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2010 Confederate Black Flag Review

Uncompromised design, unflinching price tag

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating


Confederate Black Flag

The Confederate Black Flag.

Photo © Basem Wasef
Most motorcycles follow a common design formula, a visual flow defined by features like bodywork, an engine, and wheels.

Throwing that formula out the window is Confederate's P120 Fighter, a limited production bike that uses aircraft grade aluminum, novel construction, and unusual proportions that merge to create a wildly styled ride that looks like nothing else on the road.

With production limited to 50 units, the $72,000 P120 Fighter is rare. But even harder to come by is the $80,000 Black Flag, 13 of which are slated for production.

>>Click here for a 2010 Confederate Black Flag Photo Gallery<<

The Goods: A blacked-out vision of carbon fiber and aircraft-grade aluminum

A fleeting glance at the Confederate Black Flag reveals a prelavance of black anodized, aircraft grade aluminum, exposed mechanical bits, and stray uses of matte black carbon fiber. But the bike's most striking visual characteristic is its tubular, fuel and oil-filled frame that runs a downward sloping line that's picked up by the aluminum swingarm. Led by a Girder-style front suspension, this package is both retro and futuristic, merging an air-cooled 120 cubic inch (1,966 cc) JIMS v-twin to a visible primary drive and a 5-speed transmission with final chain drive.

Carbon fiber wheels wrapped in carbon fenders are slowed by industrial strength, 4-piston carbon/ceramic/aluminum Brembos up front, with a rear rim wrapped in thick, 240mm rubber. Though many of the Black Flag's components are proprietary, the suspension is sourced and tuned by Race Tech, with the rear monoshock offering low and high speed compression adjustability.

Novel design extends beyond the Black Flag's unusual silhouette; not only does the frame hide four gallons of fuel, it also displays the bike's 4.5 quarts of oil in a window that sits just ahead of the internal gas tank.

On an aesthetic note, the Black Flag's brake light and turn signals tuck discreetly into the bike's minimalistic body, and even the kickstand is artfully welded into an unusual form. Is this handmade exotic a pavement scorcher or a lazy boulevard cruiser? I spent a day behind the handlebars to find out.

Swing a Leg Over: Prepare for the unexpected

Confederate Black Flag Cockpit

The view from the Black Flag's saddle is all about low profile, blacked-out minimalism.

Photo © Basem Wasef
It was difficult to know what to expect when I received delivery of my Confederate Black Flag loaner; after all, this bike looks more like Darth Vader's personal power cruiser than anything I've ever swung a leg over, and that includes the six scariest motorcycles I've ridden.

The Black Flag's startup ritual is nearly as alien as the bike's looks: after a top-off with racing fuel, I was instructed to push the decompression buttons atop the cylinder heads, turn the key to the ignition position (one click to the right), switch on the fuel pump (using the toggle switch on the right hand controls), make sure the bike is in neutral (since there's no interlock mechanism to ensure it won't start in gear), and fire up the carbureted twin by hitting the starter button and gassing it just a bit-- at which point it's safe to switch on the lights by turning the key again. Forget to press the valves, and the engine's internal components won't build enough momentum to overcome its 12:1 compression ratio. Crank too long, and you could kill the battery. No pressure at all, really.

Once the big twin kicks to life, the blast of hot air spitting from the downward facing exhaust tips becomes perceptible at your left boot, and the roar from the unbaffled exhaust (as ordered by this bike's future owner) is a seismic, wake-the-dead flavor of loud.

It's best to gingerly settle your butt onto the tiny seat and find your most comfortable spot while you commit those unlabled right and left controls to memory, since commanding this 460 lb animal demands every ounce of your attention.

On the Road: Wallflowers need not apply

There's nothing but attitude during your first few moments aboard the Confederate Black Flag: leaned back in the barely-there seat and stretched out to reach the wide apart handlebars, this bike feels potent and alive, like a purring cat ready to bite back if you underestimate its abilities. But as you get a sense of its power delivery (strong on the bottom, progressing smoothly to a fuel cutoff at roughly 5,900 rpm), the stiff clutch (which is actually rather progressive), and the firm ride, this motorcycle's 160 rear horsepower and extreme ergonomics are actually rather manageable. The counterbalanced engine vibrates enough to let you know it's working, but never nearly as much as a typical Harley v-twin. Likewise, there's a bit of a kick required from first to second, but the Confederate-built gearbox is surprisingly user-friendly. As evidenced by a blast up the Angeles National Forest's canyon roads, turn in is slow but secure, and the bike tracks through turns accurately, especially considering its wide rear tire.

However, there are also plenty of feral edges to the Black Flag's personality, including engine oil which sloshes in a frame window, front suspension components which visibly bounce up and down in accordance to road irregularity, and-- last but not least-- an exposed primary belt which tried to eat my jeans. No joke.

As unrefined as the Black Flag may seem (and as indisputably uncomfortable as its vestigial saddle is), this bike's personality comes across so strongly that you'll either fall in lust, or hate it so much you'll never want to set eyes on it again.

Conclusion: A bike not intended most (sane or reasonable) riders

Confederate Black Flag

The Black Flag in action.

Photo © Paul Adams
So, what did I think of the Black Flag after putting 100 miles on the clock one sunny September afternoon? In short, I walked away with a sense of shock and awe; this blacked-out bike was unlike anything I had ever ridden. Perhaps the best summation of the bike was provided by my wife, who took a look at the Confederate and said, "Most motorcycles seem like a compilation of compromises, but this one's different."

Unlike by-the-books power cruisers, the Confederate Black Flag takes a single-minded approach to design and executes it without taking any shortcuts. It's a potent performer with train-like acceleration, solid handling, and extremely effective brakes. It also harbors trying ergonomics, an exposed belt that's a menace to loose bits of clothing, and a cylinder head intent on frying the inside of your right thigh.

Most level headed motorcyclists will scoff at this high-priced, low production volume cruiser. But if you're looking for one of the most extreme (and expensive) motorcycles on the market, Confederate's Black Flag will fill a need few other bikes can satisfy.

>>Click here for a 2010 Confederate Black Flag Photo Gallery<<

Disclosure: A review motorcycle was provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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