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Motorcycling: Harley-Davidson Fat Boy 'pulls like Jack Nicholson'

I'm sitting on a 1700cc Harley-Davidson.

That's worth repeating: 1700cc. That's a bigger engine than some Ford Transit vans. Okay, they were built in the 1980s but you get the point. This is a huge engine for a motorcycle. It's like bringing a gun to a knife fight.

I'm looking down at my reflection in the giant, round chrome headlight. The chrome handlebars, the chrome mirrors and chrome indicators shine back at me. There's a lot of chrome.

The Fat Boy Special looks like Harleys have done since before Gavrilo Princip took a dislike to Archduke Franz Ferdinand but there is plenty of modern tech in this giant V-twin. It's got ABS, fuel injection, self-cancelling indicators and a gear indicator. I know none of these are exactly cutting-edge but, still, my 2002 Honda Firestorm has none of the aforementioned.

I'm outside West Coast Harley in Glasgow. It's a sunny Saturday afternoon. They are having a chilli cook-out at the front of the shop and the place is mobbed. I feel a wee bit conspicuous in my brightly-coloured Spidi textile jacket, a vaguely adventure-style piece of kit, which is resolutely neither black nor made of leather. It's not ideal conditions for me to take my first fumbling steps on a Fat Boy - great name btw, so much more fun than the collection of numerals the Japanese love - the GSX-Rs and CBRs of this world.

I've not ridden a Harley for a couple of years and it takes me a moment to remember how the keyless injection (see, more modern tech) works. It couldn't be simpler: you turn the giant button on the tank - you can't miss it, it's chrome - to 'on' and hit the starter.

But first, I've got a problem. I can't seem to reach the sidestand to flick it up. There are no footpegs; instead, the stand is hidden under the giant footboard. I try to twist my foot underneath to reach the stand, and think about hopping off, flicking it up and jumping back onboard before the 332kg contraption tips over. It dawns on me to flick the board up first, then the stand, seconds before someone comes over to ask if I want any help, and suddenly I'm off into the city traffic.

This Fat Boy has stage 1 tuning, a free flowing exhaust and a beautiful (chrome, of course) Roland Sands performance air filter, but at first all I notice is the noise. IT. IS. VERY. LOUD. Never mind setting off car alarms, I worry it might trigger earthquake warning detectors. I think, not for the first time, how lucky I am to live in Glasgow not California.

To start with, I struggle a bit with the floorboards, and find myself pressing down on the right-hand one instead of the brake as I approach the first roundabout but I get through it. Certainly, with this exhaust, no driver could say they didn't hear me coming. I think about getting myself a Noisy Pipes Save Lives T-shirt and growing a scraggly beard as I head out of town.

It happens at the first real bend I hit, just past Craigmaddie Reservoir as the A81 climbs the hill towards Strathblane. I squeal like a girl. It happens again at the next bend - the footboard scrapes the tarmac and I pull my foot off the board like it's on fire. After a few more corners, I realise the pegs are hinged and are not going to have me off. Still, I never quite get used to the scraping sound and try to avoid it as much as possible.

It takes a while to get used to the handling, too, but by the time I turn off the A84 at Lochearnhead and head towards Crieff, I'm starting to get the hang of it. The Fat Boy is not slow, but you can't ride it like a conventional bike. You have to think about how you are going to take a corner. You can't barrel in and expect it to handle like a sportsbike. Although the redline is 6500rpm, from 2000 revs the engine pulls like Jack Nicholson in a nightclub. While other bikes - and all bikes that are not Harleys fall into that category - are still clearing their throats at the bar it's up on the dancefloor strutting its stuff.

I turn at Perth and head back towards Crieff. I don't see Ewan McGregor anywhere so I take the Braco road, and dive onto the A9 at Dunblane. I sit at 70mph, at 2500rpm, in 6th gear all the way back to Glasgow. I look at my reflection in that giant, round headlight. I'm wearing a full face helmet but beneath it I've got a smile as wide as the Snake River Canyon.

Thanks to West Coast Harley, Glasgow. Harley-Davidson Fat Boy Specials start at £16,195.

Send your news to garry.scott@heraldandtimes.co.uk or follow on twitter @garryscott7

RIDE TO WORK DAY

National Ride to Work Day takes place on Monday, June 16, and this year, it also kicks off Ride to Work Week. On the day, motorbike and scooter riders around the world aim to show just how enjoyable a daily commute is.

By riding to work it's hoped they can demonstrate that life would be better if more people rode motorcycles and scooters every day - with the associated time savings, less congestion and reduced travel costs.

By taking part it's also hoped bikers will remind other road users that it's not just cars that use the road: we all share the daily journey to work, and it's more pleasant if we all look out for one another.

Ultimately, of course, the point should not be lost on policymakers to understand how vital in the transport mix are motorcyclists.

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