History of Motorcycles: PART II – Harley Davidson Super Glide

It was 1969, and the movie “Easy Rider” had just hit the theatres, and quickly became the standard for an anti-establishment, hit-the-road movie; one that still lives on today in terms of iconic motorcycle cinema. Posters depicting Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper perched on their custom choppers, heading down the highway with the wind in their hair were seen everywhere, and can still be found in many garages, man-caves, bike shops, and bars today. The revolution was on, and being able to jump on your bike and head off to new adventures was quickly becoming the dream of a lot of men and women. In order to turn that dream into reality though, meant you had to have the right bike, and Willie G. Davidson, one-half of the iconic Harley-Davidson duo, was ready to deliver the perfect freedom machine.

In 1971, Willie decided to take the frame, rear suspension, and power plant of their big, popular FLH touring bike, and mate it to the smaller, lighter front end of their quick-selling Sportster. It was the perfect mix for the times, a narrow, chopper-style front end linked up to a big mean engine and fat rear tire. Add in lots of chrome and last but not least, an Evel-Knievel / Captain America inspired red, white, and blue colour scheme, and you now had the bike that made the perfect ride for all those Peter Fonda wannabees.

The initial launch of the 1971 Super Glide came out to mixed reviews, mainly due to a controversial styling touch, a scooped “boat-tail” style rear fender, inspired by many of the European bikes of the time. Hearing the reviews, Willie and his team scrapped this rear fender the following year, and replaced it with a more traditional style. However, it’s still this red, white, and blue 1971 version, boat-tail and all, that’s become one of the most sought-after vintage motorcycles.

Over the years, The FX Super Glide (the FX designation referring to “Factory Experimental”), has undergone many upgrades and versions. The FX became the FXE with the addition of an electric starter in 1974, while other popular versions of the FXE such as the Fat Bob, Sturgis, and Low Rider were prominent and popular models sold throughout the late 70’s and 80’s.

As the FX models continued to develop, the designation FXR became the standard, finally being re-branded as the “Dyna” model, and giving way to the new “FXD” nomenclature heading into the early 90’s. Harley-Davidson Dynas are regarded by many as the de-facto standard in big-bore V-twin motorcycles, their styling described as both classic and timeless. The 1990’s brought us the Daytona, Custom, and Wide Glide FXD models, and added in the “Sport” version heading into the 2000’s.

Then in 2006, a new Dyna chassis, engine, and transmission were launched, and here’s where our story gets personal.

My husband, who rode his share of offshore bikes in his younger years, had now set his sights on getting his first Harley-Davidson. It was 2008, and while there were dozens of shiny new H-D models to choose from, he was looking for something special, something that would stand out from the crowd. While perusing the motorcycle trader pages, he came across the one that would catch his eye and never let go. In 2006, Harley-Davidson, acknowledging the 35th year since the launch of the original Super Glide, made available a limited-edition anniversary model, the FXD35. Taking their tried and true 2006 Super Glide Custom, with its powerful 1450cc Twin-Cam 88 engine and brand-new 6-speed gearbox, Harley-Davidson then applied a “Screamin’Eagle”  performance package; larger rear tire, lots of chrome, and most noticeable of all, the same distinctive red, white, and blue paint scheme used on the original 1971 model. With each FXD35 badged and numbered, and availability limited to only 3500 units worldwide, this bike became an instant hit, and a sought-after collector’s model.

It’s a gorgeous bike, and the ear-to-ear grin on his face each time my husband goes for a ride says it all. To be honest, I feel pretty chuffed myself, perched on the back of “Mickey” as we ride throughout the towns and back roads. It’s one of those bikes that people see and say “Man, that’s a beautiful bike!”, and the rest of the conversation starts from there. While it’s true that a lot of bikes out there these days have beautiful paint jobs and lots of special features, it’s the heritage and lineage of this 2006 FXD35 that makes it truly special.

So, it should come as no real surprise that my husband now has his sights set on getting hold of the original, 1971 Super Glide. “Having both the original and the anniversary edition would be the ultimate tribute to a special piece of Harley-Davidson history”, he says, as he starts going through the motorcycle trader magazines one more time.

I guess that’s my cue to head to the vintage dress shops. After all, fair’s fair, right?

Written by: Kelli M Maddocks

Author: Living Spaces

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