Thundering through the Columbia Gorge on a 2008 Harley Davidson Street Glide, I was bobbing and weaving through turns until the Sex Pistols’ “Holidays in the Sun” begins playing over the Harmon Kardon stereo. Then I decided to cruise.
At slower speeds my thoughts drifted to Harley Davidson’s blend of new and old technologies. Cradle frames matted with air-cooled, pushrod engines with two-valve, hemi-combustion chamber heads are nothing new. At the same time the Street Glide’s fly-by-wire throttle linked to sequential port fuel injection and monitored by a Delphi engine management system are revolutionary.
Up ahead, a series of chicanes erases moto-philosophy from my mind. Braided lines and 4-piston brakes slow the bike an appreciable amount before accelerating through the left hook corner; floorboards scratching the ground.
The Street Glide is a luxury model of Harley’s touring line and pulls like a Massy Ferguson tractor from off idle to the bike’s 5500-rpm rev limiter. Hard acceleration being crucial to maximize inadequate ground clearance.
Despite a 63.5-inch wheelbase, the Street Glide counter steers effortlessly as we tack back and forth like a sailboat in low wind while cartridge front suspension and an air rear shock soak up the rippled pavement. My 155-pound frame didn’t compress the suspension enough to establish a proper ride height and I was always riding on top of the bike’s 4+ inches of travel. Granted, the suspension is adjustable but I had little time to delve into personalizing the suspension and instead headed right for the desert.
A loitering deer necessitating pulling in the cable-actuated clutch and I was surprised by the ease of the clutch pull. The doe dives back in a thicket of junipers and I heal-toe shift back into sixth gear. A dash light illuminates signaling sixth gear and the 96-cubic inch (1584 c.c.) engine sings a sweet note into an intermittent breeze.
Conifer tress and wild sweet peas pixelate the hillside in hues of pink and snippets of Mount Adams are found in the distance. In the bright midday sun there is little glare on the gas gauge reading half full and I decide to break for gas before continuing through eastern Washington. After filling the six-gallon tank with premium gas some quick math reveals the bikes was averaging 35 mpg.
Plucking a canteen from the low-slung saddlebags, I sit on a curb and stare at the denim blue bike. Harley emblems are spaced inches apart from each other; clustered on the gas tank, mirrors, all six of the gauges and saddlebags. The bagger bike has a cropped/bat style windscreen, swept pipes and long saddlebags would be a pleasant sight to see in the garage every morning but at a 20+thousand dollar price tag, I’d be forced to get legitimate, gainful employment.
Tossing my canteen in the waterproof saddlebags, I fiddle with a trunk-style locking mechanism that requires some getting used to latch properly. The keyless ignition system requires that I only have the key on my person and I tap the started the bike snarls and shakes to life. Primary and secondary imbalances issues smooth out as I begin riding and regain the use my mirrors.
The Street Glide’s 92 ft. lbs. of torque mean these ponies want to run and when I look at the stereo face the reading 3:30, I remember an employee saying I was going to be charged if the bike was brought back after 5:00. Stomping on the rear brake I slow before U-turning and head back towards Paradise Harley.
It’s going to be close, as I have 90-minutes to go 90-miles and there will be traffic around Portland. Keeping the stereo screaming and the motor singing like a sewing machine on high, the Street Glide and I race against time in a desperate effort to avoid paying a small fee.
Crossing over the Hood River Bridge, the rear wheel chirps when traction is broken and regained atop the metal grading. I pay the 75-cent toll before using my right turn signal switch located on the right handgrip and heading west onto Interstate 84.
The sweating sun staring me in the face while I test the bike’s high speed maneuvering through traffic. Having spent too long in California, I pull out the lane-splitting card when traffic gets too viscous; the large, balanced bike is narrow enough to filter through beneath clotheslining mirrors and automotive fissures.
I am enamored with this bike; its big and nimble yet still feels comfortable after a 350+ mile ride. My only real concern is the price. Twenty large is a lot to spend on any bike but if you are in the market for a modern bagger than the Street Glide is the bike to ride. Brembo ABS brakes are available as a factory-installed option for $800, and while my model lacked the feature; anything that can make a 786-lbs. bike stop quicker is welcome.
Pulling into Paradise’s parking lot at 5:10, if I am going to be assessed a late fee then I’m taking the bike another day down California, if only to pay sales tax at some Mexican restaurant and keep on cruising to a Sex Pistols soundtrack.
This review was made possible thanks to the generous donation of Paradise Harley in Tigard, Oregon. They can be reached online at:
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2008 FLHX Street Glide Sidebar:
smooth 6-speed transmission
sweet note that strikes a balance between being noticed and not too loud
bagger luggage was large and waterproof
Mirrors focused on little more than my gloves
Lack of ground clearance
Getting used to Harley’s turnsignals and locking mechanism on the saddlebags.
Vivid Black, Black Cherry Pearl, Black Pearl, Deep Cobalt Pearl, Pacific Blue Denim (new), Pewter Denim (new)
Frame Mild steel, square-section backbone with twin downtubes
Swingarm Mild steel, rectangular tube sections, stamped junctions; MIG welded
Length 94.5 in. (2400.3 mm)
Overall Width 39.0 in. (990.6 mm)
Overall Height 52.2 in. (1325.9 mm)
Ground Clearance 4.7 in. (119.4 mm)
Rake (steering head) 26°
Fork Angle 29.3°
Trail 6.2 in. (157.5 mm)
Wheelbase 63.5 in. (1612.9 mm)
Wet weight: 786 lbs.
Front Forks 41.3 mm telescopic, cartridge-style damping
Rear Shocks Short, air-adjustable
Front Wheel 4.6 in. (116.8 mm)
Rear Wheel 2.0 in. (50.8 mm)
Wheels: Chrome, Profile Laced Aluminum Options
Front 16 in. x 3.0 in. (406.4 mm x 76.2 mm)
Rear 16 in. x 3.0 in. (406.4 mm x 76.2
Tires (Dunlop® Harley-Davidson Series, blackwall):
Front – D402F
Rear – D402
4-piston front and rear brakes
Engine Air-cooled, Twin Cam 96®
Displacement 96 cu. in. (1584 cc)
Engine Torque 92.6 ft. lbs. @ 3500 rpm (125.5 NM @ 3500 rpm)
Fuel Economy-EPA urban/highway test 32.5 urban/ 45.0 mpg highway
Compression Ratio 9.2:1
Valve Train Pushrod-operated, overhead valves with hydraulic, self-adjusting lifters;
two valves per cylinder
Bore x Stroke 3.75 in. x 4.38 in. (95.18 mm x 111.13 mm)
Fuel System3 Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
Clutch 9-plate, wet
Transmission 6-speed Cruise DriveTM
Fuel Capacity 5.0 gal. (18.9 L)
Oil Capacity (with filter) 4.0 qts. (3.8 L)
Transmission Capacity 1.0 qts. (0.95 L)
Gauges-air temperature, fuel, speedometer, rpms, voltage and oil pressure