It's been over a year that I've been riding around on our Pacific Blue FLHT Standard now, all the while modifying it out of Harley's Genuine Accessories catalog. In the end, we did some smart things, we did some ill-advised things, and it's taken its fair share of lumps in the process. Our mission with this project (code name: The Blue Whale) was to make a bike as sleek and stylish as the Street Glide yet retain more of the Standard's "tourability." The Whale went to Sturgis twice, once in 2006 in bone-stock form, fresh from the factory, then again last summer with everything you see here other than the fresh wheels, tires and rotors.
Since I'm passing the torch to new editor Courtney Halowell, my time with our Blue Whale will be limited, so we thought we'd catch you up with the progress of the bike so far and let you know how our modifications worked out. Some things were no-brainers, like the custom passing lamp bracket kit, which eliminated the light bar up front, along with the dual-bulb halogen headlamp: They look good, and they work, 'nuff said. Same goes for the 80-spoke wheels, wide whitewalls and floating rotors. The fresh rotors needed some break-in, and the whitewalls replaced some very shagged-out original tires (after its second Sturgis trip), but other than that, it, too, was purely a cosmetic change.
Speaking of shagged-out tires, the bike has been mostly trouble-free; we had killed the tread off of the OEM tires after about 8,000 miles and changed the oil twice. The modern H-D's 5,000-mile service interval makes for some long hauls between pit stops. Gone is the requirement that you do an oil change before heading home from Sturgis. We only had two mechanical malfunctions in the first 11,000 miles. The sixth gear and neutral indicator started to go bad whenever the bike was hot from the get-go. And more recently, on the high side of 10,000 miles, the starter began to back out of its housing, causing some starting troubles.
H-D Glides have a reputation for nervousness at high speed, and this one is no exception. In fact, Brian Klock rode it briefly one time and mentioned it was particularly "wiggly." And we pretty much trust the opinion of a guy who rides as many different FLs as that guy does. But, as we're sticking to parts in the Harley-Davidson catalog, there's nothing we can do about that.
The biggest trouble the bike had was completely someone else's fault. It got rear-ended on the way to Sturgis (in 2007), which smashed up the rear fender, the saddlebag supports and the right saddlebag. The only operating problem was that the rear fender rubbed on the wheel (which was fixed with a crescent wrench); everything else was cosmetic. We were planning to get one of H-D's paint sets to spruce it up anyway, and the crash just sped up our timeline a bit.
Like I stated before, we tried to have a very united plan for a smooth-riding custom, but a few of our "great ideas" weren't thought through all the way. We installed the combo of lowered shocks, fork springs and lowered seat to give the rider a more planted feeling on the bike, but for the cushiness and support of the stock seat we gave up and the reduced suspension travel, it was totally not worth it. If your days are no more than 350-400 miles, the low-profile seat was adequate, but for pounding out the long ride, it's not going to cut it. It also uses a goofy filler piece between the front and the dash panel. One smart thing that came from these changes was that we switched out the fork lowers for chrome ones while we were in there.
We went to a lower, lightly smoked shield to give better visibility and as a compromise between the low (yet buffety) Street Glide shield and a standard touring height one, but in reality, with the lowered seat, it was about the same height as the stocker from the rider's perspective.