FL 1200 Electra Glide
Air cooled, four stroke, 45° V-Twin, OHV, 2
valves per cylinder.
Bore x Stroke
87.3 x 100.8 mm
Tillotson 1-5/8" dual Venturi diaphragm
60 hp @ 5200 rpm
70 jt-lb @ 4000 rpm
4 Speed / chain
Single 254mm disc
Single 254mm disc
Cycle Guide of 1970
Well folks, here it is, the one, the only, the
undisputed king of two wheel touring. World(?) Yesiree, the Harley Davidson
74 inch Electra Glide is unmistakable in any crowd. There are few
motorcycles indeed that have such a fervent and dedicated group of owners.
And, few also are the machines that have taken such verbal maligning over
Our experience with this new Electra Glide was an enlightening experience
on how to take a trip. It's been a while since we last had the opportunity
to ride one of the 'king of the out-performers,' and there is a lot that
perhaps we have been missing. We even became reserved in using the term
"Road Testing" in regards to the 74, we often wondered if it wasn't the
Harley that was testing us. Actually the big V twin engine hasn't changed a
whole lot over the years. After all, if a couple of wars, a depression and
mini skirts haven't been able to stop the sales of the big 74 cu. in. twin,
maybe it isn't all that bad.
The big Electra Glide isn't just a machine, it's an image. In these days
of the super quick two stroke lightweights and high revving multis, the 74
can be considered another dimension in motorcycling.
Upon receiving a phone call that one ready to go Harley Davidson FLH was
waiting for us at Harley of Fullerton, our first decision had to be made.
How would we bring the 74 back to the office? We normally load the test
machines into one of our trucks, but this is not the average motorcycle, at
least not in size. But, the service manager at Harley of Fullerton informed
us that there would be no problem in loading the FLH in our truck. (What an
The loading ramp for the 74 is no exception. It weighed in at no less
than seventy-five pounds and was wide enough to accept any two Oriental
lightweights at the same time. It fit the 74 like it was mated to it. The
loading and unloading procedure required no less than three hearty and
muscular grunting men. This operation quickly assured us that should we
incur any difficulties such as a flat tire or a spill, the Auto Club tow
service would be our only hope for assistance.
Throughout each year we have the opportunity to road test most of the new
machinery on the market, and also some prototype models on occasion. Some of
the real high performance machinery can really put chills up the back of
even the most stout of heart. In the goose bump department, the big FLH has
it hands down over just about any motorcycle for a first timer. The goose
bumps begin long before the engine even fires, like about the time the
riders, leg swings over the saddlebags and luggage carrier and his toes hang
up on the seat, and the Milwaukee bomber is hoisted off the side stand. This
is when you start to feel the massiveness of the FLH.
It took us a few moments to find that right position of balance. The
wiggling of the rubber mounted handlebars caused some concern also. The next
step is to come down into the enormous saddle and relax a minute before
lighting off those 1 200сс's. It's here that we first acquired the feeling
of real saddle comfort. Kind of like falling into the arm chair at home
after a day spent on a wooden stool. Yes sir, if it's one thing that the H-D
engineers know, it's the American rider's hindquarter.
For a while now the big twins have been using electric starters. In fact,
an auxiliary kick starter is not even included on the engine. There was
never any need for such an item during our testing. Starting the FLH is one
of the more conventional tasks that we had. Just flip on the petcock, press
the choke lever, turn the key, put it in neutral and push the starter
button. Immediately the growling of the' starter motor erupted from
somewhere in the confines of the engine. Action erupts from the engine all
but instantaneously. The unmistakable rumbling tone of the big V twin has
been one of the trademarks of the Harley Davidson heritage.
It is at this point that a neophyte Harley rider finds that those goose
bumps have quadrupled and probably covered most of his body. The next step
is to put it in gear and get ready to aim it down the road. There are a few
major features of the big Electra Glide that set it apart from other
machines, as far as feel and handling characteristics are concerned. Until
sufficient momentum is gained, the weight (pushing 800 pounds), wide
automobile type tires, saddle and any of the larger accessories (windshield,
fairing, etc.) really make the 74 feel awkWard at slow speeds.
When you put the Electra Glide in gear there is an audible clunk. This
clunk is apparent when shifting up through all four gears. This is one of
those inherent features that has been passed on down through the years. We
weren't too wild about it either. (Our test machine was equipped with a foot
shift, although hand shift versions can be ordered.) The clutch functioned
perfectly and it's doubtful that any amount of punishment could seriously
damage it. It is a dry multi-plate type unit, and therefore engaging and
disengaging gears was never a problem, hot or cold.
As mentioned before, the 74 is out of place in the tight and slow in-town
traffic. Rather like driving a semi on a go cart track. As we aimed (and
this is the right word) the machine at one of the freeway on-ramps, like
Jekyl and Hyde, the beast changes its style.
As the machine straightened out, the throttle was rolled on. At this
moment a series of chain reactions began to occur. Like the rumbling of a
jet climbing overhead during take off, a thundering sound resounds inside
our helmet. The thunderous roar is the exhaust note of those seventy four
Milwaukee inches working ever so surely to propel the machine into the fast
flow of traffic. Each time the throttle is rolled on in second and third and
fourth the riders weight is gradually but smoothly pushed down into that
armchair like seat. The whole seat assembly pivots at the front of the
saddle frame (the horn) and the riders body rocks down a few inches. Hmmm,
not too bad. Different, but very comfortable.
As the speed of this highway cruiser increases, the rumbling sound of the
exhaust falls into the background. Suddenly the rider realizes that the 74
is zipping past all the traffic very quickly.
The throttle is rolled back to what feels like the idling position, and
the speedometer says that we're still pushing 80 miles an hour. One
sometimes associates the 74 with something that will hardly get out of its
own way. This is maybe a misnomer. We're not saying that the FLH is some
sort of an acceleration champ, but it does move out surprisingly well.
Actually, anyone who has been nabbed by a motorized gendarme will attest to
the fact that those big Harleys can indeed move right along.
The windshield and fairing afford the rider with an extremely valuable
pair of accessories for long or short trips. With these two items on the
machine (they are not considered to be standard, but optional items that are
ordered with the majority of 74s) the rider is not subjected to the
buffeting wind and tiring job of fighting wind resistance at cruising
speeds. (If you haven't ridden a machine with these items you are really
missing a treat out on the open road.) While yore cruising along in that
comfortable saddle and behind the big wind-shield/fairing you all but lose
the idea that you're whipping along at seventy-five per. There's no wind
in your helmet, no bugs landing on your windburnt lips and no tired arms
from holding your body erect in the breeze. Yesiree, comfort and relaxation
are the words of the day here.
It takes a few miles of riding the Harley Davidson Electra Glide to see
why this machine has as many staunch supporters as it has. It's kind of like
cruising along in a glass bubble and watching the traffic and scenery go by.
After about ten or twenty more miles you feel pretty relaxed and a strange
sense of confidence begins to come forth. As the big twin rolls alona the
power plant exhibits a certain amountof vibration. With the saddle being as
thick as it is, and mounted like a rocking chair, the road conditions and
engine vibration have almost no effect on the rider. The handlebars are
mounted in thick rubber, and at a stop can be moved virtually inches at the
handgrips without changing the direction of the front wheel. The factory
feels this is a necessity to keep the V twin's vibration out of the rider's
hands. At cruising speed it doesn't af- fect the control of the machine much
(as long as you're going in a straight line) under normal conditions and we
guess you slowly become accustomed to this. But we didn't care for it.
The Electra Glide is undoubtedly the biggest production motorcycle in the
world. The wheelbase is long, the tires look like they belong on a car and
the engine is bigger than some automobile powerplants. While riding, (or
piloting) the big twin you might wonder if you're really controlling the
machine or if it's just the opposite. It's a strange feeling. The handling
is altogether different from just about any other machine on the road. The
rubber mounted handlebars tend to accentuate the slow handling feeling. When
you turn them they move excessively to one side or the other before the
machine moves in the desired direction. They tend to give the neophyte
Harley rider an insecure feeling.
There are some other comfort type items included on the Electra Glide
that are completely foreign to other motorcycles. Footboards are standard
with the big twin, rather than conventional pegs. These are a comfortable
feature at slower riding speeds. As soon as you get above fifty the
combination of vibration and wind resistance pushes the rider's feet back
and off the footboards. This did become irritating. What would appear to
most as being conventional foot pegs are actually for the passenger. We
found that these pegs worked well for the pilot at highway speeds.
The shift arm is rather conventional, with both a toe and heel lever. On
the right side is the brake pedal, not a lever. Operating this item takes a
bit of habit breaking as you don't just put pressure downward with your toe,
but rather you have to lift your foot from the footboard up to the pedal,
just like a car. The rear brake is a hydraulic actuated item with
conventional internal expanding shoes. The front brake has a new type lining
this year to increase braking ability. As a whole, the 74 still, as in the
past, is a slow stopper due to the weight factor and brake lining area
Source Cycle Guide of 1970