“When you ask most people about a police bike, they think of the Harley-Davidson,” Cpl. Michael Lewis said.
Harley-Davidson’s long history with law enforcement began in 1908 when the first motorcycle was delivered to the Detroit Police Department. For years, police said, it was seen as the traditional police bike, just as the Crown Victoria was seen as the traditional police car, but with more options available some agencies switched.
The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office now has two Harleys and eight Hondas. Five more Harleys are considered spares. The agency has ordered two more Hondas for the upcoming fiscal year.
Fleet manager Ron Crowden said the switch started after unresolved issues with a Harley-Davidson dealer, but police are satisfied with the decision after nearly four years on the road.
The Hondas are more expensive. In 2008, the last year the sheriff’s office purchased Harleys, they cost $14,300 each. The Hondas cost $16,671 the next year.
Sgt. Mark Chestang said that although the Harleys are traditional and “look good,” Hondas offer more safety features.
In addition to being about 300 pounds lighter than the Harley, Lewis said, the Honda is more maneuverable and has speeds up to 20 mph faster.
“The Honda will blow the Harley away trying to catch up to a violator,” he said. “It takes the Harley a while to build up speed.”
The position of the Honda’s motor, which is water-cooled, also makes a difference on a 100-degree summer day. Lewis said deputies on a Harley are essentially sitting on top of a hot motor.
Other features on the Honda including a retractable windshield, the positioning of the handlebars and a superior braking system make all the difference to a motorcycle officer, Chestang said.
One of the few issues with the Honda, Crowden said, is the rear tire needing frequent replacement. Because the bike is lighter and leans more in a turn, it results in more tire damage.
“I prefer the Honda hands down,” Lewis said during a motorcycle training session last week.