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2006 Harley-Davidsons Quick Rides

Tuesday, July 26, 2005
The entire Dyna Glide series was revamped for 2006  and this Street Bob  in a matte-finish Black Denin color  is an entirely new addition to the line.
The entire Dyna Glide series was revamped for 2006, and this Street Bob (in a matte-finish Black Denim color) is an entirely new addition to the line.
Harley-Davidson has done a bit of engineering coasting in the past few years, especially considering the massive revenues it has enjoyed for more than a decade. But its recently announced 2006 lineup proves that the Motor Company is ready to start flexing its muscles.

"We're coming 'on the cam,'" said Bill Davidson, Harley's Director of Product Development, yesterday at H-D new-model press launch in Denver, Colorado. "This is the single biggest launch for us of this magnitude. I feel we're at a new point in the Motor Company."

In addition to six new models, which we'll get to a bit later, the Milwaukee-based company has finally given its neglected twin-shock Dyna Glide family a thorough makeover.

"We re-engineered the complete platform from the ground up," raved H-D's Dyna platform lead, Peter-Michael Keppler.

At the core of the Dyna's changes are a completely new chassis and a totally new six-speed gearbox. A new frame and swingarm are stiffer than previous models, aided by thick new 49mm forks that are similar to those used on the V-Rod series. These modifications, along with new 1-inch diameter axles, provide a much more rigid platform, and each model has new fork rakes and triple-clamp offsets.

Carburetors are now a thing of the past, as all Dynas now have electronic fuel-injection systems. The primary drive systems have been improved to offer automatic chain adjustment, and gear ratios are slightly taller. Changes to the clutch reduce lever pull by a significant 35%.

But the big powertrain news is the Dyna's new six-speed transmission that Harley dubs "Cruise Drive." Though not a true overdrive, the one-to-one top gear reduces revs by about 200 rpm for more relaxed freeway cruising. Helical-cut gears reduce gear whine noise, and a dog-ring design for gear changes reduces effort and shortens throws. External oil lines have been eliminated, and the overall gearbox design has a 28% greater capacity.

Styling-wise, the Dynas get a new wrap-around rear fender to fit a 160/70-17 rear tire instead of the old 150/80-16; three models receive new 10-spoke aluminum wheels. A keen eye will notice new battery covers, and a keen butt will notice more comfortable seats.

FXDBI Dyna Street Bob
The Street Bob pays homage to the classic bobber style, with a low ape-hanger handlebar, a solo seat, and mid-mount foot controls.
In addition to carryover models (not including the discontinued Super Glide Sport), the Dyna family is joined by two new machines for '06. The Street Bob is, as its name implies, is a stripped-down design that pays homage to the classic bobber style, with a low ape-hanger handlebar, a solo seat, and mid-mount foot controls. Steel laced wheels, a Fat Bob tank and lots of black finishes complete the Street Bob look.

The new 35th-anniversary Super Glide harks back to the 1971 bike of the same name that was one of Willy G. Davidson's first styling hits, with serialized production limited to 3500 units. The new Super Glide is chockablock with anniversary medallions and decals built around a red-white-and-blue paint scheme with fender stripes, reminding one of Evel Kneivel's glory days. It features a silver powdercoated engine with chrome covers, shorty dual staggered exhaust and chrome aluminum "Profile" laced wheels.

I got a chance to ride both new Dyna models during a trip through Colorado's back roads, and shift action is noticeably improved. Although they now feature a slightly larger (and now floating) 300mm front brake rotor and DOT 4 brake fluid, stopping power from the single disc is underwhelming. I also wasn't impressed by its dearth of cornering clearance, but I probably was riding a bit faster than the bikes' intended users. Still, with its stiffer chassis, it's a shame the lean-angle party is halted prematurely.

Style-wise, both bikes offer an arresting look, especially the '70s-influenced Super Glide. Ironically, this bike reminds one of Harley's AMF days, which eventually became the darkest era for the Motor Company.

Touring Models

Harley's touring bikes received some key updates, along with the introduction of a new model. The Street Glide is one of my favorite of H-D's '06 models, as it provides much of the comfort of the touring family along with a stylish design that actually feels quite sporty.

As with all of H-D's new touring machines, the Street Glide sees the introduction of new features that include an improved audio system, a new high-output tri-phase charging system and reduced clutch lever effort.

FXDI Dyna 35th Anniversary Super Glide
The '70s-influenced 35th-anniversary Super Glide is another Dyna family addition. It will be limited to a 3500 unit serialized production.
Harley worked with high-end audio manufacturer Harmon/Kardon to produce the new stereo system that includes an MP3-capable CD player, weather-band, and an optional XM satellite receiver. A new digital display is easier to read and offers simple integration with other systems that include Bluetooth hands-free cell phone operation and an upcoming GPS navigation module. Higher output speakers are made with more durable polypropylene cones and rubber surrounds. In addition, the CB radio from the Ultra Classic can now be easily integrated into the new audio system.

The Tour Pack trunk on the Electra Glide has been substantially improved by changing from flat-side fiberglass construction to contoured injection-molded plastic that is lower and looks much better. It's also adjustable to a second position that increases rearward passenger space. Style is also improved by less-visible mounting hardware and a full-length LED lamp on each side.

The new Street Glide gets its good looks from a single headlight in the bat-wing fairing with a low but decently protective smoked mini windscreen, silver-faced chrome-trimmed gauges, and a slammed suspension that lowers its seat height by 1 inch to 26.3 inches. Its saddlebag latches are now color-matched, and a new rear fender incorporates cool LED lights at its bottom.

Regular readers probably know that this style of bike is not usually my cup of 40-weight, but I became enamored of the Street Glide during my Rocky Mountain ride. It has perhaps the most neutral riding position of any bike, and combined with its cushy seat, piling up miles is nearly effortless. And although its chassis can get a bit wallowy when ridden hard, there's a decent amount of ground clearance and it's more maneuverable than one might imagine. Sound quality from the new stereo isn't superb, but its radio's weather band and the satellite radio are nearly indispensable for a touring machine. Also, though I'm not usually a sucker for a nice tank badge, the Street Glide's smoked chrome H-D nameplate is a real beauty.

VRSC

The VRSCA family is an important one for the Motor Company. It attracts a large number of so-called conquest sales, bringing riders of other brands into the Harley family.

Although Harley has introduced a new model to the VRSC series, perhaps the most noteworthy news about the family is that prices of the V-Rod and Street Rod have been significantly reduced. The MSRP of recently introduced Street Rod has been dropped by $1000, while the V-Rod's price has dropped a huge $1300!

The new Street Glide is a sportier version of H-D s Touring series  boasting several unique styling details in addition to a wonderfully comfortable cockpit and surprisingly nimble handling.
The new Street Glide is a sportier version of H-D's Touring series, boasting several unique styling details in addition to a wonderfully comfortable cockpit and surprisingly nimble handling.
When the original V-Rod was first introduced, we loved its look and its powerful, modern Revolution engine. However, its chopperesque rake and feet-way-forward foot controls put us off. Then came the sporty Street Rod, something akin to a Harley-Davidson (Ducati) Monster, which we gave high marks. However, its hunched over riding position and high seat with rear-set pegs made us question whether it fit the mold of a "cruiser" when we gathered five bikes in MCUSA's Performance Cruiser comparo.

Now, here comes the 2006 Night Rod, straddling the line between the two existing VRSCs. Instead of the V-Rod's 38-degree fork angle, the Night Rod gets a steeper 36-degree rake. And rather than the forward foot controls of the V-Rod that left short riders stretching to reach its pegs, the new Night Rod has mid-mount controls that are under a rider's butt.

In the flesh, the Night Rod is possibly the most attractive VRSC yet. It features a color-matched flyscreen and a blacked-out theme that includes black controls, mirrors and engine (with highlighted fins and polished covers). On the road, the new peg location is more useful, although the short distance between the low 26-inch seat and the pegs can cramp long legs. If that's the case, the Night Rod's standard highway pegs will come in handy.

All 2006 VRSCs receive the Street Rod's powerful Brembo brakes, instruments with a second tripmeter and clock, and an easier to reach sidestand tab. Fans of fat asses might want to pop the $3895 for the accessory 240mm rear tire kit, although it's not retro-fittable and can't be had on the athletic Street Rod. The VRSC-B V-Rod has been discontinued.

Softail

The Softail series is Harley's bread and butter, so perhaps it's not too surprising that this family of models hasn't received many tweaks for '06. Most significant is the replacement of the skinny 150mm rear tire with a fat 200mm tire on three models-the Softail Standard, the Night Train and the Softail Springer-which give the bikes a more muscular appearance. Each gets a 2.25-inch wider rear fender with a skinny 20mm-wide belt drive instead of the 29mm belt on the other models. Rear suspension settings have been revised. An optional forged polished rear wheel can be had for $495, which is a steal compared with the $1295 price if bought out of Harley's accessory catalog.

The eight existing Softail models are joined by a new one for 2006, the re-introduction of the Heritage Softail. It comes with laced steel wheels, a silver powder coated engine with polished covers, and floorboards with a heel/toe shifter. The stout-looking front end from the FL series adds visual beef, and a quick-release passenger seat adds versatility. Like all Softails, the Heritage is equipped with the Twin Cam 88B counterbalanced engine rigidly mounted to the frame, and all receive a redesigned clutch that reduces effort by a claimed 24%.

The Night Rod is the latest in the VRSC series  highlighted by mid-set foot controls  a flyscreen and less of a rake angle on the 49mm fork.
The Night Rod is the latest in the VRSC series, highlighted by mid-set foot controls, a flyscreen and less of a rake angle on the 49mm fork.
Sportster

After a ground-up redesign for the '05 model year, the biggest change for 2006 is a revamped transmission with many of the same changes made to the Dyna Glides, including helical-cut gears and a dog-ring design for smoother shifts and shorter throws. And in a continuing theme, clutch effort has been reduced by 12% on 1200cc models and 17% on 883s. A longer sidestand reduces the effort to right the bike when parked.

CVO

MotorcycleUSA correspondent Ken 'Hawkeye' Glassman brought us his riding impressions of the three new Custom Vehicle Operations bikes for 2006. But the CVO team didn't tell him about one spectacular new model: the VRXSE V-Rod Destroyer.

Big deal, you might say. Yeah, actually it is. Perhaps 165 horsepower at the rear wheel would get your attention! However, this is one machine you won't be riding on the street. The Destroyer is for race use only, although its massive wheelie bar and square-edged rear slick probably clued you in to that already. Gene Thomason, Harley's press fleet operator and a respected drag racer, has already taken the Destroyer to a 9.52-second ET in the quarter mile, and there's still more to come. (As of mid-August, Thomason had brought down his best ET to a blistering 9.18 at 144 mph.)

Harley has wrought the Destroyer to bring grass-roots drag racing to H-D dealers and riders. It packages everything a racer needs to be competitive in a new AHDRA (All Harley Drag Racing Association) racing division for 2006, including a multi-stage lock-up clutch, air shifter, two-stage launch controller and programmable shift light.

The final design of the Destroyer was completed with input from noted tuner Matt Hines, crew chief for the Vance & Hines NHRA Pro Stock team. It's powered by a larger 1300cc Revolution engine, with cylinders that feature strong ductile iron sleeves, forged pistons, high-flow cylinder heads and huge 58mm throttle bodies. While a stock V-Rod redlines at 8800 rpm, the Destroyer can scream all the way up to 11,500.

Thomason fired up a Destroyer in downtown Denver for the assembled media to hear, and the massive racket produced from the 2-into-1 ceramic-coated exhaust reverberated for blocks! Sign us up for a ride!

Harley's annual dealer meeting preceded the press introduction by a couple of days, and already the Motor Company has received more than 400 orders for this most powerful Harley ever.

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