling was mediocre, but I think most big twin riders don't care about that like I do.
Also, the reliability of the new engine has yet to be determined.
Personally, if I was in the cruiser market, I would look long and hard at the Scout. Lighter, cheaper and I think a smidge faster.
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« Reply #4 on: March 26, 2018, 04:29:46 AM »

Thanks for taking the time & posting your experiences on these bikes Mark! Cruiser bikes never been my cup o tea, Nor has ever owning a Harley. Nice to keep up on motorcycles in general though. Thanks!
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« Reply #5 on: March 26, 2018, 05:01:03 AM »

Before making a blanket statement like #10, I'd have to ride all the other cruisers. Comparing a Harley to and Indian is like six of one, half dozen of another. I find it hard to believe a harley is a better running, stopping, handling, looking cruiser than what the Japanese cruisers offer-especially if you factor in value. I get being a big improvement(for the most part) over the previous models, but it would take more than adding a counter balance shaft-at least twenty years after everyone else- and brakes that actually stop, to get my recommendation over every other cruiser out there. I will grant harley one thing ....they DO know how to make a comfortable seat. Also, to their credit, it's good to see that, at least on some models, they're finally getting with the 21st century.
Of course, this is my opinion. I've ridden many big twins. The only ones I think might run stronger are the VTX 1800 and Vulcan 2000, both of which are no longer in production. And I'm not sure they are stronger anyway. Note I said BIG TWINS, not V-maxes, Ducati Diavels, or Triumph Rocket 3's. Big twins also don't include the 1250cc V-rod or the 1200cc Indian Scout.
And for the record, Harley has had counterbalanced Softails since 1999.
You are right that Harley has always been decades behind in technology, which is why they never impressed me before. I'm talking today, not 1995. And I'm talking about the 4-valve per cylinder Harley, not the 2-valve twin cam.
I did say the handling was mediocre, but I think most big twin riders don't care about that like I do.
Also, the reliability of the new engine has yet to be determined.
Personally, if I was in the cruiser market, I would look long and hard at the Scout. Lighter, cheaper and I think a smidge faster.

As a former owner of both a Honda 1800VTX and Kawasaki VN2000, I can attest to their substantial 'snot' in comparison to their contemporaries, which were the Yamaha 1600-1700 Roadstars, 1100 Vstars, Kawasaki 1500-1600 Vulcans, and the Suzuki 1500 Intruders....all relatively performance 'dogs' against the big VTX's and The 2053cc Vulcan freight train.

I don't know if either of them is really any quicker than my Indian however, but they might be....a little.

I once had a little dragrace with Teresa, me, on my 'mighty' 125 cubic inch Vulcan, her, on my 2004 XL1200R Sportster, all of 70 'crank' horsepower. Both bone stock, right down to the mufflers.

From a rolling second gear takeoff, she hung right on my back fender, I mean maybe fifteen feet. By the time we backed off at around 80-90, she was about to overtake me, and given any more distance and time, would have decisively thrashed me and my giant Vulcan.

The moral of my little tale, is that, in stock form, ALL big V-twin cruisers are pretty slow bikes.

Guys over on the Indian forum I hang at, are all a-twitter over the factory 116 kit Indian is offering to 111 owners to bump the power of their 800 lb slugbikes. It costs $5000 to buy the kit and have it installed by an Indian service department, which for warranty purposes, is how you want it done. Then, there's some other crap about 'stage one' and 'stage two' configurations.

So, what do you get for your $5000 'mods' to your Indian Chief? 90-100 rear wheel horsepower, from the stock 75(?) Rear wheel horsepower, that's what.

Big 'Whoop'.

For $3000, I can keep my Indian stock, adequately powerful, and sweet-running....and buy a used Suzuki Bandit 1250, and go out and hand every one of those big boy Indian 116's their ass in any kind of race they might want to indulge me with.

If I ever decide to mod a motorcycle, I'm going to start with something like a used, 2nd gen Hayabusa for $7-$8,000, then put $5000 worth of turbocharger in the damn thing, providing a verifiable, and reliable, 230 rwhp on only about 5 lbs of boost and running on 91 octane pump gas.

107, 111, 114, 116 cubic inches of expensive nothing.

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EZMark
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« Reply #6 on: March 26, 2018, 03:47:38 PM »

I did ride a Chief Darkhorse at Bike Week also, complete with the $3700 stage 2 big bore kit (plus installation I'm sure). Like I said above, I think the stock 107 Harley ran about as well. The Indian was carbureting poorly, coughing at low RPM with poor low RPM power. I would hope it just needed some tuning, but I agree with you, I'd leave it stock.
The Indian did handle better. It felt lighter and more balanced, although I believe it's actually heavier. But the stock 114 Harley still would have killed the modified Indian in a drag race and even more so in a roll on. The Harley literally threw my wife off the seat onto the rear fender.
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« Reply #7 on: March 26, 2018, 05:36:43 PM »

I just don't understand some of it.  I get the idea that they needed to get their bikes up to the level of power that they aren't dogs on the highway, but no matter what they do it will never perform worth a darn in a turn.  So knowing that the bike is for cruising and not racing, what's the point of adding extra modifications to get a little more speed/horsepower from the bike?

If a buyer wants a really fast cruiser they can look at Yamaha's Royal Venture I think it is with a in-line four or the Triumph Rocket.  It's still kind of pointless as those bikes are still only fast in a drag race.  This is why the manufacturers of Jap and German bikes have slowed down their engines in cruisers.  The BMW R 1200 C and the Yamaha Royal Venture have done things to make the engines crank less top end horsepower.  The same engine is in the BMW R 1200 C as in the R 1200 R but the R 1200 R puts out around 100 horsepower and the R 1200 C puts out around 70 horsepower.  It seems to me that the Indian Chief or the Harley with the 114 CI engine put out more then enough horsepower for their intended purpose without further modification.
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« Reply #8 on: March 26, 2018, 06:46:27 PM »

One has to remember the market that these bikes are aimed at.  A lot of the cruiser folks like to be able to brag about the power their bikes have, but not many actually use the full potential of that power.  Witness how you see a lot of cruiser riders ride--sedate pace and little "high performance" riding.  I think, for quite a few, it's all about just enjoying a ride and "smelling the roses."  Of course, then there are those who enjoy the noise of loud pipes for some reason.

If you compare European and Asian riders to American riders, you see more lower powered motorcycles, even, especially in Asian countries, lots of small bikes and scooters.  In Europe, you see more higher powered motorcycles, particularly in Germany and Italy. However, for a lot of folks, motorcycles are about transportation.  It's what they do, to use that phrase.  By comparison, here in the U.S., American riders are consumed by "power lust."  The more horsepower the better, and "he who has the most horsepower" wins, so to speak.

So why the big push to crank out more and more power out of engines, particularly the V-Twin engines?  To satisfy that itch for more power and the "need for speed."  And then there that bit about overcoming the past tendency for V-Twin engines (and I'm not talking about just HD here) to lack power with the justification being that "It's really about torque."  Really?  All that low down torque is a great thing, low down, but what happens when the engine starts to run out of power and speed capability at about 65 mph and you can't keep up with traffic, or the bike struggles to get up a long hill?  So I understand why the manufacturers are wanting to increase the horsepower output.  But would it be for me?  Maybe, maybe not, were I to get back into riding again.  As I age, though, swinging a leg over a tall bike, such as the VStrom, gets harder and more of a challenge.  At this point, I would tempted to get a lower bike, like some sort of cruiser.  My choice, were I to do this, would likely be an HD Heritage Softail Classic.  But alas, I'm merely dreaming here.  But it's fun to dream.  It doesn't cost anything.
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« Reply #9 on: March 26, 2018, 08:09:53 PM »

I just don't understand some of it.  I get the idea that they needed to get their bikes up to the level of power that they aren't dogs on the highway, but no matter what they do it will never perform worth a darn in a turn.  So knowing that the bike is for cruising and not racing, what's the point of adding extra modifications to get a little more speed/horsepower from the bike?

My stock, 800 lb, Indian is in no way 'a dog' out on the highway, is is a reasonably powerful motorcycle...considering the genre. This was not the case for many of the older cruisers, metric and 'Merkin'. The 650 Burgman or Yamaha T-max were seldom considered 'dogs' by those familiar with them, but my Indian will run over the top of them in an acceleration contest to top speed....just don't ask me to follow the big scooters through the curves.

The Yamaha Royal Star was a V-4 whose direct ancestor was the '83 Venture 1200. They were never more than perhaps 96 hp, with a silly excursion into stupidville in the late '90's when, for several years, Yamaha idiotically 'de-tuned' them down into the lower 60hp range. The later Royal Stars, after bumping them back up into the mid 90hp range, were no rocketships either, they must have weighed 850+ by then.

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« Reply #10 on: March 27, 2018, 03:10:14 AM »

If I recall, the first of the dumbed down Venture Royale's was the Road Star or some such, in which the original 1200 V-4 was detuned to 49 whole horsepower.  Interestingly, Yamaha failed to respond to owners' requests to bump the power up to a more reasonable level.  For a real dog, the "new" Roadstar Venture, their full dress luxo tourer topped the list.  It had a few more ponies under the gas tank, but not enough to make a big difference.  It was a shame, because it was a decent motorcycle, despite its buick-style instrument panel.  Yamaha, then called Star Motorcycles, did bump the power up a bit more, but it was never a performer of any kind.  Nice motorcycle, but lackingin the horsepower department, and pretty much a gas hog.  Not surprising as it had to really work hard for those meager ponies to lump that big beast around.  I wonder what the new Venture Royale is going to be like besides a prodigious producer of heat, according to a "Rider" report.  With all the technology currently available, it escapes me why Yamaha decided to keep it air cooled rather than liquid cooled.  I suppose to save weight, as this new one is also a heavy weight beast.
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« Reply #11 on: March 27, 2018, 04:20:17 AM »

First came the Venture V-4 1200, simultaneously offered in a relatively deluxe version as the Venture 'Royale'. I owned a first-year Venture 'standard' in 1983.

Then there was the Yamaha Road Star, which was an air-cooled, pushrod, 1600, later a 1700, V-twin.

The 'Royal Star' was a derivative continuation of the 80's, V-4 Venture line, just 'Harley'd up' to look more like an 'American touring cruiser'. Somewhere along the line, it took on the Royal Star 'Venture' monicker. It may have been a higher level Royal Star than a 'standard' one, I don't really know without resorting to Google for those details.

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« Reply #12 on: March 27, 2018, 07:46:51 AM »

First came the Venture V-4 1200, simultaneously offered in a relatively deluxe version as the Venture 'Royale'. I owned a first-year Venture 'standard' in 1983.

Then there was the Yamaha Road Star, which was an air-cooled, pushrod, 1600, later a 1700, V-twin.

The 'Royal Star' was a derivative continuation of the 80's, V-4 Venture line, just 'Harley'd up' to look more like an 'American touring cruiser'. Somewhere along the line, it took on the Royal Star 'Venture' monicker. It may have been a higher level Royal Star than a 'standard' one, I don't really know without resorting to Google for those details.



That's right--Royal Star, not Road Star.  Two different bikes.  The origain Venture Royal, 1300 (I belileve it was 1300) was a bit of a hotrod.  My friend Jim had one and it was a hot number.  But then, at the time, I had a Kawasaki Voyager Xii, which, although a reasonable performer, was no match for the Yamaha.
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