Like any one of the songs from the iconic American rock band, The Eagles, that played from the in-faring compact-disc player as I rumbled up California’s Hwy 1, a Harley exemplifies something uniquely American. Not only is an image of America tied to a Harley, the idea of Freedom, the unique freedom found only on a motorcycle, is inexorably linked to the image of a V-Twin cruiser.
I can’t recount how many times I’ve ridden any other brand of cruiser and been asked by non-enthusiasts, “That thing a Harley?” The concept of motorcycles or motorcycling is largely, and likely forever, tied to Harley-Davidson.
It was time for me to get my piece of the American motorcycling dream (albeit a short dream), and so I set off for a long weekender on the Street Glide.
Being a new-for-‘09 model, we now know that as a touring model the Street Glide, along with the other eight machines in the FL line, gets the much improved chassis, new two-into-one exhaust and new wheels that carry a new dual-compound (rear only) Dunlop tire - developed exclusively for H-D touring sleds.
No longer just a collection of hand-welded steel tubes, the new two-piece frame is now robotically-welded and made from various investment cast, forged and stamped pieces. Total parts count for the new frame numbers 40 pieces; a big reduction from the 90 pieces that made up the previous frame. Also, the swingarm is slightly wider and more rigid.
What I experienced during my short ride time at the new model intro for these bikes in mid-summer was only reinforced by my extended ride on this Glide. This new chassis is very stable compared to the previous frame; no more vagueness or flexi feeling. It instills confidence in the rider that the bike will continue to track through a turn or stay rock-steady in a straight line at wacky-fast speeds.
Equally as notable is how agile and purposeful handling can be. For such a hefty bike (810 lbs.) it is surprisingly nimble at very low speeds when, say, picking your way through a crowded gas station. With only a couple of miles per hour showing on the speedo, the bike’s weight becomes largely transparent, and it’s easily flicked left to right, or held at a standstill without putting a foot down.
Though the engine is unchanged for 2009 I was still impressed with how much linear power, especially above 4, 000 rpm, the 1,584cc Twin Cam 96 mill produces. Even in sixth gear, the bike pulls with great strength all the way to 90 mph and beyond. Impressive, considering claimed peak torque of 92.6 ft-lbs comes in at 3,500 rpm. Cruising down the interstate or a lonely back road at well beyond legal speeds is child’s play for this minimalist bagger. Fueling was flawless, and response very good from the throttle-by-wire system.
My test unit came with the very capable Brembo ABS front brakes that stop the bike with good feel and power. This is one of the best improvements Harley has made recently, and it’s my hope we’ll see this simple but effective system on all H-Ds one day. I don’t think I’d own a touring machine without ABS.
Ergonomically, the Glide is essentially a perfect fit for my 5-foot-8-inch frame. The reach from seat to bars and seat to floorboards is spot-on. The saddle is slightly sculpted and was comfy for each 400 mile leg of my journey. About the only check mark in the negative column I would give the bike is for the excessive wind buffeting I experienced from the handlebar-mounted Bat Wing fairing. Though the fairing is a styling coup, the diminutive windscreen may give you the same buffeting.
Instrumentation is classic with numerous chrome-ringed analog gauges that add to the overall classic appearance of this model. Inlaid in the speedo is a small but informative LCD display that offers odometer, dual trip meters and a low-fuel countdown. Speaking of fuel, despite my constant flogging of the right twistgrip, the bike achieved an observed 36 mpg from the 6-gallon fuel tank.
Finally, my ride also came with optional cruise control and premium Harman/Kardon sound system. Not once during all my miles did the Eagles Greatest Hits ever skip a beat as I daydreamed of being a Desperado. And only once did the cruise control disengage. But this had everything to do with the fact that I went sailing over a large bump at over 80 mph. Not the bike’s fault!
Near-perfection in a not-so-perfect world
There just isn’t too much for me to find fault with on the 2009 Street Glide. Though, if I could have a perfect world, I’d love to see this (and most all other Harleys) shed some serious pounds. I have to believe in this day and age that new technology materials can be used to lighten a bike without raising the retail. Also, some type of handle on the hardbags would be a nice addition, though not at the cost of screwing up their clean look.
The Dzus fasteners that keep the bags attached are secure and easy enough to remove, but I’d like to be able to carry the whole bag off to the hotel room with ease. Yes, I know hardbag liners are available, but sometimes I’d need to use every conceivable ounce of storage in those bags, sans liners.
More than all the useful power from the V-Twin, or how well the ABS-equipped brakes perform, or the competency of the new frame, more than all of that, to me, the Street Glide in the metallic-flake Black Pearl color scheme simply looks like the American icon that its namesake says it is.
This bike cuts a sexy but tough profile. It looks the definition of cool parked on its sidestand, the sun gleaming off just enough chrome parts to catch your eye. The whole machine seems like one fluid piece thanks to brilliant styling use of single-color paint that includes color-matched hardbag latches.
If I had the spare $21,089 (includes options, CA emissions and freight) to acquire this sexy beast, I’d take the plunge. I like it that much.
|The Perfect Bike For...|
|Someone who wants a minimalist touring rig that’s comfortable, capable, attractive and all-American.|