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Comparison test: Harley-Davidson Electra / Street Glide

Brands, Myths and Engines

Pounding V2 bumper engines, heavy metal, archaic technology: a Harley of today looks like one of yesteryear. But if it drives and sounds that way, it has retained its character?

No motorcycle brand in the world has this cult factor that has made Harley what it is today over the course of a century.

The level of awareness of the brand is at least in the motorized world on a similar level as Coca-Cola, Marlboro or McDonald s, even Lieschen Muller is familiar with the brand name. Harley-Davidson has an absolutely exceptional position among motorcyclists. You ride any motorcycle, but you live a Harley – that is and always has been a huge difference.

The brand has existed since 1903, making it one of the oldest still in existence. V2 engines with the typical 45-degree cylinder angle have also been manufactured since 1909, and since 1934 there have been almost exclusively V2 models. A huge, incomparable history with a unique continuity. And they were always big, heavy machines with huge displacements. The Americans already had more than 1.3 liters displacement in the 1920s.

S.o seen, the Electra Glide that Matthias Korte brought back from the Harley-Factory Frankfurt am Main is a fairly young specimen. The big twin from 1965 was only around 45 years old. It is the last year of construction of the so-called Panhead engine, which has been in production since 1948 and which bears its name because of the smooth cylinder head cover. And the E-Glide is so named because it was the first Harley model with an electric starter. That was pure luxury back then.

The police-style photo machine has an interesting history; it was once used as an escort motorcycle for the Shah of Persia. This or one of the later civilian owners must have been very willing to travel, because the speedometer is just approaching the 60,000-mile mark. The subtle patina V2 with 54 HP and four gears is compared to around 360 kilograms of weight, which should be kept in check by two manageable drum brakes.

After the push of a button, the starter bites into the corresponding gear and brings the V2 to life, whereupon a polyphonic, but not too loud orchestra begins to play: the air filter snorkels and snorts, the bumpers tick gently, the valves cackle a little. And the typical potato sound caused by the asymmetrical firing order of the 45-degree V2 bubbles out of the exhaust. In addition, one or the other attachment feels caused to vibrate and chirp along with the wriggling motor. So anyone who claims that technical devices have no soul has never seen this show live, let alone controlled it.

At the latest then you will notice that the term ergonomics did not play a role in the 1960s. Switches and levers are arranged quite arbitrarily, but it doesn’t matter. You quickly recognized where the 46-year-old twin’s comfort zone was and tried to keep it there by operating the long travel and less precise transmission. The brakes are primarily used for psychology; closing the gas is almost as efficient. This is an experience and adventure in equal measure, riding a motorcycle with all your senses. The driver quickly understands where the term “heavy machine” often used in the past comes from. From today’s perspective, it is hard to imagine that this motorcycle would not once be cruising through the area, but that police officers seriously hunted down criminals.


Harley Davidson Street Glide 2011.

No sooner have you got used to the peculiarities of the archaic device than the journey is over again. Bike swap. At first glance, almost everything about the new Harley looks the same as the old one. Technically, not that little has changed over the decades.

But compared to its ancestor, the current Street Glide is almost unspectacular. With a third more displacement, it presses in a completely different way and has significantly more power and thrust to offer in all speed ranges.

Braking is also much more effective today, and a modern ABS is on board. Mechanical noises like the exhaust sound are – unfortunately – reduced to a minimum. The radio must comfort this. The current engine runs more quietly despite the powerful displacement, only shakes its rubber mounts vigorously when idling. When driving, he behaves piously with his gentle throttle response.

And yet: At the latest when the first gear with a violent "Kalonk" is ready for the flow of power, the left hand releases the powerful clutch lever into the starting position and the load of measured pace starts moving, it is there again, this "you-can-me-all-times" feeling. You can experience that on the new street as well as on the old E-Glide and enjoy it to the fullest.

The new one makes everything much better. Riding a Harley has always been expensive. On the other hand, there is the slight loss in value, which can sometimes also be an increase in value: While the Street Glide is available from around 23,000 euros, 250 green bills have to be flipped onto the table for the oldie these days.



The biggest difference: old Harleys have saddles where new Harleys have seats. Otherwise they are very similar.

Panhead engine
The V2, which was presented in 1948 and produced until 1965 and known as the Panhead because of its pan-shaped cylinder head cover, was state of the art in its time. Cylinder heads made of aluminum and automatic valve clearance compensation by means of hydraulic valve lifters had high-tech status at that time. Valve actuation by means of camshafts and bumpers below, however, was also rather conservative at the time.

Typical for all air-cooled Harley-V2 are the cylinders that are arranged without offset. This is made possible by a forked connecting rod of the rear cylinder, which encloses the front counterpart on both sides. Although this enables a slim design, the cooling of the rear cylinder suffers as a result. In addition, this concept is not known for its speed stability. AT side-mounted carburetor supplies the combustion chambers with mixture through long and winding channels.

Twin Cam 103 engine
Despite undoubtedly similarities, the current drive with 103 cubic inches aka 1690 cm³ has little in common with the oldie apart from the basic layout. Around half a liter more displacement and six instead of four gears produce and portion the output, which has increased from 54 to 84 hp. Also impressive: the torque increase from 93 to 134 Nm. In order to maintain the typical, archaic, long-stroke Harley character, high-tech is now doing its job where it cannot be seen. So there are z. B. engine mounts that only let the desired vibrations through to the driver. Injection systems are common nowadays, but control of the throttle valve by means of an electric cable instead of a gas cable is still rare in two-wheeler construction. And while the Panhead is largely free of electrics, all sensors and their cabling are invisible on the Twin Cam because of the clean appearance.

Technical specifications


A monument to Motor: The 45-degree V2 remained practically unchanged for decades.

Harley-Davidson Electra Glide (Panhead, 1965) Harley-Davidson Street Glide Type of engine Air-cooled
Two cylinder four stroke 45 degree V engine
Two cylinder four stroke 45 degree V engine
Mixture preparation Diaphragm carburetor, Ø 38 mm Injection, Ø 46 mm
coupling Multi-disc dry clutch Multi-disc oil bath clutch
transmission Four-speed transmission Six-speed gearbox
Secondary drive Chain Timing belt
Boron x stroke 87.3 x 100.8 mm 98.4 x 111.1 mm
Displacement 1207 cc 1690 cc
compression 8.0: 1 9.6: 1
power 40.0 kW (54 PS) at 5400 rpm 62.0 kW (84 hp) at 5010 rpm
Torque 93 Nm at 3500 rpm 134 Nm at 3500 rpm
Weight with a full tank 313 kg 374 kg
Top speed 155 km / h 175 km / h
price 10,190 marks (1965) From 22,995 euros

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