Despite what some riders may think or believe, Harley-Davidson’s FLHX Street Glide didn’t launch the bagger craze. That mission was handled long ago by enthusiastic owners who accessorized their big bikes with all sorts of aftermarket touring items. Jim Babchak explained in greater detail how those bolt-on modifications led to bikes that eventually became known as dressers when he wrote in the last issue of Motorcycle Bagger about Brian Keating’s 1970 FLH, a bike that was originally dressed out by Elmer Dockery more than 40 years ago.
Nonetheless, the Street Glide has been a major factor in regenerating interest in customized touring bikes. Need proof? Consider that for the past few years Harley’s low-down and rather stylish FLHX has been at the forefront of new-bike sales, frequently leading all other models in terms of units sold when quarterly sales figures are announced. It’s unusual to attend a bike rally or to stop by your local roadhouse without spotting more than a few of these stripped down, dechromed models. No doubt, Harley hit the jackpot in 2006 when the FLHX was born, and the winner’s bell has been ringing loudly ever since.
Little has changed in the FLHX’s overall concept. A low stance — thanks in part to shortened, air-assisted rear suspension; a stunted, smoke-tint windshield; and the absence of a Tour-Pak — continues to account for the Street Glide’s stunning silhouette. You won’t find touring accoutrements like highway bars and lights on the fork, nonessential chrome trim on the tins and saddlebags, or, for that matter, a set of ungainly folding passenger footboards that otherwise identify the Electra Glide models as the frontline Touring models that they’ve become today.
While Electra Glides, even Road Glides and Road Kings, are as much about comfort as style, the paramount reason for the Street Glide is style. An extended rear fender with custom lighting and fillers between the saddlebags, a low-profile gas tank console, Streamliner extended footboards with matching foot controls, and vibrant paint makes for a truly eye-catching motorcycle. Moreover, you’ll find plenty of chrome trim on the blacked-out 103″ engine to make that component stand out in the crowd. Like we said, it’s all about style.
However, that’s not to say that the FLHX isn’t a worthy bike for tackling extended rides. The batwing fairing punches a big enough hole in the wind to limit buffeting to your head and upper body, and the contoured seat is not only appealing to the eye, but it makes a rather decent all-day station for your derriere, too. The stainless steel handlebar offers a nice enough stretch for your arms so your neck and shoulders don’t tire out before it’s time to fill up. The 6-gallon gas tank works in concert with that solid frame with its four rubber-mounting points to isolate engine vibration to serve up a ride that makes you eager to discover what’s over the next horizon — or around the next city block. If there’s an Achilles’ heel to the FLHX’s ride, it’s found in the rear suspension’s abbreviated travel of only 2″. You can use the air assist to set ride height for heavier loads, but air suspension almost never delivers as smooth damping behavior as found in hydraulically damped units.
Factor in, too, that the FLHX’s rear shocks are 1″ shorter than standard suspenders on the Electra Glide lineup, and you’ll begin to view expansion cracks and potholes with a little more contempt than you would when riding most of the other Touring models in Harley’s lineup. Fork travel remains 4.6″, same as the other Touring models.
One payoff for the FLHX’s abbreviated suspension is a lower center of gravity. The result is a bike that requires less steering effort at the handgrips to initiate steer-in for turns than a standard Electra Glide. That, despite the same steering geometry of 29.2 degrees fork angle and 6.7″ trail with the Electra Glide line. It’s worth pointing out, too, that the FLHX has a low-profile 130/70-18″ front tire compared to the 130/80-17″ found on the Electra Glide. The rear dual-tread Dunlop (180/65-16″) remains uniform throughout the Touring model lineup.
Further enhancing the low cg is the absence of a Tour-Pak, which in turn limits cargo capacity to an advertised 2.26′ of lockable stowage space. In fact, the Street Glide can attribute its overall weight of 783 pounds (dry) to the absence of many items normally found on the rest of the Touring lineup. For comparison, the FLHTC Electra Glide Classic, which is considered the bare-bones member of the Touring line, checks in at an advertised 827 pounds (dry). It’s hard to fathom that there’s 44 pounds or more of additional baggage on those other baggers.
Less weight means better stopping performance, too. Our ABS-equipped (antilock braking system) test bike hauled itself down from 30 mph to a standing stop in 24′, a rather respectable distance compared to the 2012 FLHTC’s 29′ (itself not a bad figure; our 773-pound 2012 Road King with ABS stopped in 22-1/2′). As with all other Touring models, the Street Glide relies on a trio of four-piston calipers — two up front, one on the rear — to clamp tightly onto 11.8″ rotors.
No doubt, you’ve noticed our test bike’s bright yellow paint. Officially it’s listed as Chrome Yellow Pearl, but we nicknamed it Screamin’ Yellow Zonker. It’s an interesting shade, to be sure, one that sparkles with pearlescent toners in the bright sunlight, only to shift to a deeper, more sedate, solid yellow as the daylight fades. Other colors include the standard Vivid Black that Harley uses for most base models (setting the FLHX’s base price at $19,799). The optional Ember Red Sunglo, Midnight Pearl, Black Denim, or our yellow bump the MSRP to $20,309.
Regardless of which color is splashed on the Street Glide, this bike’s overall lines remain the same. And they’re stylish lines that have been a favorite among bagger owners since 2006. Don’t expect that attitude to change anytime soon,
NEW BIKE REVIEW by Dain Gingerelli