2008 Harley Davidson Cross Bones

Harley's Newest Softail Goes Old Skool

Harley-Davidson unveiled its latest bobber-style Softail this past weekend at the infamous Viper Room nightclub on the Sunset Strip. The tie-in to the Hollywood scene wasn't exactly clear, but a safe guess would be that H-D wants to make it known that the Cross Bones is one cool bike. And what better way to impress that image than to go where all the cool kids go. The other theme they wanted to hit upon was that of a dark scene, a theme that correlates well with what Harley calls "dark customs." If you haven't seen or been to the Viper Room, its exterior is entirely black with virtually nothing to indicate that it's a nightclub.

It was a scene full of young hipster types (including the quintessential loud, obnoxious guy), foxy ladies, plenty of media and free flowing booze and munchies. Yep, the Cross Bones' premiere was classic Hollywood, and in typical premiere fashion some big names were on hand. Big as in persons whose name is one half of the name on the bike. Big names like Willie G. Davidson and son Bill Davidson. When the el jefes come out, you know it's important to them.

With ape-hanger bars, a springer front end, springer saddle, floor boards and chubby tires, the Cross Bones looks like a page out of America's motorcycle customizing past.

When Willie G. and Bill finally lifted the silky cloth to reveal the bike beneath, what we saw was a bike that reaches deep into Harley's past for inspiration. The Cross Bones is a Softail that pays homage to the post-war past with a springer front end, bobbed fenders highlighting fat 16- and 17-inch tires riding on spoked wheels, an adjustable two-position springer solo saddle, ape-hanger bars,  simple but elegant paint and dark or blacked-out finishes on everything from the engine to the turn signals. Heck, there's so much darkened componentry it's hard to keep track of it all, but another neat styling cue are the console-mounted indicator and idiot lights that remain hidden from plain sight until they're activated. Cool!

Like its dark cousins the Nightster, Night Train, Night Rod Special and more recently the Street Bob, the Cross Bones leaves chrome at a minimum with only a few engine covers and the exhaust pipes as the shiniest bits on the bike. A few other slick touches include a black face on the tank-mounted console speedometer, nostalgic rounded air cleaner cover and foot boards, and hand-laced leather fuel tank trim. And for you Von Dutch fans, some "wicked" pin stripping is tastefully applied to the fuel tank and fenders.

Note all the blacked-out goodies like the speedo face, tank console, handlebars and mount, etc. Even the faces of the idiot lights are darkened, only appearing when activated.

Innovative styling aside, the Cross Bones is a Softail at its core. As such it utilizes the same air-cooled, fuel-injected rigid-mount balanced Twin Cam 96B mill and 6-speed tranny that the other seven Softails employ. We hope the single 292mm rotor and solo dual-piston caliper are up to the job of slowing the Bones' claimed 737 lbs. running order weight long enough to bend its 64.5-inch wheelbase through a turn. With 32 degrees of rake and 6.3 inches of trail we won't expect this newest Softail to flick into those turns, but if our time on the Rocker C with it's raked-out 69.2-inch wheelbase, 38-degree rake and 6.2 inches of trail is any indication of how well a 240mm rear tire cruiser can handle, the Cross Bones should perform reasonably considering its narrower 200mm rear rubber.

It may look both cool and uncomfortable at the same time, but that springy leather solo seat isn't the only means of cush for the tush. Like all Harley softies a pair of horizontally-mounted shocks are tucked far out of sight in order to keep with the rigid look of yore while still providing a forgiving cruise.

Speaking of Softails, a quick head count shows that with the addition of the Cross Bones this line now consists of eight machines, the most of any in Harley’s line-up.

"Yeah, I'd like the chicken fried steak and eggs... Oh, and can I get a side of Cross Bones with that?"

An Even Tougher Image for Harley?

In addition to the unveiling of a new bike, Bill Davidson announced that Harley-Davidson has signed up with the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) and World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) organizations as a presenting sponsor and exclusive motorcycle sponsor. The mighty bar and shield of the Motor Company appeared center ring on the mat at a recent December 29, 2007  fight event called UFC 79: NEMESIS  at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. Sponsorship of the UFC and WEC events will see the Bar & Shield logo placement in the center spot on the Octagon canvas, as a press conference and weigh-in backdrop and in other event locations.

Harley-Davidson motorcycles and advertisements will appear at other UFC and WEC events and locations. H-D is also encouraging its independent dealers to hold UFC “fight night” events and customer parties in conjunction with a limited number of appropriate UFC events. A tough brand of bike for a tough crowd, we guess.

Summing up the Davidson family feelings on the Cross Bones, Bill Davidson V.P. of Core Customer Marketing says that it's inspired as much by the company's early Knuckle- and Pan-head bikes as it is by a desire to employ today's bike technology. "Cross Bones is a bike that makes me want to strap a blanket across the handle bar, hit the campgrounds on my next road trip and get totally in touch with what’s right about this land," said Davidson.

Even if you're not much of a cruiser rider, you have to admit that this is one good looking motorcycle.

The FLSTSB Cross Bones is available in Dark Blue Pearl, Dark Blue Denim, as well as Vivid Black, Black Denim, Olive Pearl and Pewter Denim. MSRP is $16, 795 for the black and $17,140 for color models.

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