For the last week or so, we've been riding a lot lot faster than usual, in order to get to an open day with a company called 'US Highland'. They make motorcycles, but that's just the start.
The difficulty I have now, is compressing the essay I'd like to write about the company and bikes, into a summary that catches the important bits.
We turned up at the premises with few expectations. Food was provided, and of excellent quality. We were then given a tour around the facility by Kurt King, and started to learn about the bikes and company ethos. We were introduced to Chase, one of the company partners, who extended the tour with access to the whole production facility, and gave answers to the the hundreds of questions I had.
The bikes are awesome. The concept of selling a customer a motorcycle has been entirely re-engineered. Each bike is custom made to the customer's spec, in terms of physical dimensions and the components used.
I'm hardly scratching the surface here. The specifications of these machines are insane. My interest was the 950 adventure bike. Stainless steel frame, over 100 bhp, lighter than a KTM 650, electric start, 60mpg, programmable EFI, 6 speed box. To most this will mean nothing, but to a few these numbers will make the world a different place.
After an hour or so I was lost for words. This was just too good to be real. I test rode the 950. My first time on a motocross track, and on a 100 bhp dirt bike. It was unreal. I came off twice in the first half lap, but the experience was just incredible.
I'm still limping a bit from the second off, but I can't get these damn bikes out of my head. What can I do, do make this part of my life?
The above right photo is the 950 that I took around the track. The photo to the left is a prototype bike they are developing for more difficult off road scenarios. Snow, forestry and fire services. There is also a single ski that can be used to replace the front wheel.
The experience of riding the 950 was amazing. I recently had the pleasure of riding a KTM 950 super enduro, which at the time felt like a pretty new concept bike for me. Like a genuine oversized dirt bike. Nothing like these GS bikes, or any of the larger dual sport bikes that look the right style but just aren't made for the rough stuff. I love the idea, something that can do long distance, high speed, but still retains that agility of a true off road bike design.
Well the KTM was certainly interesting, but I can't see it competing against this at all.
The 950 weighs so little I can't see how it's even possible. It gets incredible fuel economy, the oil change interval is 5,000 miles. Now that is astonishing.
It can be tuned for anywhere between 88 and 128 BHP. This can be programmed, and there is presumably potential for a user selection that can be changed on the fly. In a similar manor to some of the KTM bikes. I was told that tuning it to less than 100 BHP makes it last a long long time, over that it's getting pretty highly strung and needs a bit more care.
There are very few things I'd like more, than to test this bike on a real overland trip.
There were bikes on display inside. The second image above is a bike that was made for Chase, a partner in the US Highway company. He is a very similar height to me, and sitting on this bike it did feel custom set up for my dimensions. Very few bikes I ride have bars that are high enough.
The next couple of photos show the Ohlins 2 wheel drive kit fitted to the Highland 507 motocrosser. Power is slaved off the counter shaft, and power is supplied only when the rear wheel starts to lose traction. I'm told it makes a night and day difference.
The second photo above is the 950 in Urban Assault guise. The third is the Street Tracker version of the 950.
The original plan to come here to US Highland, was to meet Craig, of CJ Designs. I am in the early stages of setting up a business in the UK to supply adventure/overland equipment, and I will be stocking Craig's products. We arranged to meet here and talk business.
Needless to say Craig was also quite taken with the bikes. He currently rides a highly modified KTM 950 adventure, and has made countless billet aluminum parts for this bike. He's no armchair rider either, and has put over 60,000 miles on the bike.