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- Written by Carole Nash Editor
- Created: 24 April 2008
The long, low Harley cruiser is a classic way to travel on two wheels, especially in what is laughable referred to as summer in the UK.
With a 1340cc, or the later 1450cc V-twin, air cooled, four stroke engine thumping lazily away, and the softly sprung chassis floating a couple of inches above the tarmac, life gets real relaxing.
Maybe that´s the real benefit of Harley-Davidson ownership; a stress free motorcycle trip every time you ride, no matter what the traffic is doing ? Write to your MP now and demand a £10,000 Dyna Glide as part of your NHS therapy programme....it might work.
This is distinctly weird! I´m braking, changing down a gear and flicking the bike into a tricky left-hander on a twisty test-track. Just ahead of me the factory test-rider I´m following is already into the bend, his identical bike heeled well over, its fat, soft-compound rear tyre gripping hard as he winds on the power of its big V-twin engine.
Such a scene might seem normal if we were riding Ducati’s, Aprilia’s or even Hondas. But this winding test circuit is not in Italy or Japan but York, Pennsylvania, USA; and the leathers of the rider up ahead are in the unmistakable style made famous by the likes of Cal Rayborn, Jay Springsteen and Scott Parker. Strange as it seems, this is a Harley-Davidson launch.
Appropriately enough, the bike I´m riding is the first Harley of the 21st century - the 2000 model year Dyna Super Glide Sport. (For some reason, every year´s Harleys are launched the previous summer.) And it could just be an indication of things to come. Last year, when Harley introduced the Twin Cam 88 motor in seven of the bikes of its 1999 model range, much of the attention was focused on the Sport, which lived up to its name with a blend of engine and chassis performance not seen before from a Milwaukee cruiser.
The success since then of the Sport, particularly in export markets including Britain, has inspired Harley to take things a stage further just 12 months later. While the 1450cc Twin Cam motor is unchanged, the chassis has been uprated in a number of ways, all aimed at making the bike work better for those who like to ride hard and fast.
Suspension has received a major upgrade, courtesy of superior items from Showa of Japan. Up front the forks are now of a cartridge design, and are fully adjustable for preload plus compression and rebound damping. The fork legs also come lowered in the triple-clamps by 15mm to quicken the steering slightly. The shocks are new and more sophisticated, and have dual-rate springs plus the facility for rebound damping adjustment for the first time.
Arguably of even more importance is the uprated brake system, based around a new four-piston caliper from traditional supplier Hayes. Disc diameter remains at 292mm but the rotors are also new, and are shaped so that they can expand when hot without warping, despite not having floating mounts. The twin front and single rear discs and their calipers are identical.
Wheel diameters remain a rather unsporty 19in front, 16in rear - well, there are limits to how carried away Harley´s prepared to get - but they incorporate some important changes. Most obvious is to the rear tyre, which has grown to a respectably wide 150/80-section job from its puny 130/90 predecessor. There´s still a relatively skinny 100/90 up front, but both tyres are now soft-compound versions of Dunlop´s Elite.
The wheels themselves are 13-spoke alloys as standard fitment, although trad laced wheels will be available as a factory-installed option for those who want them. Both types come with Harley´s new sealed wheel bearing design, which is resistant to jet-washes and the like, and extends service intervals from the previous model´s 10,000 miles to ten times that figure.
Some other minor mods are worth mentioning. The drive belt had to be made thinner to allow clearance for the wider tyre, and the new one is a stronger and longer-lasting new carbon-fibre design, replacing the previous Kevlar. Harley says that each of the belt´s 12 carbon strands is capable of supporting the weight of an Electra Glide (which must be quite a spectacle).
The Sport also gets an uprated battery, revised electrical system with easy-access fusebox, and a sidestand that´s easier to flick down. But it´s the chassis changes that make this bike special, and which brought us to York, and the narrow, mile-long test circuit that sweeps up and down through the picturesque countryside outside Harley´s biggest factory, complete with occasional hazards in the shape of groundhogs, geese and even deer.
There to meet us and show us the way round was the big, bearded, typical Harley-riding figure of Steven "Posie" Pfaff, one of Harley´s three-strong Audit team, whose job it is to pull bikes from the production line and cane them round this track, five days a week, good weather and bad, throughout the year. "This bike is an awful lot better round here than anything I´ve ridden," he grinned, as we headed for the quartet of Sports sitting in line astern at the edge of the circuit.
Although we´d been asked to wear full-face lids on the track, Posie was in standard Harley-issue mode of open face and no gloves. But any idea that he´d just be tootling round immediately vanished as, with a nod for us to follow, he roared off and began lapping rapidly enough that one hack was quickly left behind.
Okay, so the pace wasn´t exactly blistering, and nobody got a knee down. But it still seemed almost surreal to be barrelling past the "pit" tent with the throttle wide open, braking hard (and I do mean hard) with a gentle squeeze of the handlebar lever, and banking into a tricky uphill left-hander that started fast and gentle, then tightened up viciously before heading back down the hill into an never-ending, off-camber right-hander.
Given such a work-out it was no surprise that even this uprated Sport revealed a few limitations. Keeping the front anchors on into the tightening left-hander put enough force through the tauter but still relatively spindly 39mm forks to generate a slight head-shake. Hauling the 300kg Sport through the chicane took plenty of muscle power, despite its quickened steering. And although the extra grip of the soft-compound Dunlops was very welcome, the Harley could have done with a bit more ground clearance to make best use of them.
But compared to most previous Harleys and most other firms´ cruisers, too, the Sport was a revelation. When it felt a bit woolly on my first session - its standard suspension settings are roughly similar to those of the current bike - it was nice to be able to firm things up by dialling in a bit more preload and rebound damping at each end. And the brakes worked well with little lever effort and no fade, even when used extra-hard as a bunch of dozy geese wandered onto the main straight.
Our road route through Pennsylvania the next day contained enough bends to let the uprated chassis show its worth, too, and with its suspension softened up a bit the Sport was ready to show that it´s as good as any Harley for lazy cruising. The unchanged Twin Cam motor is a real star, with much more instant grunt than the old Evo unit and still a pleasantly lumpy V-twin feel that makes the bike very relaxing to ride.
The claimed peak output of 68bhp was enough to send the bike rumbling to an indicated 110mph pretty quickly. Inevitably the exposed riding position made high-speed riding hard work, and there was a bit of instability above about 90mph. But when I crouched down slightly to grip the quite low, flat bars the Sport was capable of cruising fairly comfortably at 80mph.
After an enjoyable day´s ride at a suitably varied pace, we ended up back at the York factory, where Posie and his Audit team colleagues had just finished their day on the test track. Those guys have a great job that´s getting better all the time, as Harley shows it is increasingly serious about improving its bikes and broadening its range.
This uprated Dyna Super Glide Sport will cost about £10,500, five per cent more than the old model, when it arrives in August. For Harley fans who like to ride pretty hard at times, that will be money well spent. With its blend of old-fashioned style and more modern engineering, the new Sport is just the bike to lead the world´s oldest motorcycle firm into the 21st century.
Get Harley Davidson motorbike insurance for the harley davidson fxdx dyna super glide sport .
Engine Air-cooled 45-degree V-twin
cc 1450cc (88ci)
Claimed power (bhp) 68hp @ 5400rpm
Compression ratio 8.8:1
Transmission 5-speed gearbox, toothed belt final drive
Keihin CV carburettor
39mm telescopic, 175mm travel, adjustments for preload, compression and rebound damping
Twin shocks, 78mm travel, adjustments for preload, compression and rebound damping
2, four-piston calipers, 292mm discs
Four piston caliper, 292mm disc
100/90 x 19in Dunlop D401 Elite
150/80 x 16in Dunlop D401 Elite
Fuel capacity 8.67 litres
Current price £10.500