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If you ask anyone from the 80s or 90s about their aspirational first motorcycle, chances are they’d say it was a Royal Enfield. ‘A ride fit for a king,’ my father’s words as he went on to purchase his first Royal Enfield, a Thunderbird 500, in 2012. This, I say after years of the man’s struggle to fulfil his biking dream.

As fate would have it, I too had a similar dream, the only difference being that my dream originated across the Pacific Ocean.

So how did this dream begin? By being born to parents who loved cinema. Movie nights were always a flux of transatlantic awe and whisks of Indian heritage. My true love came from just one scene, in which a certain android-humanoid rode a 1991 Harley Davidson Fat Boy to keep a certain someone safe with such finesse and presence that it cannot be explained in mere words.

Now I wanted a piece of that, and it would take me nearly two decades to get to it. A smaller piece in comparison to what I had imagined for myself, yet a piece of the legacy. I got the Harley-Davidson X440.

Controversial? Among the Harley-Davidson riders group, definitely. Many HOG rides often express their feelings of… erm wonder and amazement, that Harley took such a decision, while others remained sceptical of Hero’s involvement in an otherwise purely Harley game.

Many purists often dish out on the bike, calling it a mere facsimile of the real deal, yet when they ride the X440, they somehow feel otherwise. My interest in challenging pre-set notions has always been interesting and in the case of the X440, quite successful too.

So why the X440? It made sense! Let’s cover the basics: powered by its single-cylinder 440cc air and oil-cooled engine, it produces a modest 27 bhp at 6000 rpm and peak torque of 3.87 kgm at 4000 rpm, mated to a six-speed gearbox. Coming from a background of sub-500cc bikes, buying an X440 was not the original plan.

I had my eyes on a 2012 Iron 883, but as my luck would have it, someone else got their hands on it. I was considering the X440 due to budgetary constraints. Mind you, I was looking at other bikes in the sub-Rs 4 lakh category too. This was until I sat on the X440 and took it for a spin.

Was it fast? No. Torquey? Yes, but not much. Was it heavy? Absolutely. And the instrument cluster? I’ve got a slew of complaints, but riding it made me feel like a character riding to victory, wearing the largest plot armour. It made me feel part of that ‘Harley’ legacy.

I must admit the first few weeks of my ownership were bliss, ‘I have a Harley,’ I told my friends, who at this point would rather not see me at all than see me with this beaut. As the weeks went by, I understood the bike’s real charm on a 400 km one-way journey. It is a cruiser! In every sense of the word and it gets the job done!

The bike remains stable at 110 kph, it does not make you worry nor does it care for any other distractions on the road. It remains planted unless you decide otherwise. Make no mistake, this machine can tour, beating some of its counterparts.

The real character of this machine was tested when the ride entered the Nilgiris. I firmly believed the heavy Harley would be a complete slouch, yet it held itself to a very high standard. Twists and turns were fun and engaging, but the Harley requires effort!

Every movement you do on this bike requires effort, in some cases, excess thereof. The brakes are not as sharp as I would want them to be, but while they do the job, they can be so much better. During nights, the LED headlights lit the road nearly as if it was day, joyful in an otherwise pitch-dark hill. And, how can we forget that bassy meaty exhaust? It is not some Iron 883 with the screaming eagle but, in the 400cc segment, it is the next best thing.

In the city, its flaws emerge clearer than the light of the morning sun. You feel the Harley’s weight at lower speeds when weaving through bumper-to-bumper traffic. The torque makes up for this by allowing quick getaways from any heavy congestion. That is not enough; while I never felt any heating, the riders I meet on weekends complain quite excessively about it. Moving the bike around while stationary is another hassle without the lack of grip points to move the bike properly. This will also hamper touring enthusiasts as easy mounting points on this bike are virtually non-existent.

The seating is plenty, yet the lack of proper back-seat support until recently discouraged many riders (including me) from taking a pillion. Another bone I often pick with Harley is the Harley-Davidson app; a prized USP of this bike refuses to work at all, which is something that Hero claims to have been working on for months. The app will shut off randomly, send false notifications of accidents and even botch up riding data. Regrettably, and if this bike is not what it is mechanically, most would have returned their machines by now. A strong statement and yet, I am one such person.

Additionally, the instrument cluster is small and under direct sunlight is rendered unreadable. Harley’s circular dial is iconic; I wonder why they did not take it forward.


If we go into after-sales, one word would be challenging. To start, the touring seat is a must, the stock seat lacks the support and the firmness for long-distance or one-day rides. The guards are quite solid; while they do add weight, they do not come in your way when riding through tight areas. The bike is lovely, but the logistics behind it are a story entirely.

This, coupled with certain Hero Premia outlets unable to render proper support, from lack of parts or expertise, to lack of authorisation to work on the bike. The journey to procure this bike is ecstatic and after doing so, questioning. Ideally, the nearest Harley service outlet remains the best for any work on your bike, which lucky for me is a hop away.

It is undoubtedly clear that I have issues with the bike and who does not with their bike? However, I stand by my statement, that this bike is a lovely beauty. She roars, runs and maintains herself at a high standard.

Is this bike my dream come true, at least partially? Indeed it is; it’s a Harley! It embodies that torquey rogue nature that I feel comes associated with one. It catches attention with its kerb appeal and it is a good-looking bike for the most part. However, people will disagree on the tail gap and the rear end, the wires, welding patches, the smaller engine and even the lack of an extra cylinder. To them, I say, you are right, completely right. These are my complaints too. Why didn’t Harley pay more attention? And yet maybe, just maybe, a Harley is a little bit more (and less) than a twin-cylinder. With that, I rest my case.