Who among us has not felt a kinship with the American West cowboy heroes of yesteryear? Who has not longed to just jump on his steed, ride off and feel the wind in his face, experience wide open spaces and revel in the lack of stress and pressure—to have the freedom to just get out and go yondering? As I sit in the office or gaze out the window on a rainy day, I imagine that I can hear the steed in the garage calling me to saddle up, wanting the ride as much as I do. This very real sense of the modern biker as the inheritor of the cowboy spirit and tradition is powerfully seductive. The perfect extension of this cowboy/biker metaphor is embodied in the Texas stable that turns out some of the best modern-day, steel ponies around—American IronHorse. Like the Amer-ican Quarter Horse, the motorcycles of American IronHorse are function-bred and well suited for their task. From the midst of ordinary bikes, the motorcycles of AmericanIronHorse stand out. Sleek, powerful, beautiful and sexy, they draw admiring attention at every stop.
Rakish and ready to ride, this is the 2007 American IronHorse Slammer. Photograph by Cordero Studios/ www.corderostudios.com
With the vision of creating a new breed of custom motorcycle, long before the days of TV celebrity bike builders, American IronHorse started in a Fort Worth, Texas garage. In the 11 years since those humble beginnings, AIH has come a long, long way. The garage production facility is now a modern and efficient 224,000-square-foot factory that houses engineering, design, product development, parts manufacturing, paint, powdercoating, engine assembly and production, all under one roof. The in-house engineering and manufacture of hundreds of custom parts, including seats, fork legs, triple trees, brake calipers, tanks, sheet metal, and the use of multiple CNC machines, elevates American IronHorse above the host of by-the-numbers assemblers of someone else’s parts. The attention to detail, constant focus on quality control and craftsmanship is amazing and systemic. Creativity, craftsmanship, and accountability are all vital parts of the AIH corporate culture.
Less than five years ago, the market was clamoring for anything with a big displacement American V-Twin and loud pipes. Such bikes were in short supply, but everybody who wanted one would pay way over MSRP to get it. Waiting lists were months out, with little or no ability to choose color or configuration; but how that market has changed. Today, you can pretty much walk into a dealer, pay MSRP and ride out. For a manufacturer to stand out in today’s market, their motorcycles need to be exceptional. (Click image to enlarge)
Like a flesh and blood thoroughbred, each IronHorse has its own personality, bred at the factory to the whim of its future owner. AIH offers six basic configurations: three lean-and-mean, pro-street cruisers (two softails, one rigid frame) and three stretched out, tall choppers (again, two softails and a rigid). These can be equipped with any of three S&S power plants—111 cu in, 117 cu in, and 124 cu in—that can be dressed out with powdercoat and/or diamond-cut cylinders.
The American IronHorse Slammer is dyanmic, whether at rest or galloping down the open road. Photograph by Cordero Studios/ www.corderostudios.com. (Click image to enlarge)
The AIH paint department is a manic place. The paint menu includes 31 paint schemes, 270 upgrade options and, with each graphic hand done by in-house artists, the possible combinations are almost unlimited. With a strong line-up of chrome, trim parts and accessories available from AIH dealers nationwide, there is little likelihood that any two IronHorses are identical, unless intentionally ordered to be so. Though AIH annually makes thousands of bikes this way, each one is effectively a one-off custom, as unique and different as the riders who purchase them. That is what makes American IronHorse true masters of the “factory custom” motorcycle, a generally overused and under-deserved description.
American IronHorse motorcycles are appreciated as art, as well as functional mounts. Photograph by Cordero Studios/ www.corderostudios.com.
With the thermometer inching toward 90 degrees and the sun not yet a finger’s width above the horizon, it promised to be another scorching Texas day. No cold fronts or drought-breaking rain would give me relief. The long, lean, Texas Chopper’s AIH-patented chopper tank rose from beneath me to meet the gorgeously finished triple-tree and sweepingly pulled back handlebars. With the grips above shoulder height, I expected to feel racked-out and somewhat shaky, as with all tall ape-hangers, but this AIH design gave me a feel of confidence and sure control that I usually found lacking with apes.
Each of the three chopper models has a different ride and feel. The softail Texas Chopper and the hardtail LSC are both tall and imposing in look and feel. The Progressive adjustable air suspension with onboard compressor and stealth swingarm on the Texas Chopper allowed a reasonably wide range of fine tuning to the rear suspension and softened the ride noticeably compared to the LSC’s rigid frame. Sporting wide 280 rear rubber, and 90mm front tires on 21-inch wheels, these bikes turn widely and track beautifully, as you would expect from a bike of this extreme configuration. I found the Legend, with its several inch shorter stance and narrower, though still wide, 240 rear tire, handled the best for me. Its air ride provided the most comfort when laying down some miles in a day, while still looking and feeling every bit an IronHorse chopper.The other half of the AIH stable consists of stretched-out, pro-street cruisers—radical masterpieces of motorcycle art and technology. Again, there are two softails and one rigid, all available with AIH’s limitless customization options. The Tejas and the Outlaw are gorgeous and wonderful bikes but, when it came to the cruisers, my eyes were elsewhere.
Photograph by Cordero Studios/ www.corderostudios.com. (Click image to enlarge)
You know how, once in a while, something just jumps up and grabs your attention with a possessive and irresistible appeal, becoming something you simply have to own because, for a combination of indefinable reasons, it’s just … you. My black and chrome ElectraGlide classic, my stainless steel and gold Rolex Submariner, my Nikon D2X—they all affected me that way the first time I laid eyes on them. I became obsessed and unsatisfied until they were mine and, since acquisition, they have given pleasure and pride of ownership that goes beyond their utility. Saving it for last, I had resisted the temptation to take out the IronHorse that (surprisingly) strongly affected me in this same way: the bike gracing the front cover of this magazine—the radically redesigned, 2007 American IronHorse Slammer. Whether dressed-out in the most simple and gorgeous white luster pearl or the candy red radical tribal graphic scheme “Thrust”, what a beautiful beast she is. The Slammer appealed to me on a visceral level and I just knew it would simply feel great, before I ever sat on the bike. She did not disabuse that notion one bit when I finally gave in to temptation, kicked my leg over her, and settled into the deep and low saddle with Yello’s eponymously named “OOOH YEEAAH!!” booming in my head (just as it did for the fictional Ferris Bueller, as he hopped into a Ferrari 250 GT California). The Slammer is a bike that comes with its own sound track—cool!
Departing or arriving, the Slammer exudes style, power, craftsmanship and grace. Photograph by Cordero Studios/ www.corderostudios.com. (Click image to enlarge)
From a great first impression, things just got better. Firing up the Slammer dead cold with a quick stab of the starter was ensured by the standard electronic fuel injection, an AIH first on this bike. She feels solid, comfortable and, well, fast, even when just sitting there. Like all the IronHorses, she sounds great, too. The 2-into-1, dyno-tuned exhaust system is deep, throaty and satisfyingly loud; loping along sexily at idle yet without the annoying high frequency bark that many high performance V-Twins have when you really get on them.
The first time, I pulled away without a shudder, setting my feet onto the far-forward pegs and perfectly positioned controls. The first Slammer I rode had the big powerplant and, despite its 124 cu in and 130 hp, the insanely wide 300mm tire gave sure rubber-to-road contact, never once getting squirrelly. I am positive she will spin/burn that big tire in multiple gears if desired, but you would have to really want to do so. It will not get away from you unexpectedly. The sure feel of throttle and clutch was just the first of many pleasant surprises.
This IronHorse is blazingly fast, of course, but the six-piston, dual front discs stop you from speed as quickly as it got you there. The Progressive adjustable air suspension gives a firm-but-comfortable ride in the deep saddle, on which I could see putting in long days of hard riding. I thoroughly, but unintentionally, tested the frame and suspension to their limits when a Texas-sized road divot jumped out of a shadowy nowhere and bunny-hopped both wheels, and me, high into the air. The twisted landing was hard, but controlled, and I could actually feel the solid frame work to help me straighten the bike around and keep her upright. It could have been an ugly incident, and I on a lesser bike it might well have been, but the Slammer handled it with grace and strength. (Click image to enlarge)
Wildly enjoying the adrenaline rush every time I cracked the throttle; I was impressed with the Slammer’s speed and power. I did not, however, expect to be as or more impressed by her handling. A 130 hp, 45-degree raked, 300mm rear tire shod, pro-street cruiser that was nimble? Nimble! How could it be? The Slammer cut deeply into curves and laid over with a sure and controlled line that inspired confidence the first time. My experience with wide tires is that they want to throw you upright and out of the curve, but the Slammer hung in there on my chosen line every time. The Slammer positions the drive belt outside the frame, allowing the rear of the frame to be narrow, which permits much deeper lean angles than one might think possible. A 21-inch front wheel with a wide 120mm tire finishes the job of giving the AIH Slammer surprisingly confident performance in the twisties.
I rode Texas Highway 6 to the American IronHorse factory, following the route of an historic cattle-drive trail that ran from Galveston on the Gulf of Mexico up to Red River. I sat on my cushy pillow seat, behind the full fairing, listening to my favorite riding tunes blasting from the on-board sound system of my well-experienced, full-dress, 65 hp, 900-pound motorized BarcaLounger, and I wondered: My last hard-tailed chopper trip down to Monterey, Mexico was 25 years and 60 pounds ago. How would I fare during two days of riding the brand new long and lean, 130 hp, much lighter chopper and pro-street thoroughbreds from AIH? It gave me pause. That pause is over, and I now expect to be setting aside a spot in my Harley-centric garage for the Slammer.
With across-the-line six-speed transmissions, hydraulic clutch and brakes, distinctive high performance headlight, and absolutely flawless paint jobs, American IronHorseleaves little to wish for in a high performance, factory custom motorcycle. As in days of old, the brand on a cowboy’s horse told much about him—how and who he rode for, what kind of person he was. At American IronHorse, it seems things have not changed all that much.
www.americanironhorse.com | 817.665.2000