A Cage Fit for a Biker By John DiPietro A cage. That's what many motorcyclists call cars (or trucks or SUVs, for that matter). To a die-hard biker, driving a four-wheeler is so isolated from the great outdoors compared to riding with your knees in the breeze that it's like being in a cage. But when the iron horse must stay at home, those who ride Harleys typically prefer pickup trucks for their transportation. Well, at least in the old days they did, when the tough types who rode Milwaukee's V-twin thought cars were for sissies. How appropriate, then, that Ford should make an F-150 (the best-selling pickup for most of the last three decades) geared toward those devotees of the bar and shield. Starting with either a black or dark gray F-150 2WD SuperCrew, the Blue Oval boys add a head-turning combination of chrome grille inserts, bodyside stripes (that become discrete flames burning their way toward the tailgate) and big (20-inch) chrome wheels fitted with meaty low-profile (275/45) Goodyear Eagles. Dual chrome exhaust tips spew forth a throaty burble that may be too quiet for those bikers who like their pipes obnoxiously loud, but to our ears this truck sounds almost as good as a Mustang GT. Inside the pickup's short (5-foot 5-inch) bed is a protective rubber mat with the H-D logo. If all those boxes of parts you've bought to restore that 1962 Panhead won't fit in the bed, there's an optional "cargo cage" (how appropriate) that expands that bed length to seven feet. The cabin seats just four, presumably allowing for the driver, his buddy and their two "old ladies." The four bucket seats are covered in two-tone leather that's pleated old-school style. Harley badges that might double as belt buckles decorate the seats. And Willie G. Davidson himself would probably give the flame-embossed leather console covers a thumbs-up. Those big buckets are mighty comfy, too, with kudos going to them for their generous under-thigh and lumbar support. Other custom touches include aluminum pedals, leather door armrests and a numbered plaque in the center console. Though the dash is dressed up with titanium-colored gauge faces, it still looks like a couple of big blobs of plastic. Harley guys like chrome, so Ford covered the inside door handles, gearshift lever and seat adjustments in the shiny stuff. Before you assume that this rig is all show and no go, check out the powertrain specs. This year there's big news under that big hood. Instead of last year's standard 5.4-liter, 260-horse V8, there's a supercharged version that churns out 340 horsepower and a muscle car-like 425 pound-feet of torque that has no problem moving the 4,700-pound truck swiftly. Put your boot into it and the response is reminiscent of an old big block — insistent, effortless power down low that continues through the midrange. Unfortunately, the column-shifted four-speed automatic was sometimes a little slow to downshift if the throttle wasn't prodded aggressively. A console-mounted automatic with manual-shift capability would be more in keeping with the personality of this boulevard bruiser, but it's not available. Fuel mileage is, expectedly, dismal. Against EPA ratings of 12 mpg city/16 mpg highway, we averaged 12.7 mpg in combined driving. Like a custom Harley with a seriously built V-twin, this truck is aces at pulling hard in a straight line, and that tranny does a good job of changing up through the gears quickly. At the test track, this pickup put down some pretty impressive numbers; the 0-to-60-mph dash took only 6.3 seconds and the quarter-mile was a done deal in under 15 seconds (14.7 at 94 mph). To put this into perspective, consider that a 1969 Mustang Mach 1 with a 351 and a four-speed would probably end up looking at this F-150's rear end if they went at it from a stoplight. And the four-wheel discs with ABS are as adept at reducing speed as the blown V8 is at accruing it; the F-150 H-D hauled itself down from 60 mph in just 127 feet — a distance more akin to a sport sedan than a full-size crew-cab pickup. Unlike those bad-ass bikes mentioned earlier, the Harley SuperCrew doesn't have a disdain for twisty roads. To allow this incredible bulk to make time through the curves, the suspension is lowered and a larger front stabilizer bar is bolted in. Of course, those low-pro Goodyears help the cause by minimizing flexing sidewalls. The net effect is that this vehicle feels stable and flat through the corners, though the steering could use more road feel. And don't worry about the ride quality being similar to that of a hardtail chopper's; this F-150 absorbs bumps as well as those Crown Vicky cabs that get you home after a night of darts and beers with the boys. Some folks, OK, many folks, may question the need for a performance-oriented crew-cab pickup truck wearing flames inside and out. But it's like Harley enthusiasts say, "If you have to ask, you wouldn't understand."