Brethren, a reading from the book of Minime: “So imagine when, to my dismay, Calvin and I were running errands and ended up in a Ralphs Supermarket parking lot, and a little hottie in a sports car compliments him by saying, “nice bike,” and giving him that flirtatious smile and wink which are the reasons I bother to eat and breathe. He was on the Screamin’ Beagle while I was atop Philip’s beautiful and classy-looking Fat Boy; that’s the only reason I could think, in my shallow mind, that he got the attention of the opposite sex while I was left standing gape-jawed, thinking about an intervention. But somehow I didn’t think blurting out, “that’s not even his bike,” would have much effect. Both because it was already too late and because neither bike was mine either.”
This is how MO on Normandie Avenue was in the early days when we were very poor and very happy, and had to ask but still didn’t understand, swirled without end, Amen.
Los Angeles, June 13, 2000 — Remove your brain. Right now. Read not another word unless you have already done so. Why? Put plainly, Harley-Davidsons, in general, are viewed as unique, overpriced, modern antiques. Not much reason in that, really. So when you take one of their bikes which retails for over $15,000 in stock form and let Harley’s Custom Vehicle Operations program (CVO) “showcase Screamin’ Eagle high performance parts,” to “reflect Harley-Davidson’s racing heritage,” what you have is a recipe for some hard-core eyebrow raising and head scratching that would make the Three Stooges proud: $22,495 and it won’t comfortably seat a family of four or win a World Superbike title? Pardon us while we remove our own collective brain.
Our new CEO, Philip Strauss, has owned a number of bikes over the years and more than one of them has been a Harley-Davidson. Always eager to check out the latest addition to the MO stable, Strauss took the Screamin’ Eagle Harley home for the weekend to do a little bit of personal taste testing. When he pulled up to the Rock Store (a local biker hangout) on Sunday morning, he encountered something he’s never received on any motorcycle prior: laughter. Well, he’d encountered laughter before, but usually it was directed at him, not his ride.
This weekend’s incident included more than just an isolated snicker. There was a myriad chuckles from men and women, young and old, directed at our CEO aboard the nearly $23K steed.Harley-Davidson reportedly looked to the Screamin’ Eagle Pro Stock race team for inspiration in building this limited edition (only 1500 will be made) FLTRSEI. So what’s so special about this bike? For starters, on top of the standard Road Glide, you get more than $7,500 in Genuine Harley-Davidson custom accessories and a choice of two paint schemes, both featuring the Screamin’ Eagle on the front fairing. In addition to the paint and chrome bolt-ons, there are also a few performance-enhancing modifications which have been performed to elevate the Road Glide from Floundering Beagle to Screamin’ Eagle status.
Harley says the powertrain uses Screamin’ Eagle performance parts, “configured in a special street-legal package,” that includes big-bore cylinders, flat-top pistons, more aggressive cams, an intake calibration cartridge and an air cleaner. The changes result in a ten-percent increase in horsepower and a 14-percent gain in torque.Compared to Philip’s personal Fat Boy, we expected the Screamin’ Eagle Harley to be the Big Boy on the street and leave the Fat Boy behind even though it had a high-flow air filter, Vance and Hines pipes, re-mapped ignition and a Mikuni Smooth Bore carburetor. With a big-bore kit and so many modifications (not to mention, again, the price and “influenced by the drag-race team” statement) we expected the Fat Boy to get eaten alive by the Road Glide. Unfortunately for Harley-Davidson, a lightly tweaked Fat Boy beats up on the bigger bike at every opportunity. Not to mention the fact that it sounds a lot more brutish and appropriately obnoxious.
Which brings us to another complaint we had about the Screamin Eagle Road Glide; it’s too quiet! This thing’s supposed to be a lion but it sounds like a tabby cat who’s had a bit of vicodin mixed into his Friskies. We’re all against the “loud pipes save lives” argument (we think caution and rider skill saves lives), but what’s the point in building a free-breathing motor if you’re going to keep things plugged up at the back end and effectively negate all the hard work? When you come up with the answer, please drop us a line.
All this arm-chair quarterbacking and that’s not what this bike is all about. The Road Glide was meant for the open road. Load up a few garments, a wife, and head out for a weekend away from all the chaos that is the day-to-day shuffle. Here the bike shines as you start to look at both it and the world in front of you in an entirely different way.What is a heaving, wheezing horse-drawn wagon around town becomes a thoroughbred once it breaks out of the gate and gets an opportunity to stretch its legs. At 75 mph, this bike is in its element. Everything is just about perfect here except for the odd bit of buffeting from the relatively short windscreen. Harley has a taller windscreen than the tinted one that was fitted on our particular bike and, though it may not be as aesthetically striking, it would probably be the hot ticket for sustained cruising at speeds over 70 mph. When the dash-mounted speedometer clears 80 mph, the motor stays smooth and encourages even more rapid progress, but the buffeting from the rushing wind made riders over six feet tall feel like they were doing a headstand on top of an unevenly loaded washing machine.
Surprisingly, the buffeting lessens with a passenger aboard. What was miserable at 80 mph is now tolerable, and the Screamin’ Eagle motor has no problem pulling a passenger along. You hardly notice anybody is back there. But the passengers were quick to notice their right calf toasting and their butt getting sore. People complained when we did not include this bike against the BMW K1200LT and the Honda GL 1500 Gold Wing but we had good reason; the Harley is not nearly as comfortable or competent as is either offering from competing manufacturers.At speeds above 90 mph the Harley started to “float” on the road. Where most ground-based vehicles are engineered with some degree of downforce above a certain speed, the harder the pilot twisted the Road Glide’s throttle, the more the bike felt disconnected with the road’s surface. The motor would willingly pull beyond 110 mph, but those speeds became far too sketchy for any sort of real rider comfort. Still, if our touring plans were more localized and placed an emphasis on outlaw style and a high “ooh – aaah” factor, the Eagle would be our choice.
The layout of the gauges is extremely tidy and features classy, chrome-bezels. The radio features only a tape deck, but the audio quality is on par with that of Honda’s Gold wing, though only as loud as the BMW K1200LT which is just a shade quieter than the Honda. We would appreciate a CD-player option on this Road Glide, and the passenger would certainly appreciate a set of speakers mounted someplace on the back of the bike since, at speeds above 45 mph, the music becomes indistinguishable from ambient noise. As for the mufflers themselves, they’re too quiet to make beautiful music on their own, yet just loud enough to drown out the music. Harley should make them quieter or just ditch the stereo and give us something that sounds like the Screamin’ Eagle moniker would suggest.
Harleys are about emotion, and not rational thought processes. Sure, there’s resale value, but we have a grandfather clock with good resale value. So what? Harleys are about the feeling you get when riding one. They’re about pulling into a parking lot and being on the receiving end of admiring glances. This bike will definately garner its fair share of glances and comments even if they’re not all positive. The motor is not modified to suit the faint of heart or weak of spirit. Obviously, neither is the paint job.
Harleys are still about style first and performance second. And while this bike is no slouch in the style department, its Screamin’ Eagle upgrades bring the performance closer to where they belong, though still fall a little short of expectations. But if a brash, in-your-face attention grabber is what you seek, then this Screamin’ Eagle is just what you’re looking for and you can put your brain back in now and enjoy the ride.