Travel

Checking off a bucket list dream: Riding a Harley Davidson 

Some riders love them, some riders hate them. But there's nothing quite like watching people fly by on a Harley Davidson.  

  • Jul 21, 2022
  • 778 words
  • 4 minutes
Photo: Jeff Topham
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Picture this: You’re riding a Harley Davidson down an endless highway, clad in a black leather jacket that only looks good on a Harley Davidson. There’s enough juice in your 1760cc motorbike to power a small village, but you’re cruising at the speed limit, shoulders relaxed, inhaling the forest breeze and salty air.  You’re not into big risks, high speed, or obnoxious exhaust growls. You don’t own a motorcycle, you’re not into the biker sub-culture, and you can barely tell forks from a fuel tank. But you love being immersed in landscapes, you love to explore, and you love a good road trip adventure.  

Riding a Harley Davidson down an endless highway to the soundtrack of rolling thunder has an allure that crackles the imagination. At least, it crackles mine. Unwilling to spend thousands of dollars on a seasonal motorbike, it’s a bucket list dream. How do we tick this one off? 

Photo: Jeff Topham
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Few machines inspire the emotional attachment of a Harley Davidson. Some riders love them, others hate them, but there’s nothing like them, which is why people fly around the world just to ride one.  Therein lies our opportunity. Eagle Rider Rentals and Tours is a Harley-Davidson owned company that rents motorbikes from dozens of branches across the United States. Offering a wide variety of the latest models, clients rent bikes for package, custom or self-guided trips. There’s pick-up, drop-off and one-way service, and the bikes are fully insured with full roadside assistance. 

Vancouver is home to Canada’s only Eagle Rider branch, with the vast majority of its clients flying in from France, Italy, Brazil and Germany. BC’s epic mountain landscape, excellent roads, summer weather and cool roadside attractions are globally attractive. I invite you to dispel your stereotypes of intimidating bearded riders, tattoos, chains and gangsters. Riding a Harley on the open road is more accurately the dream of doctors, lawyers and accountants. It’s the dream of business professionals, teachers, retirees and creatives. It’s the dream of writers who write Bucket List columns.

Photo: Jeff Topham
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My last hog was a 49cc scooter that got mangled in an accident, breaking my kneecap and kicking off my travel writing career. Although my bike experience is limited at best, this time I’m going for a 1746cc, 6-speed classic Road King, with a 64-inch wheel base, Milwaukee-Eight 107 engine, dual chrome exhaust and 111-ft-lb engine torque. I don’t know what most of that means, but it sounds powerful, impressive and scary. Just looking at the machine, I could feel my goatee growing in real time. Harleys are easy to ride, forgiving on the clutch, reliably stable, and continue to inspire illusions (or in my case delusions) of outlaw rebellion, born to be wild.

Photo: Jeff Topham
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Destination BC has curated various motorcycle routes across the province, rolling riders through some of the best scenery in the country. The roads are curvaceous, well-maintained and welcoming. I reassure my wife that most risks can be mitigated by riding in a group, taking it easy around corners, wearing protective gear, and generally not acting like a twenty-year old idiot piloting a rocket ship beyond their talent level.   Recognizing I have no biking talent, I inserted myself in an experienced group of riders, biking in staggered formation, owning the road.  Nobody is overtaking eight bikes on a highway unless we want them too, and if a bike does break down – as happened with an unfortunate Honda Shadow in our group – others are quickly on-hand to assist with tools, jokes, opinions, and ultimately, a seat on the back. On Highway 97S, the Road King hums and purrs as the skies turn dark. I hear thunder over my engine and the storm pounds my leather armour. The baptism is over within a few miles, sunshine prevails, a rainbow pops, and it feels just so, so good to be alive. 

Photo: Jeff Topham
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Highway 5A, Route 16, Highway 99, Highway 33, Highway 113 – visiting riders and local road trippers are spoiled for choice in British Columbia. As for the Harley, I found the machine resembles the rider – full of character, lightly seasoned, and far more bark than bite. Having joined Eagle Rider’s discounted membership program, I’m already planning my next trip, eyeing fly-in motorcycle road trips across the border. You’ll need a bike license, a flair for adventure, and the support of a riding group if there’s one available to you. Tick that off, and rest easy rider, you’ve got yourself a bucket list dream revving itself into reality.

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