Harley-Davidson FXR History

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"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 Motor Company decided they needed to turn their attention to another "segment" of the market place....how could they get even more people riding what was considered a very good touring model....thus a group of HD employees came together, they were:
  • Mark Tuttle  chief engineer of motorcycles
  • Steve Pertsch
  • Bill Brown design engineer
  • Erik Buell, engineer
  • Rit Booth, engineer
  • Vaughn Beals

Designed with a lot of input by Eric Buell, the FXR had the lightest weight and stiffest frame of any big twin. The computer-designed, all-welded frame had a massive box-section backbone, thicker diameter tubing, and massive gusseting around the steering head. The result was the stiffest frame Harley ever produced What they all wanted was a “no apologies” Harley, one that would work as well as it “looked”, one that would “handle” like no Harley ever had. One that didn’t try to shake itself and its rider apart. One that would offer the rider as much comfort regardless of size. One that would be lighter and yet nimble enough in maneuvering such distances as from Milwaukee to Los Angeles as it would be from stoplight to stoplight. One that feared no curve. 81.6 ci, reduced compression to burn anything you might put in the tank and an oil consumption package. This was coupled to a new five-speed tranny w/shorter shift linkage for more agressive shifting. All mounted to the frame utilizing Harley's Tri-mount system - an adaptation of the FLT's rubber mounts.
The 19" front wheel was mounted between a narrow-glide front end and suspended on stiff Showa forks with a 32 degree of rake. Stiff rear shocks were mounted to the end of the swing arm, vice in the middle as was done on other FX models. Total wheelbase was 64.7". Dual 10" disk brakes on the front, and a single 11.5" rear disk provided stopping power. New master cylinders improved braking performance.

A relatively raked out front end, combined with a long wheelbase is usually a recipe for straight line stability and resistance to turning. However, the low seating and engine positions place the center of gravity low and centered. This results in a bike that turns easily and predictably. With it's high ground clearance, it's capable of some aggressive cornering. It was the fastest, best handling bike Harley ever built, and it dripped less oil and vibrated less intensly than previous shovels. What H-D discovered was that the FXR frame was FIVE TIMES stiffer in torsion, which is where it counts, than the old FX/FL frame had been. Which made for better cornering and ultimately a much better ride than can be offered even within the Dyna family that is produced today.

FBig Twin
X = XL (Sportster Front End) Front End
RRubber Engine Mounts

Thus the emergence of the FXR “Superglide” in 1981.

The FXR represents to many so where does one proceed when trying to figure out the birth of what many consider to be the very best chassis Harley Davidson has ever created. Some might go on to say that the FXR could possibly be one of Harley Davidson's most successfully designed light touring cruisers ever. At the end of the day there have been 73 different models offered through the 15 years of production. Given that the first year and the final years of 1999 and 2000 most likely produced 8,820 FXR's sandwiched between 13 more years of production, one might take a gander and say that there were another 75,000 bikes made inclusive of the FXRP Police "Pursuit Glides" for a total of aproximately what, say.....84,000 FXR's bikes created.



The Birth of the FXR model

The Super Glide was first introduced with a combination of the 4-speed FL frame and the Sporster FX front end. The FXR would replace the 4-speed frames for FX type HD's and was made with fitting new to be introduced Evo in mind. The Evo saved the MoCo and was in the works when HD took back the Co from AMF.

"The 1971 Harley-Davidson FX Super Glide motorcycle, Harley's first "factory custom" bike, failed to attract the audience Harley had hoped it would and was a sales disappointment, finding fewer than than 5,000 buyers. In an effort to compete head-on with the aftermarket suppliers, Harley-Davidson ushered in its first "factory custom" for the 1971 model year. By combining pieces from two popular models, the "Big Twin" FL and the XL Sportster, the company hoped to provide buyers a new breed of Harley.

  • Stripped of its electric starter, the FX could be fitted with a smaller battery and battery box.
  • The forks and front wheel were taken from the XL's parts bin, as was a smaller-diameter headlight and trademark headlight cover.
  • The frame, 74-cubic-inch Shovelhead engine, and rear suspension originated from the FL.
  • The dual tanks were from the FLH.
  • A fiberglass tail section was styled after a similar piece used on the previous year's Sportster, and all the bodywork could be covered with a special Sparkling America paint scheme.
  • New and exciting as it was, the market failed to respond to the first Super Glide, and only 4,700 found buyers.
  • By comparison, more than 10,000 Sportsters were sold the same year.

The Super Glide returned for 1972, but some of its pieces did not. The tail section disappeared, replaced by a traditional steel fender assembly. In this form, the Super Glide met with greater success, and factory customs would eventually become Harley-Davidson's stock-in-trade."

Vaughn Beals states that the attention of the motor company was on the newly designed FLT model, but then he is quoted as saying that the motor company realized “we needed a “vibration-isolated” “Sport’s Bike”, as well to “draw new riders into the Harley camp”.  What Beals meant in his reference of a “Sport’s Bike” was to be taken in context of the Harley Big Twin, which essentially goes back to the FX model of bikes at the time.  What he was attempting to more directly relate to was Harley Davidson's need for a lighter cruiser.   So what they began to go after was a bike that was not necessarily a “peg-scratcher” but a “lighter” rubber mounted touring bike which could “cruise”.   Beals, continues, “We were looking for something with better handling than an FLH and something that wasn’t as large and intimidating as the FLT and something aerodynamically desirable.  So the new team was turned loose to create a new machine.  The “FX” was to be the “sport model” of the “FL”.  So essentially the FXR became the “sport model” of the FLT.

In 1981, and in time for the 1982 model year, H-D announced what was known at the time as the Superglide II. The letters were FXR, with the

F = the 80-cid engine and 5 speed gear box from the Big Twins:
X = representing the one-piece fuel tank, lighter front suspension, and wheel and small headlight from the Sportster thus the XL front end.
R = for the new frame "AND" a version of the isolation-mounting system PIONEERED by the FLT. Thus the rubber engine mounts.

What H-D discovered was that the FXR frame was FIVE TIMES stiffer in torsion, which is where it counts, than the old FX/FL frame had been. Which made for better cornering and ultimately a much better ride than can be offered even within the Dyna family that is produced today.

Even after introducing the new model as the Superglide II, they dropped the name and went to initials.
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.

"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."

What happened according to Mark Tuttle, is that HD did not have the time nor the resources to design anything better as a result the FXR, “really became a chassis program to utilize the FLT powertrain in an FX-type motorcycle” which means they would decide upon using the FLT’s rigid engine-transmission unit with the swingarm bolted to the back of the tranny and design for it’s new frame. The frame was designed using the latest in computer-assisted technology. In the process known as "finite element analysis", the frame configuration, specifications, and dimensions were fed into a computer. A “drawing” of the frame could then be brought up on a computer display “terminal”. The computer then assisted the engineering team in changing the frame characteristics until they were able to come up with the optimum design. Among other things, the computer assisted them in locating stress points and indicated where the frame needed stiffening. Using this stress analysis and computer modeling, “Team FXR” designed the new frame for maximum stiffness. Like the FLT frame, the new frame’s backbone was comprised of two-inch boxed tubular steel with massive stampings to add strength creating a large box-section that linked the steering head to a triangulated rear section and used round tubing at all points where the frame showed. To make the new frame even stiffer than the FLT’s the engineers added more gusseting between the steering head and both the backbone and down tubes. In the end, it was claimed to be 5 times stiffer than the old FX frame, yet added nothing in weight. Like the FLT, the FXR Super Glide II mates the smooth and quick 5 speed gear box with a vibration-isolating Tri-mount chassis. With the vibration eliminated and the wider choice of the shorter gearing of the 5 speed, the FXR would cruise effortlessly. In fact the gearing and lack of vibration tend to make the motorcycle reach engine speeds that were significantly above those to which riders were accustomed on the traditional HD 4 speed. Even today as one rides the 1999 FXR2, FXR3, or 2000 FXR4 with 2.925 final gearing the cycle is extremely comfortable at 3,600 RPM and still accelerates strongly beyond.

The need for a “prettier” frame turned into a blessing for those engineers and, ultimately for lovers of performance Harley’s. Since the members of the design team had to create a new chassis anyway, they decided to create it in basically their own idea of a “performance” image. Obviously stiffer than before. What they ended up discovering was that the FXR frame was FIVE TIMES stiffer in torsion, which is where it counts, than the old FX/FL frame had been. Which made for better cornering and ultimately a much better ride than can be offered even within the Dyna family that is produced today.....hmmmm very interesting..... They also went after higher “lean angles” ie: lots of “ground clearance”.

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.


Harley immediately began introducing other models on the FXR platform. First and perhaps most notable was the '83 FXRT Sport Glide, a "sport touring" bike equipped with a frame-mounted fairing and hard bags that were originally designed for the Nova, the liquid-cooled V-Four project that was abandoned for lack of funding after the AMF buyout. In fact, the deep scoops on the sides of the FXRT fairing were developed in a wind-tunnel to feed air to the Nova's underseat radiator, according to LeRoy. On the FXRT, they became vents to the rider.
The FXRP police model, which also used the Nova-derived fairing, and the slammed FXRS Low Glide appeared in 1984. The FXRC Low Glide Custom appeared for 1985. The FXR platform made the transition to the V2 Evolution engine in 1985, then to beltdrive in 1987. In 1986 the FXR family replaced the original FX platform, as the FXR became the Super Glide, and the FXRS became the Low Rider. The new FXRD Sport Glide Deluxe came with a trunk. The FXLR Low Rider Custom (1987) had a 21-inch laced front wheel and an aluminum disc rear wheel. In 1988 the FXRS Low Rider was also offered as a Sport model (FXRS-SP) and in special 85th anniversary trim. A Low Rider Convertible was offered in 1990. If you've noticed that the FXR had strayed from its original, sport-standard mission, you are right on.

The first sales of the NEW FXR's actually occurred during the fall of 1981, however these sales were attributed to the 1982 FXR Model Year, thus:
1982 FXR Super Glide II Sales Totaled: 3,065
1982 FXRS Super Glide II Sales Totaled: 3,190

The first year sales for the FXR "model" were quite good, totalling 6,255. The 1982 FXRS Super Glide II and the 1982 FXR Super Glide II were the Number 1 and Number 2 best-selling "Big Twins" for 1982. However, as history would point to.....at the end of the day…..sales at best were mixed year in and year out and continued to drop for the FXR, ultimately being defined as too “Japanese” in appearance for the “staunch” traditional “FX” crowd….the conflict of purchasing a cheaper version of the FXR coming from abroad for some combined with the “failed” look of the “triangular” frame resulted in effort by the motor company to go to it’s roots, that of building a bike that could only come from Milwaukee like the “softail”. As remembered by Mark Tuttle, “we got a lot of “negative” response to the triangular area under the seat, even though we had created what we were indeed after, a very stiff chassis, very neutral handling, and a really good lean angle, which resulted in a fair amount of ground clearance and a higher seat height, and while it was probably the best-handling Harley ever built, Unfortunately, it just wasn’t selling as well as the rigid mounts were”.
“Best handling” it was and still is, but the original FXR was a whole lot more, first, it was the best motorcycle Harley’s engineers knew how to or were allowed to build.

"I think that sales for the original FXR slipped pretty quickly," said LeRoy, "So we kept the volume going by adding models. But by the late '80s the company realized that the FXR was not what the market wanted. Maybe it felt too much like the import competition. That's when we went to work on the Dyna."
The mission of the Dyna Glide, according to LeRoy, was to be easier to manufacture than the FXR and to look more like the original FX Super Glide-lower to the ground, more rake to the fork, with the battery box exposed. The Dyna Glide was also the first Harley to be designed completely with Computer Aided Design (CAD). The '91 FXDB Sturgis launched the Dyna Glide platform, and by 1995, various FXD models replaced the last of the FXR variants.

The FXR was gone, but not for long. Like an aging veteran brought off the bench, the FXR was back in the game in 1999 when Harley launched its CVO (Custom Vehicle Operations) program with two models, the FXR2, with a 21-inch laced front wheel, and the FXR3, with a 19-inch cast front wheel. CVO was intended to produce exclusive, low-volume custom bikes, and only 900 examples of each of the 1999 models were built. For 2000, CVO assembled a 1,000-unit run of the FXR4, which marked the real end of FXR production. The old story that Harley launched CVO to use up a dusty pile of FXR frames it found in a corner is not true, according to LeRoy. The tooling was on hand, and the bikes could be built for a limited run without disrupting regular production.

Since then the reputation of the FXR as "best Harley ever" has stuck, and in the minds of former owners, it's probably the truth.


The Birth of The FXR Era Begins With TWO Models:

1981 - Harley buys the company back from AMF. Facing huge debt and a reputation for poor quality, they embark on quality improvement, employ just-in-time inventory, petition for tariff protection, layoff ~50% of their staff, freeze salaries, design an evolutionary new engine, and conduct a $3m PR campaign - to both the Harley community and to their own employees. And, they prepare to launch production of a new class of bike - The FXR.


1982 FXR Super Glide II

1982 FXRS Super Glide II

The FXR Super Glide II came with black paint, restrained trim, laced-up wheels, and tube tires.
The FXRS Super Glide II came with contrasting paint panels on the sides of the tank, spoke cast wheels, tubeless tires, a small sissy bar at the rear of the seat, and highway pegs for resting one's feet while leaning back against the passenger who is leaning back against the bar. The only engine choice was the low-compression 80 used that year because gas quality had declined. The 80 was fitted with the oil-control package: extra drain lines, better valve guides, and better seals. Of course this was known as the Shovelhead motor.
The FXR/FXRS Super Glide® II debuts sporting the improved 80CI Shovelhead engine, a new five-speed tranny, improved suspension, wire-spoked wheels and dual front brakes. Also debuting is the FXRS Low Glide with cast wheels, contrasting tank panels, stepped seat, sissy bar and polished covers. Total production = 6255 units.

As remembered by Mark Tuttle, “we got a lot of “negative” response to the triangular area under the seat, even though we had created what we were indeed after, a very stiff chassis, very neutral handling, and a really good lean angle, which resulted in a fair amount of ground clearance and a higher seat height, and while it was probably the best-handling Harley ever built, Unfortunately, it just wasn’t selling as well as the rigid mounts were”.  “Best handling” it was and still is, but the original FXR was a whole lot more, first, it was the best motorcycle Harley’s engineers knew how to or were allowed to build.  


1983 added a new model, FXRs were treated to belt drive.

1983 FXRT Sport Glide.

Tthe model line reverted to names, with the FXR and FXRS being the Low Glide. MOST OF US would think the "S" stood for sport....but not to be the case the "S" actually stood for "Low Glide" go figure......Next we find the Moto Company creating a third model, lettered the FXRT which sold 1,458 units. The "T" stood for Touring except there was already the FLT for Touring, so the FXRT was named the Sport Glide and the S was just the extra trim and cast wheels. The FXRT also came with conventional plastic saddlebags meaning boxes outboard and below the passenger seat. It all seems very confusing, let's just say the MOTO company was trying to build bikes but logic wasn't always available....and besides they were trying to keep the FLT and FLHT's as their "TOURING LINE" and didn't want to cross reference the two lines.... Thus the shovel engine saw it's days last from late in the year of 1981 to 1983 where the emergence of the EVO began.....in 1984 FOR the FXR framed bike.

* A story goes that the Motor Company was testing the yet to be released Evo in the FXR chassis, and that a snafu at the factory allowed some of them be sold to the general public as 83's.
In 1984 Harley-Davidson unveils the 1340cc V² Evolution engine on five models. The result of seven years of development, the Evolution engine produces more power at every speed,across the band, runs cooler, cleaner and is nearly oil-tight. '84 was the official year that the FXR went from the 5-speed shovel to a 5-speed Evo with a belt drive and diaphragm clutch. However, there were a lot of parts left-over after the late-84 transition resulting in 'Early' and 'Late' model revisions, (like EVO vs Shovel, wet vs dry clutch, wiring differences, chain vs belt finals...etc).
  • FXRS "Low Glide" Debuts with shorter fork, lowered shocks and a single disc front brake.
  • FXRDG Disc Glide is launched as a limited edition with solid spun aluminum back wheel and spoked front; tank emblazed with "Genuine Harley Davidson" in ornate script; and chromed engine, primary and gear box covers. It had a chain final drive, and a diaphragm spring clutch. The early model was dry clutch, later versions had a wet clutch.
  • FXR was dropped from lineup.
  • FXRP Police Model debuts based on FXRT.
  • H-D brand beer is sold.

In 1985, *most* FXRs have an Evo motor, a 5-speed tranny, a belt and diaphragm clutches. But early in the model year, the factory shipped any combination of engine/ tranny/ final drive. The differences between these "transition" 85s and later FXRs can be annoying. They still have tapered drive shafts, a dry clutch with a shovel-style clutch actuating fork, and may even have a chain drive - Plus a fair amount of cosmetic stuff that doesn't "transition".

1985 FXRS Low Glide
1985 FXRS "Special"
1985 FXRC Low Glide Custom
1985 FXRD Grand Touring Edition
1985 FXRT Sport Glide
1985 FXRP Pursuit Glide:  Police Version of FXRT

FXRT now considered the "Tourer" which got a second front disc brake, a larger passenger seat and a higher backrest.

FXRS, the basic model. FXRS option, which at that time didn't get it's own letter or name. But it was in fact the "real" sport version, with a raised suspension and the second front disc. FXRC Low Glide Custom the "C" standing for custom. This model featured chrome plating for things like the rocker boxes, gear case cover, and the top and side gearbox. The front fender was short and sporting, borrowed from the XR-1000 and the paint was a candy orange with root beer trim. FXRP for a police model

in 1985 there were two FXR LIMITED EDITIONS one was official the other was unoffical both to gain extra sales and to help perfect the production line process for supplying more chrome.  The "OFFICIAL" one was the FXRC Low Glide Custom , which in some locales was unoffically dubbed the " Candy Glide " in honor of the color scheme of the paint which was Candy Orange and Root Beer , paint that made the whole motorcyle seem to glow in full sunlight like a "radioactive pumpkin".  The 1985 "Candy Glide" FXRC Low Glide Custom , wasn't for everyone, and in some parts of the country they were a tough sell.  Why?  The price was higher, for one, the biggest reason, though was that bright bold color that was too "pretty" to be seen on.  The new black T-shirt crowd just wasn't fully ready for the Candy Orange and Root Beer bikes with orange-brown seats.  Only 1,084 were built in 1985.  The "UNOFFICAL" FXRS special was a version offered with the chrome covers of the FXRC, but without the candy paint.  299 in 1985 were built.


* FXRC Low Glide Custom launched as one-year limited edition based on FXRS in Candy Orange w/ Root Beer trim, chrome engine covers and wire spoked wheels, and a skinny XR-1000 style front fender.


In 1986, FXR, now named Super Glide -The first year one might consider the Evo-powered FXR a mature product, though later years bring further refinements. Federal noise statutes drove new exhaust systems for all models. New turn signals debut. HD goes public with sale of 2 million company stock shares, and purchases Holiday Rambler RVs. Colorado's American Society of Quality Controls awards HD the Corporate Quality Award.

1986 FXRS Low Rider
1986 FXRS Low Rider Sport Edition
1986 FXRS "Liberty Edition"
1986 FXRC Low Glide Custom
1986 FXRT Sport Glide
1986 FXRD Grand Touring Edition
1986 FXRP Pursuit Glide:  Police Version Of FXRT

FXRS called the Low Rider with options was renamed the “Low Rider" because the FX-Based Model of that name had been canceled at the end of 1985 Model Year. FXRS Sport Edition, with taller suspension and dual front disc brakes FXRC Low Glide Custom HD Continues To Work Towards The Completion of This Previous Offering From 1985 With The Conclusion Of 1250 Units However These Units Featured A Different Paint Scheme ie: Red.  These Units Were Also Identified By Their Numerical Order With A Inscribed Plate At The Location Of The Handlebars.  It should be noted that HD never placed this particular model in any of it's sales/brochure literature. FXRT plain touring model FXRD, the "D" stood for "Dresser" according to Rit Booth, with a sound system, top box (fairing) and dual exhausts...another attempt at the "baby" FLH market. These bikes were fitted with such luxuries as footboards, for both rider and passenger, a wider and more plush seat, trunk with backrest for the passenger, chrome rails for the saddlebags, two-into-one exhaust, special paint and graphics, more gauges, and a standard AM/FM/Cassette stereo with CB monitor with controls for the system on the handlebars.  The FXRD was a "great" "sport-touring" bike, with all the handling, braking ability, ground clearance, & long-legged grace of the FXRT, but with MORE COMFORT & ELEGANCE!  Unfortunately it wasn't a great seller.  It was priced at $9,474 which at the time was only $100.00 more than a 1986 FLHT. These FXRD's continued sitting on the show room floors until they were heavily discounted and finally sold, in some cases years later.  The FXRD was canceled at the end of 1986. LIBERTY EDITION, also this was one more model, which was a limited edition, celebrating the statue. HD carried the FXRC Low Glide Custom into 1986

* The second half model for 1985 was the FXRC Low Glide, the C standing for Custom....The factory said the plan was to only make 1075 examples of the Custom while offering the chrome plating package as an option for the FLT and FLHT.  There's something of a puzzle here, because the Custom was reported as a good seller, while years later the package, as in the chrome plating and paint scheme, turned up on some 1986 FXRC Customs.  The model wasn't in the 1986 catalog so we can guess that selling the scheduled number of Customs took longer than expected.

* Stripped-down Superglide resurfaces as the FXR

* FXRS Low Glide renamed FXRS Low Rider. Optional Sport Package with longer-travel suspension and dual front brakes.

* FXRD Sport Glide Grand Touring based on FXRT with rubber-mounted bars, premium stereo, full luggage, 2=>1 exhaust, and special trim package released as a revival of the original - the last Big Twin with a chain final drive.

In 1987, First year with the ball & ramp clutch actuator, & the "sport" front fender. The ball & ramp is a better clutch actuator system, but some feel it lacks the aesthetic appeal of the old "clutch arm". Lubing, or changing the cable is a PITA, but over all, it's still a better system. The "sport" front fender is a design change of which you may, or may not approve. HD asked that tarrifs be rescinded. HD stock valued at $11/share.

1987 FXR Super Glide
1987 FXRS Low Rider
1987 FXRS Low Rider Sport Edition
1987 FXRC CUSTOM
1987 FXLR Low Rider Custom
1987 FXRT Sport Glide
1987 FXRP Pursuit Glide:  Police Version Of FXRT

FXRC CUSTOM  And Once Again It Apppears HD Continues To Work Towards The Completion of This Previous Offering From 1985 With The Conclusion Of 750 Units However These Units Featured For The First Time A Painted Frame Matching the Painted Body Work Of The Bike. These Units Were Also Identified By Their Numerical Order With A Inscribed Plate At The Location Of The Handlebars And For The Very First Time The USA FLAG Was Placed On An Actual Bike, "OLD GLORY" Had Arrived And Was Proudly Displayed.  It ONCE AGAIN should be noted that HD never placed this particular model in any of it's sales/brochure literature. The newest model was called FXLR, the Low Rider Custom, the Front tire was a 21" with a "laced wheel", as first seen on a stock Harley on the 1980 Wide Glide. Also the tank instruments were moved to the handle bars. The rear wheel was solid , as per the earlier Disc Glide.

There were only two models provided with 39mm front forks and they were [All other models remained with 35mm front forks]:
1) 1987 FXRS Low Rider Sport Edition
2) 1987 FXLR Low Rider Custom

The FXRD was dropped from the line up because it wasn't selling. 
The transmission was new for '87 and stayed almost identical in many ways for years.  The exception is the tapered mainshaft.  This is not "bad" but many prefer the later model splined mainshaft.  The tapered mainshaft does make it a little more critical when you're reinstalling a clutch to make sure that the keyway is in correctly.  The 1987 clutch has been known to have one of the four "towers" that holds down the diaphragm spring break.  This does not always happen and is more likely on a high mileage bike.  Some decide upon a  Barnett Scorpion clutch to replace it with. The engine is a bottom breather which some prefer.

* FXRS-SP Sport Edition Low Rider debuts with longer suspension and duel-disc brakes.

* FXLR Low Rider Custom debuts with a solid rear wheel, 21" front wheel, an XR1000 front fender, a small XL type headlight, 2 piece high handlebars w/2 cross-braces, speedo mounted between bars, one filler tank with no center console, black cylinders and crankcases w/chrome rocker, gearcase, primary covers, highway pegs, belt final, single rear/front brakes.



In 1988, FXR line gets 39mm front forks.

1988 FXR Super Glide
1988 FXRS Low Rider  <~~ 1st Year Of “Wrinkle Black” Trim Panel & Instrument Housing similar to FXR2 & FXR3
1988 FXRS Low Rider 85th Anniversary Edition
1988 FXRS-SP Low Rider Sport Edition
1988 FXLR Low Rider Custom
1988 FXRT Sport Glide
1988 FXRP Pursuit Glide:  Police Version Of FXRT

The FXRS Sport Edition was finally given it's own letter designation for 1988, now being called the FXRS-SP Low Rider Sport Edition.  It's front suspension was improved by the addition of a simpler version of the air-assisted antidive system first used on the FXRT Sport Glide in 1983.  Instead of a seperate two-chamber reservoir with a rubber bladder between the chambers, the FXRS-SP system used the sealed handlebar as the system's air reservoir, and included a schrader valve on the left side of the handlebar as a means to adjust air pressure.

HD UPGRADES ALL FORKS ON FXR MODELS IN 1988 WITH 39mm THAT WERE PREVIOUSLY USED ON THE 1987 FXRS LOW RIDER SPORT EDITION AND THE 1987 FXLR LOW RIDERIN 1987
* 85th Anniversary Edition FXRS in Black& Gold. 850 numbered bikes produced.

In 1989, FXR line gets new starter, one piece pinion shaft and right fly wheel.

1989 FXR Super Glide
1989 FXRS Low Rider
1989 FXRS-SP Low Rider Sport Edition
1989 FXRS-Conv.  Low Rider Convertible
1989 FXLR Low Rider Custom
1989 FXRT Sport Glide
1989 FXRP Pursuit Glide:  Police Version Of FXRT
the FXR launched the beginning of the FXRS-Conv. Low Rider Convertible and came with a Lexan windshield and leather & nylon leather saddlebags. Both of these features were quick detach.

* FXRS-Conv based on FXRS is launched with quickly removable windscreen and panniers.

In 1990, normal changes in electrics, and had some changes with the base gaskets...that were causing problems for that time period. no model changes however. FXR line is treated to 40mm Klein CV carbs, one-piece right-hand flywheels, and redesigned diaphragm clutches.

1990 FXR Super Glide
1990 FXRS Low Rider
1990 FXRS-SP Low Rider Sport Edition
1990 FXRS-Conv. Low Rider Convertible
1990 FXLR Low Rider Custom
1990 FXRT Sport Glide
1990 FXRP Pursuit Glide:  Police Version OF FXRT


In 1991, The Dyna line of motorcycles debuts with the 1991 FXDB Dyna Glide Sturgis®. Evo get Kevlar base gaskets, graphite head gaskets, new gas cap gasket, self canceling turn signals, extra hole in transmission access door, two dowels on transmission end cover, air/oil separator in air duct tube, four sided fuel inlet valve, transmission sprocket lock plate, locating dowel pins for the transmission support blocks, and black and chrome engine treatment. HD has 80% of the > 800 cc market. Stock price hits $56/share and is split 2:1.

1991 FXR Super Glide
1991 FXRS Low Rider
1991 FXRS-SP Low Rider Sport Edition
1991 FXRS-Conv. Low Rider Convertible
1991 FXLR Low Rider Custom
1991 FXRT Sport Glide
1991 FXRP Pursuit Glide:  Police Version OF FXRT

the emergence of the FXDB which became known as the "Sturgis" and of course went on to become the Dyna Glides....

Along the way the FXR line, the original new version of the Superglides, were all named Low Riders....known as the plain, the sport, the touring, and the convertible...one of the new features for this year were the emergence of self canceling turn signals and of course new paint options.

(THIS IS ALSO WHERE THE BEGINNING OF THE "DYNA CHASSIS" began, with the emergence of the FXDB on an entirely different platform.)

In 1992,

1992 FXR Super Glide
1992 FXRS Low Rider
1992 FXRS-SP Low Rider Sport Edition
1992 FXRS-Conv. Low Rider Convertible
1992 FXLR Low Rider Custom
1992 FXRT Sport Glide
1992 FXRP Pursuit Glide:  Police Version OF FXRT

The FXR's received recalibrated carburetors, with the rules of EPA changing and getting tighter, thus new carburetors were required along with new oil lines and a new cover for the pump. There were better materials for the brake discs. The factory was fitting a retainer to "ensure that the drive sprocket nut stays tight for the life of the vehicle"

In 1993, FXRS Low Rider and FXRT Sport Glide dropped. FXR now priced at $9950.

1993 FXR Super Glide
1993 FXRS-SP Low Rider Sport Edition
1993 FXRS-CONV Low Rider Convertible
1993 FXLR Low Rider Custom

The 1993 FXRS-CONV Low Rider Convertible in effect replaced the FXRT which was dropped at the beginning of the year.

FXRS-SP, the Low Rider Sport Edition with low bars, raised suspension, and dual front brakes.
FXLR the Low Rider Custom, with the solid rear wheel, a 21" inch front, and a one-piece combo of dog-bone risers and flat bars on which rode the speedo. Which allows for modifying the tank to a COOL looking long tank...if you have ever seen those...they are cool looking.

These models also got revised breather system for the gear case to air box, reprofiled levers, and sight glasses for the brake master cylinders.

FXR2, FXR3, and FXR4 were brought back to the market place, besides the desire of H-D to start a "CVO Program" was H-D's observance during this 5 year absence of the FXR, that the frame/chassis was being continually modified and being used to become a "custom ride" by many in the after market.  Thus as was stated previously, while H-D perhaps saw an opportunity to capture this market that obviously was being missed by making their own version of a "custom" look at a more affordable price than could be reproduced in the after market and seeing that this project was successful, perhaps it indeed points to the fact that the FXR team of engineers were correct, that the "market" did require something of value as perceived in the handling, comfort and overall positive riding experience provided within the FXR chassis. Perhaps, indeed that the initial thoughts that the "market" was rejecting the chassis/frame because of an "import" look was simply a more limited view instead of a widely held purchasing view, of course in the end, the FXR frame also has become widely accepted that to produce the frame required too many "hands" to create it verses the more easily created frame of an FXD model when using robotics to make production easier and yes, perhaps even cheaper.  But just maybe as Harley Davidson has learned throughout their course of history, that the HD consumer is slow to accept anything new and even slower to accept changes.....maybe just maybe as one looks back, perhaps history will prove over time that the FXR chassis was indeed Harley Davidson's best.

Some may ask is the frame of a Dyna different from that of an FXR, the answer is, yes.  In 1991, Harley Davidson started the emergence of the "Dyna Chassis". So there is a difference in the Dyna Chassis and the FXR chassis......as the FXR's were phased out, the "DYNA" family grew which actually started in 1991 with the FXDB, which was considered the "second" Sturgis, a limited edition model. When the factory introduced the FXD frame they called it the "internal frame" because what H-D's marketing determined was that people didn't like seeing those "triangular" rear tubes found on the FXR frame.  Imported motorcycles had frame tubes extending from the seat back to the shocks or fenders, THUS "rear frame" tubes didn't look like HARLEY, and because of that people surveyed said they wouldn't buy an FXR, which is one small reason why the FXR frame was given a quiet goodbye.  The FXDL began it's production in 1993.

FXRS-SP dropped. Between 91 and 94, FXR's and Dyna's were both produced and 1994 was the FXR's last model year.

The 1990 FXR

As one can only imagine at the “alter” of  marriage between the “styling” wing and the "engineering" wing what was being debated within the “Styling” part of Harley Davidson, was the engineers’ insistence on using rear-mounted shocks on the FXR, as they had on the FLT, which made the rear suspension work better and allowed for longer shock travel. Lou Netz and Willie G. Davidson had always wanted the FXR shocks laid down and forward mounted, but as Rit Booth explains, “they were told absolutely no by the engineers, myself included”, thus the union was created at least for a little while.

As has been mentioned above, part of making the new chassis as stiff as possible, involved making the new frame “triangulated” and given the odd-shaped covers to hide the battery and the oil tank, it was this “triangulated” side view look which was ultimately the FXR’s least popular feature design.  

To this end, Mark Tuttle exclaims, we all loved the bike, “You could run it into a corner and tip it over to oblivion and it just all worked”.  

“Team FXR” designed the new frame for maximum stiffness. Like the FLT frame, the new frame’s backbone was comprised of two-inch boxed tubular steel with massive stampings to add strength creating a large box-section that linked the steering head to a triangulated rear section and used round tubing at all points where the frame showed. To make the new frame even stiffer than the FLT’s the engineers added more gusseting between the steering head and both the backbone and down tubes. In the end, it was claimed to be 5 times stiffer than the old FX frame, yet added nothing in weight. Like the FLT, the FXR Super Glide II mates the smooth and quick 5 speed gear box with a vibration-isolating Tri-mount chassis. With the vibration eliminated and the wider choice of the shorter gearing of the 5 speed, the FXR would cruise effortlessly.
The evo engine, close to bulletproof from the start, had slowly been refined to the point where it was bombproof. The primary ratio of 3.37 final gearing which had begun in 1989. It moved in 1994 to 3.15 final gearing to put the gearing more in the starter’s favor in turning over the engine. It could be said this too was another step towards "cruising" and another step away from "aggressive" cornering.
“IF” the original FXRS bike had started out as an “engineer’s bike”, in 1982, then in 1984 it could have just as easily been stated that the FXR was indeed “recast” into a “marketeer’s bike” with shorter shocks that took away some of that “ground clearance” and “lean angle” that had originally been engineered into it, in favor of a lower seat height that Harley’s marketers thought would revive it’s flagging sales. 
Factory Specs:


Engine type:

2 cylinders, 4-stroke, 45° V-twin

Displacement:

1337 cc (81.69 cubic inches)

Bore × stroke:

3.5 inch × 4.25 inch (undersquare - longstroke)

Cooling system:

Air cooled

Power:

57.51 HP (42.3 kW) @ 5000 rpm

Throttle:

Cable operated

Valves

 

Valve train:

OHV, variable

Valves per cylinder:

2

Fuel and ignition

 

Sparks per cylinder:

1

Fuel supply system:

Carburetor

Compression:

8.5:1

Engine mounting:

Transverse

Lubrication system:

Dry sump

Gear box:

Manual 5-speed

Clutch:

Wet, multiple discs, cable operated

Final drive:

Belt

Starter:

Electric

 

Dimensions

Weight

 

Curb weight:

608.5 lbs

Chassis and suspension

Frame type:

steel, Double cradle frame

Front

 

Suspension:

Cartridge

Brake:

Single Disk

Tire:

90 / 90 R19

Rear

 

Suspension:

twin shock, Swingarm

Brake:

Disk

Tire:

90 / 90 R16

Other

ABS available:

No

Power-to-weight ratio:

0.15 KW/lbs (6.52 lbs/HP)

Top speed:

105.63 mph

Fuel capacity:

3.96 gals

Number of riders:

2 persons

 

References:

1."Separating The Men From The Boys - History Of The FXR", "Historically Speaking", From the December, 2010 issue of Hot Bike By Charles Plueddeman, Harley-Davidson Archives
2. "Harley – Davidson Evolution Motorcycles", Greg Field, MBI Publishing 2001
3. "Illustrated Buyer’s Guide, Harley Davidson Since 1965", Allan Girdler, MBI Publishing 1998
4. "FXR HISTORY", FXR2evo99 - Elite CVO Member
www.CVOHARLEY.com > Custom Vehicle Discussions > 1999 FXR2/1999 FXR3/2000 FXR4 (Moderator: Forum Admin) > Topic: FXR HISTORY
5. "The Big Book Of Harley-Davidson", Tom Bolfort
6. "An ode to the Ugly Glide culled from the r.m.h archives and various historical accounts.", Bill Garlinghouse
http://www.hdfxr.dk/public/FXR/FXRHistory.aspx
7. "Harley-Davidson Super Glide", Wikipedia
8."FXR History", V-TwinForum.com