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2012 Harley-Davidson Street Glide Rider Impressions

From the Owner of a 2007 Street Glide

Text and photos by Art Hall, Quick Throttle Events Photographer and Bikernet International Editor
9/18/2012


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Well it has been five years now that has seen me put 20,000 miles on what was once the latest and greatest Street Glide produced. The 2012 is what I would term the third generation while the 2007 would be the second generation, as it came fitted with some very major mechanical changes like a 6-speed tranny, fuel injection and the 96-inch engine. As soon as I got in the saddle of this 2012 it felt better as the seat has more contoured feeling lower, which by gosh it was at 27.1 inches verses 27.3 inches on the ‘07. There didn't seem to be any other ergonomic changes of a very noticeable nature.




As you read this keep in mind it is written from the perspective of comparison to my, and probably mostly, stock 2007 (2nd Gen.) model.




The gauges still need to be recessed so that the vertical plane is relative to the rider and not the ground. I am not very tall at 5'11" but I still cannot see the top edge of the gauge increments. Is it critical to safe operation? No, but it bugs me that after a zillion bikes and dozens of years (since 1969) some small creature features have not been addressed.





Another item brought to my attention by the new owner of a touring bike was the temperature gauge, which is still as useless today as it was in 2007. When I first experienced one on a rented Electra Glide I couldn't even figure out what it was for. I said then and I say it now - I wish I had the concession on the manufacturing of that gauge to be able to sell so many of something that doesn't function well. Why does it start at zero degrees? Only a redneck cheesehead on the way to his favorite ice-fishing hole in the dead middle of a Wisconsin winter could possibly have a use for that. It does not seem to be accurate to the nearest ten degrees and with a small sweep having the top of the gauge out of the line of sight (see above) it further detracts from it's necessity.



Let me go on a bit about the gauges, ad nauseum please. Does the tach need to read 8 grand? These engines are screaming like a scalded banshee at 4 grand, while I do occasionally take mine to 5+ just to "blow it out" or is that blow it "up"? This leads to my thought that all the gauges could be more accurate and useful if they had a larger sweep of say 270 degrees and had logical starting and ending points with a functional division of measurement. The gas gauge has 27 markings, dividing up 5 gallons - how useful is that? Wouldn't five demarcations do just as well, F, 1/4, 1/2, 3/4 and E. I know, minutia but hey it's the small things, isn't it?

 
Let me get a few other non-operational items off the shelf here, like the 6- gallon tank. I didn't seem to feel that was beneficial to me. I have not yet gone cross country on any motorcycle with my farthest trips being Phoenix, Laughlin, and San Francisco, so I am guessing that extra gallon could be useful there. I have however driven a car across the country several times through every state except Alaska, never did run out of gas, and I think I could do the same on my 5 gal "fatbob" tank. I'll call that a non issue.
 
 


Speaking of gas, the filler cap locking cover is easier to operate. As I remember my ‘07 had to use the key to both open and close the lid while the ‘12 just snaps shut being much more user friendly. I say "as I remember" because I traded out my original gas lock for one of the few less than $100 add-on parts available, that being a $25 push button lock for opening the filler door eliminating the need for a key at all. While on the subject I still wonder why only the touring bike gets a lock on the gas tanks - do we visit nefarious neighborhoods more often? One more thing about gas, the new gauge has a digital readout remaining range feature and comes on automatically at R36 telling you it's really time to look for a station that is not more than 36 miles away.




Some other non-operational items include the paint job. The factory demo had metalflake blue that had me thinking it was a bit brash for my taste. Well that reticence was somewhat offset by the kudos received by everybody who saw the flake in the sun, because they all really liked it and in the shade or at night the flake disappeared, looking like just a plain dark blue. Accessorized with the 18-inch smooth chrome rim spoked wheels the appearance was actually quite handsome.




The wider rear tire and fender was introduced a few years back with the new frame, now having the large center taillight and fender strut cross brace removed, the result being a very custom look which as an added incidental benefit allows for much easier cleaning.


The bike comes with a 4-inch windshield (deflector) of sorts which only redirects a jet stream of extra air under my DOT approved helmet, causing the chinstrap to effectively choke me out. I opted for a taller windshield.


The clutch and brake levers have Teflon pad shims. They eliminate the ever-present rattle in those controls of yonder years. The hard saddlebags, actually the latching mechanisms, are another sad item in my humble estimation. They are archaic, difficult at best and still are prone to not latching completely if you are the least bit negligent when closing, resulting in them popping open in flight, (how would I know?) typically on the freeway. I have been lucky. Nothing ever blew out during these multiple occasions.





The ignition switch still looks like a Kohler bath fixture more at home on the shower mixer valve. The last of the glaring visual defects is the front engine mount/brace looking like an afterthought of - oops what did we forget? I am told this was caused by a lack of room under the gas tank during a redesign effort but doesn't mask its bogus appearance. One last item is that this bike did not contain the factory security system, and I really miss not being able just get off for a short mission without having to lock it on every occasion. I think this item is worth the money.


Okay, let's move on to the operational features as I call them, and ride this puppy. Turn the mixer valve (see above) to ignition, hit the starter button and she begins purring at a rather brisk 1200-1300 rpms. Seems to have a carburetor-style fast cold idle. It takes too long to settle down (warm up) so drop it in first and the hammer falls! The trans really hits hard and the easy to pull clutch allows for a little forward tug, giving you that old-fashioned manly machine feeling, surely a corporate design decision. This clutch is aggressive and grabs very solidly which takes a little getting used to but works well.




We are underway, Scotty and I can't say enough good things about the handling and manners of the powertrain. The FLHX now has the newer, proven 103 cubic inch engine as a standard feature. The 103 is a superior engine plain and simple. It's the bomb, and the new frame is also superior in all respects. The extra torque and horsepower don't give you that “I'm on a dragster” feeling but they do translate to a well-mannered, smooth running, easy to ride motorcycle under any condition. The torque gives you a much broader power range resulting in less shifting and is smoother running in all gears. One test I do to push the limits of an engine is to leave it in top gear and see how low of an RPM it will go to and still run back up. Promise you won't tell anybody, but I took this one all the way down to idle speed in 6th gear and it wasn't happy, but like a tired ole' plow horse she still pulled out, that's torque at it's best. An oil cooler is now standard equipment.





I am not a sport biker, peg scraping canyon carver by any means but this new frame works so well that it inspired confidence in turns I would otherwise find intimidating and was equally nimble at very slow parking lot speeds. It seemed more sure-footed on rough roads, never giving the feeling of losing contact with the pavement. It felt like a bike that just got a new set of tires. One interesting bit of technical information is that top gear is a lower ratio than my ‘07 resulting in a speed difference of 4mph less on the 12 at 3,000 rpm, 80 vs 84. In my non-engineering mind it would seem that a bigger stronger engine could handle the gear ratio going up instead, giving you fewer rpm's at cruising speed for a more relaxed ride and increased fuel economy, but what do I know?





Included in the greater handling characteristics is the ABS braking system which I also think is worth the money and co-incidentally comes as a package with that other item I think is worth the money, the security system. The rear wheel does have a great deal of chatter when stressed under braking but that is easy to get used to knowing you can stop faster and not worry about going down when clamping down on the front 4-piston calipers. Loosely related to handling is the cruise control which I tried a couple of times, but was never on an uncrowded enough highway to fully appreciate it's use. On long rides it’s a terrific tool for avoiding speeding tickets.

After 937 miles I had used 24.7 gallons of gas averaging 37.8 mpg while getting over 40 mpg on the open road.

Conclusion, and I am sure you are holding your breath for this one - I am thoroughly impressed with the advancements made on this "new generation" of Street Glide (FLHX).




If I could get the boss to give me a raise I might be able to afford the minimum $10,000 it would cost me to upgrade and I would do the deal. I left out all the statistical information, you can look that up on the internet. My job here was to give you a rider’s impression of the motorcycle, and I hope you enjoyed it.
 
Published courtesy of Quick Throttle Magazine

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Reader Comments


In reading your article and scoring it by sections covered, your conclusion in no way matches. Counting 15 sections and scoring each at 0 to 6 points it appears you would give the bike about a 50 on a top score of 90.

It's just my impression, but it seemed like you just had to conclude it was a great bike after picking it apart.

Hutch
Kennesaw, GA
Saturday, September 22, 2012
A very good summary of a rider's impression. Having owned 2 Street Glides myself, I think he got it wrong about the 6 gallon tank. The extra range does come in very handy in parts of the US and Australia also. Art is talking stock motors here, but once you hot rod the motor, bumping up performance you do suck more gas and that extra is then very welcome.

I've also dissed the 'outside air temperature' gauge on these baggers but a new buddy of mine in Wisconsin reckons it is very handy to warn of temperature drops that may cause black ice to form. So, like me, I guess Art lives in an area where this is not a factor. Nevertheless, the gauge is easily swapped out for an oil temperature one, a much better idea.

Doc Robinson
SA, Australia
Saturday, September 22, 2012

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