Just about the end of each summer, but preceding Sturgis, Harley-Davidson unleashes the following year's models to the press and public. As much as the public looks forward to the new-model updates on the H-D website, we fortunate souls employed in the multinational motorcycle media get really jazzed. You see, Harley spends considerable time, effort, and money to make sure the 'journalists' get its message. Each year different locales are chosen throughout the US based on geographic beauty, convenience, and the quality of the roads and terrain for riding. We're put up in swanky hotels, dine on the finest cuisine, and responsibly imbibe the night away with the men and women behind the scenes at Harley.
We not only gather to hear presentations pertaining to the new models, but also get to ride them all. H-D brings out the whole lineup right down to the Sportsters. After arriving in Sonoma, California, in the famed Napa Valley region of the Golden State, we were bombarded by information from H-D's top engineers, PR gurus, and marketing team. It's a great chance to get the skinny on the how, what, and why of the new models directly from the minds who designed and created the machines. Many of these people love to ride and they showed it as we meandered and ripped our way through the coastal mountain range. We got the chance to put the bikes through their paces to actually feel what we were told.
New rear section with 180/65 rear meat
In case you haven't heard yet, H-D's '09 touring line received a completely new chassis. Instead of the incremental changes that went into the rubber-mounted chassis over the past 28 years, the Wizards of Wisconsin threw away just about everything except the motor and the newly designed (in 2008) 6-gallon fuel tank. Two and a half years ago the designers and engineers wiped the slate clean to bring to market a touring bike, while appearing similar to previous iterations, that addressed the needs of the modern rider. After extensive market research with real riders at rallies around the country, H-D applied what it heard to the redesign. The MOCO even weighed people with their loaded bikes to see just how much weight the average rider hauls. Things like riding habits and weight have an impact on how a bike handles, especially ones that start out on the better side of 800 pounds without a rider.
At the heart of the new baggers is a frame that's comprised of two separate parts: an engine cradle that surrounds the motor and a bolt-on rear section that supports the fender and seat. Along with the new frame, the swingarm has been lengthened, stiffened, and widened. Each part of the frame, suspension, and new motor mounts (particularly the lower front) was designed to work in conjunction with one another-an interdependent system, so to speak. The complex frame was developed with robotic welding in mind as well as better quality control of the final product. Controlling alignment and tolerances (through reduced welding distortion) is one reason to use a two-piece main frame. The other reasons are to easily respond to chassis changes (such as the Tri Glide triple-wheeler) in the future and to reduce costly repairs by allowing replacement of what's bent instead of the whole frame. The new frame is also made up of about 50 percent of the parts needed to build the old one. All in all there are more than 450 new parts that went into the chassis redesign. This single-spar, rigid backbone frame supports a 70-pound increase in load capacity that allows each of the saddlebags and Tour-Pak to hold 5 more pounds each.
Exhaust crossover goes underneath the transmission
New rear exhaust pipe helps keep occupants cool.