I drove the rental car through Bristol's rush hour traffic and made it with no incident and only one wrong turn to the rental location. It's also a Harley-Davidson dealer along with also being a Ducati dealer.
I found Andy, the rental coordinator, and after a brief search for my reservation, he produced a 1200 Sportster, in deep silver color, for my rental use.
Leaving the rental car with Andy, I geared up and left the dealership and into Bristol traffic, aiming for the A4174 road which would eventually wind me over to the M4 Expressway on my way to Swansea, Wales.
Initially, I was having slight problems finding the foot pegs on the motorcycle as they are much more forward than what I was used to. Once I convinced my booted feet to reach out further, all was OK.
Good throttle response but boy does the engine rattle the entire bike and rider when one is standing at a stop! Oh, and apparently, this particular bike had custom pipes so it was louder than a stock HD. I am sure the loud pipes annoyed folks as I rode by, I could hear them clearly, even through my ear plugs!
Some thoughts about this motorcycle:
Fast enough for me, it reached 70 MPH easily enough with a very easy and application of the gear shift pedal. However, I found it didn't like being in fifth gear, it's top gear, below 70 MPH...then the engine would sound like I was lugging it.
Nice low end torque in the city, very nice. Good brakes as well, didn't have to press hard with my hand for the front brakes or with my right boot for the rear brakes.
She didn't, at least for me, turn as tightly as my '87 R80 Brigitta or the F800R I Beemer I rented in Edinburgh, Scotland. I am sure it turns fine once you get used to it, I was learning as I rode, once again enmeshed in traffic all rolling on the "wrong" side of the road and trying to navigate at the same time, so perhaps it's not a fair thing to say.
Not sure if by design or perhaps some tuning need, but there's a lot of backfire noises and crackle as one uses engine braking or even when rolling off the throttle.
I rode out to Swansea, a bit over 86 miles from the dealership, reaching it without incident and under sunny skies. I rode all the way to where the road ended in "The Mumbles". Nice views of Swansea Bay along the road to the Mumbles, but not very many places to pose a motorcycle.
In the Bracelet Bay area, overlooking Limeslade Bay.
I had discovered that my phone's battery had been used up when I neglected to stop and turn off the GPS application on it after I'd successfully left Bristol. So, I had to return back to the hotel sooner than planned (I had planned a stop in Cardiff for picture location seeking).
On the way back along the M4 Expressway, the low fuel level light came on. I was 8 miles from a service area so I exited there only to find it under construction. No fuel.
I got turned around while getting back on the M4 and once again headed west back towards Swansea, all this while with that dang "low fuel level" light shining brightly at me.
I decided to take the Pyle/Porthcawl exit and luckily there was a gas station at the first roundabout that I came to. I filled it up with only 12.5 liters of gas and its spec sheet says it's only got a 17 liter gas tank so it's not exactly a long-ranging motorcycle! I believe SonjaM has alluded to this "lack" on her own Sportster.
Just before all this gas searching activity, I'd been thinking how the stock seat on this bike is not very comfortable. OK, it's not comfortable at all after say an hour of sitting on it! I also kept sliding forward a bit due to the shape of the seat, and had to keep pushing myself back a bit once in a while.
It's a low slung bike, so folks with a short inseam will like that. Not too heavy when not moving though I found you have to pay attention some times. She tended to, tilt to the right when at rest or slowing to a stop.
I got back to the dealership and turned the bike in. I was hurting in places I don't normally hurt after just a few hours of riding. The forward position for my feet, unused to it as I was, had caused some cramping of my legs as well. The ergonomics just weren't working for me, and I didn't want to ride it another full day.
About 200 miles ridden, most of it under super slab conditions. Slight cloudy skies, with almost warm temperatures so a perfect riding day, just not the perfect riding motorcycle for me it seems.
I got back to the hotel shortly before Martha returned from her train trip to Bath where she'd enjoyed some touring.
We had us a fine sunset here in Bristol, England this evening, the silhouette of The Bristol Cathedral's spires show up nicely don't you think?