Don’t expect any apologies or excuses from Harley-Davidson’s FXDB Street Bob, one of five Dynas offered for 2012. This is a straightforward, minimalist motorcycle that mixes simple styling features like bobbed fenders, miniapehanger handlebars, staggered exhausts, and a solo seat to create a showroom custom that reflects the blue-collar attitude of a homebrew hot rod. You want in your face riding? You got it with this boulevard bomber that looks like it was bred to brawl on the unruly streets of Cleveland or Detroit, not scoot gaily through Los Angeles’ lofty Wilshire District or in Chicago’s fashionista Miracle Mile.
The Street Bob isn’t a newcomer to the Harley family either. It was originally launched in 2006 when Harley-Davidson also introduced the first-generation of its six-speed Cruise Drive transmission. The pair has aged well together, too. The Cruise Drive’s fifth-gear fiasco was
addressed in 2010 to squelch the somewhat malicious-sounding gear noise that irritated customers so, and the Bob only got better when the 96″ debuted in 2007 to give the bike more streetfighting muscle.
Oddly, though, while most of the Harley family members have since fattened themselves on the new 103″ engine for 2012, the Street Bob and Dyna Super Glide Custom retained the 96″ engine. No official reason was given by members of the Motor Company for that decision, so you can only assume that engineers were confident that the 637-pound-dry FXDB (and 648-pound-dry Super Glide Custom) didn’t require the added engine displacement, or perhaps there were so many leftover TC 96 parts in the bin that the best way to use up the supply was to earmark them for the two Dyna models for 2012.
No matter, because even with the 96″ engine, the Street Bob scoots along just fine when you dig your spurs into its flanks. Our low-gear acceleration test figures revealed a 3.1-second sprint from 20 to 50 mph while in second gear, and Bob took 4.2 seconds to gallop from 50 to 80 mph while in fifth gear. Both performance figures are comparable to what you can expect from any of the Big Twins powered by the 103″ engine package, so the 7″ handicapping seems to be nullified by the weight factor, which favors the two low-priced ($12,999 MSRP for either bike) Dyna models.
In the process, expect to achieve approximately the same advertised 43 mpg fuel economy figure with your Street Bob. Our test bike delivered nearly 41 mpg, and that was with some spirited riding during our acceleration tests.
Either of these fuel mileage figures, coupled with the 4.8-gallon gas tank, gives the Street Bob an effective range of nearly 200 miles.
For the most part, that 200-mile ride will be pleasant. The ride is firm, thanks to the stout 49mm fork legs and adjustable rear coil-over shocks, and steer-in for turns is surprisingly easy, even with the high handlebars. The Michelin Scorcher tires offer a smooth ride while cruising the freeway, and their grip through the corners is remarkably good even though there’s not much cornering clearance in terms of the bike’s hardware scraping the pavement if you become too aggressive at tilting the horizon. Ride the Street Bob as it’s intended — as a boulevard bomber — and you shouldn’t experience any unpleasant surprises or disappointments. In fact, you’ll feel like, well, a badass as you motor down the road because the seating position makes you feel that way.
Indeed, the Street Bob’s ergonomics set you in a rather relaxed riding position — the apehanger bars place your hands slightly lower than your shoulders when you stretch to reach the hand grips, and the mid-controls allow you to sit more upright so there’s less stress on your lower back (as compared to riding with forward controls). Taller riders might find the mid-controls to be too confining, though, and with a static seat height of 25-1/2″, the FXDB seems more agreeable to riders with shorter inseams. Just as there’s a reason why there’s chocolate and vanilla ice cream, there’s a reason why Harley-Davidson also offers the Dyna Wide Glide with forward controls — there’s something for everyone.
Regardless of which particular bike suits your riding style, there’s no denying that the FXDB Street Bob offers styling that reflects the heart and soul of the American biker. This is a motorcycle that you expect to see in the parking lot of the local steel mill or lumber yard. A little dust and soot on the Black Denim paint and its wrinkle-black engine cases doesn’t tarnish the Bob’s bad-boy image in the least, and the solo seat tells you this bike belongs to a lone wolf who probably will detour after work to the neighborhood bar to unwind with an ice-cold beverage or a local label before heading home. Clearly, this bike represents middle-class America, and the rustic tank medallion only underscores that fact. Ditto for the spoke-laced black rims, Bates-style 6″ headlight, and limp-sausage taillight. You can also order the ABS option, which our bike had, offering controlled panic braking from 30 mph to a dead stop in 28′. The dual staggered mufflers offer a pleasing baritone exhaust note, and the 96″ fuel-injected engine seems faultless from the moment you thumb the starter button to the time that you gently click the Cruise Drive transmission into sixth gear and settle back for the ride.
And at some point in your journey aboard the FXDB, you just might feel a little closer to your biker roots. The Street Bob has a way of doing that. AIM
NEW BIKE REVIEW By Dain Gingerelli