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Common Tread

I got my nephew a Harley-Davidson for Christmas

Feb 05, 2020

I recently brought home my first Harley-Davidson and parked it at my parents' house, right under the Christmas tree. 

My youngest brother, Jimmy, was the first of my folks' three boys to have a kid. Shortly before Christmas three years ago, he and his wife, Samantha, ushered my nephew, Luke, into the world. They hadn’t left the hospital before I started plotting to get young Luke onto two wheels.

I started him on a Fisher-Price Kawasaki tricycle when he turned two. But when my dear Uncle Bob upped the ante with a Power Wheels Arctic Cat, I knew I was going to have to get serious. So for a combination gift for Luke’s third birthday and fourth Christmas this past year, I convinced Santa Claus to bring him a Harley-Davidson IRONe electric balance bike.

The Harley-Davidson IRONe

Around the same time Luke was born I started following StaCyc on Instagram. In 2016, the company introduced an innovative battery-powered 20V electric balance bike. I remember seeing their booth at IMS in Long Beach, California, that fall and watching rows of smiling kids waiting in line for a chance to ride the pint-sized bikes around on a makeshift track. It was clear StaCyc was on to something. The executives at Harley-Davidson obviously felt the same way because three years later they acquired the company.

Harley Davidson IRONe12
The new Harley-Davidson IRONe12. Harley-Davidson photo.

For a manufacturer looking for a way to get younger riders into the sport of motorcycling, this was a genius move on Harley-Davidson’s part. Not only does it get kids into the idea of powered two-wheeled transportation at a young age, it also exposes their parents to the Harley brand.

It seems to have benefited StaCyc, as well. In addition to being sold in Harley-Davidson dealers across the country, distribution has expanded to non-Harley powersports dealers, as well as high-end bicycle shops. I am sure this will help to pave the way for all of those electric bicycles Harley has on the horizon. The bikes sold through a Harley dealer get a special Harley-Davidson graphics kit while the ones sold outside of their dealer network retain StaCyc branding.

Harley Davidson IRONe12
You can test the charge on the battery by twisting the grip about five percent. The lights also let you know what power setting you're in. Make sure to start out on the "red" setting. Photo by Spurgeon Dunbar.

There are two models available: a 12-inch bike for younger riders and a 16-inch option for older kids. Both models feature a motorcycle-style twist grip throttle at the right hand and a rear brake lever at the left. They’re powered by a rechargeable battery.

The Harley-Davidson IRONe12 (12EDrive on StaCyc’s site) bike is aimed at riders who are ages three to five, under 75 pounds and with a 14- to 20-inch inseam. There are three power settings that range between five and nine mph. It weighs in at 17 pounds with 12-inch wheels and an adjustable seat height up to 13 inches.

For older riders between the ages of five to seven there is the IRONe16 (16eDrive on StaCyc’s site). The weight limit remains the same at 75 pounds, but the bike itself is a bit larger, making it ideal for kids with a 18- to 24-inch inseam. It has three power settings, as well, but the top speed is 11 mph. It rides on 16-inch tires, has an adjustable seat height up to 17 inches, and weighs 19 pounds.

Spurgeon Dunbar Harley Davidson IRONe12
Based on Luke's size and age, I went with the smaller Harley-Davidson IRONe12. Photo by Barbara Jo Dunbar.

MSRP on the IRONe12 is $649 and the IRONe16 is $699. Prices are the same for the StaCyc and Harley-Davidson-branded versions. Since Luke had just turned three and was weighing in a little over 30 pounds, I opted for the IRONe12.

‘Twas the night before Christmas…

Jimmy and Sam weren’t bringing Luke up to my parents' house until Christmas Day, which meant I had Christmas Eve to put together the bike. My middle brother, Josh, and his wife, Emily, were with me in the living room when I unpacked the box and grabbed a few hand tools from my dad’s tool box. I offered to let Josh in on the gift-giving, but he just took a swig from his beer and laughed. “No way, man. Jimmy’s gonna kill you.”

Joshua had a point. Neither of my brothers ride motorcycles and the few times I brought up buying Luke a dirt bike, Jimmy just told me to have my own kid. But in my defense, the Harley IRONe12 isn’t technically a motorcycle. Well, it has a motor… and it is a cycle. But I had been sending Samantha videos and pictures from StaCyc’s Instagram page pretty much since she left the hospital with Luke and she never told me I couldn’t get Luke one.

“He’ll be fine with it, Josh,” I argued. Besides, I thought to myself, it is too late to worry about that now.

Spurgeon Dunbar and the Harley Davidson IRONe12
Assembly was quick and easy. Photo by Barbara Jo Dunbar.

The instructions were super easy and it took me about 20 minutes to put the whole thing together. Assembly consists of installing the front wheel and handlebars. Harley even provides the appropriate torque settings. The hardest part of the assembly process was getting air into the rear tire. The straight valve stem was right up against the rear hub and it was impossible to inflate the tire using a standard bicycle pump.

Joshua Dunbar and Spurgeon Dunbar Harley Davidson IRONe12
Josh testing the seating position on the new Harley-Davidson IRONe12. Photo by Barbara Jo Dunbar.

Joshua, for all of his doubts about my plan, had no problem popping the battery on to “see what the power was like.” As he is well over the 75-pound limit, I politely asked that he not put his full weight on the bike. Even in the lowest power setting, the bike had some pep. “Yeah, he’s definitely gonna kill you,” he said leaning the bike against the couch.

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night…

Christmas morning at the Dunbar house is quite the affair. Mom still comes down early to put the presents under the tree before we all wake up. We have a tradition of cookies and coffee for an early morning snack followed by shrimp cocktail and champagne after the presents are opened. Mom and I were in the kitchen boiling shrimp when Luke came bursting through the door.

After the chaos of hugs, kisses, and hellos settled down, we made our way into the living room and each took turns handing out our presents to one another. The Harley was hiding upstairs in a closet under a blanket.

Now, at this point, Josh’s words from the night before were starting to make me a bit nervous. What if Jimmy or Sam got legitimately angry? I wouldn’t be able to just take this present away from a three-year-old. He’d cry and then everyone would get mad at me. As I had no desire to go down as the Grinch, I finally gave in and pulled my brother and sister-in-law aside.

The conversation which followed went something like this:

“So, I bought Luke a present. It’s a battery-powered balance bike, but you don’t have to use the battery. He can just push it with his feet. It’s not a real motorcycle. I even got him a new helmet, a Bell full-face mountain bike helmet. I just don’t want you to be mad.”

“Spurgeon,” Samantha responded without hesitation, “you have been sending me pictures and videos of this bike for years. Then you texted me and asked me how much my son weighed. When I asked why, you said you had been reading an article on childhood obesity and were just checking up on him. You really aren’t that smooth. We knew this was coming eventually.”

Suck it, Joshua.

Spurgeon and Luke Dunbar Bell Helmet
Luke didn't realize that a new helmet meant he had a new "motorcycle" on the way. Photo by Barbara Jo Dunbar.

I gave Luke the helmet first, a Bell Sanction mountain bike helmet. I point this out in case there are any parents out there considering the IRONe12 for one of your kids. Because it’s a mountain bike helmet, it’s significantly lighter than a dirt bike helmet. Also, it’s sized extremely small. I got Luke a medium, which ended up being one size too big. I exchanged it for a small and it fits him perfectly.

Luke liked the helmet but didn’t think it was anything more than a new helmet for his Power Wheels. While the rest of my family opened their remaining presents, I snuck upstairs and brought the bike down, blanket draped over it, and hid it behind my dad’s recliner without Luke noticing. Once all the presents were open I called attention to the blanket, asking Luke what he thought was underneath.

Luke Dunbar Harley Davidson IRONe12
Luke, right before he rode into the island in my parents' kitchen. Always wear your helmet, kids. Photo by Spurgeon Dunbar.

At first he struggled to get the blanket unraveled, but with the help of his dad, he eventually succeeded. The reaction couldn’t have been better. He didn’t refer to it as a bicycle, but rather shouted out, “It’s a motorcycle!! A motorcycle! Is it mine? Is it?”


After assuring him it was in fact his, he immediately wanted to ride it. He made it about 10 feet into my parents' kitchen before crashing it into the island, getting us all kicked out into the back yard. Luckily, it was sunny and about 50 degrees. I couldn’t have planned a nicer Christmas Day for gifting a “motorcycle” to my nephew.

Spurgeon Dunbar and Jimmy Dunbar Harley Davidson IRONe12
There is definitely a learning curve for kids with no previous experience on two wheels. But I was impressed with how quickly Luke picked up on it. Photo by Barbara Jo Dunbar.

Jimmy and I took turns running behind Luke and holding him up. At first he wanted us to hold him up completely which proved to be quite the workout. Even in the lowest power setting this thing was still scooting around at five mph, which meant we were running around chasing him while bent over at full crouch. It was hell on the ol’ lower back.

Luke Dunbar Harley Davidson IRONe12
Unfortunately, Luke takes after me with his ability to crash a motorcycle. Photo by Barbara Jo Dunbar.

There is definitely a learning curve, if your kid has never been on a balance bike before, but by the time we were ready to go inside he was getting the hang of it. He was walking it back and forth across the yard modulating the throttle on and off with his right hand.

Waking up the day after Christmas, the first thing he wanted to do was head out and play on his motorcycle. After a few laps back and forth through the back yard with me holding him, I got him to follow me on his own. I would walk backwards in front of him and we did laps around the house. The battery lasted a lot longer than Uncle Spurg did, chasing Luke up and down the yard hunched and over holding him up.

Spurgeon Dunbar and Luke Dunbar with the Harley Davidson IRONe12
Luke was extremely excited for his new ride. Photo by Barbara Jo Dunbar.

Overall, I would say it was a pretty damn successful Christmas gift. I would have easily argued that I had given the best present of the year had Josh and Emily not pulled out a wild card. Turns out Emily is pregnant and I’m going to be an uncle all over again. Even a Harley-Davidson under the tree can’t compete with that!

As we were all packing up and leaving, Josh pulled me aside.

“You better damn well plan on getting my kid one of those in a few years, buddy! Or maybe we can go in together and get Luke the bigger one and just pass that one down?”

It looks like that little Harley-Davidson has a big future in my family.