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The History & Evolution of the Harley Davidson Street Glide

by Max D.

Before the Harley-Davidson Street Glide: From 1903 to 2005

For millions of people around the world, Harley-Davidson is synonymous with motorcycles, and there’s a good reason for that. Begun in 1903 by William Harvey and Arthur Davidson (with some help from Arthur’s brother Walter), Harley-Davidson has been creating some of the most recognizable bikes on the planet ever since.

Originally, Harley-Davidson’s motorcycles were little more than bicycles with engines, but World Wars I and II forced them to innovate. By the mid-1940s, they were producing bikes that had that unique Harley-Davidson look. Over the next sixty years, there were dozens of ups and downs, including countless models. By their centennial anniversary, people were wondering: “What’s next for Harley Davidson? How will they move into this new millennium?”

Two years later, in the summer of 2005, they answered that question with the Harley-Davidson Street Glide.

The First Harley-Davidson Street Glide

When the engineers and designers of Harley-Davidson began working on the Street Glide model, they knew that they wanted to create a touring bike that was streamlined but still had that unique look and feel of a Harley-Davidson.

The first Street Glide was released in 2006 and left many people feeling ambivalent at first glance. One reviewer said that, at first, it “sounded to me like a step in the wrong direction, though with some nice features.” Part of that suspicion was because the Street Glide was billed as a touring bike even though it lacked some of the features traditionally associated with them.

It was equipped with traditional batwing fairing, air-adjustable rear suspension, and hard saddlebags. It had a lower-profile suspension than most touring models, and it was equipped with a short wind deflector rather than a full windshield.

What Set the Harley-Davidson Street Glide Apart?

The Harley-Davidson Street Glide also included several upgrades when compared with the usual touring models. Its audio system was one of the latest and most advanced – and it included the ability to integrate with phones and other electronic accessories. Reviewers and bike enthusiasts weren’t convinced by bells and whistles. It was the ride that ultimately won the biking world over to the Harley-Davidson Street Glide.

Reviewers at the time noted how comfortable the Street Glide was – even after hours in the saddle. Part of the reason for this was the smoothness of the ride. Whether you were just pulling out of the driveway or going 80mph down the interstate, the Street Glide maintained a consistency that blew people away.

The Evolution of the Harley-Davidson Street Glide

The first Street Glide was only the beginning. In no time, Harley-Davidson was making major changes to the bike, improving the things people loved about the original and refining those things that weren’t so great.

2007 saw the introduction of a six-speed Cruise Drive transmission that added 17% more torque. Hydraulic cam-chain tensioners replaced the spring-type ones that had been on the original bike. A new EFI injector nozzles and oxygen sensors allowed the engine to become far more responsive. In addition, the 2007 model had new tuned mufflers that further enhanced performance.

Then, in 2008, the cruising range was increased with the addition of a 6-gallon fuel tank. A new set of Brembo brakes (that optionally included an anti-lock braking system) drastically decreased the stopping distance.

The Harley-Davidson Street Glide Today

Today, the Street Glide is essentially the same bike that it was in 2008. The specs have continued to improve along with technology, but it hasn’t drastically changed in the past twelve years. Some of the most noticeable improvements have been with its electronics. Now, it has a fully-integrated entertainment system, complete with a 6.5” touch screen, a USB port, and more.

This is a motorcycle that’s built for comfort, stability, and some of the smoothest driving you’ll ever find. While most people consider it a touring bike because of its ability to go long distances without wearing out (or wearing you out), it does lack some of the features people want in a touring bike.

Overall, the Harley-Davidson Street Glide is a near-perfect all-around bike that takes the very best of Harley-Davidson’s rich heritage and updates it for modern riders.

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