Ridng Shot: Jeff G. Holt
Sitting here at my trusty Mac I can't help but feel nostalgic while thinking about Harley-Davidson's Street Glide. The FLHX has been one of the MoCo's more popular Touring rigs since it's debut in the Summer of '05. You see, I had the honor of being the first person outside the inner circle of H-D to ever see or ride the custom Electra Glide.
It was springtime in Milwaukee and the Harley brass invited me to have a meet and greet with Willie G. and the engineering team behind what I was to find out a new model for 2006. Willie had his design hand hard at work on the new Street Glide. This essentially amounted to a more streamlined, modern-looking 'Glide, that reflected trends seen on the street. One of the most striking features of the bike was the lack of the traditional spotlights that normally sit under the Batwing fairing. In fact, the secret H-D code word for the FLHX project was 'No Spots." The cover feature with the new Touring bike and Willie G in the October 2005 Hot Bike magazine was even named No Spots. His vision was to produce a bike where "comfort and custom can cohabitate." He was influenced by the minimalist, low-slung bikes he was seeing popping up around the country.
It's hard to believe that four years have passed since the introduction of the FLHX. That original bike I rode was powered by the Twin Cam 88 with a five-speed tranny, came standard with a carburetor, a five-gallon fuel tank, and dual 16-inch wheels. Our '09 comes from the factory with the Twin Cam 96 motor, linked to a six-speed Cruisemax tranny, a six-gallon gas tank, sports a 17-inch front hoop, and fuel injection is the only way to get one.
From the looks department, the pre-'09s are pretty similar to the newest offering. However, unless you are a newcomer here or live under a mossy oak, you'd have already known how much time and effort H-D went through to redesign the '09 bagger chassis from the ground up. Among the revolutionary changes surrounding the gemstone of a motor is the two-piece frame and massive swingarm. Some immediate results obtained with the new frame are increased load carrying capacity, strength, and the most important from our perspective: ride stability. What this means to a rider is being able to safely carry more weight and under closed course, controlled, supervised conditions, means more speed. The swingarm was stiffened, lengthened, and widened-the latter attribute accommodating a newly developed 180mm Dunlop tire. Speaking of tires, both of them were developed with Dunlop engineers specifically for H-D Touring bikes.
As the Street Glide was originally inspired by what customizers were already doing to their FLs, this current steed follows another trend: wide rear tires. The change from the previous 140mm to the current 180 rear skin adds 1.6 inches of width to the rear tire. Plus it's a low profile variety with a 65 aspect ratio (meaning less sidewall between the rim and the ground). To accommodate that extra rubber, the rear fender was widened by 1/2-inch. To clean up the already sleek likes of the FLHX rear section, the hoop above the fender has been eliminated. This was made possible by strengthening the area behind the saddlebags, which now hold an official 5 pounds extra each.