Back When The Harley-Davidson FXR Made Its Return—From The Archives

This text was initially revealed within the April-Might 1999 problem of Cycle World’s Huge Twin journal.

When is a revival not likely a revival? Nicely, how about when the Motor Firm resurrects the FXR after a 4-yr absence?

Launched in 1982, the FXR was the primary of Harley’s rubber-mounted customs, spawn­ing a whole household of fashions that went out of manufacturing in 1995. However though the FXRs have been steadily changed by Dyna-collection fashions, the Dynas have did not erase fond reminiscences of the FXR.

Which, partially, explains The Motor Firm’s current introduction of the FXR2 and FXR3, two restricted-manufacturing, Evo-powered fashions decked out with Harley manufacturing unit equipment. However don’t anticipate these reborn FXRs be adopted by extra of their variety. In accordance with Jim Hoffman, the Elements & Equipment Program Supervisor who shepherded the 2 ma­chines into manufacturing, “We’ve just about determined that that is it; we’ll construct 900 FXR2s and 900 FXR3s, and the FXR is gone once more.”

It’s not onerous to know FXR nostalgia. Harley-Davidson and the general motorbike market have been very totally different within the late Seventies and early Eighties when the FXR was being designed. Japanese bikes dominated the market, and the Harley fanatic press didn’t exist in its current depth and vi­brancy. Common-curiosity motorbike magazines similar to Cycle World and Cycle have been the foremost evaluators of bikes, they usually had a particular bias, brazenly preferring efficiency over cruising type or custom.

Consequently, the FXR was designed to be probably the most efficiency-intensive Huge Twin thus far. Rubber mounting, utilizing the tri-mount and hyperlink system that had been launched a few years earlier on the FLT, eradicated vibration as a problem. A really stout and stiff body wrapped across the mechanicals, in­stead of the purer spine designs of earlier FXs, which hung elements onto the central spine construction. Suspension journey was elevated for the FXRT—albeit at the price of low seat peak—to offer a greater journey-vs.-dealing with commerce-off, and to permit the primary FXRs to lean over farther than earlier Massive Twins whereas cornering.

There have been grumblings that these early FXRs have been “too Japanese,” however their smoothness and dealing with have been a lot appreciated. And through the years, as suspension journey was shortened and styling subtly altered, FXRs took on a extra conventional Harley look. Customized builders found, too, that the FXR made a superb platform for extra radical machines, as they stretched and lowered FXRs into a number of the most dramatic and outrageous one-offs ever seen. Even at this time, aftermarket FXR-type frames typically are the inspiration of lengthy-and-low customs.

However by the point the market acquired behind the FXRs, its alternative, the FXD Dyna, was already within the works. In some ways, the Dyna was designed to be what the FXR was not. If the FXR wrapped its body round elements, the Dyna would revert to a spine development, reminiscent of the unique FX look even at some value in body stiffness. If the delicate rubber mounts of the FXR allowed virtually an inch of engine motion, forcing fuel tank and different elements to be situated with ethereal spacing, the Dyna would shorten that with two stiffer rubber mounts—even with some improve within the quantity of vibration transmitted. If the FXR body had too many joints and was costly to construct, the Dyna body can be easier, with a funding-forged steering head that plugged proper into the spine—even when that method made it far harder for customizers to rake it out. However by the point the Dyna got here out, the FXR was not a wierd new addition to the Harley line; it was one of many mainstreams. And when it went away, it was missed.

Coincidentally, Harley was just lately wanting so as to add to its company capabilities by beginning a program generally known as “Customized Car Operations,” or “CVO.” The thought was to check The Motor Firm’s means to construct, within the phrases of Jeff Merten, Director of Advertising for P&A, “a restricted variety of excessive-finish customized area of interest automobiles, as a few of our rivals have been doing.” Studying between the strains, this merely signifies that The Motor Firm needs to take enterprise away from clone producers.

So, why convey again the FXR? In response to Merten, there have been 4 causes, beginning with: “It was requested by our clients.” Second, manufacturing capability was out there, as a result of the corporate had stopped producing the only-cylinder, Rotax-powered army bikes it had been assembling in “Constructing forty two” on the York plant. Third was to check Harley’s abil­ity to construct and generate income on a extremely custom-made, restricted-manufacturing mannequin. And fourth, the FXR provided an “incremental gross sales alternative”—company-converse which means that the individuals most probably to purchase the brand new FXRs in all probability wouldn’t have purchased one thing else in Harley’s line as an alternative.

Jim Hoffman of P&A was given the job of creating it occur, and on a extremely tight schedule: Go-forward was final September, with the primary of the FXR2s leaving the meeting line in January of this yr. “No,” he says, “opposite to rumors, we didn’t discover 1800 previous frames in a warehouse someplace.” As an alternative, the FXR body was put again into manufacturing, together with quite a lot of different FXR elements. Each the FXR2 and FXR3 are primarily mechanically similar to the final FXRs made in 1994, with a couple of upgrades resembling a brand new wiring harness that makes use of the newest sort of connectors, a vacuum-operated gasoline valve, the identical 9-plate clutch fitted to the Evo, and the 5-gap derby cowl.

Cosmetically, although, each the FXR2 and FXR3 dip deeply into P&A’s bag of goodies. The FXR2 comes outfitted with a Badlander seat, “Profile” shocks, a 21-inch spoked entrance wheel, a chromed, slotted rear wheel, and nearly each piece of chrome within the catalog. The equipment by themselves would re­tail for round $3500, however they’re included within the FXR2’s $sixteen,995 steered worth—although we suspect only a few of the 900 models will promote with no premium over retail.

The FXR3 takes the customized theme farther but, including an arresting, two-tone flamed paint job in blue or emerald inexperienced to the tank—and, sure, that’s the similar flame sample as used on the 1980 Extensive Glide. Different gear consists of P&A’s new 5-spoke forged ThunderStar wheels (19-inch entrance), a brand new and distinctive seat, a taller sissybar, chrome trim on the sidecovers, and braided management cables. The accent invoice alone would run some $4000 on the FXR3, explaining partially its $17,995 steered worth.

Harley-Davidson FXR

You could marvel why the brand new FXRs are powered by Evo motors, although Harley has proclaimed the Twin Cam the engine of the longer term. Says Hoffman, “We appeared on the Twin Cam for about 10 seconds at the start of this system … then it turned clear that utilizing it concerned a brand new body program. That was outdoors our mission.”

As you speak to Hoffman, you additionally understand that the FXR revival is just not a part of any grand company technique. “We did the FXR as a result of we didn’t need to get in the best way of the primary line,” he says. “We didn’t need to decelerate mainstream manufacturing on present fashions.” As an alternative, the FXR2 and FXR3 actually do appear a check of the CVO concept, lending credence to the corporate’s declare that there might be solely 1800 of those final FXRs ever made.

For many Harley followers, the necessary factor won’t be these specific machines, however the check of the manufacturing course of in Constructing forty two, with two-man meeting groups placing to­geth­er simply two bikes a day. If this program is a hit, anticipate comparable small, custom-made manufacturing runs within the close to future, maybe based mostly on Softails or FLs or different present professional­duction fashions.

However, when you should have an FXR2 or FXR3 in your very personal, you’d greatest run, not stroll, to your native vendor. And until you’re his son or married to his daughter, be ready to take part in a bidding contest. They’re extremely-cool bikes, however your probabilities of proudly owning one are solely barely larger than of discovering a Martian meteor embedded within the Antarctic ice cap.

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