While in Sydney earlier this year I took the opportunity to sample Harley-Davidson’s 2004 Wide Glide.

My first impression was that the new 1,450cc (88 cube) engine is simply miles ahead of the earlier 1,340cc unit. While still no arm ripping powerhouse, it definitely provides more get up and go than the previous engine.

But that is only part of the story. The real improvements come with the isolation from vibration for the rider and a smooth electronic fuel injection system which is now offered across the whole Dyna Glide range.

On the road the black powder-coated engine is a gem. Smooth and fairly grunty with a slick shifting gearbox it makes for an extremely pleasant ride around town or out in the hills. Of course the absolutely huge range of genuine H-D ‘Screamin Eagle’ accessories can inject your Harley with as much horsepower as your budget allows if the need arises. In stock form it is certainly no power cruiser, revving the machine hard provides no more urge than if you just ride the torque available lower in the rev range.

Out amongst the bends the Wide Glide also acquits itself quite well, that is until you really start getting excited and push the machine out of its comfort zone. The raked forks and large front rim provide a somewhat vague feeling at the front, but they work well enough. The moderately sized ape-hanger bars are positioned well, and provide comfort along with reasonable control. The bars worked themselves loose a couple of times during my time with the bike, something for owners to maybe keep an eye on.

Foot forward controls are fairly much standard on cruisers. The Wide Glide items are well positioned and work better than most.

The indicators are situated on a each bar, like a BMW for example.  But here Harley have done a better job than BMW, the Harley switchgear is easier to use and is aided by a useful self-canceling function.

Braking performance could only be described as adequate. Little effort is required through the lever to bring the full capabilities of the single 292mm front disc into action. Stronger brakes would certainly overtax the soft front forks which even struggle to cope with the power of the single disc. Thankfully a 292mm disc is also provided at the rear and helps to make the stopping power acceptable.

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The seat is excellent, the best I have yet sampled on a cruiser. This fact, combined with a more compliant rear suspension system than I have sampled on previous Harleys, mean that the Wide Glide proves to be one of the most comfortable cruisers on the market. Still, a really big bump will overcome the suspension and give you a good smack in the kidneys to wake you up.

While I didn’t sample the pillion seat, it does look a lot more inviting than the flat pad provided on some cruisers. The provision of a sissy bar should make your passenger quite comfortable.

Most of my 300km aboard the Wide Glide were in very wet conditions, this highlighted why maybe we don’t see too many Harleys out in the rain. After one wet weather ride, signs of corrosion were already appearing on the end of the shift shaft, pipe baffles and front wheel bearings.  So unless you really enjoy polishing and cleaning, it is best to leave your Harley in the shed when it buckets down. This worry aside, I thoroughly enjoyed the Wide Glide.

Although Harley’s haven’t really changed their looks or layout since God was a boy, they have still managed to come a very long way. I would go as far to say the Wide Glide would be my cruiser of choice for long distance rides. The fact that touring ranges in excess of 300km can be stretched out of its 19 litre fuel tank just adds more kudos to its long distance abilities.

FAST FACTS – Harley-Davidson FXDWG Wide Glide

  • Engine – 1449cc, air-cooled, twin-cam, 45º v-twin

  • Bore x Stroke – 95.3 x 101.6mm

  • Compression Ratio – 8.8:1

  • Induction – EFI

  • Starter – Electric

  • Transmission – Five speed

  • Final Drive – Belt

  • Wheel Base – 1,665mm

  • Seat Height – 680mm

  • Fuel Capacity – 19.3 litres

  • Front Tyre – MH90-21

  • Rear Tyre – 150/80B-16

  • Front Suspension – 41mm telescopic forks

  • Front Brake – 292mm single disc

  • Rear Brake – 292mm single disc

  • Dry Weight – 295kg

  • RRP – $28,750

  • Warranty – Two years, unlimited kilometres

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