In the spotlight - BMW 125i and Harley-Davidson’s 110th Birthday Ride

Words & Photos: Francois Steyn -

Vehicle Reviews

BMW 125i (3-door)
BMW is famous for being fun to drive and the 125i is no different. In fact, I enjoyed it more than the M6 in last month’s issue. It’s not nearly as quick, but it is much more drivable thanks to being smaller, lighter and less powerful. By the latter I mean 160 kW at 5,000 r/min and 310 Nm from as low as 1,350 r/min from a 2.5-litre petrol with a TwinScroll turbocharger with Valvetronic. This allows you to reach a 100 from standstill in around 6.4seconds and a top speed of 245 km/h. But that’s not the fun bit. Slam on the accelerator whilst the steering wheel is pointing in any direction, other that straight ahead, and the rear-wheel-drive tail steps out ever so predictably thanks to an electronic differential lock that optimises traction by braking at the rear wheels. The intervention is subtle though, leaving you feeling as if you’re in total control. Having only two doors and painted in a bright Valencia orange round the package off nicely, attracting more stares and compliments than I anticipated from a BMW 1 Series.

In the spotlight - BMW 125i and Harley-Davidson’s 110th Birthday Ride

The driving experience control, which enables you to individually adjust the drivetrain, suspension and steering, includes a fourth mode that's in addition to the usual Comfort, Sport and Sport+ settings. ECO PRO optimises fuel consumption and shows the possible additional range your driving style has saved on the on-board computer. An automatic stop-start function is also active in all modes, unless you disable it manually each time you start the engine. This must be the car where I’ve felt the most noticeable difference between the various modes. If you switch from ECO PRO to Sport while driving, you can actually feel the right pedal almost pulling your foot in and the black leather seat with red stitching’s backrest pushing you forward as the rev needle jumps a few hundred r/min to compensate for the lower ratio just selected. The 8-speed automatic Steptronic gearbox is very well matched to this power plant and can be manually shifted with the gear lever or pedals behind the steering wheel.


In Sport mode, under hard acceleration, the manual upshifts at high revs to kick you in the backside, but in a good way. Driving sedately it is almost unnoticeable. This is what I liked most about the car; you can relax and try to blend in or have as much fun as you like.


As usual on BMWs, most of the fancy features are paid-for extras and optional packages include the Drive Comfort Package, Interior Comfort Package or the Driving Light Package. There is even a Parking Package and Connectivity Package, so make sure your car has everything you want in it before signing on the dotted line. Luckily, the safety equipment is all standard kit. This includes ABS with Corner Brake Control, Dynamic Traction and Stability Control, a whole lot of airbags, as well as a crash sensor that unlocks the doors, switches on the interior lights and activates the warning light in the event of an accident. Access to the rear seats is no problem and the boot is rather large for a three-door hatch, making it the perfect car for the family man not wanting to let go of his bachelor image. Fuel consumption averaged a litre or two on either side of 10 l/100 km, which is very reasonable considering the fun to be had, and if you’re careful it can be even more economical. I sometimes get concerned that carmakers of the future are going to dilute all the fun for the sake of safety and the environment, but if the 125i is anything to go by we should be fine for the foreseeable future.


In 1903 the world was on the move. The first Tour de France was held in Europe and in the U.S. the Ford Motor Company was incorporated. It was also the year in which 22-year-old William S. Harley and his buddy Arthur Davidson strapped a 116 cc engine to a bicycle in their friend, Henry Melk’s garage. Arthur’s brother, Walter, helped them to finish the first ever Harley-Davidson, and on their first test ride they realised the little motor was too weak to scale the hills of their hometown Milwaukee. Undeterred, they immediately started planning the next model, this time with a 405 cc engine.


That was the beginning of a long and colourful history. Today Harley-Davidson is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, but their headquarters are still at the original location on Juneau Avenue (originally Chestnut Street) where the first 12 metre by 18 metre wooden shed of a factory was built. In 1906 they produced about 50 motorcycles in that factory and during World War II they delivered more than 90,000 bikes. In 2003, both Ford and Harley commemorated their centenaries with a Harley version of the bestselling Ford F150 truck proudly bearing a 100 year anniversary badge. A decade later and we’re not only celebrating the 110th year of Harley motorcycles, but the 100th year of the Harley-Davidson clothing label too.


I was invited to sample the 2013 model range on a day-long drive around the Cape Winelands. We met for coffee and a short presentation at the Tygervalley dealership at 08h00, and although it was pouring with rain, no one seemed to mind as there were six different models waiting to be sampled. The first stop was an old airfield for a quick breakfast. To get there we took to the open, winding roads through the countryside. The first bike I rode was the new 1200 Custom CA, a compact, easy to ride Sportster. It is rather cramped if you’ve got long legs, but would be perfect for a lady rider or someone a bit shorter. It had the optional Harman Kardon sound system, with an iPod blasting 'Born to be Wild' clamped to the handlebars. At 100 km/h it was still clearly audible and almost drowned out the lovely tones from the Screaming Eagle tailpipes.


After breakfast the sun came out and I hopped onto the Fat Bob. Part of the Dyna family, this bike has you reclining backwards and stretching your legs way out in front of you. The handlebars are flat and even though it weighs nearly 320 kg, this monster is rather fun to drive in the twisties. This was proven moments later when we traversed the Bains Kloof Pass out of Wellington. I scraped my shoes against the tar twice, but it never felt as if the fat tyres wanted to let go of the tarmac. The torque is also so abundant that you can shave off as much speed as you like before a tight turn, and when you exit you just dial in 100 km/h with your right wrist.


The next leg of the journey was the long, flat and straight (really boring) road to Villiersdorp. I regretted choosing the 1200 Custom CB for this stretch, as the upright position with its curved-back handlebars had me jostling around in my seat to wake my numb cheeks. It should be perfect for city riding, especially in traffic, but after lunch I gladly swopped it for the Street Glide. This touring bike, with integrated audio and cruise control, was the best choice for the R43 to Kleinmond. Fine rain had begun to fall again, but behind the tall windscreen I kept dry and comfy, and my feet could rest on the large platforms below the controls. There are also lockable pannier boxes either side of the saddle and on the back, and with this Harley you’d easily devour hundreds of kilometres in a day.


While admiring the view along Clarens Drive, between Kleinmond and Gordon’s Bay, I ditched the tourer for the Fat Bob’s sibling in the Dyna family. The Street Bob has high handlebars, stretches back chopper style and was finished in Harley’s new Hard Candy Custom colours.


This new colour option is available on most models and hand-painted using a special technique involving shiny metal flakes and multiple layers of clear lacquer, to give each bike a unique finish. The pipes on this bad boy also make a beautiful noise, backfiring each time I closed the throttle.


At Muizenberg we had a quick coffee in the stormy wind that was brewing, before heading to the new Cape Town Harley-Davidson dealership on the M3. The Road King proved to be as easy to ride as the smaller bikes in the Monday afternoon peak traffic. After nine hours of riding more than 400km, Harley-Davidson proved once again that these shiny pieces of mechanical art are not only meant to be garaged, polished and displayed, but to be ridden in any weather conditions and on any road all day long.


Issue 22 Feb'13
Francois Steyn