The Easy Riding Street Glide

America's love affair with the automobile has been well documented in books, movies and songs but it is the wanderlust rhapsody of the 1969 cult classic film "Easy Rider" that transformed a generation of disconnected young people into motorcycle enthusiasts. Long-entrenched civil rights barriers were dissolving while widespread drug use, opposition to the Vietnam War and a prevailing attitude of nonconformity contributed to that generation's alienation from society.

The dreams of the Harley-riding film characters were dashed, but the movie sparked an interest in taking to the open road that still resonates with many freedom-loving people today. For more than a century now Harley-Davidson has responded to each generation's whimsy, building bikes that are tailor-made toward meeting those needs. 

Street Glide

Among the many Harley models currently in production is the Street Glide, one of seven touring bikes offered by H-D. All new for 2009, the Street Glide is a showcase of motorcycle building engineering, constructed from a two section frame utilizing just 40 pieces down from 90 used on the previous model. Its rigid frame invites the use of more powerful engines while permitting the bike to retain its hot-rod essence.

The latest Street Glide interpretation is powered by a standard Twin Cam 96 cubic inch V-Twin engine featuring electronic fuel injection and paired with a six-speed cruise drive transmission. A tall top gear allows for quieter, fuel-efficient open road cruising. 

Weighing in at a substantial 810 pounds, this bike belies its bulk as it is easy to maneuver, slipping in and out of tight parking spots with minimal effort. With the updated model, Harley lowered the rear suspension by one inch and raised the size of the front wheel by a corresponding amount, tweaking the suspension to help instill rider confidence in controlling the bike.

The Street Glide's ride is comfortable as its sculpted bucket seat is designed for long excursions and includes a perforated insert for the rider position, creating a separate yet distinct sitting area. The air adjustable rear shocks conform to passenger and luggage load, helping to retain rider comfort under a variety of road conditions.

Bagger Styling

A minimalist design is evident as the Street Glide abandons the heavy trim and abundance of chrome found on most other Harleys in favor of much more restrained bling. From the dashing bat-wing fairing with its integrated side mirrors and smoked mini wind deflector on through the sleek lockable saddlebags and out to the tapered rear fender with its ground effects, the style is at once simple and streamlined. The can't-miss four-inch diameter chrome-ringed exhaust is a hot-rod statement maker, upholding the Street Glide's bagger persona.

A classical instrumentation panel features chrome ringed white backing analog gauges with an LCD display showing odometer, dual trip meters and low fuel indicator and mileage countdown. Despite its weight, the Street Glide is rated at 35 mpg around town and 54 mpg on the open road, numbers hog faithful may be able to live with.

Easy Rider

On the road, the Street Glide provides sufficient power from dead stop or when revving from 30 to 60 mph and beyond, with plenty of torque to call upon. No, you won't see anything like sportbike speed with this Harley, but you'll lean in and plow through curves better than most anything else on the road. According to Harley devotees, Suzuki, Ducati and Kawasaki are like Kia while Harley is the Cadillac. Enough said.

Like most owners, you'll want to customize your Street Glide accordingly. The mini windshield just begs to be replaced as the top of the shield is in the line of sight for many riders, exposing you and your rider to wind buffeting, bugs and road debris. That problem is easily solved by ordering a taller, re-curved windshield from H-D or choosing one from an aftermarket supplier. You must take into consideration your height before choosing a shield, something your H-D dealer can help you with.

Safety is an increasingly important factor for bikers and Harley has responded by incorporating LED lighting for the brake, tail and turn lamps and by optionally offering ABS with Brembo brakes to help keep the hog under control. An optional security system is also useful, self-arming and disabling the bike within five seconds of it being heisted. 

As Delivered

With all of the bells and whistles such as special paint, cruise control, security and ABS included, the Harley-Davidson Street Glide tops $21,000 and is closer to $22,000 with California emissions and freight included. That price is smack in the middle of the H-D touring bike class.

For those willing to fork over $31,000, Harley's Custom Vehicles Operation has a CVO Street Glide for your consideration. That special edition model features a larger engine, improved handling, custom paint schemes and seven-spoke Agitator wheels. It's a true showpiece, designed to turn heads as you ease your way through curves. 

words: Matthew C. Keegan