50 years of Harley-Davidson Super Glide


With the FX Super Glide, Harley-Davidson created the first factory custom bike 50 years ago

• Big Twin frame and engine combination and Sportster front end

• Factory custom bikes like the Low Rider followed the FX

• Models such as Street Bob and Low Rider S continue their tradition today

The 1960s were characterized by the rebellion of young people against what they perceived as the rigid social structures of the Western world. Individuality was valued and traditional things were questioned: clothing, hairstyles, relationships, cars and – of course – motorcycles. They sawed around frames, removing parts that were deemed unnecessary and adding others that today would be considered cool.

Willie G. Davidson , grandson of company founder William A. Davidson, was thrilled by this scene. The year was 1963 when the young designer founded the Harley-Davidson Styling Department together with a single other employee - a great time for him because he could start from scratch and the management gave him free rein.

Six years later, a film debuted that summed up the attitude to life of that era: Easy Rider. The film electrified an entire generation and ultimately spoiled their desire for conventional production motorcycles. But if you were looking for a real Harley-Davidson V-Twin at that time, you would only find it in the Sportster family or the Big Twins, while in many a backyard there was a resourceful mechanic working on customizing motorcycles using elements from different series to mix together.

Willie G. thought of a solution. As much as he enjoyed the freedom in the company, his ideas about what he wanted to offer his customers were clear: an impressive custom machine that, as standard, conveyed such an individual feeling as the choppers that took many hours of effort work was created.

In 1971 the result of his considerations was on the wheels. It was the synthesis of the slim fork and narrow front wheel of an XL Sportster and the frame, powerful Shovelhead engine and fat rear wheel of an FL Big Twin. This was referred to by the type abbreviation FX, which also stood for Factory Experimental and adorned the new Super Glide. With it, the Motor Company laid the foundation for factory customization, the custom bike ex works. A year after the premiere, the plastic tail called the boat tail, which was little loved by fans, disappeared; a curved rear fender and a compact, stepped seat harmonized the design and helped the machine achieve its final breakthrough.

Following in the footsteps of the Super Glide were other models such as the Low Rider (1977) and the Wide Glide (1980). FX had become the abbreviation of a series that cemented Harley-Davidson's reputation as the manufacturer for fans of individuality and non-conformism.

The FX types gave rise to the FXR family (R for rubber mounted) in the 1980s - the first bikes in which the new, vibration-isolated Evolution motor and a new frame were used. In 1991, the FXDB Sturgis made its debut, the first model to have the letter suffix D in the type abbreviation instead of the R, which stood for Dyna or Dynamic. One of their innovations was the new, stable frame developed using the CAD (Computer Aided Design) process.

From 1999, the Dyna types were powered by the then new, vibration-isolated Twin Cam 88 engine with two camshafts. Based on the extensive revision that gave the Dyna family a new frame, a stiffer front fork, a six-speed gearbox and a 160 millimeter wide rear tire in 2006, these models reached a new level in 2007 with the vibration-isolated Twin-Cam 96 engine of maturity.

In 2012, the anti-lock braking system found its way into the Dyna family. Also in 2012, the Dyna Switchback set the bar even higher in terms of engine power with its Twin Cam 103. And in the following years, the other Dynas were also equipped with ABS and the high-torque, 1,690 cubic centimeter V-twin. An exception was the Low Rider S, which was available in limited numbers, because it had the even more powerful Twin Cam 110 thanks to its 1,801 cubic centimeter displacement.

Just in time for the company's 115th anniversary in 2018, Harley-Davidson finally presented a completely new platform under the name Softail, which combined the previous Softail and Dyna series. Machines like the puristic Street Bob and the dynamic Low Rider S have now taken the place of the 1971 Super Glide - worthy descendants of a two-wheeled legend that once opened up new target groups for Harley-Davidson.

If you want to find out more about the Motor Company and its products, check out the web at www.Harley-Davidson.com .

Text & image credits Harley-Davidson – The photos are protected by copyright

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