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2016 H-D Street Bob Special Edition

Here are some excerpts from the Heavy Duty Magazine Test.



“It’s about time we covered some of the virtues of the Dyna Range” Brum said down the line. A few emails to Harley’s PR folks and a few days later, a brand new 2016 FXDB Street Bob Special Edition was available for collection at Morgan & Wacker Brisbane for Heavy Duty appraisal.

And appraised it was. Every appraising opportunity I had, for a bit over a month, and I loved every minute of it.

First thing I noted was the Special Edition is as comfortable for the ‘larger gentleman’ as any of the touring range – in fact even more comfy than some of the tourers. Which was quite surprising considering the more compact nature of the model and it’s 1630mm Wheelbase.

It’s also the second-best handling of all the big blocks and is a real delight to hammer the rubber-mounted 103cube out of a tight apex. (The Fat Bob and its wonderful front end still holds the ‘best handling’ title, but the Street Bob SE is pretty damn close.)

That Special Edition Difference.

Next impression I got was that the bike seems to be a cross between a Standard Street Bob, A Fat Bob and a Wide Glide – or a composite of parts/styles thereof.

The SE runs the same drag-style vee handlebars on risers as its cousin the Fat Bob, in lieu of the Mini Apes on the Standard model. It also features forward controls, rather than the mid foot mounts of the standard. Along with the Screaming Eagle style saddle with a pillion seat (instead of a solo) it makes for a very comfortable perch for the longer limbed, while the 680mm saddle height means that shorter legs will still be able to flat-foot it comfortably too. The lack of the big bolster at the back of the seat combined with the forward pegs makes it a better option for tall folks.

The other main difference between standard and SE are the wheels and tyres. The SE runs split 5-Spoke cast aluminium with machined highlights, while black, laced rims are on the stocker.

Some of the changes take away from the ‘pared down bobber’ look referenced in the machine’s advertising copy and to my eye the SE isn’t quite as aesthetically pleasing as the standard (I always thought that the Street Bob is the bike Arthur Fonzarelli would ride today). It still has the no-nonsense rear end with combined taillights and indicators with shorty guards and it remains a very good-looking machine, but the real difference is in the way the SE rides.

Its lowdown, relaxed riding position combined with the pulling power of the 2016 edition of the 103 cube engine delivers a bike that made me want to constantly pin it on exits and launches. Like all the rubber mounted Dynas, some of the engine’s vibrations are evident – mostly in the foot pegs - but for me that just highlighted how strong the motor felt and encouraged me to roll it on even harder.

And that meant keeping a closer eye on the tank mounted instrument cluster as well. Along with the familiar analogue speedometer the other ‘retro tech’ is displayed in the crinkle finished housing. LCD trip meters, fuel range, tacho and gear indicator are available via the ‘cycle’ button on the left hand switch block. I mostly used the ‘range’ display, which is far more accurate than the fuel gauge in the dummy gas cap.

The ancillary equipment on the bike is first rate too. The headlight is very good for a single unit and it throws a wide, flat beam. The horn is as loud as many a car’s unit and Harley’s self-cancelling indicator system is the best in motorcycledom.

Riding it

Harley claims lean angles of 30 and 31 degrees and overall the bike’s cornering and road holding are also amongst the top notch in the muscle cruiser class. The Dynas run a mild steel tubular frame with rectangular section backbone featuring stamped, cast and forged junctions. Flex is minimal and with preload adjustable twin shocks at the rear offering around 80mm of travel and 49mm diameter forks with around 127mm of travel up front, the bike’s manners are confidence inspiring. Grabbing a handful of the 4-piston fixed front, (and 2-piston torque-free floating rear) brakes, even while cranked over, presented no problem. Harleys continually improving ABS helps in the confidence stakes too. The brakes aren’t quite as powerful as the latest editions on the Softail range, but they work ‘just fine’ nonetheless.

As I say every new model year like a broken record, the 103 cube just gets a little bit better with each new relese. They have all performed flawlessly in the time I’ve been testing them. The 1690cc, 98.4x111.1 bore and stroke, twin cam donk looks unchanged from 2015 - on the spec sheet and at first glance anyway, apart from some external finishes - like the air filter cover and some polished sections on the heads. It’s just a lovely, plush feeling engine – and somehow just a little bit sweetwer than last year’s.

This unit only had 400km on the clock when I picked it up and it was slightly harder to find neutral when the bike was stationary than some others I’ve tested lately, but as I racked up the k’s it became more compliant. Otherwise shifting through the 6-speed cruise drive was as pleasant as the rest of the motorcycle.

Testing Conditions.

I did a lot of city cruising and around town work. The bike is narrow and lane splits with ease. It carves up traffic easily with 130nm on tap and has a ton of black denim style to suit. It even made freeway blasts very enjoyable.

Day rides and coastal cruising were also very pleasant. Outstanding comfort levels and it’s relaxed gait meant a big day was easy. If you need a screen for touring there are several in the accessory catalogue, same with saddle bags.

Conclusion

Overall I thought this is a very versatile machine. City, highway and country riding. Comfortable, stylish, chuckable and it made me grin – a lot.

The 17.8 litre tank was good for over 300km between stops, depending on how long I kept the fuel warning light glowing. Carrying my payload in mainly city riding and reasonably hard throttle use (see launching and pinning above) it returned pretty close to Harley’s claimed figure of 5.5ltr/100km. Combined with a H-D’s overall servicing costs the Dynas should be a reasonably economical motorcycle to run.

At just under $24,000 the Street Bob Special Edition is a versatile, enjoyable and rewarding motorcycle that looks great and has the intangible ‘feel good’ that comes with a well-sorted Harley-Davidson.

It also endorsed Brum’s call that the Dynas really are well worth a much closer look.