Born to Be Wide: 2006 Harley-Davidson FXDWGI Dyna Wide Glide Motorcycle Road Test

With a new six-speed powertrain, standard fuel injection and other upgrades for 2006, Harley-Davidson's chopper-style Dyna model, the FXDWGI Wide Glide, is living wide on the Hog. Just don't expect the deluxe treatment in concert with this much attitude.Te

For years, the Harley-Davidson Wide Glide has been the Dyna with attitude. Its kicked out, wide-set front fork legs and near-ape-hanger handlebar took it about as close to a real chopper as a factory-built motorcycle dares go. But even bad-ass choppers must eventually heed the march of progress, and for 2006, the FXDWG joined the rest of Harley's Dyna family in series of major upgrades. The headline change is the standard "Cruise Drive" six-speed transmission, which debuts in the Dyna line, while the rest of Harley's motorcycles continue to get by with five gearbox cogs.

Six speeds are just the beginning of the list of improvements for the 2006 Dyna models. Harley sequential-port electronic fuel injection is now standard, which adds the "I" at the end of the bike's designation. The clutch requires significantly less lever effort on the 2006 model. The rear tire is now 160mm wide. Both axles are now a full inch in diameter to further increase rigidity. The fork legs are beefier too, with stanchion tubes that have grown to 49mm in diameter. There is a penalty for some of this because the Wide Glide has gained about 10 pounds between the 2005 and 2006 models.

The twin-shock frame still rubber-mounts the engine, but it's completely new and stouter. The steering geometry was rearranged this year, and while all other Dynas have 29-degree steering heads, the Wide Glide's steering head juts out an additional 5 degrees. Then the triple clamp adds another 2 degrees to give the fork legs a startling 36-degree angle. A narrow 21-inch wheel completes the attitude adjustment up front.

Speeding Up

The completely new gearbox is a huge advancement, but not just for the additional ratio choice. This new Dyna six-speed is the best-shifting gearbox in any big twin of any brand. Shifting is suddenly light, quick, impressively smooth, quiet, and positive. Neutral is easy to locate too. Helical-cut gears that mesh more much quietly than the straight-cut gears used previously eliminate that traditional clank. (We know some traditionalists will miss that hefty clunk, but the 21st century is happening whether we like it or not.) The lighter lever throw comes by way of thin steel dog rings that move during gear changes instead of the bigger, heavier moving gears. Because the dog rings have less mass than gears, shifting is quicker and smoother, and the throw of the shift lever could be reduced. That latter change will be appreciated by anyone with arthritic ankles. With the additional ratio, Harley also made the sixth speed slightly taller than the old fifth gear, reducing engine speed in top gear.

The improved shifting is matched by the improved clutch operation. Redesigning the diaphragm-type clutch spring and the ball-and-ramp disengagement mechanism cut lever effort by more than a third. The change means more than reducing the strain on your left wrist. Rider control of clutch engagement is the real story here. It is much easier to pull away in those challenging situations, where, for example, you have to turn full-lock as you drive out of a crowded parking spot with a passenger. It's tremendously easier to feed in the precise amount of clutch engagement you want. Of course, your right wrist and hand will probably appreciate the reduced lever effort in stop-and-go traffic as well.

While it was messing with the transmission, Harley's powerplant design team apparently couldn't resist tweaking the twin-cam engine just a bit. Lubrication was improved with a higher-flow oil pump with improved scavenging. Oil-filter and oil-cooler adaptors have been integrated, and oil passages were incorporated into the redesigned engine-transmission interface. A cam plate redesign brings new plain bearings for the camshaft, and a new roller chain with a new hydraulic chain adjuster.

The primary drive ratio has been raised (lowered numerically) from 1.44:1 last year to 1.353 for 2006. The primary chain now has an automatic tensioner to eliminate one maintenance chore and the inspection cover needed to accomplish it. Completing the primary drive system are new inner and outer housings. However, something didn't turn out quite right because Harley is telling Dyna owners to bring their bikes in every 15,000 miles to have a primary drive bearing replaced. Harley is picking up the tab though, apparently for life, right down to picking the bike up if that's required. We certainly had no complaints while riding it. In fact, just the opposite; the drivetrain in our FXDWGI was the very model of smoothness. We'd like to see this gearbox in all Harley big twins, though we suspect that won't happen until the primary-drive-bearing issue is resolved.

Though confronting much bigger V-twins with more sophisticated designs, Harley's big twins have little to apologize for in terms of performance. Sure those big bikes will outrun the 1450cc H-Ds, but not as much as the displacement disparity and the relatively simple two-valve pushrod valve train would suggest. I certainly would not imply that the six-speed Dyna Wide Glide felt underpowered in any circumstance. On the other hand, the bigger V-twins might envy the Harley's smooth drivetrain operation and throttle response. The big guys certainly should envy the Harley's economical fuel consumption. I consistently returned fuel mileages in the high 40s, with one tank returning just over 50 mpg.

Sit Up--and Beg

My enthusiasm for the Wide Glide waned a bit when I my examination wandered from the engine to the chassis. Actually things turn down right at the point where the engine meets the frame. Like previous Harley Dyna models, a significant amount of vibration gets past the rubber engine mounts. Some riders found it bordered on uncomfortable, but I found it just slightly annoying, and it blurred the mirrors on the highway.

I'm generally not a fan of handlebars as high (a 12-inch rise on top of 2-inch risers) and wide (32.5 inches) as the Wide Glide's, but the FXDWGI's ape-hangers actually weren't as bad as I anticipated. For one thing, Harley turns the ends out and up, so the grips aren't vertical, which forces you to increase grip pressure just to hang on. The Wide Glide's more natural grip angle increased comfort and control. I didn't mind them around town, except when making a full-lock turn at low speed. Then the outside bar became quite a stretch, creating some awkwardness. Of course, once on the highway, they just set you up and stretch you up in the wind, requiring sustained effort just to hold on. The way-forward placement of the footpegs makes matters even worse, since you can't use any leg pressure to counter wind pressure. The styling of the 1.25-inch diameter handlebar includes internal routing of the wiring, which cleans them up quite a bit.

The handlebar/seat/footpeg relationship somehow tended to make my lower back ache after an hour so, something which never happens. At first I though it was the seat shape, but as I rode it began to blame the footpeg location, which is at the limit of reach for my 32-inch inseam. Of course, it's almost impossible to stand on the rider's pegs to let your legs soak up a bump. Putting my feet on the passenger pegs afforded some relief, especially on the highway. The passenger pegs are mounted on the front of the swingarm, so bumps come through more solidly than if they were attached to a totally sprung part of the bike.

The 2006 Wide Glide's seat height without a rider aboard is 28.5 inches, about .75 inches higher than for the 2005 model. I'm not sure where the extra altitude was generated, but it wasn't as a result of more suspension travel, which at 5.0 and 4.1 front and rear respectively is actually slightly reduced from the 2005 specification, though still more than you might expect from a bike with this much attitude styled in. Surprisingly, bumps don't hammer you any worse than on other cruisers with less attitude. I suspect the suspension was recalibrated a bit on '06 Dynas, improving ride comfort and damping control without stretching travel. The shock assemblies have been restyled with new corged tops.

Lean on Me

Clearly, the Harley Wide Glide is not a motorcycle that puts handling at the top of its list of desirable attributes. Though steering is light and fairly responsive initially, as it leans over, it starts to resist and starts to feel somewhat uncertain and less willing to bend much deeper into the corner. Though cornering clearance is not excessive, I wasn't comfortable leaning over far enough to drag the bike, although it would do so when I forced the issue. I attribute this uneasiness to clashing responses caused by the skinny front tire and wider rear tire and the somewhat extreme rake, which has also been increased by two degrees from the previous iteration.

This latests Wide Glide also wasn't as stable as I expected, especially with all that steering-head rake. If you give the handlebar a hard shake at highway speeds, the Wide Glide takes longer than the average big cruiser to settle down again. There are situations where this imparts a slightly uneasy feeling to the bike.

That narrow front tire obviously doesn't provide a lot of traction for braking, though during my panic-stop tests I got more braking force than I expected before it let go (after fair warning). Brake feel and control is good at both ends, and Harley's new stouter fork and frame make things feel a bit more connected and less dramatic as you begin to over-brake the front.

Not that I really believe that the typical Harley-Davidson Wide Glide buyer cares much about such things. If handling, braking, and even comfort matter to you, then you should be looking at one of the other Dyna models--any other Dyna model--because frankly the Wide Glide doesn't give a damn. The first three items on its agenda are attitude, head-turning power, and looks--and the rest of the list doesn't matter. In fact, its target is so far from functionality that it almost doesn't make sense to road test this Harley-Davidson. The surprise is that the redesigned FXDWGI is as acceptable to ride as it turned out to be, despite the fact it simply wasn't trying to make a good impression for a road tester. If you want to ride attitude and are willing to suffer some to do so, then take a ride on a Wide Glide.

SPECIFICATIONS
2006 Harley-Davidson FXDWGI Dyna Wide Glide

Suggested base price: $16,620
Standard colors: Black
Optional colors: Silver pearl, black cherry pearl, black pearl, blue pearl, cobalt pearl, white pearl, yellow pearl, brandwine sunglow, add $285; blue/blue, black cherry/black, red/black add $585
Engine type: Air-cooled 45-degree tandem V-twin
Valve arrangement: OHV, one intake, one exhaust, operated by pushrods, hydraulic adjusters
Displacement, bore x stroke: 1450cc, 95.2 x 101.5 mm
Compression ratio: 8.9:1
Carburetion: EFI
Transmission: 6 speeds
Final drive: Belt
Seat height: 28.5 in.
Wet weight: 680 lb.
GVWR: 1085 lb.
Fuel capacity: 5.1 gal.
Wheelbase: 68.3 in.
Overall length: 97.5 in.
Rake/trail: 34o/5.1 in.
Front tire: MH90-21 Dunlop tube-type
Rear tire: 160/70B17 Dunlop tube-type
Front brake: 4-piston calipers, 11.8-in. discs
Rear brake: 4-piston caliper, 11.5-in. disc
Front suspension: 49mm stanchions, 5.0 in. travel
Rear suspension: 2 dampers, 4.1 in. travel, adjustable for spring preload
Fuel mileage: 37 to 51 mpg, 43.6 mpg average

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

Though technologically and functionally improved in its 2006 iteration, with an entirely new six-speed gearbox and standard electronic sequential-port fuel injection, the Harley-Davidson Dyna Wide Glide is still more about turning heads and selling attitude than about being a comfortable all-day riding partner.
The all-new six-speed gearbox used in all 2006 Harley-Davidson Dyna models offers much more than one additional ratio. It shifts better than any big twin transmission and mates to an equally smooth, light clutch. for a huge improvement in control.
The Wide Glide has five degrees more rake than any other Dyna mode, and then the striple clamps kick the fork angle out another two degrees.
It's longer than 2005, with thicker fork legs and a new tail section.
The 2006 Dyna engine has some minor appearanxce changes too. It's a long reach to those footpegs.
The passenger feel more road shocks with the swingarm-mounted footpegs.
Even mild ape-hangers like these make a bike uncomfortable and awkward to ride. For some buyers, their looks trump such pedestrian concerns.
What;s attitude without flames?
A skinny tire means you don't want too much brake. One disc is plenty.
The tank-top ignition switch allows you to remove the key after unlocking it.