Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Classica vs. Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Voyager - Tour De Divorce

Pairing Up This Year's Two Hottest Traveling Companions

By Jamie Elvidge, Photography by Kevin Wing, Jamie Elvidge

Windshields on both bikes are high, but those who prefer being fully shrouded from the elements will prefer the Kawasaki's. Both feature a host of electronic gadgets: speedometer, odometer, tripmeters, clock, low-fuel light and mileage-countdown, plus all the obligatory indicators and running lights. The Kawasaki's low-fuel light, which overrides the "miles remaining" icon, wakes up about 100 miles before it needs to, which can be a little nerve-wracking in the middle of nowhere.

The Harley's air-cooled, 1584cc, pushrod twin is noticeably underpowered, and the Vulcan isn't a hot rod either, especially when fully loaded and climbing hills or making passes. What do you do in such circumstances? Relax. They're cruisers. So cruise. The Kawasaki uses a fly-by-wire electronic throttle valve instead of Harley's more traditional sequential-port setup. While we don't have any harsh words for the new digital injection system, you'll notice a difference-usually as a subtle delay when closing the throttle or engaging the otherwise excellent cruise control. No need for drastic last-minute speed corrections to compensate for terrain. The Kawasaki's is constantly, almost manically, dialing itself in. Cruise control on the Harley is likewise easy to engage and does an adequate job of smoothly propelling the bike.

Meanwhile, we're three people on two touring bikes. And two of us are women, so luggage capacity is a factor. As it turns out, the Kawasaki's saddlebags are much roomier, wider and easier to access. On the other hand, the Harley's trunk is downright cavernous-the envy of the hot-roller set. Both saddlebag systems use similar pullover-lid latch mechanisms that allow top-loading usefulness, and since said lids don't actually detach, you won't lose them on the road. The flip side to top-loaders is you have to pack popular items last to minimize digging.

The latch/lock on the Harley's saddlebags is a minor puzzle to the uninitiated, but once mastered, it's the system of choice. The Kawasaki's closures are simple and adequate. All are lockable. Both trunks open smartly from the side so you can load and offload sundries, maps and cameras without disturbing your passenger or whatever gear you've left sitting on the pillion. Harley's trunk locks are tough and durable. Our 'Glide had over 10,000 miles on the odometer and everything still worked flawlessly. Kawasaki might want to take another look at the locking apparatus on the Voyager's trunk, since they're a little finicky and felt ready to break.

Comfort? It's the Harley, buns down. The firmer seat fit us better, and it's a better match to the bike's ergonomics. Hannah especially liked the Harley pillion because it wasn't so high above the rider's seat. The Kawasaki's taller pillion effectively negates its nicely padded trunk cushion. But we loved the massive candlepower from the Kawasaki's dual headlights on night rides. Too many bikes won't allow you to use the high beam and the driving lights simultaneously, but the Voyager lets them all shine at once-a serious advantage on dark country roads.

And we did plenty of country-road night riding on this tour, because we always seemed to be running late. Showing Hannah our old stomping grounds meant lots of peering into windows of boarded-up cafes and kickin' tires at dusty gas stations, which took time.

The highlight, of course, was revisiting the beach town where we'd gotten married. We even stayed in the same ol' Seacrest motel, which has become unrecognizably hip. As for F. McLintocks, where 20 years ago we fed 150 of our closest friends and relatives deep-fried turkey nuts and then spit out some time-limited wedding vows, everything is exactly the same. Right down to our wedding picture, which still hangs by the huge stuffed buffalo in the bar.

And right about then, some bar slut slinked right up into Perry's face, dripping Long Island Iced Tea all over Hannah and me, and slobbered, "Hey, aren't you that guy? That guy from that show?"

I love being divorced from a celebrity.

By Jamie Elvidge
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