Motorcycle Road Test: Harley-Davidson Super Glide T-Sport

Harley's sport-touring cruiser is quick, agile and conditioned for the long haul. What more do you want? From the December 2000 issue of _Motorcycle Cruiser _ magazine.

This Harley was different right out of the bag. Although clearly oriented for long-distance riding, the T-Sport doesn't display the elephantine characteristics of trademark touring motorcycles, and though it's designated athletic, it only hints at the svelte minimalism expected from sporting strains. Its ears aren't laid back like the FXDX Sport, from which it sprang, and it doesn't share the ungainliness of the FXDS Convertible, which it knocked clean from the scratching post. The Harley-Davidson T-Sport is an utterly new animal representing the possibility of an entirely new breed.

It doesn't take a keen eye to distinguish the foremost intent of this bike. The stylishly modern and well-proportioned saddlebags and fork-mounted fairing/windshield combo give away its touring intent. On closer inspection, the generously scooped touring saddle and standard highway pegs echo this objective. Adjustable front and rear suspension, a 28-degree steering head angle and four-piston caliper triple-disc brakes evidence the T-Sport's sporty persona.

Harley-Davidson has fed its enormous line of motorcycles a steady stream of improvements over the last few years, and the Dyna Glide series has grown hearty and handsome as a result. We've especially relished every stint on the FXDX Super Glide Sport since its inception in 1999. You also may have a deaf ear from our raving about the Twin Cam 88 "Fathead" motor. The Evo replacement is quiet, smooth, powerful, efficient and durable. And when it comes to sheer strength, it's the bull to beat in the big-twin arena. All Dynas utilize the carbureted version of this motor, along with most of the other bold-letter improvements Harley's made of late, so blessed be the T-Sport. Or not. Since it showed up bearing all the goodies, it also held the weight of our significantly high expectations.

Go West

With great eagerness we picked up the bike in Denver, Colorado, immediately following its official unveiling at the annual Harley-Davidson Dealer Meeting. Since then we've urged the bike over a 12,095-foot summit in pouring rain, trudged through 120-degree Fahrenheit temperatures in the desert, ambled along the oceanside and commuted to the moon and back. As an overall package, the T-Sport performs with great versatility. It's comfortable, powerful and nimble, and damn we love those bags. Touring riders will value the Twin Cam's fuel efficiency too -- a 206-mile range is certainly nothing to throw cheese balls at.

The half fairing on the T-Sport is small enough not to upset the visual proportion of the bike, yet wide enough to provide adequate wind protection with only minor buffeting occurring around the sides. The lightly tinted windshield is conveniently adjustable for both height and angle by means of a mechanical dial, which controls two hinged arms. Dialing the shield out decreases the rake by 10 degrees and simultaneously raises its height by two inches. Most average-sized riders found the windshield dialed to its highest position provided the best wind and noise defense, but interrupted line-of-sight. There is some distortion in the curved edges of the shield and splicing the view was distracting enough that most of us opted to keep it fully lowered. The windshield could lose a couple inches off the top and Harley-Davidson is, in fact, working on a shorter option. Currently there's only one replacement windscreen available and it's two inches taller, which we do not recommend (unless you are about siz-inches taller than any of us.

The functional quick-detach ballistic nylon, leather-topped saddlebags are another departure from Harley's traditional styling. They mount to the bike on three small metal docks and detach via a button-operated fastener located on the rear portion of the bracket that backs each bag. You simply depress the button (hard) to release the latching mechanism, and then lift the bag up and slightly forward to free it from the mounting posts. Mounting them is just as easy once you get a feel for the position of the receptors on the bag's bracket system. Once lined up properly, it's almost impossible not to have the bag drop right into the mounts and lock in place.

The stock saddlebags are expandable by means of a zippered cinching system and hold an enormous amount of whatever. Picture the magician's hat in reverse -- inside each bag is a nifty built-in waterproof liner, which pulls up and opens sack-style for easy stuffing. Once loaded, the liner can be cinched at the top and crammed back into the bag's shell. If you choose not to use the inner liner, it simply puddles complacently in the bottom of the bag. (Exterior rain covers are also provided.) Of course it's tough to get to items when they're stacked in a top-loading sack then stuffed into another bag, even though the outer portion opens clamshell-style. We chose to use the inner liners for things that simply couldn't get wet, like electronics, or things we didn't need, like dirty underwear, and situate things we might want to access within the main nylon bag and its smaller outside compartment.

We love these bags, and found nothing to moan over except they can be hard to fully unzip while they're attached to the bike (it's especially difficult to draw the zippers rearward because the stylishly tucked rear turn signals get in the way). But the bags were so easy to take on and off the bike we didn't care. Harley's detachable bags of yore, such as those found on the FXDS Convertible were wholly unattractive, an extreme pain to use and a bummer to chase down city streets once the screw-tightened fasteners vibrated loose (as, judging from our experiences, they inevitably did).

Stop Whining

Harley has addressed other universally despised Dyna Glide characteristics this year. The kickstands have always been a chore to use. Not only were they hard to locate without a visual search, but also they were long and so poorly positioned you had to lean the bike to the right -- just over center -- to deploy them. It wasn't that irritating in ideal conditions, but if the pavement was at all angled, or if you happened to stop in gravel or similarly slippery stuff, it could be a rigmarole...or worse. We like the reinvented stand, which has its pivot point shortened and is equipped with an extended tab. (Now if Harley could just mount the ignition in a position that makes sense....)

This year there are new fuel gauges, ones that don't hover and plummet quite as much, and an anti-fog application for the gauge housing to deter condensation. Harley has also implemented a new transmission shifter claimed to provide smoother, more accurate gear exchanges. Some said they didn't notice the difference, but those of us who were most irate about stirring the thing around searching for neutral could immediately feel the distinction. In the miles we accumulated on the T-Sport, neutral was always right where it was supposed to be -- and didn't have the bad habit of showing up where it shouldn't.

Harley also addressed the ridiculous dilemma of failing tank console trim, which on past Dynas would slip off and flop around almost immediately in an extremely unattractive fashion. It had to be a real pisser for any owner. Unfortunately, the "new durable trim" doesn't cut the mustard either. The trim still separates from the console straight away, although it doesn't flop thanks to strategically placed globs of glue. It seems inexcusable for such an expensive motorcycle.

Thankfully, the rest of the T-Sport's fit and finish is up to par. While the powdercoat blackout effect denotes aggression on the FXDX, it is subtly handsome and almost elegant on the T-Sport. Staggered chrome shorty mufflers provide an aesthetic balance. Tall in stature, and more sinewy than wide, the bike's shape suggests agility. And it delivers. Whether you're blazing along back roads or doing a jig through rush-hour traffic, the T-Sport's predictable steering and athletic suspension provides inspiring maneuverability without compromising stability. Ground clearance is admirable, and the typical rider would have a tough time touching hard parts. Surprisingly the T-Sport offers less ground clearance than the FXDX (32.4 degrees on the right side as opposed to 33.5), a result of a narrower rear tire. When we first took delivery of the bike we noticed a slightly disconcerting head wallow which occurred quite frequently in sweeping corners and was additionally prompted by road irregularities. However, in playing with the zoot adjustable suspension, we were able to tame the nuisance considerably.

Sporting Some Function

Adding a little sport to the cruiser genus is a good thing. Functional treats such as adjustable suspension and powerful brakes don't take away from style. The FXDX wowed us with its performance characteristics, and the T-Sport is equipped with the same practical assets. The cartridge-type 39mm front fork is adjustable for compression and rebound damping and the dual-rate spring can be tensioned for preload. Dual gas-charged shocks on the rear are adjustable for preload and rebound damping. Both situations are easy to access and adjust.

Obviously, we think highly of the T-Sport's suspension and its straightforward adjustments. When dialed soft for touring, it soaks up highway irregularities like a sponge, and when set on the stiff side, you can tear into canyon roads without worrying about any slop. On the other hand, if you're not picky you can just set it somewhere in the middle and go. We are also big fans of the FXDXT brakes. You get two big discs up front, and a single matching unit on the rear, actuated by four-piston calipers. The hearty front brakes are especially nice for spirited back-road riding, and the combined power of both front and rear is excellent. Response is ultra-fast, yet securely smooth -- with no surprises.

The T-Sport is smooth in other ways too. Little engine vibration reaches the rider thanks to a well-evolved rubber-mounting system. What you do feel is transmitted mostly through the seat, and it reaches a crescendo at approximately 2800 rpm. Unfortunately that engine speed translates to roughly 65 mph in fifth gear, so if you find it bothersome (and only some of us did) you'll be making a slight adjustment one side or the other.

The mirrors on the T-Sport are big and steady enough to provide an acceptable view. Most of the quivering occurs at low rpm, so on the highway there's not a lot of distortion. Gauges are functional and aesthetically pleasing from the pilot's perspective, and all controls were painless to operate, including the clutch. Of minor concern, the tripmeter reset button, located on the backside of the speedometer housing, cannot be manipulated unless the windshield is dialed forward. It's a bit of an annoyance if you consistently ride with the shield at its lowest setting. Thankfully, the large dial is easy to crank and the inconvenience quickly fades into routine.

Footpeg and handlebar positions were mostly comfortable for the lot of us. One tester returned from a long day in the saddle complaining of the infamously agonizing stitch between her shoulder blades -- also known as wide handlebar syndrome. The bar is a bit wide at 32 inches, but the distance from the seat to the grips really exaggerates the spread. It's quite a reach if you're seated as intended in the well of the saddle. Most of us had some complaint about whether the handlebar was a comfort or steering-response issue and would want to replace it with one tailored to our personal tastes and builds. Riders with short inseams may also shy away from the somewhat lofty 28-inch seat height, and the wide stock saddle exaggerates the issue. The original equipment highway pegs were also quite a stretch for our smaller riders, but we liked having an elective leg position, especially during long stints. The Fathead's sizable air box, however, can uncomfortably contact the right leg, and lazy foot placement will actually depress the rear brake lever.

Pain in the Butt?

This touring seat is a big improvement over the FXDX's more sport-oriented saddle. It's wider, deeper and more amply cushioned. The only passenger we could rustle up thought the pillion was comfy and especially liked that it was wider than your garden-variety cruiser seatlet. If you're going to be doing a lot of two-up, you may want to explore backrest options since the T-Sport is not equipped with one. This would allow you to carry more goodies too, either in a sissy bar bag or on a rear rack. The T-Sport's attractively snug conformation doesn't leave many holes for bungee magic, so it's not too straightforward to throw a big bag on the rear seat.

Harley has made some widespread changes for 2001, some of which affect the Dyna Glide T-Sport. A new sensor within the turn-signal system has been added to more accurately and efficiently self-cancel the indicator lights (the old system would often cancel the signal before you actually reached a corner). This new gizmo uses a silicon-based accelerometer along with what amounts to a ball bearing rolling within an intelligent V-shaped housing to monitor speed, deceleration and lean angle. Its purpose is to cancel the indicator light once it judges a corner has been completed...or it believes you've changed your mind. So, once it senses lean and return to upright, the signal will stop. It will also shut off after 20 flashes if your speed or angle is consistent. However, the countdown is suspended if you decelerate, if your cruising speed is less than 20 mph or if you stop. Although it was rare, the turn signal did occasionally fail to cancel as predicted. So the lesson remains that we should not let any mechanical device do our thinking for us -- especially when it's a matter of safety.

This turn-signal system is part of a widespread electronic map on the bike, and linked to a new diagnostic system, which can be accessed by factory-authorized mechanics. Harley's trouble-shooting Scanalyzer software claims to be state-of-the-art, and this improved version allows dealers to record service records for the machine it's scanning and download them to a shared system maintained by the factory. Eventually any dealer will be able to upload your bike's history -- an asset when you're on the road. A related electronic option this year for all Dyna, Softail and Touring models is a new security system ($250). When the system is active, the same sensor used to detect lean angle in corners for turn signals alerts the system if someone lifts the bike off the sidestand. When such an intrusion is detected, a module disables the starter motor and fuel control system while prompting the turn signals to flash. The unit can be upgraded to include a siren or pager.

Harley also has changed the rubber on all 2001 bikes. Dunlop now supplies Harley-Davidson Series tires designed specifically for each application. The T-Sport treads on a dedicated high-mileage compound, so if you're keen on cornering performance you may want to consider tackier tires. Two-tone, 13-spoke cast aluminum alloy wheels are standard on the T-Sport and neither laced nor two-tone paint are offered. Our test unit was a dark suede green pearl, which met with mixed reviews. We think the T-Sport looks best in silver pearl, but also can be purchased in black, red, blue, jade or purple pearl. And yeah, it's expensive. The base price is $14,720, a grand more than the sport-specific FXDX. But you'd pay at least that much for the bags and Windshield.

But heck, there's nothing else like it on the road -- at least not yet. The T-Sport is more than a standard cruiser with a windshield and bags. It's an athletic hybrid that blends and balances two of motorcycling's perks: excitement and adventure. A touring cruiser will get you where you want to go, but the fun factor is somewhat limited. A sport machine is certainly amusing, but the giggles tend to peter out after a few hundred miles in one sitting. In our opinion, the T-Sport does it all, without compromising the basic cruiser style and visual attitude. Geez, and you get those groovy bags in the bargain.

**IN BRIEF
High Points: **Does it all, great bags, neat fairing.
**Low Points: **Rider ergos won't suit some, mild front-end oscillation, tank console trim still peels.
**First Changes: **More miles on the odometer, handlebar with a personalized bend, tackier tires.

**RIDING POSITIONS

Art Friedman: **Ha! All these years they have been telling you that you couldn't have your cake and eat it too. The T-Sport is sweet revenge. If you wanted touring comfort, supposedly you had to forego cool style and deft handling. OK, the T-Sport isn't a Ducati 916/Gold Wing/Wide Glide, but it hits the strong points of each of those bikes hard enough to qualify as a true sport-touring cruiser.

After being repeatedly frustrated by the Convertible, which seemed to be mostly unrealized potential, the FXDXT is a welcome addition to Harley's line, and the perfect bike for someone who only gets to have one bike but still wants to do everything with it.

_E-mail is now the only mail Friedman reads:Art.Friedman@sorc.com.

**Andy Cherney: **I was parking the T-Sport on a side street when a stoner dude ambled up to me exclaiming, "Wow, brudda, izzat really a Hawrley?" When I nodded in the affirmative, he inhaled (his breath) and continued, "I thought for a minnit that wuz a friggin Beemer, with all those gizmos on it."

The gizmos my pharmaceutically enhanced pal was referring to were the removable soft bags and adjustable windshield. I'll admit I didn't think this bike fit the traditional Harley image either, but after a long weekend with it, I'm hooked. The T-Sport bridges the sometimes huge gap between utilitarian and cool very neatly, and with little sacrifice to the performance gods (as I was tersely reminded by the California Highway Patrol one night). Will the next Harley I ride have heated grips?

**Jamie Elvidge: **Three years ago I would have thought twice about taking off alone on an extended trip aboard a Harley-Davidson, new model or not. I stopped counting breakdowns in the early '90s, and starting counting ways to get out of riding American bikes all together. Things have changed. I was halfway up the highest paved pass in the Rocky Mountains, 60 miles from the nearest pay phone or Porta Potti, in the pouring rain, before I said to myself, "Whoa, I'm riding a Harley in the middle of nowhere..." My next thought? Damn, this is fun

SPECIFICATIONS
2001 Harley-Davidson Super Glide T-Sport

Designation: FXDXT
Suggested base price: $14,720 ($15,010 CA)
Standard colors: Black
Extra cost colors: Blue, green, jade, purple, silver (add $240)
Standard warranty: 12 mos., unlimited miles
Recommended service interval: 5000 miles

ENGINE & DRIVETRAIN
Type: Air-cooled, 45 degree V-twin
Valve arrangement: OHV; 1 intake, 1 exhaust valve, operated by pushrods, hydraulic adjusters
Displacement, bore x stroke: 1450cc, 95.25 x 101.60mm
Compression ratio: 8.9:1
Carburetion: 1, 40mm Mikuni CV
Lubrication: Dry sump, 3.0 qt.
Minimum fuel grade: 92 octane
Transmission: Wet clutch, 5 speeds
Final drive: Belt, 70/32

CHASSIS
Wet weight: 683 lb., 54.9% rear wheel
GVWR: 1085 lb.
Wheelbase: 63.9 in.
Overall length: 91.4 in.
Rake/trail: 28 degrees / 4.1 in.
Wheels: Cast aluminum, 19.00 x 2.15 in. front, 16.00 x 3.00 in. rear
Front tire: 100/90-19 57H Dunlop H-D series D401
Rear tire: 130/90B16 73H Dunlop H-D series D401
Front brake: 2, four-piston dual-action calipers, 12-in. discs
Rear brake: Four-piston, dual-action caliper, 12-in. disc
Front suspension: Cartridge-type, 39mm stanchions, 6.1 in. travel, adjustable for spring preload, compression, and rebound damping
Rear suspension: 2 dampers, 4.3 in. travel, adjustable for preload and rebound damping Fuel capacity: 4.90 gal., (0.50 gal. reserve)
Handlebar width: 32.0 in.
Inseam equivalent: 33.4 in.
Seat height: 28.0 in.

ELECTRICAL & INSTRUMENTATION
Charging output: 360 watts
Battery: 12v, 20AH
Forward lighting: 55/60-watt
Taillight: Single bulb
Instruments: Speedometer, tachometer, LCD odometer/tripmeter, fuel gauge; warning lights for high beam, turn signals, neutral, oil pressure

PERFORMANCE
Fuel mileage: 42 mpg avg.
Average range: 206 miles
RPM at 60 mph, top-gear: 2500
200 yard, top-gear acceleration from 50 mph, terminal speed: 71.6 mph
Quarter-mile acceleration: 13.68 sec., 94.3 mph

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

Photography by Kevin Wing
Harley's Twin Cam engines more powerful than many bigger V-twins, and rubber mounting snubs their shaking in the Dyna series.
The tinted shield interfered with sight for most of us. We'd replace it with the shorter version.
A mechanical dial on the dash is used to adjust the windshield.
Dialing the windshield in lowers height by two inches while increasing rake by 10 degrees.
The saddlebags are lightweight, easy to carry, and when fully expanded (as on the right), offer serious packing volume.
Each removable nylon bags has a top-loading waterproof liner.
The bike looks pretty clean without the bags, except for the rearmost mount, situated on the fender.
Even the least mechanically inclined rider can figure out the suspension adjustments, and with only minor experimentation, should be able to fine-tune the whole setup for skill level, load and comfort.
This was the 2002 model.
The T-Sport was discontinued after the 2003 model, shown here.