Set up for the open road, our homemade "convertible" bagger features a highly prospective
Nothing says freedom like a biker on a Harley-Davidson. The only image that conjures up comparable emotions in the human psyche is a cowboy on a horse. When I picked up my 105th Anniversary Edition 2008 FXDWG Dyna Wide Glide, I was inspired to hit the road at every opportunity. In the years that followed, my Harley and I explored the American Southwest and beyond.
The Dyna is my one and only motorcycle, thus I ask a lot of it. I commute across Los Angeles every day, rain or shine, and on weekends hit the local Southern California canyons or visit favorite restaurants in Arizona or Utah. Every rider knows the best way to unwind is with an extended road trip, so several times a year I take time off from work and head out across this beautiful country of ours to places like Colorado, Texas and the Black Hills Motorcycle Rally in Sturgis, South Dakota.
Fresh off the showroom floor, the Wide Glide has style in spades. Harley scored an A+ on the form, but barely mustered a passing grade on the function part of the equation. The Dyna is fine for weekend jaunts, but lacks in several respects for extended outings. The seat is comfortable enough for long hauls, but there’s no wind protection and no accommodations for luggage; not even a suitable place to attach a bungee cord. The old-fashioned twin-shock suspension lets the bike bounce through dips in the road, and I swear both tires leave the ground if you hit a bump while banked over! Engine performance is acceptable, but you can actually hear the Twin Cam 96 motor gasping for air when you roll on the throttle.
With further long-distance adventures planned for the future, I realized the Dyna needed some modifications to perform as desired. Fortunately, the thick Harley-Davidson accessory catalog contains everything required to address the lack of wind protection and cargo capacity. A tall touring windshield takes care of the windblast and a sissy bar with rack provides a place for a duffle bag, with plenty of places to hook bungees. Both the screen and the rack are removable, allowing the Dyna to convert from tourer to commuter simply by loosening a few fasteners.
Stripped of its touring accessories, the Wide Glide looks much as it did on the showroom f
Of course Harley offers all manner of accessory luggage, but I found an inexpensive set of used Saddlemen Midnight Express saddlebags at Yellow Devil Gear Exchange in nearby Long Beach. With a quick-release bracket kit from Great Bike Gear, the leather saddlebags go on and off with the turn of a key. The kit requires some assembly and modifications to the saddlebags, but is well worth the effort and leaves just two chrome mounting studs visible on each side of the bike when the bags are removed. A leather windshield bag from Old Town Leather in not-too-distant Temecula provides a place for essentials and voila!—the Dyna is cargo-ready and way more comfortable on the highway.
With the touring requirements tended to, it was time to see what could be done about the engine. Vance & Hines pipes have a solid reputation for performance, and aren’t painfully loud like some other options on the market. The Pro Pipe Chrome 2-into-1 system bolted right up and looks beautiful. Complementing the pipe is one of V&H’s performance air filter kits and a Fuelpak fueling module for a well-balanced Stage 1 power gain. Suffice it to say the Dyna can more than get out of its own way now!
The engine’s extra grunt combined with the deep exhaust note means the “loud stick” gets twisted more often now, so I returned to the H-D catalog and picked up a combination speedometer/tachometer to help me keep tabs on the engine as well as my speed. (The Dyna’s stock tanktop display only has a speedo-meter and odometer.) Long-distance riding in the hot summer months puts the hurt on an air-cooled engine’s oil, so I replaced the stock dipstick with a nifty digital unit that shows the oil level and temperature.
I’m no roadracer, but I like my bikes to handle, and the Harley was hardly up to the task of spirited backroad riding. With a little help from the technicians at Race Tech, I was able to develop a plan for firming up the Dyna’s footing. A set of stiffer fork springs and Gold Valve Cartridge Emulators transformed the front-end feel, while custom-made G3-S shocks blow the stock "door-closers" out of the water. The shocks are sprung to suit my riding requirements, so when I throw on the luggage I just add a few turns of spring preload and hit the road.
The original-equipment Dunlop tires were squared-off ages ago, so I replaced them with a new set of Avons: a cruiser-specific Cobra up front and a sport-touring Storm 2 in the rear. While I was down on my knees, I slipped some new EBC brake pads into the calipers and replaced the stock rubber front and rear hoses with stainless-steel lines from Russell to improve braking performance.
The end result is the best-performing touring bike on the road! Well, not really—it’s still a Harley-Davidson Wide Glide, after all. It is, however, vastly improved over stock, and perfectly in line with what I wanted: a capable, comfortable, convertible bagger that I can truly ride cross-country. Whether I’m rolling down a long, straight desert highway or carving up a twisty mountain road, my Dyna is sure-footed and fun. And with the detachable touring accessories, I can roll up to my destination, drop off the windscreen and luggage in my hotel room, and head out to see the town in style. That’s all I can ask from a motorcycle!