Harley Davidson Rocker C - first UK ride

If you're after a slice of custom cool but don't want to sacrifice your savings, or marriage, check out the latest Harley Softail

Click to read: Harley Davidson Rocker C owners reviews, Harley Davidson Rocker C specs and to see the Harley Davidson Rocker C image gallery.

So what’s the recipe for a perfect chopper? A Harley engine, a low seat, a stretched tank and raked-out forks ought to do it. Over the last decade Orange County Choppers have been sticking to this recipe; raking out the forks and raking in the cash.

A hand-built custom from Orange County Choppers starts from £30,000 and for that price, you’ll sacrifice handling, a warranty, your savings and possibly your marriage..

So how come Harley, the self-proclaimed king of cruisers, took their eye off the ball? Well now it seems they’ve put their focus back into the Softail range, albeit a few years late. The Rocker comes in two varieties, the single-seater FXCW and the FXCWC which features a clever stow-away passenger seat and a more chrome.

Although the Rocker is part of the Softail range, you won’t find much from previous Softail bikes in here. The all-new frame has been developed specifically to fit the massive 240-section rear tyre and additional 4.5 degrees of rake to the 36.5 degree front forks.

It sits long and low and looks mean – just like a custom should. Infact, the seat is so low, it’s one of the lowest available of any bike - at just 625mm. Shorties take note. The trouble is, like any good custom, it’s not light – weighing in at over 300kg. Once you’re moving the weight disappears but if you misplace your footing, you’re going to struggle.

So what’s it like to ride? Well the 1584cc engine hints at arm-wrenching performance and while it’s more than adequate, it feels restricted, especially when compared to the Victory Hammer S I’ve been rolling around on recently. That said it would definitely benefit from open pipes to help those massive pistons sling spent gases out and chomp on fresh air. And it feels weird rolling around on a big custom that’s all bad-ass and attitude while remaining hamstrung by EU emissions regulations. The engine is smooth, unfussed and delivers its power through a six-speed box mated to a belt drive, making the drive and throttle response super-smooth. The sixth gear overdrive slots the bike instantly into a more relaxed mood for motorway cruising. Imagine this, outside lane, 80mph, two and a half thousands revs. I almost got my calculator out to work out the MPG…

The riding position is surprisingly comfortable, laid-back infact. Legs out, arms wide, it’s impossible not to feel the attitude and sink away to a world where cruising at 45mph feels right.

You can hustle the Rocker through traffic but it’s hard work. The fat rear tyre doesn’t hold you back as much as you’d think, but a rapid change of direction requires advanced notice and plenty of determination.

In high-speed corners the Rocker doesn’t feel like it wants to be there and that’ll be the fat rear tyre doing the talking. The bars gently protest if you crank it over at 60mph but if you hustle it you can get the pegs down without a problem, it feels planted and soaks up the road with a surprisingly deft touch . If you went on a rideout with guys on sportsbikes, you’d feel out of your depth after a few bends.

I commuted on the Rocker for a week and aside from occasionally getting wedged between traffic and holding up a few scooters, we got on well. Would I choose it as a sole bike to commute across town? No way, but can it do it? Well yes, if you like a challenge.

The Rocker is adorned in features you’d expect to see on a top-of-the-range sportsbike and while the Harley purists might not like it, they’re hopfully here to stay. The indicators and tail lights are all LED, housed in magnesium to save weight. They look sleek and keep the rear end looking crisp and clean. The clocks feature a myriad of functions including a clock, trip meters and a fuel countdown that let you know how long you’ve got to go before you’ll need to start pushing that 300kg in the direction of the closest petrol station. 

The Rocker C features a cunning pillion seat that’s stashed under the riders seat. You pop the rider’s seat up, fold out the pillion perch and lock it into place. Thirty seconds later and all the girls in your phone book are fair game for a country cruise..

All in all, the Rocker C feels right, the whole package is more than the sum of its parts and it performs far better than any custom this size should. The modern touches make it more accessible to those used to the latest Japanese technology and it offers almost all of the custom cool, without the threat of financial ruin.

That said, the Rocker at £13,840 and the Rocker C at £15,460 don’t represent value for money, but if you compare that to the cost of a custom cruiser at £30,000, they’re almost impossible to ignore.