By Buzz Buzzelli
[This 2006 Harley-Davidson FLHXI Street Glide Road Test was originally published in American Rider magazine]
Every biker can appreciate a Harley that has style, especially when it performs well. Having both qualities-form and function-is a goal that many riders strive for, often at great expense. So when an absolutely stock Harley rolls out of the factory doors with all the performance and technology of the latest models, and it has a style that everyone can appreciate, it’s time to take notice.
But what is style? For some people (the more-is-better crowd), style means loading it up with more stuff, like, say, a satellite radio or a GPS system. For others (the less-is-more fans), style means fewer amenities, fewer accessories, just the basics. And then of course there’s the Style Police who insist that above all else, it just has to be cool.
Well, the ’06 FLHXI Street Glide is sure to please all. First, it has the function that only an Electra Glide can deliver-ride, handling and comfort-and it has the right look. In fact, that look is enough to easily pacify any SP. In its stripped-to-basics form, this X-model FLH is the bobber of baggers.
To create the X-model, Harley essentially started with a basic “King of the Road” Electra Glide Standard and stripped it. Off came the chrome fender trim, saddlebag cage, badges, emblems, auxiliary lights and turn signals. The solo headlamp got the reflector-lens treatment with a cloisonnŽ Bar-and-Shield logo, and new minimalist bullet-style turn indicators were added front and rear. The tank was treated to a full-length sculpted console with a smoke-chrome nameplate. Saddlebag latches are color-matched, the low-hung license plate has hidden illumination, and the bottom edge of the rear fender is endowed with thin-line LED lights. Rearview mirrors are fairing-mounted, further cleaning up the front end.
That fairing may look chopped, but it’s the same basic shell you’ll find on the full-featured Ultra Classic. It houses all the usual FLH instruments along with Harley’s new 40-watt Harman-Kardon Advanced Audio System. It has AM/FM/WB radio reception, a CD player, MP3 capability, and plug-ins for adding even more. The MP3 music can be stored and played on a CD, which gives 10 hours of recorded music. The Street Glide also has a subscription-based XM satellite radio that boasts more than 150 digital channels as standard equipment. Stereo system options include a high-output amplifier, CB radio and bike-to-bike communications, and hands-free integrated cell phone. Global positioning navigation is also available.
The fairing’s short tinted screen gives the bike its cut-down profile and is surprisingly effective for keeping the wind off the rider. The windblast strikes a rider of average height at eyebrow level, keeping buffeting to a minimum. Taller riders wanting more wind protection will be looking for Harley’s regular screen.
The traditional FL saddlebags, made from GTX nylon, have proven functional and durable. This material is proving to be durable, and it has no odor nor does it chafe and disintegrate like bags of yore. The hinged clamshell lids can be opened and closed with one hand, and there’s never a worry of them ever coming off in the wind. For those wanting more storage space, the low-profile Chopped Tour-Pak or Road King Leather Tour-Pak make ideal choices.
The engine, available with either electronic fuel injection or carburetor induction, has the black-and-chrome treatment. Now in its seventh year, the 1450cc TC88 has undergone some refinement since its introduction in 1999. The camshaft end plate has been equiped with new bearings, and the rear cam drive chain and chain tensioners are all improved. A powerful new 50-amp/650-watt charging system is sure to keep up with the new electronic stereo system and any other electrical goodies a rider might add.
Another pleasant improvement is the reduced clutch-lever effort. The clutch ball-and-ramp mechanism has been redesigned, along with the low-friction clutch cable, requiring 24 percent less effort. That might not seem like much, but the improvement in clutch-engagement action is remarkable. This is one of the best clutch actions in all of motorcycling and it makes riding the big Glide in stop-and-go traffic an effortless experience.
Shorter air-adjustable rear shocks enhance the low-profile look of the Street Glide. When set at low air pressures, the ride is still a little harsh but acceptable for highway use. Adding pressure helps to keep the shocks from bottoming. Overall there’s not a lot of difference in ride qualities from the taller Electra Glides, and the laden seat height is a low 26 inches.
The seating position is unlike the standard Electra Glides. It sits lower, giving more of a feeling of being “in” the bike rather than on it, and the bar is wider and lower. This position and the hard seat may not be right for all riders, but many will no doubt find it suitable.
Maybe it’s a psychological effect of the low seating, but the X-Glide gives an impression of being easier to handle than the taller-sitting Electra Glide. It definitely has a lighter feel than the Ultra and steers quicker and easier when hustling the bike on curvy roads.
The X-Glide is wired for cruise control and it has an accessory connector under the seat; Harley’s heated seat and grips are cold-weather options. The ignition switch/steering lock has been improved for 2006 to provide a more positive engagement. Available colors are Vivid Black, Black Cherry Pearl, Black Pearl and Deep Cobalt Pearl.
The service intervals for all FLH models are 1,000 miles for the first, then every 5,000 miles thereafter. Warranty is 24 months, unlimited mileage. Manufacturer’s 49-state suggested retail price for the FLHXI (carburetor) is $17,795 (black); add $225 for ESPI. Naturally, these prices exclude all other additional charges (and there can be many).
Our test bike, equipped with ESPFI, performed exactly as we’ve come to expect of the big FLH models. The engine started instantly and ran without glitches. It has that lumpy, shaking idle that is the core of the Harley experience, and the faster it goes, the smoother it gets. In fact, with the slick clutch actuation and general fit and finish of these latest Harleys, the venerable Electra Glides seem to have gotten smoother in every way. They go, stop, turn and ride in an extremely satisfying manner, and they give plenty of luggage space to boot. Of course, the FLHX will be regarded by some as the best of all the ‘Glides. It is, after all, the coolest.