Harlistas in East LA: Harley-Davidson showcases the new Seventy-Two Sportster

American motorcycle legend Harley-Davidson hosted an event for its latest Sportster model, the “Seventy-Two,” and Bullz-Eye.com was invited to ground zero of Latino motorcycle culture in East LA for the press launch and cultural immersion. The “72,” with its stylistic nod to hi metal flake custom paint and chrome so popular with the Latino low riders of Wittier Blvd., has made this one of Harley’s most splashy and eye-catching Sportster models to date.

Our first stop was the Harley-Davidson dealership in Glendale on the outskirts of downtown LA for a review of the Harley family of motorcycles for 2012 and our first glimpse of the new Seventy-Two model. This strikingly flashy Sportster is sure to get attention at any stoplight but is also within the most reasonably priced group of Harleys. The “72” boasts a hugely attention-getting hi metal flake red paint job, in Hard Candy Big Red Flake, the Evo 1200 cc V- twin, mini ape handle bars and a peanut gas tank. Forward foot controls and a low 28” seat height give laid back rider comfort, and the high torque output (73 pd-ft) in the low/mid RPMs lends the bike to impressive acceleration on the low end of the spectrum. The MSRP is $10,499 for the standard paint, and if you want the Hard Candy Big Red Flake, it has an MSRP of $11,199.

Tipping the scales at a modest 545lbs, this bike feels even lighter than it is, with a chopper fork rake, aluminum head and cylinders, skinny white wall wheels and narrow frame. The Sportster family has always been my favorite, with its nimble design and attractive low price, and it was always the most fun to drive. This is a bike either sex can easily operate with ease, the low un-sprung weight and laid back low seat height making it fun to buzz around in on a whim.

Soon after the showroom tour we were given an informative presentation of the Latino and Harley cultural marriage here in East LA. For more than 50 years, Latin American Harley riders have been proudly calling themselves Harlistas, and we were about to go on an enlightening tour of Los Angeles, with all things Latin and Harley mixed in!

Latino culture has profoundly shaped California and LA in particular, and the Latino culture loves the concept of Harley as it symbolizes freedom, individually and a sense of family – the Harley family. We visited several cultural highlights of East LA, including the LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes, the Chicano murals of Boyle Heights, Candelas Guitars and a stop at Cities Restaurant, complete with authentic Mexican premium tequila tasting, courtesy of paQui Tequila! The food and subsequent tequila shots were delicious, and we boarded the tour bus for the afternoon stops.

We arrived at some huge, non-descript warehouse to meet famed low rider and motorcycle custom designer Mr. Cartoon. Here we found a world-class show car collection, complete with museum, showcasing some of the best low rider and motorcycle custom body art in the world. East LA is ground zero for this culture, and Mr. Cartoon gave a brief lecture on his personal lifestyle and professional journey. He recounted his rise from poverty and gangster of the street in his youth to success and giving back to the community that has brought him respect from local police and civic groups alike.

He still has his street cred though, and to prove it, he invited all of the invited press on a low rider caravan cruise to LA stadium, for the Los Angeles Dodgers/Washington Nationals baseball game. Several wild custom low riders were waiting for us, complete with functional hydraulics and immaculate in condition, courtesy of his Lifestyle Car Club. Mr. Cartoon, in a fabulously tricked out 1962 Ford Valliant station wagon in electric orange, invited me to ride with him and his family in the lead car. He was an exceptional host! Cruising Sunset Blvd. at low speed and ¾ of an inch off the ground was a blast (Led Zeppelin at full volume). We watched the game in the Harley VIP box suite. Hall of famer Steve Garvey sat in the next booth as we watched the Dodgers win in spectacular fashion, as a home run blast over the center field wall in the 10th inning ended the night. Complimentary tequila was again offered for a victory toast in the motor coach en route back to the hotel!

The following day was Harley’s showcase appearance at Fiesta Broadway, the largest Latino block party in US. Harley had numerous tents and display areas available, and the invited promotional model team impressed many in the huge crowd throughout the day. Even LA’s finest were on hand admiring the Harleys, as the Electra Glides are standard police issue within the nation’s law enforcement motorcycle fleets.

Special thanks go out to all at corporate Harley for a wonderful event. Look for the release of new “Seventy Two” Sportster model at dealerships across the US and Europe this month!