THE NEW THUN­DER FROM DOWN UN­DER

Josh James’ Low Rider Softail

Hot Bike - - Contents - WORDS: JON LANGSTON PHO­TOS: KATIE LU­CAS

Change is con­stant. Change is nec­es­sary. Change is… not al­ways good. (Re­mem­ber New Coke?) So, when Harley-david­son folded its Softail and Dyna lines into one new lineup for model year 2018, purists were, nat­u­rally, alarmed. An­other group of Harley en­thu­si­asts was also un­nerved by the change, and it’s one that should most con­cern The Mo­tor Com­pany. The FXR craze of the past few years has spawned a new move­ment of H-D en­thu­si­asts, one more rooted in fun, ad­ven­ture, and style than in tra­di­tion or her­itage. This vi­brant gen­er­a­tion of wheelie-pop­ping, fair­ing-wear­ing Harley riders has to be con­sid­ered one of the few bright spots in what’s of­ten con­sid­ered a pretty bleak pic­ture of Har­leydavid­son’s future, so when the new line of Sof­tails was re­leased last fall, it was in­ter­est­ing to see how these young Dyna en­thu­si­asts would re­act.

Josh James is the founder of HD Hooligans, one of the world’s most spir­ited and suc­cess­ful on­line mo­tor­cy­cle com­mu­ni­ties. With an In­sta­gram fol­low­ing of more than 93,000, Josh and the rest of the Hooligans are widely seen lay­ing rub­ber, plant­ing palms on as­phalt at ridicu­lous an­gles, and spark­ing show­ers of DIY fire­works down roads all over the world. It’s a fun, fan­tas­tic feed, full of risk-tak­ers, death-cheaters, and, yeah, the oc­ca­sional mo­ron. But it’s al­ways an en­ter­tain­ing scroll, and Josh is one of the lu­natics who started it all.

“The day Harley re­leased the 2018 lineup, [my part­ner] Katie and I were watch­ing the live re­leases pop up on In­sta­gram and were tex­ting each other as each model was re­leased,” Josh says. “Hav­ing a lot of in­flu­ence with my Hooligans page, I saw this as the per­fect op­por­tu­nity to shift the neg­a­tive hype sur­round­ing the ‘death of the Dyna’ or what­ever.

“I was dis­ap­pointed the Dyna had been dis­con­tin­ued too,” he ad­mits, “but af­ter my first ride, it was ob­vi­ous that this new Low Rider was a force to be reckoned with. So I wanted to show ev­ery­one the same po­ten­tial I saw in it.”

But of course, the path from vi­sion to ex­e­cu­tion is fraught with lo­gis­ti­cal peril, par­tic­u­larly with a brand­new model as your plat­form. A cus­tom mo­tor­cy­cle based on the new Harley Softail had, quite sim­ply, never been done in Aus­tralia—or any­where else, for that mat­ter.

“In build­ing this bike there were many world’sfirsts,” Josh says. “I mean, this was the first 2018 Low Rider that ar­rived in Aus­tralia! We picked the bike up from Fraser Harley-david­son in Syd­ney and rode to the beach. Five hours later, I had it stripped down to just the en­gine and frame with only 140 kilo­me­ters on the odometer.”

Want­ing to en­sure his Low Rider would be the first cus­tom built from the new H-D plat­form, Josh didn’t waste any time or­der­ing parts. “I’m a strong be­liever in stay­ing with what works,” he says, “and that’s why I con­tacted my reg­u­lar guys at Bas­sani, Hard Case, Mem­phis Shades, Pro­gres­sive, Sad­dle­men, Topline Tubes, and Speed-kings Cy­cle.

“But it still took a lot of trial and er­ror to get parts to work right,” he says. “All said and done, I was able to have the bike started and fin­ished within a month.”

Even with the hype of the new H-D range dy­ing down, Josh’s cus­tom Low Rider still turns heads. “I get com­ments from Dyna lovers say­ing my build has com­pletely changed their whole mind­set on the new lineup,” he gushes. “My per­sonal fa­vorite com­ment was, ‘Dude, I think you saved Harley!’”

Not sure we’d go that far, but it’s safe to say Josh is on to some­thing Down Un­der. His suc­cess­ful so­cial me­dia pro­file has led to the es­tab­lish­ment of Hooli­gan Sup­ply Co., which cur­rently sells only ap­parel but parts are on the way for the new breed of Harley afi­ciona­dos—which is clearly alive and well on the other side of the planet.

“Progress is im­pos­si­ble with­out change,” Josh says. And with all the doom-and-gloom spec­u­la­tion sur­round­ing the health of the mo­tor­cy­cle in­dus­try, it’s re­fresh­ing to hear such op­ti­mism (es­pe­cially from a young Harley devo­tee). The good news is the FXR is a cool but very old bike, Sons of Anar­chy hasn’t been on TV in years, and the new Harley power plant is a rev­e­la­tion. Add to that the ex­cite­ment about the new lineup—the beefy Fat Bob and Fxr-in­spired Low Rider in par­tic­u­lar—and there’s plenty of rea­son to be­lieve that the death of Harley-david­son has been, yet again, greatly ex­ag­ger­ated. HB

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