2007 Harley-Davidson FXDSE Screamin' Eagle Dyna - Exclusive Road Test: Big Inch

Is Milwaukee's Biggest Twin too much ... or just enough?

By Tim Carrithers, Photography by Kevin Wing

Pity the humble electric starter. Every time it comes to lighting the biggest Big Twin in Harley-Davidson history, it has to persuade a pair of pistons through air-cooled bores bigger than what you'll find in a 487-cubic-inch Dodge Viper V-10. Rain or shine. Hot or cold. Without the tireless efforts of the stout little 1.4 kW electric motor, its faithful solenoid sidekick and an automatic compression release, Milwaukee's strongest production V-twin in 104 years might just sit there, lost in an expanse of chrome, billet and metallic lacquer.

Although some may be content to revel in its expanse of bling, Harley's FXDSE Screamin' Eagle Dyna is all about that engine. Basically a big-bore hot-rod version of the new-for-2007 Twin Cam 96 thoroughly delineated on page 72 (making it the most thoroughly revised Big Twin since the TC88 in 1999), the Twin Cam 110 powers Harley's biggest, flashiest Big Twins. Dreamt up by the Motor Company's always outr Custom Vehicle Operations department--CVO to connoisseurs of fine American steel--this Dyna and its shimmering, rumbling brethren are as much high-powered rolling accessory catalogs as they are motorcycles, designed to get a piece of the lucrative custom couture V-twin market. Harley holds a pretty tight price line on its '07 96-inch twins, but CVO engineers and designers tend to turn the cool knob as far as it'll go and damn the bottom line. Just make sure that Milwaukee Soul--what Product Development Director Bill Davidson says boils down to look, sound and feel--comes through loud and clear. That's why, according to CVO Director Jim Hoffman, his high-end progeny are all about three things: Big paint. Big chrome. Big engines.

To create the biggest of the big, Twin Cam 96 crankcases are machined to accept a pair of big-bore cylinders. Inside, 4.0-inch pistons move through the same 4.4-inch stroke employed in the TC96. But because bigger, heavier pistons would net more vibration along with more power, the 110's forged slugs are light. Reciprocating mass is essentially the same as in the smaller-bore 96, so both engines use the same crankshaft, flywheel and anti-vibe hardware. Upstairs, free-breathing Screamin' Eagle heads carry correspondingly bigger intake and exhaust valves, port cores and combustion chambers that nudge compression from 9.2 to 9.3:1, where that automatic compression release makes starting the biggest twin considerably easier. The 110 uses SE-255 cams that deliver more intake and exhaust duration, along with added overlap and lift. A low-restriction air filter feeds Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection through a TC96-spec 46mm throttle body cued by a map tailored to the 110's larger appetite. Everything else is essentially identical to the 96-inch version that powers standard '07 Dyna, Softail and Touring models.

Thumb the button and our friend the starter initiates internal combustion almost instantly--noticeably quicker than an '06 88-inch Dyna-- with a dissonant clack. Fear not; it's just the crank-mounted compensator spring absorbing startup shock to make life easier for the gearbox. A second later the engine is flailing happily in its rubber mounts. Though it's significantly stronger--105 lb.-ft. of torque spin this rear wheel versus about 92 for a 96-inch Dyna--the 110 is nearly as well behaved. Once the mini-tach strikes 3000 rpm, power flows like water from an open fire hydrant till the rev limiter kicks in at 5500. It's impressive, but something short of earth shattering--especially when measured against motorcycles from outside the Milwaukee universe.

Although it's not quite as crisp right off idle, the Harley manages 5 more lb.-ft. of torque at 3000 rpm than the 109-inch liquid-cooled, OHC six-valve V-twin in Honda's biggest VTX, and matches the Honda's 89 peak horsepower. Despite being weighed down by an extra 49 pounds of relatively modern engine and chassis technology, the quicker-revving VTX is also a bit quicker at the strip, putting a 12.20-sec. @ 105.45-mph 440-yard dash against the Dyna's 12.31-sec/107.08-mph best. Despite its deficit in terminal speed at the strip, Honda owns the short sprints as well, making the 0-60-mph trip in 3.9 seconds versus 4.2 seconds for Milwaukee's finest. And, as accountants and other overwrought anal retentives have been standing by to point out since the beginning of this paragraph, it hardly helps that the Dyna costs almost twice as much.

Settle into the firm yet comfy bucketed seat and you're closer to the pavement than on a standard Dyna, though those forward-mount foot controls can be a stretch for anyone under 5-foot-10. The handlebar enforces a straight-arm riding position that's more Dennis Hopper than Peter Fonda. Grips? Chrome, from the H-D Knurled Collection, as are those pegs, foot controls, battery box accents and coil covers. The only place you'll find nicer production paint and chrome than a Harley-Davidson is on a CVO Harley-Davidson, and there's enough shiny stuff here to make Maison Cartier reach for the sunglasses. Concessions to pure fashion are surprisingly few. Rearview mirror images, for instance, turn into a blurry mess on the freeway, but there's some functional bling here as well. Turn the key and seven LED dots appear in what looked like a simple chrome cap just below the fuel cap, letting you know the 5-gallon tank is full of super-unleaded. Though you'd never guess to look at it, the cruiser from Planet Bling is practical as daily transportation, even if it is drastically overqualified. Something like Salma Hayek in a Prada evening gown checking your belt tension.

OK, not many people are going to commute on a $25,000 Harley. We did. And unlike the average Prada-clad star, the CVO Dyna isn't afraid of the daily grind. It threads through clots of urban traffic much more readily than a 709-pound, 8-foot-long motorcycle should. The clutch is light, precise and suffers all manner of abuse without a whimper. Since most of those pounds are situated close to the pavement, steering effort is refreshingly light despite chopperesque steering geometry. As opposed to the fashionably phat rubber on other upscale factory customs, a sane, 170mm-wide rear tire helps handling everywhere.

The 43mm inverted fork does a worthy job of keeping that skinny front tire accurately aimed. Harley's fashionably low, 27-inch seat height, however, helps limit rear wheel travel to 1.9 inches, which does nothing for the ride. It's plush enough at a conservative clip over smooth pavement, but the impact from one nasty crater at 45 mph will rearrange your viscera such that you'll do whatever it takes to miss the next one. Otherwise, the chrome-encrusted chassis bits go above and beyond the average upscale urbane lunge lizard's performance needs. Sixth gear turns 2600 rpm into 70 mph. Cuing up fifth to dispatch the inevitable dawdlers brings the needle to 3100, but thanks to those carefully calibrated rubber engine mounts, all you feel is a strangely satisfying throb.

The 292mm discs and four-piston calipers at either end do a commendable job until you try to scorch 'em on a rapid mountain descent--purely in the interest of science, of course--wherein power and feel get cooked out of the equation halfway down. But ratchet the pace down to a more appropriate level and the resplendent hipster happily inhales a morning's worth of meandering two-lane. Infidels will foul precious metals on the pavement and curse at regular intervals, but give it a chance to sink in and the 45-degree twin's primordial cadence can shift life into a mesmerizing sort of slow motion. Thudding down Old Topanga at 45 mph. Watching oak-filtered sunlight play with the paint and chrome. Waving at the cop while he writes up some Type A in a Porsche Cayman wearing paper plates. The whole tableau is like a Balm from Gilead for the speed-tortured soul.

With smooth road ahead and the wind at your back, there's enough gas in the tank to keep that up for 200 miles if you're determined enough. Though it's a motorcycle first and a fashion statement second, the Dyna is more of a no-place-to-go-and-all-day-to-get-there type of bike. Whether you're willing or able to shell out $24,999 for the experience is quite another story. For those who can live with a little less power, a standard Super Glide Custom does everything just as well--if not quite as quickly--for $10,000 less. If exclusivity and panache count more than cash, tell the neighbors that Harley-Davidson's Kansas City Vehicle and Powertrain Operations plant will turn out only about 2400 of these '07 Screamin' Eagle Dynas--a drop in the bucket compared to the 350,000 motorcycles The Motor Company plans to build in 2006.

The CVO is for a well-heeled custom customer who wants the biggest twin in 104 years of Harley-Davidson history and isn't shy about peeling off some big bills for something that's as much fun to look at as it is to ride. The fact that it's thought out and screwed together well enough to come with a two-year factory warranty doesn't hurt either. Still, the path from lust to love to FXDSE ownership is anything but rational. You see it, you want it, and you can't live without it, much to the chagrin and eternal vexation of Wal-Mart shoppers in your tribe who can't tell Blanton's Single Barrel Bourbon from Early Times. This should not trouble you or the Dyna, because once those two big pistons go to work, nothing else matters. -MC

2007 HARLEY-DAVIDSON FXDSE SCREAMIN' EAGLE DYNA

PRICE

MSRP: $24,995 as tested

ENGINE

Type: a-c V-twin
Valve arrangement: ohv, 4v
Bore x stroke: 101.6mm x 111.1mm
Displacement: 1800cc
Compression ratio: 9.3:1
Transmission: 6-speed
Final drive: Belt

CHASSIS

Weight (wet): 709 lb. (322kg)
Weight (dry): 679 lb. (308kg)
Rake: 29.0 deg.
Trail: 4.4 in. (112mm)
Wheelbase: 65.5 in. (1664mm)
Seat height: 27.1 in. (688mm)
Fuel capacity: 5 gal. (19L)

SUSPENSION

Front: 43mm inverted fork
Rear: twin shocks, adjustable for spring preload

PERFORMANCE

Horsepower: 89.4 @ 5500 rpm
Torque: 105.2 lb.-ft. @ 3000 rpm
Corrected 1/4-mile*: 12.31 sec. @ 107.08 mph
Top-gear roll-on: 4.19 sec.
Fuel mileage (low/high/average): 34/44/41

*Performance with test-session weather conditions corrected to sea-level standard conditions (59 degrees F, 29.92 in. of mercury).

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