('82 FXR Action) The Harley that handled. The new FXR was designed to offer the feel and performance of current roadsters from Japan.
('82 FXR Action) The Harley that handled. The new FXR was designed to offer the feel and p
In 1982 the ad copy said the new FXR Super Glide II was a Harley-Davidson that would "separate the men from the boys," the implication being that the boys were riding "foreign" motorcycles. The FXR promised to deliver handling to rival sporty bikes from overseas, and the potent performance of an American V-twin. Twenty-eight years later, there are still riders who claim the FXR was the best motorcycle Harley ever built.
That notion would be hard to defend, given the advanced engine, chassis, and suspension technology Harley has introduced in just the last decade. But the FXR does represent a moment in Harley history when the company put its talent and energy into creating not just a great Harley-Davidson, but a great motorcycle; a bike less constrained by heritage and the status quo. Keep in mind that the FXR platform would debut in 1981 as an '82 model, just months after the company had completed its buyout from AMF. The FXR represented Harley's commitment to its future.
('80 FTL Tour Glide) Introduced in 1980, the Tour Glide was powered by an 80ci Shovelhead engine mated directly to a new five-speed transmission, and a new three-point elastomer-cushioned mounting system that isolated the powertrain from the frame and the rider from vibration. The FXR was designed to use the same powertrain and mounting system.
('80 FTL Tour Glide) Introduced in 1980, the Tour Glide was powered by an 80ci Shovelhead
"Around the company the FXR was considered an engineer's bike," recalls Bob LeRoy, who joined the company in 1979, worked as a designer on the FXR team and today is a Custom Vehicle Operations (CVO) project manager at Harley. "It had a higher seat height and footpegs to give it more lean angle. And it produced much less vibration to the rider, so it felt more sophisticated. You could go out and have some fun on an FXR, not just cruise around."
The FXR was designed around the same 80ci Shovelhead engine and five-speed transmission package that debuted in the all-new '80 FLT Tour Glide, the first modern Harley with a rubber-mounted powertrain. The plan was to turn the Tour Glide platform into a sporty roadster to sell against the Japanese bikes.
The Harley engineering team-which included a young road-racer named Erik Buell-quickly determined that the Tour Glide frame was not suited to the mission and instead designed an all-new frame that would hold the powertrain in the same elastomer tri-mounts. The frame had a more triangulated shape than that of the FXE Super Glide, and the rear shocks were set further back on the swingarm.
"Instead of heavy castings, the FXR frame had a lot of welded stamped-steel parts," said LeRoy. "This was before the era of robotic welding, so it all had to be assembled by hand. It was expensive and difficult to manufacture."
('83 Super Glide II) Dubbed the Super Glide II, the base FXR came with laced wheels and monochrome paint. The console atop the Fat Bob tank held a fuel gauge and the fill cap. The pillowy seat looks out of place on a "performance" bike.
('83 Super Glide II) Dubbed the Super Glide II, the base FXR came with laced wheels and mo
Harley introduced the '82 FXR platform with two models-the FXR Super Glide II had laced wheels, while the FXRS was the same bike with cast wheels and two-tone paint. Both had a 3.8-gallon Fat Bob fuel tank with a console that incorporated the fuel cap and a fuel gauge. A thickly cushioned seat flipped up to reveal the oil tank and battery. The bike came equipped with triple disc brakes and sporty Dunlop tires. The FXR, a "sporty standard," was sold alongside the rigid-mount, four-speed FX "factory custom" models, including the Super Glide, Wide Glide, and Low Rider. Despite the effort to keep it light and nimble, the FXR was actually 2 inches longer and 3 pounds heavier than the FXE Super Glide. But the isolated powertrain and the extra gear, made the FXR feel much more refined.
"I recall that the FXR felt more compact than other Big Twins; very similar to large Japanese bikes of the era," said one former FXR owner we know. "The ergonomics were excellent for a shorter rider like myself, and the size and weight seemed very manageable. When my wife wanted to move up from a Sportster, the FXR was really the only Big Twin option she'd consider." The former owner also recalled that the FXR was reputed to be the favored ride of a certain well-known outlaw motorcycle organization who appreciated the performance and handling when it was time to make a quick get-away. It's just another aspect of the FXR legend.