Harley-Davidson Didn't Disappoint In 2001

Old hog, new tricks

This article was originally published in the October 2000 issue of Motorcycle Cruiser.

2001 Harley Davidson Deuce
2001 Harley-Davidson DeuceHarley-Davidson

America’s legendary motorcycle manufacturer has made great strides in the last two years. Its big-twin lineup emerged from a mire of antiquity to become universally praised for its technological assets, fortitude and uncanny balance of attitude and efficiency. Even the most dubious among us was won over by the smooth and powerful counterbalanced Twin Cam 88 Fathead motor, introduced late in 1999, and further delighted by the triple disc brakes, and frame and suspension modifications applied to the Softail line. Then came the Deuce—truly a breakthrough bike for the Motor Company. Its visceral flair and mechanical sophistication nudged the bar in the cruiser world, extending Harley’s leadership in the cruiser arena. It also left enthusiasts like us in a rare state of anticipation. What would be next?

"Harley-Davidson continues to upgrade its motorcycles with quality enhancement, technical refinements and optional conveniences. And then there's that new model that just might answer all of our wishes."

Small Things

Harley-Davidson didn’t disappoint us at its 2001 press introduction. Our inquiring minds were appeased with offerings both small and seemingly grand. Some of the tiniest measures—a more easily deployable kickstand, a new “durable” tank trim for the Dyna Glides and anti-fogging fuel gauge housings for Dyna, Road King and Softail models—brought knowing chuckles from veteran Harley riders. More substantial mods, such as optional electronic sequential port fuel injection for the freshly evolved Softail series and a smoother, more definitive tranny shifter for the Dyna and Touring models were also crowd pleasers.

There were many details to celebrate before we got our eyes on Harley’s two premier models, auspiciously cloaked onstage to heighten our curiosity. Sportster sales were up 33 percent, and for 2001, the lineup would receive high-contact ratio cam gears (to quiet the motor), a high-efficiency oil pump and new cylinder liners. Harley is retaining all six models for 2001.

2001 Dyna Super Glide T-Sport
2001 Dyna Super Glide T-SportHarley-Davidson

Milwaukee has aspired to create a functional and affordable ($250) security system, which will be offered for all big twin models next year and adaptable to most 2000 model bikes. (Retrofitting kits for preceding years are in the planning stages.) The system disables the ignition and starter and is operated with remote-control key fobs. (Manual disarming is possible also.) When readied, a flashing key icon appears on the speedometer face to remind you, and any would-be thieves, not to touch the bike. All 2001 big twins are equipped with this key icon, and some 2000 models out there have it too. If the system detects a bump or change in lean angle, a four-way flashing alarm is activated. There’s an additional “Smart Siren” option, which includes its own backup power source.

All the 2001 big twins will receive a new turn-signal cancellation system that monitors vehicle speed, deceleration and lean angle, ensuring you can actually complete your corner before the signal quits. In the diagnostics department, a new on-board digital port allows author­ized dealers to assess problems quicker, hot-link to manuals and download performance software. A serial bus port system will greatly streamline wiring. This clever PC-based program also allows your dealership to digitally store service records pertaining to your bike. In addition, the Sportsters and big twins, except for the FLSTS and FLHRCI, have received new Dunlop Harley-Davidson tires.

Two Kinds of Potatoes

The seven Softails acquire a new 38-amp, three-phase charging system (17-amp at 1000 rpm) for a higher capacity output. The $800 fuel injection alternative uses a big-bore 45mm induction module and features programmable idle (750 to 1250 rpm) and knock detection/­adjustment technology. It is questionable, however, whether complete exhaust system changes will muck up the system. Remarkably, Harley has electronically coaxed its fuel-injection systems to emit the legendary potato-potato exhaust rhythm so cherished on its carbureted models. The Heritage Springer will return in 2001 free of fringe, with a new seat and saddlebags featuring quick-release buckles.

As mentioned, touring models will be doing some slick shifting this year, and neutral should be easier to locate. The air dam has been omitted to reduce heat, and a new side stand will feature a rubber bumper to avoid rattling. All radio-equipped models have been given new speakers said to discourage distortion and improve fidelity. The Ultra Classic received a restyled lower fairing to balance the removal of the lowers. Additionally, Harley reps noticed many Road Glide owners were blacking out their headlight bezels, and the reps liked the look so much Harley decided to implement it on all new FLTR/I’s, along with standard cruise control. Oh, and a new police model—the Defender—will be prowling the streets next year.

Ah, the Dynas. We weren’t sorry when Harley announced the end of the buckhorn-bar era. And when we heard the FXDS Convertible had been dumped along with ’em, well, we knew that baby needed to be thrown out with the bath water. The Convertible is the only model being yanked for 2001.

2001 Harley-Davidson Low Rider
2001 Harley-Davidson Low RiderHarley-Davidson

Get Down

Finally, it was time for the new releases. Uncovered first was the new low, Low Rider FXDL. And it’s, ah, low. In fact, the FXDL’s seat height is only 25.5-inches thanks to slammed front and rear suspensions and a scooped custom seat. A low-rise handlebar with pullback risers also provides an easy reach. It will make a sleek platform for customizing, and we hope the tame ergonomics will encourage more women to enjoy the big twins.

Harley’s Big Deal came last. And before the cover was fully removed from the new FXDXT Dyna Super Glide T-Sport we were hooked on the concept. It’s a sport-touring version of the FXDX with a sleek, fork-mounted mini fairing and adjustable, sport-height windshield, which can be adjusted in increments of 10 degrees and two inches in height via a knob inside the fairing. Attached at the flanks are ultra stylish and seemingly efficient ballistic nylon saddlebags, easily and fully removable, yet claimed incapable of spontaneous detachment—a sneaky habit of the old Dyna bag system.

This bike looks so enticing, we can hardly wait to get our hands on it. What could be more promising than an FXDX to go? You get the high-performance Twin Cam 88, the fully-adjustable sport suspension and triple disc brakes blended with a comfy seat, standard two-position highway pegs and touring rubber. It’s a sleek visual package too, well-proportioned and refined, right down to the tidy turn signals borrowed from the Deuce.

"A thread of logic that ran through each debate was that cruiser riders seemed to want their bikes to look and feel like cruisers."

The idea of a modern sport-touring cruiser is over due. During our 10,000 mile test of touring cruisers (see December ’99) we often complained that all those bulbous touring amenities seemed to drown the basic nature of cruisers. All in all, we walked away from the class shaking our heads. During our recent sport-cruiser comparisons (see April ’00) we were, at times, equally baffled as we tried in vain to define the boundaries of athleticism one should expect from a cruiser. A thread of logic that ran through each debate was that cruiser riders seemed to want their bikes to look and feel like cruisers. However, they often wanted these pure-in-form machines to be capable of long distances and/or the occasional mad dash. The FXDX T-Sport may create an entirely new platform where we can all get what we want without losing a thing.

We’re thrilled about Harley-Davidson’s direction. The manufacturer’s strides in the technical arena have heightened contention in all facets of the cruiser market and its attention to quality once again makes us proud. For a long while, competing cruiser manufacturers have been smug in their position on the bandwagon. Now the bandwagon is back in the race…and it’s setting a pace that will be hard to match.