Thursday, April 9, 2009

To Heel... Or Not To Heel

Therein lies the proverbial rub.

Folks who are  learning to ride, or making the switch from dirt bikes or other motorcycles to Harley's are often confronted with an unfamiliar mechanical device.  This happened to me when my sainted wife first insisted that I purchase one in the late '90s.  OK, maybe she just said "Go ahead and take a look" but to a desperate person this sounds like a direct command.

Right: Shifters to immediate right of footboard.  Heel shifter (bottom) has been extended 1".  Bike is immaculate - it's the camera that is so picky...honest!

One of the first things I noticed was an additional shifter on the transmission spline. There were two instead of one; one pointed forward and the other pointed backward.  I asked and was told it was the "heel shifter".    I tried it a couple of times and to me is was just a nuisance... it blocked off the back of the footboard and left me with fewer positions to place my foot while riding.

Anyone who does distance rides knows it is important to be able to move your feet to different positions periodically.  That is why you often see footpegs added to Harley touring bike crashbars... so the rider can use them in addition to the standard footboards.

I quickly found out that aftermarket parts manufacturers made all kinds of nice chrome add-ons to cover the spline when the rear shifter is removed so I jumped in immediately.  Thereafter, I had more area to rest my left foot.  With this configuration I was a happy camper and stayed that way through three Harleys.  

But then, shortly after I purchased my last Harley I attended Reno, Nevada's Street Vibrations bike week.  While making my customary rounds to drool over chrome and leather accessories I noticed a vendor selling extended rear foot shifters that didn't block part of the footboard. Desperate (yes, I am always desperate for chrome and leather) I decided to try it. Figuring if nothing alse I had some more great looking chrome hung on the bike. 

We got it all set up and on the first ride I became addicted to it.  Amazing, simpler, smoother shifts particularly when tired.  I can't believe I went through three Harleys before discovering this.  I first thought of it as an "appendix"... useless and now I think of it as vital... go figure! 

"To heel or not to heel?"  I know the answer to that question!


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