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Rod Eime becomes an EagleRider when he takes to the road with a band of Harley-Davidson brothers.

 

The vision of scores of thundering Harley-Davidson motorcycles, line astern and dominating the highway is a vision few of us will forget.

This intimidating apparition, straight out of countless movies, has served to place this venerable US motorcycle brand at the forefront of all this things wicked and dastardly. Even so, the ‘don’t mess with me’ persona of the ‘hog’ has ensured Harley-Davidson is the first thing you think of when ‘bad boy’ bikers come to mind.

In recent times, popular culture has softened the image somewhat with comedy movies like “Wild Hogs”, where middle-aged characters played by John Travolta and Tim Allen set out on a mid-life-crisis-driven, adventure-packed road trip.

Then there is the famous, 30-year-old Ulysses Club, whose legendary motto is ‘grow old disgracefully’: minimum age of entry, 40. Members come from all walks of life and it is just as likely you’ll see them with tea and scones as neat double bourbons.

To reinforce the immense popularity of the group’s claim of being ‘largest social club in Australia’, it has around 137 branches and 30,000 members throughout the country as well as clubs in New Zealand, South Africa, Germany, Great Britain, Vietnam, Norway, Namibia, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Cambodia, Zimbabwe and Botswana (of all places!).

While the Ulysses Club has a high proportion of Harley-Davidson owners, it is not exclusive to the brand like some outlaw biker clubs. One such club, whose claim is “the biggest all big-twin Harley-Davidson club in the world”, have more than 2000 hardcore members, none of whom are likely to list knitting or bird watching among their hobbies.

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EagleRider Owners, Will and Santina Keith

The Harley Owners Group (HOG) is the official club, supported by the factory dealer network through local chapters, and has around 8000 members in Australia. HOG also organises ride days and family-friendly social events for its members. It is the largest such official motoring club in the world, with more than a million members across the globe.

Tapping into the undisputed popularity of Harley-Davidson and big touring motorcycles in general, businesses like EagleRider were formed to offer Walter Mittys and dreamers like me to live out their fantasies.

Launched in the USA in 1992, EagleRider claims to have launched the Harley-Davidson motorcycle rental and group touring concept and now has offices throughout the world including Sydney, Brisbane and Mackay in Australia. Other capital cities will soon follow.

Even though I have ridden motorcycles of all shapes and sizes since the age of ten, I had never sat on a Harley, let alone ridden one an appreciable distance. I’d always stood back from these iron, steel and chrome monsters with a sense of trepidation, so when I walked into the EagleRider showroom in Sydney’s inner western suburb of Burwood, I must have looked like an awe-struck kid in a very expensive toy shop.

Owners, Will and Santina Keith, have lived the Harley-Davidson dream pretty much from birth. Will is a factory-trained technical expert and a pretty neat stunt rider to boot. Santina is also factory trained and with deceptive wild curly red locks, would look more at home selling kittens in a pet shop than mustering burly blokes onto massive motorcycles.

“Sure, Harleys are big, heavy bikes,” says Will with his trademark Louisiana drawl, “but they are superbly balanced and surprisingly easy to ride.”

To prove this point, Will once accepted a bet to ride a Harley 1000 miles down the freeway from Denver to Milwaukee while only sitting in the pillion seat. A film crew followed him, but soon gave up and headed for the burger joint. Point taken.

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EagleRider Owners, Will and Santina Keith

After a bit of boy and bike banter, I signed off on a 1200cc Sportster® and rode nervously out of the Burwood yard and into the Parramatta Road traffic. The next day I took it for a proper ride, starting out around the block, I ended up at the Mooney Mooney Bridge and, 200kms later, back at the Burwood shop exhilarated and in surprisingly good shape for an older bloke with a dodgy back.

Plans were already afoot for a longer, more extensive excursion and two weeks later an entourage was assembled to head out west for three days in a triangular recce route via Goulburn, Bathurst, Katoomba and Windsor. Along with Will and some media mates, we headed out on the highway, tracked by hundreds of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram followers, one of whom who dubbed us laughingly, ‘The Mild Hogs’

The popularity of motorcycle touring is unquestionable. The vast Best Western group has even developed a 50-property, Australia-wide network of rider-friendly hotels and motels to cater to the demand and the Best Western Centretown Goulburn is a great example. Harley owners are entitled to a range of benefits including 10 per cent discount, upgrades, late checkout and even wipe-down towel for your hog.

EagleRider Australia, just 12 months old, has also developed a series of fully-guided rides out of their Eastern seaboard bases. Ranging from 6 to 12 nights and priced from $2591.00, motorcycle hire, accommodation and most meals are included.

Are you a Harley-Davidson fan? Is the kind of road trip you’d be up for?