Harley-Davidson Wide Glide - ROAD TEST

H-D's old school custom cool

Harley-Davidson Wide Glide on-road action
Harley-Davidson Wide GlideJeff Allen

Let's face it, cruising is as much about the image conveyed as by the experience of riding itself. Some may hate me for saying that, but the reality is that the bike you buy, how you personalize it and where you ride it says a lot about you. Nowhere is this more evident than in the world of the Harley-Davidson faithful. Harley knows the desires of its customers better than perhaps any other motorcycle company, keeping its wide-ranging lineup stocked with just the right mix of models. In the case of the 2010 FXDWG, the Motor Company revamped and brought back an old friend.

The Wide Glide has a long history, debuting as a solid-engine-mount FX model that ran from 1980-86, then returning for a second go as a rubber-mounted FXD from 1993-2008. Absent from the Dyna line in 2009, the FXDWG returns for its third tour of duty with a down-’n’-dirty, old-school-chopper-inspired look.

If the previous model had a classic profile, then the 2010 Wide Glide rewrites the definition of what a cruiser should look like.

The long, low look is largely a product of new suspension that has been shortened by 1 inch at both ends, but it doesn’t hurt that the fork is at a 36-degree rake. Those widely spaced 49mm tubes are held in place by polished aluminum triple-clamps, and the 40-spoke pizza-cutter wheel has a blacked-out rim wearing a skinny 80/90-21 tire. The black rear wheel carries a conservatively wide 180/60-17 tire. Keeping the back of the bike tidy was obviously a design goal, as the chopped rear fender is free from clutter thanks to side-mounted dual red LEDs functioning as stop/turn/taillights. Continuing the theme is a flip-out license-plate holder affixed under the left rear light. Perhaps the single most differentiating styling element, and a simple one at that, is the black “wire” sissybar, which gives the Wide Glide a 1970s street-chopper vibe. The black steel swingarm is controlled by a pair of preload-adjustable Showa shocks.

Harley-Davidson Wide Glide static side view
Harley-Davidson Wide GlideJeff Allen

If you didn’t get the idea from the color of the wheels and sissybar, it is clear that, for Harley, blacked-out is back. The dark treatment runs through this machine, as the mirrors, headlight nacelle, wrinkle-finish battery box, handlebar risers, rear final-drive pulley and powder-coated powertrain all received the light-sucking treatment. Another key styling element was to raise the front of the Street-Bob-style fuel tank by 3/4 of an inch, which may not sound like a big deal, but it definitely alters the Wide Glide’s lines. A low-profile, tank-top gauge console (black, of course) carries a speedometer and a small, multi-function LCD screen.

Our testbike features optional Vivid Black Flame paint ($700), which is a story unto itself. The flames actually aren’t paint at all. They are, in fact, a water-slide decal (similar to the ones you applied to model kits as a kid) created from a digital image. The wet graphic is transferred to the painted tank, carefully positioned, then burnished by hand and finally dried in a high-velocity dehydration machine. The tank is then clear-coated so that the edges of the transfer are indistinguishable from the paint itself. Coolest part? The flames are an exact copy of those painted on the original Wide Glide in 1980.

Harley-Davidson engine details
Twin Cam engine was increased from 88 to 96 cubic inches and received the six-speed Cruise Drive transmission in 2007. Hp-wise, it’s still out-gunned by the competition. Will we see either the TC 103 or the TC 110 as the base engine in Harley’s line soon?Jeff Allen

Ergonomics are classic, relaxed cruiser. Reach to the bars results in a slight bend at the elbows from my 5-foot-11 frame, and my hands fall naturally to grips mounted on the fat, 1 1/4-inch-diameter, internally wired chrome handlebar. Peg position is definitely feet-forward but still close enough in my case to allow a nice bend of the knees for good comfort. The solo seat height measured 26.5 inches, a full 2 inches lower than that of the 2008 model. A separate, fender-mounted passenger pad provides a bit of lower-back support. Even with that modicum of support, I was still hanging on tightly when riding faster than 65 mph or so. Such is the nature of a kicked-back unfaired cruiser.

Not a lot has changed in the engine department. The same rubber-mounted, 45-degree, TC 96 V-Twin used in the 2008 model sends power through a chain primary to the six-speed Cruise Drive transmission and belt final drive. Pushrods operate two valves per cylinder and feature hydraulic self-adjusting lifters. Bore-and-stroke dimensions measure 3.75 x 4.38 inches, with the compression ratio set at 9.2:1. Lubrication is via a pressurized dry-sump system. As much a part of the look as of mechanical function are the Tommy Gun 2-into-1-into-2 stacked exhaust pipes replacing the previous WG’s staggered 2-into-2 units.

Harley-Davidson Wide Glide on-road action
Harley-Davidson Wide GlideJeff Allen

Raw performance is clearly not at the top of H-D's priority list with the Twin Cam 96. Our Wide Glide test unit produced 64 horsepower and 83 foot-pounds of torque on the CW dyno, down a couple of hp to even the Road King we measured for "Battle of the Baggers". In that comparison test, only the Moto Guzzi California Vintage made less torque and only Yamaha's Road Star made less horsepower. In the world of big Twins, Harley is currently packing a peashooter (1584cc) compared to the competition's high-caliber arsenals that range in displacement from 1731 to 2000cc. H-D has the means to up the ante with the Electra Glide Ultra Limited's TC 103 (1690cc) and the Screamin' Eagle CVO TC 110 (1804cc) engines. More power, please!

No surprise, the Wide Glide is not blindingly quick; its best quarter-mile pass during performance testing was 13.26 seconds at 99.7 mph. But because this Harley is relatively light at 643 pounds dry, its acceleration is in the ballpark with that of other, more powerful V-Twin cruisers.

“If the previous model had a classic profile, then the 2010 Wide Glide rewrites the definition of what a cruiser should look like.”

What the TC 96 lacks in oomph it definitely grabs back in civility and character. Thrumming along on the open road, the engine produces just the right vibes, never annoying but always reminding you that the machinery is there. Clutch action is fairly heavy and the range of engagement narrow, but because at least 80 ft.-lb. of torque is available between 2300 and 4000 rpm, getting away from a stop smoothly is never an issue. Despite the wide shifter throws, seamless gear changes between the well-spaced ratios are easy to achieve. The overdrive sixth gear is welcome at freeway speeds.

Response from the fuel-injection system is good in all temperatures and conditions we encountered. The engine fires up with a single push of the button and settles into the familiar “potato-potato” idle instantly. No need to wait for the bike to get up to temp; just snick the transmission into gear (with the proverbial clunk) and motor away. Those reluctant to admit that EFI is better than carbs surely haven’t ridden a modern Harley.

Harley-Davidson Wide Glide cockpit view
Backbone frame is constructed of stamped, cast and forged mild-steel pieces MIG welded together, giving the Dyna Wide Glide a precise and predictable-handling chassis. Stripped of unnecessary trim pieces, the cockpit and rear fender are uncluttered, the latter benefitting from the side-mounted license plate. Fans of symmetry can order optional fender-mount plate holder.Jeff Allen

With a name like Wide Glide, this bike didn’t have apex strafing in its design brief. Nonetheless, the Glide is far more nimble than expected. Initiating turn-in requires only a light touch of counter-steering pressure, and then the bike arcs into bends in a nearly neutral manner. The skinny front tire holds the road better than expected. In fact, grip is sufficient enough that cornering clearance is a bit of an issue, especially since our testbike was delivered with a very soft rear suspension setup. Cranking preload to max on both shocks elevated the ride height and helped keep the lower exhaust pipe off the deck, but it didn’t prevent us from beveling the sides of our boots and the rubber footpegs (which don’t have feelers) when cornering semi-aggressively. The cut-down suspension certainly contributes to the limited lean angle, but such is the price of style.

One chunk of test data that came as a surprise is the WG's braking-performance numbers. Road Test Editor Don Canet recorded the very same 60-0 distance (141 feet) as he did on an ABS-equipped Honda CBR600RR sportbike. This, despite a wooden feel and lack of strong initial bite from the four-piston front brake caliper and 299mm disc. At least the two-piston caliper and 292mm disc out back provide excellent power and feedback. But the main stopping advantage of this bike is its long wheelbase and low center of gravity. Long and low equals effective braking, feel be damned!

Since the Wide Glide’s last appearance, base-model pricing has dropped by (drumroll, please) a whopping $3100. Solid colors include Vivid Black ($14,499) and Red Hot Sunglo ($14,874), while our flame-job model will set you back $15,194. The Smart Security system is an additional $370 option.

Clearly, riders in search of long-distance touring comfort, pocket-rocket handling and tire-smoking, straight-line acceleration will look elsewhere. But for an old-school chopper image in a functionally modern, enjoyable machine, the Dyna Wide Glide is a straight-shooting, no B.S. motorcycle.

List price $15,194
Manufacturer Harley-Davidson Motor Co., Inc., 3700 W. Juneau Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53201
Customer service 414/343-4680
Warranty 12 mo./unlimited mi.
Engine type air-cooled, four-stroke V-Twin
Bore x Stroke 95.3 x 111.3mm
Displacement 1584cc
Compression ratio 9.2:1
Valve train overhead valves, two valves per cylinder
Valve adjustment intervals self adjusting
Carburetion fuel-injection
Oil capacity 3.0 qt.
Electrical power 540w
Battery 12v, 19ah
Weight: Tank empty 643 lb.
Weight: Tank full 673 lb.
Fuel capacity 4.7 gal.
Wheelbase 67.9 in.
Rake/trail 34.0°/5.2 in.
Seat height 26.5 in.
Ground clearance 4.5 in.
GVWR 1035 lb.
Load capacity (tank full) 362 lb.
Manufacturer Showa
Tube diameter 49mm
Claimed wheel travel 5.0 in.
Adjustments none
Manufacturer Showa
Type dual shocks
Claimed wheel travel 3.1 in.
Adjustments spring preload
Front Dunlop H-D Series GT 502F 80/90-21
Rear Dunlop H-D Series GT 502R 180/60-17
1/4 mi. 13.26 sec. @ 99.74 mph
0-30 mph 1.6 sec.
0-60 mph 4.8 sec.
0-90 mph 11.1 sec.
0-100 mph 14.8 sec.
Top gear time to speed: 40-60 mph 7.1 sec.
Top gear time to speed: 60-80 mph 8.5 sec.
Measured top speed 118 mph
Engine speed at 60 mph 2232 rpm
High/low/avg. 42/33/37 mpg
Avg. range inc. reserve 174 mi.
From 30 mph 31 ft.
From 60 mph 141 ft.
30 mph indicated 30 mph
60 mph indicated 60 mph


BLAKE CONNER, Associate Editor
I didn't think the Wide Glide was my bag; I'm more of a Road King, Street Glide or Road Glide kind of guy. Turns out, when it comes to straight-up classic cruisers, it's hard to beat the FXDWG. A couple of things surprised me about the bike, but the decent handling it exhibited when I got my first taste riding the new version in the Colorado Rockies in July was the biggest. I'm not a cruiser guy at heart and at first I find myself riding them the way I ride sportbikes and standards, which is to say, like an ass. With this approach, you quickly find a neo-chopper's limitations. But slow it down a notch, relax and enjoy chugging along at a sub-65-mph pace and it becomes clear: This cruising business isn't so bad. I even learned to appreciate the relatively underpowered engine's torquey thrum. But what I like the most about the bike is the styling, it just looks right. If purchasing a cruiser is in your future, you absolutely have to consider the Wide Glide. It's the real deal.

PAUL DEAN, Senior Editor
Functionally, I like what H-D has done with this reborn Wide Glide. It still fits me just as nicely as did the previous model, hasn't lost enough cornering clearance to bother me, and it rides better than I thought the shortened suspension would allow. There is nothing new or different in its drivetrain compared to the previous WG or any of its current Dyna compatriots, yet it rolls down the road effortlessly, almost like some unseen force is gently pushing it along.

But the styling doesn’t speak to me. The blacked-out treatment looks glued-on rather than built-in, and I’ve never bought into the side-mount license-plate concept. And please don’t tell me I’m too old to appreciate what this bike is saying. After all, this “new” Wide Glide is “old school,” and I was a student in that school for many years. But I graduated decades ago, and I have no desire to return for a refresher course.

DAVID EDWARDS, Editor-in-Chief
Hey, I am down with complaints about the license plate hangin' in the breeze. I'd have to pop for the Euro center-mount setup were the Wide Glide mine. Otherwise, to my eyes, this is the best-looking Harley since the dearly departed Deuce.

For symmetry–and hopefully a little better feel at the lever–I’d like dual discs up front, just like the original 1980 Wide Glide had. Louder pipes, too, though not obnoxiously so, and eventually I’d have to fit the big-bore Screamin’ Eagle kit. Nice as the power delivery is, 64 ponies at the rear wheel feels a little puny. Of course, an 832-page factory accessories catalog is one of the appeals of owning a Harley.

Neo-choppers have been in the headlines lately–Honda Fury, Star Raider and H-D’s own Rocker. Have to say, the redone, repriced Wide Glide makes ’em all look just a bit contrived. The FXDWG was the original factory chopper. It’s back, better than ever.