Intrepid Steadfast custom wants to be seen, heard, touched, felt

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

At first glance, Intrepid Cycles' 2007 Steadfast looks like most other high-end hooligan customs. The

ProStreet Softail has the bee-stung back tire and taffy-pulled frame, the Baker transmission and Rivera primary drive, the check-me-out paint job and accept-no-substitutes S&S motor.

But take a closer look at the polished engine cases on this Temecula shop's custom, and you'll see a larger cam cover. That's because Intrepid's 111-inch V-twin S&S is a twin cam instead of the single cam Evo favored by most builders.

No one else is using this motor on a production custom. That's because no one else has endured the long and painful emissions certification processes for such a motor with the California Air Resources Board and the EPA.

The last thing any custom builder wants is to look up from the Humpty Dumpty parts on his floor and see a card-carrying CARB inspector. So Intrepid spent $50,000 and six months to certify the 4 1/8 -inch bore family of S&S twin cams -- not just the 111-inch block I was riding, but its 117- and 124-inch big brothers, which are available as upgrades.

Since the guys buying $40,000 customs usually end up nullifying their bikes' CARB-accepted emissions advantages and EPA-approved decibel ratings by swapping out the pipes for louder, more powerful and less environmentally friendly varieties, Intrepid's S&S certification ends up moot. But it's the 111-inch S&S twin cam that Intrepid's using as its calling card because it's a novelty in the crowded custom world. It's also a nod to Harley-Davidson, which adopted the twin cam in 2000.

What's different about this S&S is its size. It's a lot bigger than Harley's 96-incher. It's also equipped with Intelligent Spark Technology. Lift the La-Z-Boy seat and there's a gizmo that plugs into a computer, so riders can find out how many times the bike's been started, how many hours it's been run and anything else a nerd disguised with tattoos wants to know.

Anyone who's spent the better part of a year's paycheck on a custom power cruiser wants to go wild when he blasts away from the shop. Such behavior could return said rider to said shop earlier than expected since it runs the risk of wrecking the engine. That's why the Intelligent Spark Technology also limits revs for the first 24 hours the engine's run, restricting it to 4,200 rpm for the first eight hours, 5,200 for the next 16 and 6,250 rpm from that point on.

V-twins tend to vibrate like blenders, and the Steadfast was no exception. Especially at higher revs, the entire bike quivered, turning images from the small oval mirrors into smears and the grips and seat into a quivering mound of metal.

For a bike with a 3-inch stretch, 41-degree rake, 75-inch wheelbase and 300 mm rear tire, it handled better than the oil tanker I was expecting. The math on the Steadfast adds up to a straight-line bike, but turning corners didn't send me into oncoming traffic.

That gave me the confidence to take a detour from my trek up the coast and run it through the twisties of Topanga Canyon. It was one of the dumber ideas I've had in a long time.

Riding Topanga on the Steadfast is the only occasion I've ridden the canyons when I wasn't just relieved, but thankful, for the slow-poke cars in front of me, because I really needed to slow down and muscle through the corners. Carving canyons on the Steadfast was like using a butter knife to cut steak: It's the wrong tool for the job. It isn't what this bike is for, which is cruising the boulevard enjoying all the attention.

That attention comes in two forms: annoyed (as evidenced by car drivers rolling up their windows) and admiring (as shown by stares, whistles and compliments). Both are badges of honor in the custom world. Intrepid should be proud.

2007 Intrepid Cycles Steadfast

Base price: $36,800

Price as tested: $39,500

Powertrain: Air-cooled, S&S twin cam, 45-degree V-twin, six speed

Displacement: 111 inches, or 1891 cc

Bore x stroke: 4 1/8 in. by 4 1/8 in.

Seat height: 25 inches

Dry weight: 648 pounds

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