Smackdown in Chi-Town
Milwaukee Iron Comparo
The Street Bob is the latest model in the Dyna line, a line which started in 1991 with the black and orange FXDB Sturgis. The Dynas were created to replace the FXR line with bikes that looked more like the old four-speeds of the seventies. Unlike the FXR's, which had stiff, exposed, triangular frames, the Dynas were designed around a massive, rectangular backbone which left almost no frame showing. The frame was updated in 1996 then once again for 2006.
While mostly overshadowed in the public
The Street Bob takes the stiff Dyna frame and decorates it with a flat black paint job, ape hanger handlebars, a solo seat and couples it with a 6-speed transmission and mandatory fuel injection. The Street Bob is a story of two bikes really: the one you look at and the one you ride, the image and the reality. It exudes that post-WWII bobber look, but rides like a post-9/11 cruiser.
The Street Bob we look at emulates the days of old that harkens back to a hard starting, hard-tailed, vibrating mass that oiled the road and came home (if it got home) with a few less parts than it started with. The Street Bob you ride is a different animal. A punch of a button brings a fuel-injected mill to life. No kicking till you sweat blood and no warm-up necessary. You just ride. Your ass sits low, and with a nod to the past, your hands hang high. George and Gabe always thought that high 'ape hanger' type bars weren't a very good idea, and actually riding a bike with them only confirmed their suspicions. At every stop, whoever was riding the Bob said the same thing: "Dump these ape hangers for a set of drags on 3 inch risers and Bob would be the bomb."
To hammer home the point, George did a 100 mile, non-stop, slab blast back home from Peoria. He was hanging on for dear life at the high speeds, and at the end of the ride his arms felt much like Muhammad Ali's after throwing punches for 15 rounds with Joe Frazier. But after the feeling in your arms and hands returns, you notice there isn't any oil on your legs or the bike, all the parts are still there, there is still feeling in your backside, you didn't have to ride in the slow lane, and you didn't have to fill up twice in 100 miles. This ain't your daddy's bobber.
Handlebars aside, there's a lot to like here: solid power, decent range, comfort, and lots of style. The bike handles well and the suspension is surprisingly supple. The solo seat is the most comfortable in this test, while also being the most impractical. With the new six-speed transmission, running triple digits on the highway is a breeze for this bike. It's loafing at 75 in top gear and just asks for more. That's the most dramatic change in the Dyna's 16-year history; that sixth gear really opens this bike up. In 1999 the Twin Cam engine added an easy-revving feel to the bike, but the new top-gear ratio turns this bike into a true easy rider.
When the original Low Rider was introduced it was a carbureted, rigid-mounted four speed. It defined the '70s cruiser. Now as a fuel-injected, rubber-mounted six speed the Street Bob is a quintessentially 21st-century cruiser. If you want to own a cruiser that you can ride daily, with rock solid reliability, buy this bike.
|Gabe's Impressive Table of Impressions|
Styling/Build Quality: I love that flat-black look. Kudos to Harley for bucking the frilly paint-and-chrome look and making it junkyard-dog mean. It even has a crinkle-finish instrument panel on the tank. Despite the white-trash Krylon look, build quality is top-notch.
Ergos/Controls: The Good: midmount controls and a seat that feels good for 100 miles. The Bad: I think ape-hangers give apes a bad name. Even an Orangutan is smart enough to not make a perfectly good motorcycle unrideable by putting two-foot-high handlebars on it. They do keep your armpits dry, though. Also, the small saddle locks your ass into position more effectively than the Marquis de Sade's toilet seat, which means that second hundred miles will be spent in excruciating (or glorious, depending on your lifestyle) pain.
Motor/Transmission: Compared to the Sportster, the motor has lots of rich, meaty torque and delivers a very satisfying thumpy feel with a lack of annoying vibration. It's plenty fast, but the stupid handlebars kept me from either enjoying the speed potential or even really trying it out.
Handling: Aside from having a little less ground clearance, I think I could hang with a rider of equal skills on a Sportster with a Dyna. It turns easily and tracks through high-speed turns nicely.
Suspension/Ride Quality: Nice beefy front end, although the flex from the long rubber-mounted bars makes it hard to really feel. Drag bars are a must-have for this bike. The rear suspension feels a little better than the Sportster's, but it still lacks travel and damping.
Braking: Surprisingly powerful, considering it's a heavy bike with just a single disc. You still better use more than one finger and give it a good squeeze.
Observed fuel economy:Highway 44.33 mpg, City 36.07 mpg
Evo Don's last words: You should be able to peel off the silly brushed-metal "Harley-Davidson" badges stuck on the tank without any trouble, leaving the bike completely unadorned and looking a bit more like an authentic bobber.
|An all-Harley comparison? What ever will I wear? Something black surely.|
There's always room in the closet for a new leather jacket. The Independence Jacket (98125-05VM) was an easy choice. The build quality is top notch and Harley is once again making jackets in the USA. What does Korea know about the open road? It's a classic 50's style jacket, lightly insulated, with no silly belt. The coolest part of this jacket is the built-in H-D wing patch across the lower back. Having to sew your own patch on is a pain and introduces a nice pathway for rain. This jacket is a keeper.
A bit farther afield for the typical Harley rider is a full-face helmet. The new for '06 Thunder Road Helmet (97343-06V) seemed a likely candidate. Once again build quality is top notch, though this time it is from Korea. Noise is an issue with this helmet. Flip-up-style helmets are naturally prone to extra noise because of the all the added gaps, but the Thunder lid seemed a bit louder than most. Additionally, the padding softened noticeable after only a couple of days, so a helmet that started the week fitting perfectly ended the week feeling loose. Not good. Double check the fit if you buy this model. We'd recommend buying it a little bit tight.