Since 1941, large-framed Harleys receive the storied “FL” designation, signifying overhead-valve Big Twin engines with wide front tires and long-distance capabilities. With the exception of some Softail models, today it’s the Touring line of Harley-Davidson that live up to the big and plush FL designation.
That “deluxe” reputation really got rolling in MY1949 when the FL was Harley’s first recipient of hydraulically damped telescopic forks and was bestowed with the moniker Hydra-Glide.
“Easier if you had asked me, ‘What’s your favorite date of all time?’” veteran moto-journalist Reg Kittrelle laughs when asked about his favorite Harley-Davidson. “My first thought was a 1987 FXRC, as it was my first Harley and a bit of a stunner, looks-wise.” However, being a journalist Reg is inclined toward objectivity, so he does his best to leave sentimentality out of the equation and gives the nod to the 1949 Hydra-Glide FL. “To me, this model is a bridge from the old to the new…I prefer the looks of the older Knucklehead FLs, [but] the hydraulic forks of ’49 ushered in a new era for Harley.”
In 1958, the FL received a new frame with a swingarm and a pair of coil-over shocks – the first Big Twin to feature a fully suspended chassis. The Hydra-Glide was renamed the Duo-Glide.
Jason Fogelson, automotive contributor to Forbes and Motorcycle Enthusiast for Best Western’s travel blog You Must Be Trippin’, is a fan of the entire FL line of touring bikes but lists the 1958 Duo-Glide as a personal favorite. “I think it’s the sweet spot – modern chassis and suspension (relatively) with classic looks, all-day comfort and a simple, (sometimes) reliable Panhead engine,” Fogelson says.
(For the record, in 1965 the Duo-Glide received an electric starter and was renamed the “Electra Glide.” But no one voted for one of those.)