Harley-davidson did things a bit differently this year. Instead of having the press launch of its new models before Sturgis, H-D did it right after. Sturgis was over on August 11, and I was flying out to the launch on August 12. My destination was Seattle, where I joined a number of other journalists and the H-D staff who would present Harley’s latest and greatest. But that wasn’t the only change in the way H-D was doing things. Knowing the test riders prefer to spend at least a few hundred miles on a bike for a review, The Motor Company hired the Global Enduro tour company (GlobalEnduro.com) to take us on a spectacular three-day ride through the Cascade Mountains and into Canada. These guys did a fantastic job, and I’m looking forward to going on another tour with them. As for H-D, this was a great way to give us some seat time on the new machines. When the launch was before Sturgis, I always rode the bike I was reviewing to the rally to get at least 500 or more miles on it. This arrangement did all that and gave me enough time to ride two different Street Bobs, as well as a Fat Boy Lo that you’ll read about in an upcoming issue.
To me, the big news for 2013 (besides the 110th, of course) is the restyled Street Bob. Check out that paint job and rear section setup! And though I usually start my reviews by talking about the powertrain, the chassis has to take the lead this time. Let’s start with that paint job, which is just one of the new Hard Candy Custom colors that can be ordered as factory paint. It’s easy to see that The Motor Company has been watching what some of the aftermarket and garage builders have been doing for the last few years. Smart move! You can check out all the bike’s colors and specifications on page 58, so I won’t go through all that here.
To sweeten the pot a bit more, the Street Bob is now part of the H-D1 Factory Customization program. That means you can go online to Harley-Davidson.com, select the Bike Builder option, build your dream bike on the screen, and then order it through an authorized Harley-Davidson dealer. Your selections — which include paint, wheels, handlebars, seat, and foot controls — will be installed onto your motorcycle as it’s assembled at the factory. You take delivery of the bike just the way you ordered it. Pretty neat, huh?
I picked two differently set up Street Bobs so I could compare some of the options. The one you’re looking at is stock (with the ABS option), while the other one has been jazzed up with a few H-D1 Factory Customization items. As you can see, the stock Street Bob has the Hard Candy Custom Big Red Flake paint job with the bronze medallion on the fuel tank, mid-foot controls, solo seat, black rimmed 40-spoke laced wheels, and stainless steel, internally wired miniapehangers. This version has a MSRP of $13,729, or $14,924 with the ABS and security system option. The customized Bob I rode has Lucky Green Flake paint, drag bars, forward controls, five-spoke black wheels, two-up seat, and black and chrome 103″ engine. This one has a MSRP of $15,249, or $16,444 with the ABS and security system option.
So how did the bikes perform? Both machines handled and ran like Nightsters on steroids! The Bobs were a pleasure to roll through the twisties, as well as blast down the straights. At no time did either machine do any head shaking, wobbling, or anything else you don’t want a bike to do, whether ridden at low speed or high. Handling in the corners was always predictable, and I had lots of ground clearance (almost 5″), though my heel did hit the pavement a couple of times with the forward controls. The suspension and Michelins (a 100/90-19″ up front and a 160/70-17″ out back) did their job well. Braking was also great, since both machines have the ABS option. The fixed front four-piston caliper and rear two-piston caliper had no trouble bringing me to a stop reasonably quickly with smooth operation. Basically, the Street Bob is a well-designed machine, like the other Dynas in the lineup, with no unwanted surprises. For those readers who are rocking a short inseam as I am (32″), the Bob’s 26.7″ (unladen) seat height made it easy to touch down flat-footed at all times. On the stocker, I also had no problem reaching the apes comfortably; ditto for the drag bars. Guys with long legs may prefer the forward control option over the mid-controls. As for me, I was about an inch on the short side of putting my instep on the footpegs with forward controls, but I was still comfortable on the bike. A big difference between the machines comfort-wise was the seat. The solo felt like a slab of wood after a couple of hundred miles, while the two-up was much better.
Okay, time to talk about my favorite part of a motorcycle, the parts that make me go. Unlike the rest of the 2013 Big Twin lineup, the Street Bob and FXDC Super Glide Custom come stock, still powered by a 96″ (1584cc) Twin Cam. I was told this was done to keep the MSRP low. However, if you want a 103″ (and you know you do), it’s available as an option. The bike in front of you has the stock 96″ mill, while the other Street Bob I rode was 103-powered. Though the 96″ has plenty of juice to move the Bob along nicely, the extra power the 103″ provides definitely made things more fun. But then, I always want more power, so take that into consideration. As usual, the EFI system was seamless in its operation, no matter the altitude, outside temperature, or whatever else it faced. The exhaust note from the dual, straight-cut, staggered, shorty mufflers was also nice, for a stock system.
Now for the bad news: unfortunately, there’s an odd engine vibration (rough spot?) that shows up when the engine is between 2300 and 2900 rpm. It’s at its worst at 2500, but smooths out nicely at 3000. Every Dyna I rode on the launch had the same rough spot, but it’s not a fuel delivery issue. At first, I thought the flywheel assembly was causing the problem and that H-D was using a different balancing factor in the lower end, but I was told that is not the case. The Touring models don’t have this odd vibration even though they use the exact same engine, so I don’t think it’s due to a mechanical issue. Just for the record, any Softail I rode didn’t have it either, but that’s not a surprise since the engine’s counterbalancers would nullify it if it was there. At this point, I’m at a loss as to the cause; I just know it’s there.
As for the primary system and transmission, clutch action was smooth and clean. The Cruise Drive six-speed is the same as it always is, doing its job with a clunk whenever you shift. It’s also hard to find neutral when the tranny is hot. These are definitely not major concerns, but they should be mentioned for those who have not used a Cruise Drive sixer and are used to the five-speed. The bike’s overall gearing was right on the money, and I always had plenty of power when I wanted it, be it blasting out of a turn or down a straightaway.
Bottom line: the Street Bob is a lot of fun to run. In fact, I hated every time I had to give up one of the Bobs during bike swap time and couldn’t find another one to ride. AIM
NEW BIKE REVIEW By Chris Maida
Atory as printed in the December 2012 issue of American Iron Magazine.