The first thing to mention about the newest iteration of Harley's Dyna Super Glide Custom is how affordable it's become. At just more than $14,000 before taxes and extras, this may be the lowest sticker price this bike has ever carried.
Not so long ago, you could drop that much on a Sportster, and even a base Super Glide was in the $16,000 neighbourhood. And that was for a stripper. Interestingly, Harley actually dropped the base Dyna Super Glide from its line-up this year, which is a shame, as it was even cheaper than the Custom and was essentially the same bike without the bling.
Sharing its platform with the Street Bob, Wide Glide and Fat Bob, the Super Glide is one of Harley's mid-size bikes. Larger than the Sporty, it's dimensionally smaller than the Softail or Touring models, and as a result, offers better handling and performance.
Like all the models in this series, its engine has rubber mounts, which results in a smoother ride and less engine vibrations during highway riding. Having said that, the "rigid" mount Softails are so refined these days, they're almost as smooth.
Power, as ever, is supplied by an air-cooled, fuel-injected, 45-degree V-twin that displaces 1584 cc with a reinforced belt final drive and a six-speed transmission. This engine is of the Twin Cam variety, and horsepower output is around 60 at 3,000 rpm. So, not a massive amount of push here, and there are any number of similar bikes out there with higher horsepower numbers and superior performance.
But this bike will take you from a standing start to freeway speed in five or six seconds. My question to all the multi-cylinder high-revving, gotta have up-to-the-second technology Harley-hating fanboys out there: How fast do you need to go? Is there any real difference in getting up to 100 km/h a second or two faster than the other guy?
And a quick word about Harley's fuel injection system. When the company converted all its models to this - about 10 years ago - it was unsophisticated, with wonky mapping and an inconsistent power delivery. It appears to have worked things out, and the throttle lag that used to plague Harley's fuel-injected models is a thing of the past.
But back to the bike. Harley has beefed up the Super Glide over the past few years, with heavier front forks, better brakes - a four-piston disc up front and a twin piston in back - and a slightly larger fuel tank. The Super Glide Custom will carry almost 19 litres of premium grade fuel, and, delivering 6.7 litres/100 km in town and 4.3 on the highway, that gives it a theoretical range of 400 km, if you ride it sensibly.
Which, of course, no one will do. You don't ride a bike like this as if it's a scooter. You hit the throttle every chance you get and lean it over as far as you dare in the corners. Though far from being a sport bike, the Super Glide Custom will do okay when the road gets twisty, with a purported lean angle of some 30 degrees on the non-exhaust side. Put it this way: for 99.9 per cent of the people interested in this type of motorcycle, it's more than enough.
Elsewhere, the Super Glide Custom now has the ignition switch and speedometer/idiot lights located on the fuel tank, Softail style, and this is a good thing. Dyna models used to have the ignition key located on the side of the bike, which I always thought was a stupid place for it. With it located on the tank, you can actually turn the ignition on and keep the key in your pocket and not have to worry about losing it. Harley designers have kept the built-in fork lock, however, and it's sketchy at the best of times. Give me the old-fashioned padlock-style locking tabs every time.
The Super Glide Custom has a fairly upright riding position, with its toe-shift gear lever on the left and rear brake pedal on the right. The way it's always been. The rear brakes felt a little soft on my test bike, and there was excessive travel in the brake pedal, but this could have been a matter of adjustment. Apparently, this particular bike was due for servicing. And at least it's better than the rear drum brakes that some manufacturers still fit onto their cruiser models. What's the thinking here? Does a cruiser not have to stop as quickly as other bikes?
My bike also had leather saddlebags and a clip-on windshield, both of which are absolute necessities. The windshield, especially, is ingenious: four locking clamps allow you to install/remove it in about 10 seconds, and over the long haul, you'll be glad you got it. Expect to pay $400 for one of these.
Prices for the 2011 Dyna Super Glide Custom start at $14,379, with another $770 for two-tone paint.