“That is a beautiful motorcycle,” said my comely young neighbor as she pushed her baby’s pram by my house as she admired the 2017 Harley-Davidson Wide Glide in Velocity Red Sunglo with Faded Flames paint.Random unsolicited compliments such as that constitute half of the experience of owning a motorcycle as striking as the Wide Glide. The other half, of course, is the enjoyment of riding the relaxed big-inch cruiser with the skinny front tire.
While I can admit that I tend toward fat front tires on cruisers, as I like the settled feel of plenty of rubber on the road, the Harley-Davidson Wide Glide enjoys light steering that has its own appeal. The Harley-Davidson Dyna family alternates between 16- and 19-inch front wheels, with the Wide Glide as the sole 21-incher in the bunch. It just so happens that the Wide Glide also has the widest rear tire in the Dyna line, a 180 (along with the Fat Bob), so the Wide Glide is an outlier among Dynas.Of course, the Wide Glide doesn’t derive its name from the rear tire. Instead, the FXDWG Wide Glide—which has been around since 1993 and is a descendant of the 1971 FX Super Glide—gets its moniker from the widely set fork legs. When you see a Wide Glide coming down the road toward you with the beefy 49mm fork legs set far apart, with just an 80mm front tire and thin fender between them, it is instantly recognizable.The Wide Glide also has its own ride. The 35-degree fork angle (34 degrees of rake), 67.5-inch wheelbase, and the 21-inch laced front wheel tell you one thing—the Wide Glide wants to go straight. No doubt about it, the Wide Glide is superb in town or on the open road heading in a singular direction.Having said that, I couldn’t resist taking the 2017 Harley-Davidson Wide Glide for a few runs into the local canyons, including an extended high-speed ride through Angeles National Forest. After all, it does have the fantastic High Output Twin Cam 103 powerplant.Although stability is not its strong point when doing any sort of cornering, it feels good enough to not avoid a bit of fun in the twisties. The Michelin Scorcher 31 rear tire doesn’t have much demand put on it, but the front black donut has quite a bit of responsibility. It has to guide the Wide Glide through the corners, even when the chassis, 180 rear tire, and rubber-mounted engine are resisting.I quickly learned to set the Wide Glide into the turn and hold my line. When I did that, it cooperated with only the early dragging of my boot heels into the pavement slowing things down. I do like that soft warning, rather than scraping pegs or pipes.Urban riding is a blast. The big V-twin is a manageable brute around town, allowing for serious acceleration when the stop light turns green. You’re moving in a straight line, and all is good.In these city settings, the narrow front wheel has a light touch, reducing fatigue when guiding the nearly 700-pound machine between cars and down crowded streets. The Wide Glide is generally happy to go where you point it, drama-free.Suspension is a bit of a happy surprise. The hard ride you expect from the fork angle and low profile front tire is offset by five inches of travel and non-flexing tubes. The three inches in the rear isn’t bad, even though they aren’t the emulsion units we love on other Harley-Davidsons.The 2017 Harley-Davidson Wide Glide does produce a bit of frustration when it comes to braking. The cool open air-filter cover pushes your right leg out at an awkward angle when it comes time to use the brake pedal. In a normal riding position, you simply cannot effectively push down on it.Initially, I thought the 292mm rear disc setup was weak, as it struggled to slow down the motorcycle. But, when I unnaturally arched my leg around the air cleaner cover, and was able to truly get my boot on the pedal, I found out that the rear brake is quite strong. Unfortunately, it takes the dexterity of a contortionist to exploit its power.The front disc looks tiny, but that’s because it’s on a 21-inch wheel—it is actually an impressive 300mm rotor, though there’s only one of them. There is only a single disc, of course, because twin discs would overwhelm the 80mm wide front tire. Still, what’s there isn’t bad.Other than the pesky air cleaner cover, the ergonomics work well in an urban environment. The feet forward and slightly swept back drag bars might not seem like a great choice for comfort, but with the nice seat, it all comes together for cruising around. It’s not quite a tank emptier (4.7 gallons will get you about 200 miles), but it is livable for the city.In-town freeway blasts are fine, and there is plenty of power on tap to obliterate any four-wheel competition. The real speed restrictor is the foot position—your boot soles and legs will catch the high winds and you have to concentrate a bit to keep them on the pegs.Really, it’s not necessary to dwell on the details of the 2017 Harley-Davidson Wide Glide. It is a Dyna unto itself, and there’s nothing else like it on the street. Happily, if you buy the FXDWG for its looks, you will be more than pleased with its power and appearance, and satisfied with its ergonomics, handling, and suspension.Riding Style
This week Teejay chats to Tyler Poppe. Tyler works on the TV show Mayans MC–and yet he doesn’t ride an American V-Twin. Wassup with that?? Also, Arthur finds out from friend Mike Cardillo about his thoughts on the full-size version of the Kawasaki KLX 140R F trail bike.