This feature showcases a classy Honda Steed custom. However, before we take a closer look at her, I would like to talk about Harley Davidson 2014 and beyond. There may seem to be nothing special in common between a Honda Steed 600 and a new top of the range 2014 Harley tourer or trike but there is. Both are water cooled. Harley have broken 110 years of air cooled tradition and have added “Twin Cooling” – air and water- to the Big Twin powering their highest specification models. One would think that this great advance in technology, in Harley terms anyway, would spearhead the 2014 Harley marketing campaign. This is not the case. A better audio and GPS system and other improvements are focussed upon long before water cooling gets a mention. Why? The answer is heritage…and fear.
Most of the American styled Japanese cruisers, like the Steed have always been water cooled. Water cooling makes practical sense, especially when riding slowly or standing still in traffic. It also allows for smaller tolerances, higher revs and therefore better performance. It also makes complying with ever increasing emission control regulations easier. There is no down side to Harley water cooling their motorcycles yet this is probably the biggest risk that they have taken. The problem is that Harley heritage, which Harley have nurtured and built their empire upon, dictates that a real Harley Davidson be air cooled. To those of you who are not Harley riders or fans, this must appear insane but believe me, as a Harley nut, the true Harley rider, especially in the USA would rather walk than ride a V-twin motorcycle with a radiator, no matter how much better that motorcycle is in reality. You may argue that the V Rod is a water cooled Harley. This is true but the V Rod attracts and are sold to a different market than the traditional Harley market.
Harley are literally testing the water by fitting water cooling to models where the radiator is hidden within the fairings and covers. Their intention is, correctly, to slowly introduce water cooling to the rest of the model range. The danger is that if Harleys are no longer air cooled then tradition and a whole lot of heritage is lost. Harley Davidson will then be competing on far more even terms with its opposition than ever before. I wish them well with their attempt to try and catch up to the market technologically but I will remain an air-head. Victory, Indian and the Japanese manufacturers who have air cooled Harley look-a-likes are probably expecting good sales growth into the future. I hope, as a huge fan, that Harley proves them wrong.
The sensible Japanese, unrestricted by silly tradition and heritage, install plumbing on most of their models. The Honda Steed 600 or Shadow 600, as it is called in some parts of the world, was available from 1988 until 2008. Its water cooled V twin engine is derived from the legendary Honda Transalp 600 adventure bike which is virtually indestructible. This cruiser has been used as the basis to produce some of the best looking bobbers around, our featured bobber being an excellent example.
This motorcycle belongs to Natalie from Centurion . We were privileged to show you her husband’s Suzuki Savage boardracer bobber and Inazuma cafe racer. Although V Custom Cycles execute Natalie’s build to their own high standard, the motorcycle was built to Natalie’s design and specifications .This Steed relies on the contrast of its black and white elements for maximum impact. White wall tyres make the unusual black rim and spoke combination pop. Louis from Particular Bike Paint applied the paint. A simple white stripe with a symbolic family crest on the tank adds personal style. How many bikes have you ever seen with white grips? Touches of chrome and the rich brown saddle from Dion at Leatherman ensure that the blackness of this bobber is not overwhelming.
The beauty of customising a Steed is that most of the original bits are good looking enough to be retained. On this motorcycle all the tinware including the front fender, the headlight and air filter are original. The rear suspension has been removed. This rigid set up gives the Steed its low stance and mean lines. The rear fender was specially fabricated, as were the exhausts.
Building “metric” bobbers, as the Japanese versions are known, appears to be one of the fastest growing directions of current customising trends. When the end result looks like this Honda Steed bobber, it makes sense, radiator and all.