2010 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Custom & Dyna Wide Glide - First Ride!

Custom doesn't have to mean compromise

If you're weary of hearing the phrase "in these trying economic times", we can offer up this optimistic spin: Despite a generally slumping bike market, the touring cruiser segment is enjoying an uptick in popularity. Not surprisingly, Harley's FL bikes represent a good portion of sales in that niche, which explains the appearance of the new Road Glide Custom in H-D's 2010 lineup. Luckily for Milwaukee, nostalgia still sells too, because the Motor Company has gone down memory lane once again with the newly reimagined 2010 Wide Glide. We managed to snag a quick ride on both machines at Harley's 2010 model launch a while back and came back with these impressions.

You already know about the much-needed shot in the (swing) arm given to the entire FLH line in 2009, but Harley has continued to tweak the Touring machines for 2010. In fact, it dropped the Road Glide standard from the lineup completely and added the new Road Glide Custom, priced at a suggested $18,999 (the same MSRP as its low-slung Street Glide stablemate).

For starters, the design crew endowed both Road Glide and Street Glide with a (one-inch) larger 18-inch black aluminum front wheel, now wearing lower-profile 130/70-18 Dunlops, and reworked the exhaust into a new two-into-one system instead of the old dual pipe arrangement. Color-matched saddlebag latches and inserts between the bags and rear fender are also new cosmetic treatments shared by both bikes for 2010. You'll still find the familiar rubber-mounted 96-inch Twin-Cam motor and 6-speed Cruise Drive tranny motivating the whole works however, but with the latter now running a helical-cut fifth gear for less engine noise.

But the main differences between the two 'Glides are the fairings. While the Street Glide uses the more traditional, handlebar-mounted Bat Wing, the Road Glide is distinguished by its chunkier, frame-mounted Shark-Nose (Wild Kingdom, anyone?). And because the Roadie adds "Custom" to its model designation for 2010, it gets the Street Glide treatment-rear suspension is lowered 1 inch from last year's model (H-D specs quote the same 29.5-inch seat height on both Road Glide models, though the saddle is said to be lower for '010 with a rider aboard).

A sleeker frame for the dual headlamps and a low-profile smoked wind deflector also result in a fresher face for the Roadie. The rear end is tidied up with a new LED brake/tail/turn light combo and a semi-frenched-in LED fender light at its tip. Otherwise, the Road Glide Custom keeps things stealthy: there's not even a tank badge to be found.

Straddling the R Glide, pilots are greeted by a vast black space punctuated by a Harman-Kardon 40-watt audio system (with CD player and MP3 input) and integrated storage compartments on either side. A chrome console atop the 6 gallon fuel tank houses a silver-faced tachometer, with nicely spaced gauges displaying info for fuel, oil pressure, voltage and ambient air temperature.

The Road Glide and Street Glide share the same one-piece, two-up saddle, which felt fairly comfortable during our half-day in it, although any potential passengers will likely have a good chuckle if you suggest they have a seat-there's not much real estate out back. Rider floorboards are placed slightly forward for a comfy perch, and the passenger pegs are height-adjustable. Reach out and you'll find easily accessed controls on the low-rise handlebar, with the optional cruise control integrated into the right-side handlebar pod.

Thumb the starter and the Twin Cam 96 V-Twin rumbles to life, with the sonic waves exiting the new tailpipe as throaty as ever. Crack the throttle and the EFI rewards you with a commendably eager response. Take her up to just beyond parking lot speeds however, and something unexpected occurs-the Road Glide actually proves far more agile than any 800 lb Harley we can remember riding recently. Grip from the Dunlop rubber is tenacious and even with its abbreviated lean angles, the Glide can deliver a spirited ride. The rear suspension is air-adjustable to accommodate various loads, and we didn't find ride quality overly compromised by the shorter rear travel (now 2 inches, same as the Street Glide). When we later took the Street Glide out on the same route however, the rear suspension felt far less forgiving.

On the open road, the protection afforded by the snub-nosed fairing is enough of a compromise between open-air cruising and a hint of shelter to remind you that, hey, you're in the wind (so yes, there's some buffeting to endure). In all, the riding experience is positive, with relatively light clutch action, positive (if still clunky) shifts, and well-dialed fueling. It's nearly impossible to tell that the throttle isn't operated by a cable. To its credit, Harley keeps refining its brakes, too: A trio of 300mm discs provide reliable if unspectacular stopping power (we expected a bit more bite out of the dual Brembo 4-piston calipers up front). And the $845 anti-lock option is worth it: even maximum-braking stops on our ABS-equipped unit were smooth and controllable.

Harley continues to impress with its cosmetics, too: the Glide offers superb finishes and refined details. A generous array of chrome bits showcases the black powder-coated engine cases and the new rear-end is a Spartan masterpiece. And while that HK system provides a welcome soundtrack on the road, highway noise drowns out most audio at speeds over 50.

The Road Glide Custom starts at $19K in Vivid Black, though Scarlet Red or Black Denim will cost you $19,479.

When the Wide Glide last appeared in the Harley line-up it was in special 105th Anniversary trim.

After a brief hiatus, Willie decided it was time to bring the old girl back, so for 2010, the restyled Wide Glide returns. This time around, it offers revised cosmetics like an LED taillight combo, and a lowered suspension that drops the solo seat to 25.5 inches. Best of all, it's being offered at a more reasonable $14,499.

Dynas are recognizable by their exposed rear shocks and underseat battery box (black, here), and much of that old-school styling remains in the 2010 'Glide . A mini sissy bar loops over the rear fender, and a new two-into-one-into-two exhaust with slotted heat shields shimmers on the right side. The front of the 4.7-gallon fuel tank is kicked up 0.75 inch to emphasize the chopper vibe and a feeling of sitting "in" the bike. The Wide One gets its name from a spread-out 49mm fork laid out in a unusually long rake of 34 degrees, with space between the fork and frame created by the polished aluminum triple clamps. The black powdercoated powertrain gets contrasting machined and chrome highlights, and a black-rimmed, 40-spoke 21-inch wheel leads the way.

But an ultra-clean back end is definitely the conversation-starter here: a chopped rear fender hovers above new Michelin Scorcher tires, displaying only dual red LED rear stop/turn/tail lights rather than a central tail lamp. The license plate mount has been completely removed, to the left side of the chassis. What's cool is that this setup doesn't adhere to European regulations, so the Continentals are stuck with a traditional taillamp (seen here)-and for once, we Yanks get the trick option!

As on a few of Harley's other 2010 models, the Wide Glide also emphasizes a reduced seat height-meant to boost riders' confidence. With its 25.5 inch seat height, swinging a boot over the new 'Glide is effortless, and the solo saddle makes it easy to position yourself around the Street Bob-sourced fuel tank. Straddling the bike may be a breeze, but the reach to the forward-set pegs is a stretch for those with short inseams (i.e. Yours Truly). The reach to the internally wired 1.25-inch handlebar on four-inch risers is a bit easier, and makes for a drag-style riding slouch. The seat is firm but supportive, and the tank-mounted speedometer is easy enough to read.

The Wide Glide's Twin Cam 96 motor fires up with the expected bark, but unlike the counterbalanced Softails, the Dyna line quells its vibes with rubber mounts. That makes for a case of the shakes at idle and low revs, but at cruising speeds, the motor is unobtrusive. Throttle response and fuel delivery is very smooth, though at Denver's mile-high altitude, we felt initial grunt from the TC96 was less than impressive. Because peak torque comes at 3,000 rpm, the bike seems happiest at mid range revs.

As you'd expect, low-speed maneuverability is somewhat compromised by the combination of a raked-out fork with a 21-inch front wheel and a lengthy 68.3 inch wheelbase, meaning things can be a bit awkward in the parking lot. A light-effort clutch help keep the floppy response at the handlebar manageable, and in urban riding, the on-tap power and low center of gravity make it manageable enough.

Once rolling, however, the Wide Glide is more fun than its stretched out profile would have you believe. I wasn't expecting big things from the Wide Glide, with its skinny tire and slammed suspension, but the semi-chopper nearly redeemed itself on twisty roads. In most situations the Glide feels solid and composed, though when it's confronted with successive road irregularities, the bike can struggle to regain its balance. And when you're heeled over in a corner with the suspension loaded, the rear can easily get overwhelmed by large bumps. Speaking of corners, the Wide Glide comports itself well around most sweepers-especially left-handers-but in right handers, the low hanging exhaust means less ground clearance.

All of Harley's Big Twins are equipped with the 6-speed Cruise Drive transmission, which for 2010 get a helical-cut fifth gear to snub gear whine. Gear selection is positive, clutch engagement is progressive, and gearing is fairly tall; more than once we found ourselves lugging the engine because of a too-quick upshift. Of bigger concern was the single disc front brake, which-even with a four piston caliper-provided only adequate stopping power.

That said, many of the Harley faithful will probably overlook those points in favor of the uniquely swept lines of the Wide Glide-it's a nicely refined bit of old school cool, or, as Harley calls it, "affordable attitude." The $14,499 base price is for the Vivid Black Wide Glide. For an extra $375, you can go with the Red Hot Sunglo, but check out the Vivid Black with clear-coated flames for $15,194-technically, one of Harley's finest paint applications.

SPECIFICATIONS
2010 H-D FLTRX ROAD GLIDE CUSTOM 2010 H-D FXDWG DYNA WIDE GLIDE
**MSRP ** $18,999 solid colors; $19,479 two-tone $14,499 in black$15,194 two-tone
**COLORS ** Vivid Black, Scarlet Red, Black Denim Red Hot Sunglo, Vivid Black
ENGINE
TYPE Air-cooled Twin Cam 96 Air-cooled Twin Cam 96
**DISPLACEMENT, BORE X STROKE ** 1584cc, 95.25mm x 111.252mm 1584cc, 95.25mm x 111.252mm
**VALVE TRAIN ** Pushrod-operated overhead valves; 2 per cylinder Pushrod-operated overhead valves; 2 per cylinder
**COMPRESSION ** 9.2:1 9.2:1
FUEL SYSTEM Electronic Fuel Injection Electronic Fuel Injection
TRANSMISSION 6-Speed 6-Speed
**FINAL DRIVE ** Belt Belt
CHASSIS
**FRONT SUSPENSION ** 41.3mm telescopic fork; 4.6 in. travel 49mm telescopic fork; 5 in. travel
**REAR SUSPENSION ** Single damper, air-adjustable preload; 2- in. travel. Dual dampers; 3.10 in. travel.
**FRONT BRAKE ** 300mm discs, 4-piston Brembo calipers 299mm disc, 4-piston calipers
**REAR BRAKE ** 300mm disc, 4-piston Brembo caliper 292mm disc, 2-piston caliper
FRONT TIRE Dunlop D408F bias, 130/80-18 Dunlop GT502F, 80/90-21
REAR TIRE Dunlop D407 bias, 180/65-16 Dunlop GT502, 180/60B-17
OVERALL LENGTH OVERALL LENGTH 95.0 in. 94.0 in.
WHEELBASE 63.50 in 68.30 in
RAKE/TRAIL 26-deg./ 6.69 in. 34 deg./ 5.20 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 29.5 in. 26.7 in.
WEIGHT (WET) 805 lbs. 665 lbs.
**FUEL CAPACITY ** 6 gallons 4.7 US gal.

2010 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Custom & Dyna Wide Glide - Motorcycle Cruiser Magazine