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Customizing a Harley-Davidson Street Glide

Genevieve joins the bagger brigade

By Genevieve Schmitt, Editor
6/27/2009


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Baggers, dressers, touring motorcycles—whatever you call these hard-saddlebag-wearing, rear-tour-pack-packing powerful machines, they are often the last motorcycle a rider will end up owning. Why? Because as solo riders, most of us don't choose a bike that has all that storage space and protection before we know we need it. As new riders without any road experience, we tend to choose motorcycles that fit us as much as possible in stock condition, make us feel good and look cool, and can handle comfortably. We don't know what we actually need until we've had some decent seat time. The exception to this is the riders who will be traveling two-up most of the time. In these situations, a dresser is usually considered right away no matter how long someone's been riding. It's ideal for two people because of all the storage and seating capacity.   

Customizing a Harley-Davidson Street Glide Genevieve Schmitt
Little did I know while first riding a Harley-Davidson Street Glide at a Harley press intro in November 2005 that I would end up owning one three years later.

To me, a dresser represents a "coming of age" for a motorcycle rider. As a woman, if you ride a full-dressed motorcycle, you must be an experienced rider with lots of confidence because most women have a difficult time handling the large size. With that said, of all the women I've met who ride a dresser, every one of them has had to lower the seat height to handle the weight of the bike safely. Only really tall women can handle the stock height and weight of these motorcycles in all types of riding conditions.

I recently joined the bagger brigade by buying my first bagger—or dresser, as they're called—a 2008 Street Glide, my fifth motorcycle. Some of you, like me, may have a hard time calling the Street Glide a full dresser because it doesn't have a rear tour pack (although it's set up to accept one). It's still a touring bike loaded with creature comforts you'd never find on a Softail or Dyna, like a full fairing, cruise control, ABS and a radio/CD player. I'm coming off of a 1994 Dyna Low Rider I've been riding all these years. I never thought at my ripe young age I would be ready to trade up to what used to be viewed (and maybe still is) as an older person's bike, but after spending almost 20 years riding, I'm ready for the big kahuna of motorcycles. 

Customizing a Harley-Davidson Street Glide Montana
Putting the first 1,000 miles on my 2008 Street Glide that I purchased from Yellowstone Harley-Davidson in Belgrade, Mont., in January 2008. This picture was taken in eastern Montana while returning home from the Sturgis rally.

The reason I went with the touring bike at this stage in my riding life (I still have a good 25 to 30 riding years left, I'm sure) is because most of my saddle time these days is spent touring. When I get on my bike, I plan to be on it all day, pushing back 450 miles or so for several days where my bike is my suitcase. I was craving more storage, more wind protection and more stability on the road from a larger chassis. Knowing this would probably be my last motorcycle, or at least one I'll own until the end of time, I splurged on a few things. 

Customizing a Harley-Davidson Street Glide Paint Job
I'm in love with this custom paint job I designed myself. It's matte brown with barn-red flames outlined by a wheat color. The surface feels like suede, and the dullness does not reflect light, which I like.

Customizing a Harley-Davidson Street Glide Stock Black
Here's my Street Glide in its stock condition the day I officially owned it. It was January and cold outside, so this photo was taken inside Yellowstone Harley-Davidson's garage. The winter was spent getting it painted and installing all the new accessories.

My amazing custom paint job was done courtesy of the talented JoAnn Bortles of Crazy Horse Painting. I love that my motorcycle is now one of a kind in that way. Knowing I was going to put on aftermarket exhaust pipes, I had a Stage 1 kit from Harley-Davidson installed so the bike would breathe better. I also got the Screamin' Eagle Race Tuner so the power output could be dialed in on the Dyno. 

Customizing a Harley-Davidson Street Glide Cobra Exhaust Pipes
The Cobra exhaust pipes have a simple, understated look to complement that classic sound that's not too loud and not too quiet. It's just right.

I chose Cobra True Dual Headpipes because I really liked the sound. You can check out Cobra's Web site (listed at the end of this article) and listen to the sound the different exhaust pipes make. I love the smooth cadence of the True Duals. Cobra recommends you purchase its Fi2000 fuel management console. I was told I didn't need it because I already had Harley's version of that, the Race Tuner, installed.    

I had heard rumblings about how Harley-Davidson's new 96-inch Twin Cam motor put out a lot of heat, so I wasted no time ordering heat deflectors that help dissipate the heat from the engine so my legs don't get too hot.            

 
Customizing a Harley-Davidson Street Glide Heat Deflector
You can see the black heat deflector on the left side just below the seat. There's also one on the right side just below the seat, shown in the next picture. The heat deflectors are also available in a smoke tint.

 
Customizing a Harley-Davidson Street Glide Heat Deflector Black
Since installing the heat deflectors on my bike, I've yet to experience an excessive amount of engine heat on my legs.

I also got a backrest and luggage rack so I have extra storage space. I can attach a backrest bag to the sissy bar and an additional bag to the luggage rack. These are detachable, so I can take them off when I don't need them.    

Customizing a Harley-Davidson Street Glide Back Rest
I opted for the luggage rack that integrates with the sissy bar. A flick of a switch on either side detaches both the sissy bar and luggage rack as one unit.

While I stand 5-foot-6.5 and have a 30-inch inseam, I still needed to lower the 700-pound motorcycle to give me extra leg length and strength. Before installing lower shocks, I looked into aftermarket seat options to lower the stock 26.3-inch seat height at least a half-inch more. While 26.3 inches is relatively low—I could easily handle that height on the narrow Sportster or Dyna models—on the Street Glide, 26.3 inches seems higher because I lose inches in the spread of the wide bucket-style saddle. Plus, having to muscle that much more bike weight means I need as much leg length and strength as possible.

Kudos to Harley-Davidson for developing the Reach Seat a couple of years ago. The Reach Seat pushes me forward about 1 inch closer to the bars, and the nose of the seat is narrower than the stock version, bringing my legs closer together and enabling me to get another 1/2 to 1 inch of leg length. The difference is noticeable. The Reach Seat is available for nearly every late-model Harley-Davidson. There are lower, flatter seats like the Brawler or Rally Runner, but they don't push you forward like the Reach does.     

Customizing a Harley-Davidson Street Glide Reach Seast
The Reach Seat is deep and narrow, with very good lumbar support.


 
Customizing a Harley-Davidson Street Glide Seat Height
With the Reach Seat, I am flat-flooted with a slight bend in my knee.

 
Customizing a Harley-Davidson Street Glide Stock Seat Height
This shot was taken with the stock seat. Notice the difference in how my feet reach the ground.

I also wanted more protection than the stock shorty windshield provided me. I'd heard of the FLARE Windshield that Brian Klock of Klock Werks Kustom Cycles developed out of a need to keep his wife, Laura, safer while racing at high speeds on the Bonneville Salt Flats. Laura set the record while racing a bagger at Bonneville in 2006 and then broke her record this past year. The "hips" at the outer edge of the FLARE shield reroute the wind to add downforce to the front of the bike, which aids stability. The "flip" at the top of the FLARE is designed to kick the air up and then allow it to flow back as "clean" air for the rider. I was skeptical at first, as the FLARE is no higher than a stock shield, but amazingly, the flare design provides what I'd call smoother air. I wasn't feeling that choppy, turbulent airflow that comes from a stock shield, and more importantly, I wasn't feeling beat up at the end of a long riding day like I did with the shorty shield.   

Customizing a Harley-Davidson Street Glide Flare Windshield
I opted for the FLARE windshield from Klock Werks in a smoke tint. It also comes in black and clear.

One last thing I did was reroute the antenna that normally sticks up in the back because it would be hitting the luggage rack. I purchased an internal fairing antenna from Dakota Digital that is hidden inside the fairing. 

Customizing a Harley-Davidson Street Glide Touring
Here I am all packed on last summer's ride to Sturgis. The backrest bag is on the backrest; the other two bags are on the luggage rack. I use a cargo net to make sure the bags are secured to the bike and to one other.

With both saddlebags packed and three bags bungeed to the back of the bike, there are about 40 to 50 extra pounds of weight, making the bike that much heavier. Riding it feels no different, but pushing it around a parking lot, I definitely feel the difference in weight. My project going into this summer is to get the bike lower so I have extra leg length and strength to muscle it around. Lower shocks should get me an additional 1/2 to 1 inch closer to the ground. Even without the additional weight, I found that moving the motorcycle around in gravel is difficult because the bike is so heavy. I need more leg strength, which should come from the extra leg length available to me.  

I'm going to put on Progressive Suspension shocks, which I'm told work great on lowering a Street Glide without compromising handling. I'm also installing 14-inch apehangers, as I prefer to ride with my arms higher. I feel more in control of a motorcycle this way. I'll keep you posted.

Thank you to my local dealer, Yellowstone Harley-Davidson, for guiding me through what parts I needed and for doing all the installation work. If you're ever in Montana, be sure to visit them, as the staff there is extremely friendly and wonderful to deal with. They have rentals, too.       

I'd love to hear from Street Glide owners on how they modified their Street Glides. Please send photos and information and I'll post it here. And be sure to read an article I wrote five years ago (listed below under Related Articles) when I was contemplating what motorcycle I would trade up to from my Dyna by comparing a Honda Gold Wing with a Harley Ultra Classic Electra Glide.

Here are the part numbers for everything I ordered:

Harley-Davidson Parts (Harley-Davidson.com)
2008 Touring Reach Seat: #52619-08
Midframe Air Deflectors (head deflectors): #58022-07A
Detachable Sissy Bar: #528933-97B
Top Stitched Backrest Pad: #52924-98A
Docking Hardware: #53803-06
Detachable Luggage Rack: #53001-98
Screamin' Eagle Stage 1 Kit: #29260-08
Race Tuner: #32101-01H

Other Parts
Custom Paint Job: Crazy Horse Painting, JoAnn Bortles(CrazyHorsePainting.com)
Dakota Digital Internal Antenna: #ATN-2000 (DakotaDigital.com)
Cobra Pipes: True Dual Headpipes: #6251 (CobraUSA.com)
KlockWerks FLARE Windshield: 8 inch tint (KustomBaggers.com)

Related Articles
How Genevieve Lowered Her Street Glide Even Further: Suspension Mods
Changing Your Motorcycle's Shocks to Get Lower
Trading Up to Dresser: Should or Shouldn't You?


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Reader Comments


I purchased a 2014 Street Glide Special in December of 2013, spent the winter making the changes I needed to be able to touch the ground. Coming from a 2012 Softail Deluxe to the Street Glide was a jump but well worth it.

Here are the modifications I made as I am only 5 feet 4 inches: I lowered the front forks, purchased the Road King solo seat and change the stock shocks to the 11.5-inch Progressive shock. Yes it is a bit of a stiffer ride but it was well worth it. Making these modifications gave me more confidence when moving the bike around in the parking lot. One thing I have changed in the way I ride or park is I look at the parking lot, notice the slopes in the parking lot because if I park in the wrong spot someone is going to have to push me out. I will make a second pass to make sure I can park and either roll or back in!

I tried to attach a photo as she really looks totally different with all the changes. The bike sits lower but the ride is still the same.

Andrea Higginbotham
Murfreesboro, TN
Tuesday, July 15, 2014
Editor Response
Thanks for sharing the modifications you did to your Street Glide. We'd love to see some photos. The place on WRN to share your review is the "Your Reviews" section accessed here..

Here's a link to access the guidelines for submitting. Please do share it with us. You can copy this text and expand on it if you'd like. Thanks!
Genevieve Schmitt, Editor
I know this article is older, but I'm taking a chance that I might get a response. I just purchased a 2014 Harley-Davidson Street Glide. I have wanted one for a few years and just traded in my Softail Slim this year. I sent my seat to Mean City Cycles and got the extreme reach seat which helped. I rode the bike for the first time today and I find I have to sit straight up to see over the faring. So I have two questions - is this just an adjustment to the bike that I need to make because I now have a faring and you have a blind spot or is there another way to decrease the height of just the front end of the bike so that I don't have to stretch to see over the faring?

I'm only 5 feet tall and I can touch almost flat foot with my new seat, but I'd like to see over the faring. Any suggestions would be great. I want to love this bike and right now I'm a little nervous that my neck and shoulders are going to kill me after riding.

Rhonda
Lebanon, ME
Friday, March 07, 2014
Editor Response
Congratulations on your purchase! When you say you have to sit up straight to see over the faring, I assume you mean the faring and windshield. It's common that the windshield will cut through your line of sight if that's what you mean. The only way I can think of that would make you taller so you can see over the windshield is more padding in the seat, but you already adjusted that to where you sit lower, and clearly that has made it worse.

You might consider lowering the motorcycle as I have with a set of lower shocks in the rear, and tighter springs in the front end (I did not do that the front end though). This way you might be able to add some padding back into your seat to raise you without sacrificing seat height.

I suggest visiting your local dealer and talking to those in sales and parts. There may be other ways they know of to fix this problem.

Whatever you do I highly recommend replacing your stock windshield withe the Klock Werks FLARE Windshield. It has made a huge difference in my ride in terms of how much wind hits me and has added more stability to the ride at higher speeds.
Genevieve Schmitt
Great ideas from all the comments. My last bike was a Fat Boy, but my husband encouraged me to move up to a Street Glide. I really wouldn't have considered it for myself, but after I test rode a couple, I loved it. So I now have a "black and chrome" '06 model, my fourth and last bike. I've only had it a little over a month. It has a big bore kit and "cammed" up and sounds great!

I'm about 5 feet 4 inches. When I test rode it, it felt fine for a short distance, but once I rode several miles I knew I was going to have to change seats at least because I could feel tension in the middle of my back, like I was too stretched out. I knew about the Reach Seats because I had one on my Fat Boy. I'm currently testing a LePera Bare Bones Up-Front Solo Seat. It feels better, but the nose isn't as narrow as the regular Reach Seats and I still may have to do something about handlebars.

As far as height, with boots on, my feet are fine, but with tennis shoes I'm on my toes. I had hoped I wouldn't have to modify this one, but I think you always have to modify/customize, etc., to suit you - especially women.

Valerie
Woodbine, GA
Tuesday, April 03, 2012
I kept my custom '05 Harley-Davidson Softail Deluxe but also purchased a 2011 Street Glide with a 103 engine. I have 9000 miles on it now but I am still making adjustments. I got taller boots, lowered my front forks 1 inch, and lowered my rear shocks 1 inch too. I also had Flanders 10 3/4-inch Ultra Ape black handlebars installed which increased the pullback and gave me a much better reach and back position. (Part #650-08706). They are low enough to remain just below the fairing so my hands are not in the wind. My next project will be narrowing and lowering the seat a bit.

I think the Street Glide is a great touring bike for women. It just needs a woman's touch! I am a 63-year-old retired Algebra teacher and only 5 feet 5 inches tall and I am loving my Glide!

Stephanie Fadden
Sun City, CA
Thursday, January 19, 2012
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