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Kickstand: 48 Years Ago Harley-Davidson did Something Outrageous

RideApart logo RideApart 6 days ago Gary Ilminen
a motorcycle parked in front of a building: 1971 Harley-Davidson Super Glide

Outrageous about covers it, yeah.

Research

Editor's Note: Hey friends, this article was first published way back in 2015. It's been updated with new, better pictures, and a bit of new text here and there. We present it, once again, for your enjoyment because the OG Super Glide rules. - JM

At an antique mall in northern Illinois the other day, I ran across something I always look for in those musty little shops: a stack of old motorcycle magazines. It made my day.  Moreover, the one on the top of the stack made quite a statement.

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It was November 1970 issue of the now defunct—or at least absorbed— Cycle magazine. On the cover was an artfully posed picture of the first-year version of Harley-Davidson’s Super Glide, which went on sale in the 1971 model year, with the headline reading, “Harley-Davidson’s Outrageous Super Glide.”

That headline seemed very curious—after all, the Super Glide was basically a stripped down Electra-Glide, sans the electric starter, with a Sportster fork, fender and drum brake grafted on, a smaller battery, and that very unusual fiberglass boat-tail stepped saddle, all rendered in red, white and blue.

1971 Harley-Davidson Super Glide Feature© RideApart.com 1971 Harley-Davidson Super Glide Feature

For example, in the very next month’s issue, Cycle magazine had done a six bike comparison of some 350cc bikes coming out for the 1971 model year. In the quarter mile acceleration testing, the two stroke twin cylinder Kawasaki A-7 would have been only 0.4 sec. behind the Super Glide, turning out a 14.35 sec quarter mile ET with at top speed of 91.55 mph—from an engine of less than one third the Harley’s displacement. On the other hand, the Super Glide was never intended to be a drag strip nemesis; it was built to be one of the first factory customs—a stylized cruiser.

If the comparison is stretched to MSRP, the Kawasaki’s $805.00 price compared to the Harley’s $2,200.00 sticker really would have to make a person think about the value/price equation. Unless the ring-ding rattle of an air-cooled two stroke was a loser to the deep rumble of the 1,200cc four-stroke V-twin in the ears of the potential buyer.

The review ends with a prediction that despite its shortcomings, the Super Glide would “succeed in this country like no machine H-D has ever made or dreamed of making.”

That prediction may be a little hard to back up, all things considered.  In 1971, the Super Glide production numbers show 4,700—that compares to 10,775 Sportsters and 6,675 FL/FLH models. In 1972, the boat tail was dropped and production increased to 6,500, but still paled in comparison to the 18,150 Sportsters built that year.

In the end, the '71 Super Glide was a fantastic looking but not particularly fantastic handling or performing bike. It remains an important piece of Harley history, however, for its wild design and its introduction (possibly) of the factory custom. 

Photos: Mecum

Original Article Published July 16, 2015 

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