2004 Harley-Davidson Screamin' Eagle Electra Glide Motorcycle Test

Milwaukee's big idea is a hopped-up, tricked-out 1690cc limited-edition of its touring motorcycle, the Electra Glide. From the April 2004 issue of Motorcycle Cruiser magazine.

Our round-up of the Biggest Twins had Marc Cook singing, "One of these not like the others." Harley's limited-edition Screamin' Eagle Electra Glide, made by H-D's Custom Vehicle Operations unit in limited numbers just in 2004, fits the displacement requirement for our Maximum Motor round-up, but its limited-production status, a price that's almost twice the Kawasaki's, and, most of all, its touring orientation, made it the banana to the others' apples and oranges. But we wanted to sample it, not only because of its 1690cc (103ci in Harley-speak) displacement, but because we wonder if that engine might realistically make it as a full production Harley engine.

Created by stroking the standard 1450cc H-D mill, the SE Electra Glide has its own exhaust system and FI mapping, but not a lot else to pump up power. Still you can feel the extra inches all the way from idle to redline, where it's still pulling with enthusiasm when the rev-limiter asserts itself. It makes 84.1 rear-wheel ponies at 5750 rpm. Peak torque arrives at 2750 rpm, where its pumping 94.3 foot-pounds to the rear wheel. The extras muscle down low allowed harder launches or the luxury of ignoring first gear and easing way in second with little clutch slip. Its full-goose power—as shown by its 13.09-second, 98.3-mph quarter-mile sprint—easily buried the standard Electra Glide (14.65 sec, 87.0 mph), although the standard bike hauls a trunk. The SE Glide motor was perfectly civilized with two exceptions: it usually coughed once while the heavy-duty starter was spinning, and it coated the innards of the mufflers with a black soot, meaning it was running rich. Other than that, the 1690cc mill seems ready for prime time.

Though putting a nasty engine in a tourer may seem contrary, it actually makes sense when you are passing with a load or simply keeping up with your colleagues on their big-motor twins. The upsized engine has done nothing to degrade the good road manners of the basic E-Glide. It's still as smooth as a tourer should be. The abbreviated 4.0-inch tall windshield may have been styling driven, but the result is fairly pleasing at 80 mph, when air is deflected over most riders' helmets with little buffeting. The lowers were also welcome, especially when temperatures dropped below freezing. The leather-wrapped saddle was a step down from the standard bike's in comfort but was flat and allowed room to squirm. It provided a respectably comfortable ride, though big bumps use up the shortened rear suspension's limited travel. The AM/FM/CD audio was also welcome, though the sound was mostly swept away above 60 mph, and cruise control was welcome on the highway.

Though easy to manhandle at low speed and offering more cornering clearance than any of the less luxurious maxi-twins, this SE Glide has one foul handling trait. Cornering at speeds above about 60 mph, hitting a bump would start a pronounced wallow that would get worse if you rolled off the throttle, but straighten out if you stayed on the gas. (If you needed to slow down, keeping the throttle open and riding the rear brake seemed to be the answer.) We initially blamed in on Friedman's effusive packing, but the bike turned out to do it even more -- but not with quite the same magnitude -- when it was unloaded. With the right combination of corner and bumps, it can get pretty exciting, as the long black tire mark left by the editor in one bumpy Texas turn will testify. We suspect the culprit is somewhere in the rubber mounting, but can't be more exact than that.

Aside from that issue, the SE Electra Glide was fun to ride, and certainly drew its share of attention at gas stops. With 3200 units slated for production, it's relatively exclusive (though some manufacturers would like to sell that many total units in the U.S. this year) and that along with a page-long list of unique components, finishes and process might make it worth the nearly 30Gs it takes to roll one into your garage. We sure hope to see more of this engine. An 80-hp Deuce or Dyna Glide Sport sounds like a great idea.

SPECIFICATIONS

Suggested retail price: $26,595 ($27.095 California)
Warranty: 24 months, unlimited miles
Engine: Air-cooled 45-degree OHV V-twin, 2 valves per cylinder
Displacement, bore x stroke: 1690cc, 92.25 x 110.8mm
Carburetion: EFI, 45mm bore
Transmission: Wet, multi-plate clutch. 5 speeds

Wet weight: 848 lb.
Wheelbase: 63.5 in.
Seat height: 27.1 in.
Rake/trail: 26 degrees/6.2 in.
Front tire: MT90B16 Dunlop/Harley D402F tubeless
Rear tire: MU85B16 Dunlop/Harley D402 tubeless
Front brake: 2, 11.5-in. discs, 4-piston calipers
Rear brake: 11.5-in. disc, 4-piston caliper
Front suspension: 41mm stanchions, 4.6 in travel
Rear suspension: Dual dampers, 2.2 in. travel, adjustable for air pressure
Fuel capacity: 5.0 gal.
Fuel mileage: 35.3 mpg avg.
Quarter-miler performance: 13.09 sec., 98.3 mph

Additional motorcycle road tests and comparison tests are available at the Road Tests section of MotorcycleCruiser.com.

Photography by Kevin Wing.
The leather-covered saddle felt hard earlier than the standard Electra Glide seat, but the rider backrest was welcomed by some riders.
Instrumentation includes six gauges (including ambient air temperature) and two LCD displays. Wiring goes inside the handlebar.