FXD135 35th Anniversary
As a well-scrubbed youth in the 1950s, Willie G. Davidson, grandson of Motor Company co-founder William A. Davidson, headed west from Wisconsin to attend the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif. Out on the west coast, the sun was rising on the world of motorcycle customizing, with men like Ed Roth and Von Dutch on the crest of the new wave. The impact of the emergent custom scene would linger in Davidson’s sketchbook as he joined Harley-Davidson’s design department in 1963. While many of Willie G’s early designs were met with stodgy resistance from the old guard Harley brass, one notable exception escaped the drafting table and rolled off the production line into history.
Helmet: Shoei RF-1000 Diabolic 2 TC-5
Jacket: Harley-Davidson FXRG Lightweight Leather
Gloves: Harley-Davidson #1 Full Finger
Pants: Shift Racing Denim Kevlar Street
Boots: Harley-Davidson Hustin (Click image to enlarge)
Davidson combined the Electra Glide’s 1200cc motor and frame with the Sportster’s narrow, chopper-esque front end. He added a fat rear tire, topped by a Euro-style boat-tail fender. The result was the world’s first “factory custom”—the 1971 Harley-Davidson Super Glide. Three and a half decades after Harley-Davidson introduced the bike that would father its FX line, rightful tribute is now being paid to Willie G’s creation with the 2006 FXD135 35th Anniversary Super Glide.
The Anniversary Super Glide goes straight to work on the ’70s nostalgia gland with its Glacier White Pearl paint, red, white and blue graphics and legendary Number One emblem mounted in a leather console atop the classic Fat Bob gas tank. Armored with gleaming slabs of Milwaukee chrome and topped by a tuck ‘n’ roll two-up seat, the bike is a dual flashback to the glory days of Evel Kneivel and Harley’s bleak AMF era. Getting onto the bike shatters the latter association, as the seating position is comfortably moderate, although some might find the saddle a little wide. Feet settle slightly forward, but not stretched and the bars sweep back accommodatingly into your hands. Pushing back into the saddle while hammering the throttle puts you squarely in the cruiser comfort zone for a long haul.
Like its siblings in the Dyna family, the Super Glide has undergone substantial upgrades for its coral anniversary, including a new six-speed Cruise Drive transmission, 49mm forks and a fatter, 160mm rear tire. The nimble Cruise Drive tranny is a completely new design that replaces the old five-speed box and uses helical gears that mesh more quietly than the old straight-cut variety. Gear changes are still deliberate, and not absent of feedback, but the smoother shifting resulting from the use of thin steel dog rings in place of heavier gears is welcome. The Cruise Drive makes negotiating city traffic uncharacteristically comfortable for a Harley. Head out on the highway and a taller top gear trims engine revs by about 200 rpm, making for a relaxed gallop at cruising speed.
The silver powder-coated Twin Cam 88 engine has likewise received an update. The cam plate has a new roller chain and hydraulic automatic chain tensioner, sidestepping the need for chain adjustment. A high-output oil pump now sports an integral oil filter adaptor and oil cooler adaptors. The carburetor has been left on the bench in favor of a sequential-port electronic fuel injection system. The rubber mounted TC-88 shakes at idle (as the gods intended) and smoothes out considerably as you climb the rev ladder, the big Twin delivering unwavering performance from idle to up to the soft rev limiter. The bike is quick and accelerates impressively, without being overwhelming.
A newly stiffened frame and swingarm, combined with newly beefy forks, improves handling. It is a well-balanced bike, rock solid in a straight line and resistant to flopping into turns. Overall, it feels remarkably neutral for a cruiser and doesn’t require much heft or muscle to get the most out of the bike while winding through canyon roads.
In addition to the Super Glide’s stock improvements, we fitted a trio of aftermarket modifications that exponentially improved the bike’s pleasure principle. Vance & Hines Big Radius pipes replaced the stock staggered shorty duals and accent the “custom” in this factory custom bike. Featuring blue-proof, show-quality chrome, the 2.5-inch curved and fully heat shielded pipes sweep downward toward gracefully scalloped tips and inject a dose of sonic soul along with the increased horsepower and torque. While these are loud pipes that produce a ballsy hot-rod tone, they are aimed toward the pavement, dampening the assault. Tuck in the removable baffles and the eardrum fatality rate is further reduced without neutering the growl. An Arlen Ness Billet Sucker Air Cleaner increases air intake to match the freer flowing pipes, and adds some custom chrome to the engine. The Big Radius pipes and Ness air cleaner work in concert with the Vance & Hines Fuelpak, a plug-and-play fuel management system that works extremely well. The Fuelpak piggybacks on the bike’s own system, and sends a new signal for fuel delivery to the injectors based on the fuel map settings Vance & Hines optimized for the engine/exhaust/intake combination.
With the retro-styled 35th Anniversary Super Glide, Harley-Davidson has issued a proper salute to a legendary American machine, and the talent and vision of Willie G. Davidson. It is a bike that recalls and respects the past, while delivering an appealingly modern ride.