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THROTTLE JOCKEY

Damien, dear, your devil ride awaits you

July 25, 2007|SUSAN CARPENTER

American IronHorse calls it the Slammer, but Demon Spawn would be just as appropriate. Overhauled for 2007 with modern technology and extreme styling that's angling for a fight, the Texas manufacturer's 9-year-old flagship is "The Omen" translated into a motorcycle.

The new split tank appears to have been hacked into shape with an ax, and the grips, foot pegs, gearshift and rear brake lever have all been sharpened into daggers. Then there's the Medusa's head of braided, stainless steel cables, which snake around the more radical 45-degree rake, and a monster of a 300 mm rear tire that's ready, willing and able to make road kill of anything that dares cross its path.

The first time I looked at the 2007 Slammer, it did exactly what it was designed to do: It intimidated. Dressed in black and chrome body armor, it's an outrageous 102 inches long with just four inches of ground clearance -- a dark and brooding sculpture that's equal parts show and go.

For all its gothic styling, the Slammer is decked out with the latest modern amenities that not only tame the beast but also justify the $38,995 price tag -- as much as such a price can be justified. In addition to electronic fuel injection and vibration-resistant LED turn signals, the bike's how-low-can-you-go profile is adjustable. Toggle the button downward, and the air-ride suspension drops within kissing distance of the asphalt; press it up, and the bike rises above whatever problems such low-riding may cause on the street.

A new three-phase charging system also juices the battery more quickly. That means that riders who unleash their inner Damiens infrequently can keep their batteries charged simply by turning the bike on for a while, rather than going to the hassle of actually riding it around.

Handling-wise, the bike is better balanced than it was previously. A two-inch stretch of the swing arm, coupled with a four-inch stretch of the top tube, distributes the weight more evenly over the length of the bike. At high speeds and in a straight line, that makes it easier to ride than its sneering specs might suggest. But at slower speeds and in turns, this 742-pound behemoth steers like a Viking ship at battle.

I can tell you that it definitely takes some getting used to. After a single hour of riding the bike, I dumped it.

I won't bore you with the details. Suffice to say, the station wagon in front me stopped short, I braked hard, the bike went down.

The 2007 Slammer is now using Performance Machine brakes, instead of its own proprietary components. I made the mistake of over-braking the front (which are six-piston-caliper dual discs) and under-braking the rear (a single disc).

I wasn't injured, aside from a damaged ego.

In addition to the Slammer's low-speed handling, I do have a few issues with the bike.

As much as I like the look of the new Venomous split tank, the end that connects to the seat was so pointy that it kept snagging my pants and eventually ripped a hole. Call me chaste, but I like to remain dressed while riding.

Then there are the mirrors. The Slammer's wouldn't stay put; I'd set them in place before I took off, but within a block's time the wind and vibration from this rigid-mount V-twin had spun them like plates on poles at a Chinese acrobatics show, making them entirely useless and stupid looking.

The gas light was even more worthless. While the rest of the lights on the digital dash are bright enough to see in the sun, the little yellow fuel pump icon was so faint I couldn't tell when it was on, except for the second or so when I was passing through the shade of an underpass.

susan.carpenter@latimes.com

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2007 American IronHorse Slammer

Base price: $38,995

Powertrain: Fuel-injected, air-cooled, S&S Super Sidewinder plus V-twin, overhead valves, six-speed

Displacement: 111 cubic inches, or 1,819 cc

Rake: 45 degrees (38-degree frame rake plus 7-degree triple tree)

Dry weight: 742 pounds

Seat height: 25.75 inches

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