For something which is such a cultural icon, Route 66 is, by American standards, a bit of an anomaly. Some States appear to relish its presence and some seem, almost, to purposefully ignore it.
I freely admit that, before riding it, most of my research centred around where the Route started, where it finished and on the lyrics of a song that mentioned a few places it went through. The internet was not so comprehensive then, nor so widely available and it was not common practice to be able to look things up in two seconds. All that aside, in retrospect, I know I could have made much better preparations.
That said, when I did it, in 2006, the signage was good at best, sporadic in most places and totally non-existent at worst. Whether this was a “State” thing or merely local indifference, I cannot say. I have spoken to someone who rode the Route in 2014 who told me that a lot of Americans along the way have now woken up to what they have (and its commercial possibilities) and that it was far easier than he thought it would be.
I have a friend who would also like to ride it and who has asked me to accompany him when he does. Hopefully, if this ever comes to pass, my notes from above, improved markings and signage and, maybe, a decent SatNav, may take away some of the “where has it gone” trauma.
If you want to ride it – or even part of it, you really should. I cannot stress that enough. Even though I considered myself as a fairly hardcore biker before I went, I feel that having done it has made me, somehow, even more of a true biker. We can all dream about it. To actually throw your leg over a motorcycle and go and ride it is far better.
If you can only do some of it, choose the western part. Fly to Oklahoma City and head for California. Those long straight roads through New Mexico, Arizona and eastern California are a cruising biker’s heaven.
As to the Harley. If you have ploughed your way through all the writing, you will find that I scarcely mention it apart from it being my means of transport. That is what it essentially was. I felt that to ride Route 66, I had to use a Harley-Davidson which is, in itself, just as much a cultural icon as the Route.
At this remove, a standard “Road Test” style write up would have no practical value. In the fifteen years (at time of writing) that have elapsed since the events on these pages took place, both Harley-Davidsons in general and the FatBoy in specific, have evolved way beyond a point where any comparison would have a realistic meaning.
What I will say is this, the most enduring enduring qualities of the FatBoy lay in the fact that I did not feel compelled to mention it. It had a very comfortable seat and a medium rise on the handlebars. These encouraged an upright riding position and the footboards that allowed movement of the feet and prevented any stiffness to the legs from long periods in the same position. The windscreen was great at keeping the wind and the rain manageable. It was quite heavy, but it was low and so this was never a problem. It always felt reassuringly stable even in the displaced air when some huge Mack truck went roaring by. I never once thought to measure the fuel consumption but I do know I managed 188 miles on about three and a half gallons of fuel so something slightly over 50 mpg seems about right. I was, of course, cruising in a high gear most of the time. I was advised by EagleRiders to periodically check the oil level and I did. It never seemed to use any and, after completing the Route, it appeared not to have used a single teaspoonful. Of course, it was very new. It was the first time I had encountered a belt drive and it was quiet and trouble free.
In summary, the FatBoy was everything I expected a Harley-Davidson to be. A relaxed, long distance cruiser, quite at home on those endless American roads.
There was once an advert, for electric shavers, I think, which had the tag-line “I liked it so much, I bought the company !”. I felt the same way about the FatBoy. I could not buy Harley-Davidson, the company, but I did buy exactly the same model of FatBoy and it is parked in my garage as I write this.