One of the first things many people upgrade on ANY bike is the seat. In my opinion, the Street Bob has a nicely shaped seat that is pretty comfortable for short rides, and it looks cool. I didn’t mind the stock seat that much. Still, I was interested in something comfortable, and I like to have my girlfriend with me. Fortunately, there are several options for Street Bobs right from the factory. For 2-up comfort, you can stick with the stock seat, and get a passenger pillion (“Smooth Style”) that kind of matches. This is the route that I took first. Seemed to make sense.
Here was my reasoning: for my 2008 Sportster XL883 (Standard, not Low), the stock seat fit me very well and was very comfortable, even for long rides. I know it can be tough finding a good seat, previous bikes I have had proved that to me very clearly. So I purchased the Sportster pillion pad, and it was a great seat for my girlfriend. For the Bob, since I wasn’t going to have a passenger on there ALL the time, I figured it would be a pretty safe bet financially speaking since the stock pillion is pretty inexpensive. So when I took delivery of the Bob , I ordered the pillion made for new Street Bobs. Perhaps I would turn out to be lucky again!
Sadly, I had no such luck!
Short rides were OK for my girlfriend, in fact the lack of much padding in the seat made for an “interesting” vibration through the fender… Still, any ride over 15 minutes was uncomfortable for her. Besides the lack of padding on the seat, there was very little leg room. Buying a taller 2-up seat would help then on two fronts.
So now, I am off to the trusty Harley Accessories book, that wonderful tome of customization possibilities for your scoot. (If you haven’t bought a Harley yet, then you may not be familiar with it, but each year an enormous book comes out with every imaginable accessory for your Harley, both new and old. Harley has thousands of items in there, and if you can’t find it, an aftermarket company has made it.)
There were three seats that stood out to me right off the bat as the best touring options.
–Option 1: Harley Touring Seat.
Cheapest of the seats, and had “Touring” in the name, so I was leaning strongly towards this one. I was aware of several aftermarket seats made by Corbin, Mustang, etc., but these all cost 2X what the Touring Seat ran. Seemed pretty safe… I tried researching the seat online, and found very few people who wrote about this seat but what I heard was promising. Seat Dimensions: Rider 15” wide, Passenger 12” wide.
These were pretty uncommon on Ebay, the price was fine but I just think this seat just isn’t on the radar very much and is still a very good deal at the Dealer.
–Option 2: Harley Sundowner.
Easily the most reviewed of the 2-up Harley seats for Dynas, it runs a little more than the touring seat but has garnered a lot of praise on the net. The prices I saw on Ebay were pretty strong, so I quickly decided if I went for this seat I would just buy it from the Dealer. With a 20% discount, no shipping charges, Ebay couldn’t compete when I was looking summer of 2010. The factor that kept me from purchasing this seat was this: more than one reviewer talked about how the seat lifted you and pushed you forward. I didn’t mind the idea of being lifted at all, the Street Bob is really low for a 32” inseam. Pushing me forward though, that was the OPPOSITE of where I would want to slide myself . Moving on…
–Option 3: The Tallboy.
I found a little more info about this seat than the Touring Seat on the web. This seat is large, 16” wide up front and 12” in back – and it lifts you up 2” and back 1.75”. The idea of moving back and up a little sounded like I would be less crowded and have a higher center of gravity which sounded good to me. I bought it, and it is good! Don’t think of it as necessarily a “Big and Tall” seat. Although I am only 5’10” and 150lbs., I have about a 32” inseam, it works very well for me and my girlfriend. The mid mounted pegs on the Bob don’t get in the way as much at stops now ( but even stock the Bob isn’t as bad in this regard as my Sportster). The cushion is very nice, and I could ride for hours. I could tip the bike over a little easier in turns too; it was a good purchase. Please note, as much praise as this seat got for it’s space it gets an even amount of flack for being “Ugly”. I don’t agree, but it does change the look of a Bob, and it might not be your cup of tea.
The Tallboy Seat was a hit, but there was another important upgrade I made to help passenger comfort.
Although a taller, more thickly padded seat helps you with comfort, the little extra legroom you get just from the seat isn’t quite enough if your passenger is much over 5’5”. The problem is where the passenger pegs attach to the swing arm. The passenger pegs are pretty high relative to the seat height on the Bob, and this puts pressure on your passenger’s tail bone. Solution? Go back to the Accessory catalog!
I envisioned extenders for the passenger pegs before I even saw them in the catalog. What I found in the catalog looked promising, but the price threw me off for a bit. I decided to search for aftermarket pegs extender/offsets and couldn’t find anything that looked any better at any price. The features and finish of the Harley model finally made pull the trigger, and it was one of the better purchases I made for having my girl come with me. We can ride for 2 hours before she feels the need to walk around, and even then she only needs a few minutes to stretch out. Before these we needed a longer break, twice as often. Before these and the seat upgrade, it was a quarter of the time and with diminishing returns on each break. Here is a picture of them on my bike:
On to windshields!!! First off, let me say that I never was a “windshield guy”. A little history – years before, when I had a 2000 Vulcan 800 Custom, my dad surprised me one day when I went into the garage and my ride had a new detachable windshield on it. I was surprised, but I did remember mentioning that it was pretty windy on the bike at high speed, etc. Well, it turns out, the screen was too high, and I had to look through it, which I didn’t like. At that time, I figured that windshields needed to be tall enough to where you had to look through them to be effective, so I wasn’t a fan. The windblast on the Vulcan wasn’t that bad. The next two bikes I had after the Vulcan kinda underscored how I felt about windshields.
My 2002 Ducati Monster was (is) a naked sportbike. Air cooled V (actually an L) twin, stripped down, in matte black. Sweet looking bike. Plus, it cut through the wind just fine without a windscreen of any type. The angle you are at while riding it (even with handlebar risers I had) you were just pretty damn aerodynamic. Enter the Sportster. Hit the highway, and BLAM, that’s a little windier than I am used to! Still, I had a slight lean to the bars, and at speeds under 70, provided that it wasn’t already windy out, it was doable.
Not so on the Bob! Although I took two test rides and hit highway speeds (for a short time) both times, I didn’t notice what was going to happen when I bought the bike. I was unprepared for the hurricane that was like tying to blast my skinny ass through the sound barrier at anything over 45mph. There is just no way to look cool, or be in total control, when you are being blown off the bike. True, I am 60lbs lighter than when I had the Vulcan or Sportster, and at 5’10” and <150 lbs I am not quite the average Harley Big Twin rider. I just knew that I needed a way to cut through the air better, and fast, or I wouldn’t ride on the highway - ever. And, living around Chicago, you really do need to hit the highway if you want to get anywhere outside the city and away from the traffic. So I would have to get a screen, but which one? There are so many options, and so many opinions on line!
The problem is: windshield effectiveness is very subjective. What one person considers windy is just right for someone else. What people expect a windshield to do for them varies from person to person. In addition, the human body has a tremendous range of shapes and weights, changing the aerodynamics on a given bike. Throw in commonly performed tweaks to even the same model of bike: tank lifts, handlebar risers/taller apes, fork bags, highway pegs/forward controls, aftermarket mirrors , relocated turn signals, etc., - the aerodynamics of any two 2010 Street Bobs (and their owners) are probably not going to be the same.
I spent A LOT of time looking at different windshield options. As I do with any mod, I first started to look at the Harley options in the big book. I really liked the idea of how the Harley shields, when removed, remove the mounting hardware as well. So just a few seconds to remove, and no evidence of ever having a shield! Many of the other options leave the mounting hardware on the forks. On the other hand, I read a fair amount of bad reviews for the buffeting created by the Harley shields. Windshields are very expensive for some reason. Seems like you need to spend about 300 bucks for a good one, so I spent extra time looking at all the different models from different manufacturers. The following is my experience looking at options and what I finally bought.
One place with tons of shields is National Cycle. I really like their offerings, and their website is easy to use and actually HAS pics of Street Bobs with some of their different shields on them. One shield in particular, The Gladiator, seems to have been made for the Street Bob.
In fact, I nearly bought the Gladiator for a several reasons. One, it looks very different from other screens; it is “sportier” than any other shield in my opinion. Plus it has good adjustability, and it is pretty inexpensive when compared to other screens. The Gladiator system doesn’t need a separate purchase for the mounting hardware, like most screens.
Eventually, under advisement from my girlfriend, I did not get the Gladiator. She thought it didn’t go with the older/bobber style of the Bob, to which I kind of agree. Another reason is I couldn’t find any reviews at the time (though I have seen a couple of positive reviews since). Finally, it is much smaller than many shields and is semi-permanent (at east compared to quick release shields). I then looked more closely National Cycle’s other offerings.
Their “Street Shield” and “Deflector Screen” series seem to be well made and more economical solutions that do not require a separate purchase for mounting hardware. As far as reviews for those models, I found an even split of positive and negative.
I started to like their switchblade series the best in concept, because of the high quality shields, larger sizes and easy removal. The only problem once I focused on the Switchblade series, was it was just as expensive as the Harley models*, and the mounting system didn’t look terribly adjustable for angle.
* Now there is a “Spartan” shield which looks very nice, uses the switchblade mounting system and is less money. If this were available when I bought my shield I might have got this instead.
Helpful links: Street Bob Screens at National Cycle:
One manufacturer of shields that got many good reviews was Memphis Shades. The reviewers online seem to like the company’s products and business practices.
I have to admit, when I first went to their website, I wasn’t too impressed at first. Navigating the site wasn’t as easy as some other sites, and there are few pictures of the different windshield models on different bikes. There is a ton of information and tons of charts about the different mounting kits, but it is all a little daunting. Plus some of the “Metric” sport windshields look very cool but are not in the Harley section, so presumably they do not want you to mix and match. I find it hard to believe you can’t get these to fit on a Street Bob, but the information on the mounting kits listed indicates “no”. To be fair, I did not call the company, and from everything I have heard they have excellent customer service and I bet they would have answered my questions. Besides, I decided on a “Harley” model, the Memphis Slim.
What finally sold me on Memphis Shades, was they seemed to really want the customer to pick the right size and shape, and their diagrams and information indicated to me that they were interested in performance at least as much as style.
Speaking of style, the Memphis Slim, in gradient black, seemed to fit the style of my Street Bob really well. Plus, the lowers which are available match the style of the Memphis Slim and Fats.
I decided on the Slim, and in the 17” size. Prior to this, I went to the Harley Dealership and borrowed the Plexiglas fitting device that shows the different heights available . I also used various tape measures and determined that somewhere around 16” was about right. Hey, so maybe I would have to cut a little off. That’s easier than adding, right?
The width (18”) of the Slim seemed about right as well, as the stock turn signal location for the Street Bob is about 19” apart. I had read some people didn’t like the light reflected back at them at night so I wanted to avoid the wider Fats (22” wide).
I feel one major advantage of the Fats and Slim, is the mounting system. The mounting hardware that is left on the forks isn’t very obtrusive, and it is very adjustable for angle. In addition, the windshield itself is adjustable for height, besides the fact that you can adjust the height of the whole arrangement depending on where you mount the system on the forks.
In the end, I chose Memphis for my screen because of the competitive price compared to the other premium shields, superior adjustability (which presumably would give the best aerodynamics), unique looks (if you purchase a gradient color), and the ability to add a windshield bag to the cross brace.
After purchasing the Slim, I realized that it was indeed a little too tall. I could adjust the angle back, and bring the shield closer to the Bars by mounting the hardware backwards (Memphis Shades says this will damage your bike but it didn’t mine, do so at your own risk), and then lower the shield to the back of the headlight which would drop the top down to just below my eye level. This made for a cool, streamlined look that I was, initially, very happy about. But out on the highway, there was much more buffeting than when the shield was more upright and I had to sit bolt upright to peek over the top.
So, I found a tutorial on how to cut your windshield on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQj05Db-C3c
I followed this process almost exactly with just one exception. I didn’t have an electric jigsaw at the time, so I substituted a roto-zip for this step, which worked pretty well. It cut very fast, but it is not as precise, is a bit thicker blade-wise, and chipped the edge of the shield a little (which was fixed by sanding) . After the project was all done, I ended up with a great looking shield, and the edge is perfect. It is about ¾” shorter than I planned due to using the roto-zip instead of the jigsaw. Next time I do this, it will be with a jigsaw (which I found out my dad had right when I finished sanding!)
After customizing the shield, it was easy to look over it even if I was slouching. I continue to modify how it is angled and have found several good settings, with different looks. The Lowers can be mounted reverse as well, just be careful to make sure you have enough clearance when you have full lock on the steering, and you have sufficient travel on the forks so they don’t contact the mounts under compression.
Many of the modifications I have made to my bike have been for comfort. One of the cheapest mods I did was get Highway Pegs.
Since I do not have engine/”crash” guards, I looked at Harley’s frame mounted kits. On line as of 11/13/10, I only see the cheaper of the two I considered earlier this year. At $104, it is still much more expensive than a take off set off of a Low Rider you can find on Ebay. Also the Low Rider set is black, which goes with the Street Bob blacked out theme. Finally, some sellers on Ebay throw in pegs with your purchase or at least offer some for cheap. I recommend these highly for people who like the standard mid mount set up for the Street Bob, and just want a second place to set your feet on a long trip. I find the standard location of the pegs to be very comfortable, especially with the tall seat I have, and I like the control mid mounts provide for cornering or lifting yourself out of the seat up over rough patches. The highway pegs offer an alternative, ensuring that my legs will never feel crowded or cramped.
Anyone considering a passenger backrest or sissybar for a Street Bob soon discovers that there aren’t a ton of options for the sideplates that support it. Harley makes a semi-permanent rigid set up, available only in chrome. Harley also makes detachable versions in both chrome and black, but these kits require the taillight wires to be cut, and the lights need to be relocated, which in my opinion, does not look as good as stock. I knew I wanted to find a solution that did not require me to cut any wires or relocate any parts. That leaves two interesting alternatives. The Kuryakyn Plug-N-Play, and the Haulen Ass Backrest.
As you can probably surmise from the pictures used above, I went with the Haulen Ass. This wasn’t an easy decision. Kuryakyn is known for making quality parts, and the Plug-N-Play offers a more conventional attachment to the backrest pad. Although Kuryakyn has a single backrest pad on their site for this set-up, I am pretty confident there are other backrest pads from other manufacturers that would fit this system, as well as some (smaller) luggage rack set-ups that would be compatible with the Plug-N-Play.
The Haulen Ass backrest uses Harley Deuce backrests, and they sell 2 types from their website, and the cost of whichever pad you choose is included in the system’s price, which is quite a bit less expensive than the other systems only about $250. Both of the pads are rather small, however, but that is in keeping with the VERY streamlined style of the system. As seen above, Harley’s Touring Pad for the Deuce also fits the backrest, but is rather large. I went with the Haulen Ass because of the lower price, the included pad, and the slickest look of any of the offerings. The lack of an available luggage rack for this backrest wasn’t much of a detriment, as I was already planning on finding saddlebags that fit between the stock turn signal location and shock towers. (There is some indication on the Haulen Ass site that they are looking into developing luggage rack systems for their backrests).
Once I installed the backrest (color: black – to match my Vivid Black Street Bob), I was very happy with the Haulen Ass equipment. In my opinion it is just the slickest, simplest and most economical system available. I was less impressed, however, with the stock 6″x6″ Harley Deuce Pad that I ordered with it.
I originally went with the 6″x6″ pad, because I wanted a backrest that would look at home with either my Tallboy seat or the stock seat and pillion combo. Functionally, the backrest is fine. It leaves plenty of room for the passenger, and gives enough safety and comfort with either seat. The problem is not so much the size as the fit and finish, but rather the lack of it. The material is stretched weirdly around the padding, which while firm and comfortable is unevenly shaped. In addition the seams are especially wavy where there is excess material sewn together. The bottom and back of the pad is stapled rather haphazardly, and the black paint on the staples do not hide the fact that it is not a good fit at all. On more than one occasion, people who initially admired my bike pointed out how the backrest pad didn’t look right.
So one night, after a beer or two, I decided I had enough. I was going to reupholster the pad. I removed the staples, and turned the vinyl covering inside out to see what was going on. Not surprisingly, where the seams were the most wavy, there was a ton of extra material. I trimmed this off, and tried to even the shape of the pad a little by shaving a little padding. Since I do not have an electric knife, the shaving didn’t work too well, so I just figured I’d see how my trimming helped. Sure enough, the seam looked better. Plus, although the staple holes were now visible at the back of the pad, there wasn’t 3/4″ gap between the bracket and the recess in the back of the pad.
I wasn’t successful re-stapling the bottom of the pad however. I have a heavy duty stapler, strong enough to staple in wood, etc., but the springy plastic proved impervious to my staplegun. I bought vinyl adhesive, strong black duct-tape, and a bunch of extra vinyl from a fabric store in preparation for a quick fix, or a complete do-over if necessary. I first started with a strip of black Gorilla Tape underneath. It was pretty subtle due to how low on the pad it was, but the first group I showed it to noticed immediately, and I knew I had to do better.
Although I have tons of material, and from taking this one apart I know basically how to make a new one, I still have the issue of not having the right tools. I imagined a new design of cover, with a zipper in it, and I am still pondering a new design of cover. In the meantime, I bought the large touring backrest. Although the 6″x6″ is a pretty good size, the Tallboy seat is almost a foot wide in back, and I knew I could get away with a bigger backrest.
First thing I noticed is how big it is!
Next thing I noticed was that the fit and finish are fine. The Haulen Ass bracket fits snugly in the recess of the backrest, and the stitching and seams are good. So initially, it looked like the trade-off for the polished look is just a much larger size. So how did my passenger like the backrest? She gave it the thumbs up. It feels more secure for her, and is more supportive for her when she wears a backpack, because the large top serves as a broad, handy support to get the weight of the backpack up off of her shoulders and back. Downsides? Not too many, and they are all related to the larger size. It is too large to hang your helmet on, encroaches slightly on room for the passenger, and is a little bulky looking. Still, not bad. I am still thinking about recovering the small backrest because I like having options, but for long trips 2-up, the touring backrest stays.
As you may have noticed, I have touring aspirations for my Street Bob, so comfort is very important to me. Another modification to ensure a more comfortable ride is air shocks.
Many Harley Touring and Dyna owners upgrade their suspension, often for Progressive 412s, or 440s. What this means for the budget minded consumer is that there are a fair number of stock units for sale on Ebay, sometimes with very few miles on them. And, since the Touring line comes stock with air shocks, Dyna owners who want to try bagger shocks just need to lurk on Ebay for a day or two and snatch up a set. I was able to get a set of moderately used Electraglide shocks and a new (hand powered) air pump for about $100. While this isn’t the best deal I have heard of, it is still cheaper than even a discounted set of Progressive 412s. Plus the set I got had the air lines still, and a little bracket I was able to locate under the battery for a clean look and easy access to the the filler valve.
I went for a short, solo ride after I bolted everything back together, with the suspension set at about 9psi. My initial impression of this upgrade was incredible! I couldn’t be happier with how the suspension handled my light weight and the bad bumps in the roads around my house. VERY SMOOTH. The stock Bob suspension, even at the lightest preload setting, is very stiff for my weight of 150lbs. Riding solo with the stock seat and suspension, I would get launched off the bike on sharp bumps. After adding just the more thickly padded Tallboy seat, I wasn’t launched as high, as the seat seemed to add some compression and rebound dampening of its own. Still, I wasn’t prepared for how smooth the ride would be with these old air shocks bolted on. I had a huge grin for a while…
The Electraglide shocks aren’t perfect. First, while I like the black look a lot, the finish on the shocks just isn’t up to par with the rest of my bike. They just look old (because they are). Second, they got slightly damaged in shipping. One of the shock’s red plastic compression bushings that connect to the airline is broken. It doesn’t seem to leak air, but it cannot be disconnected or reconnected as easily other side. Third, when I change the air pressure, they leak oil from the air valve. Not a ton, but I do need to put a rag under the valve when I adjust it. And lastly, while they are a huge improvement for one light person, 2-up the difference isn’t that great.
Those stock springs that are overkill for just me, work fine for my girlfriend and me together. And after adjusting the preload up a notch or two, the stock setup gives a pretty nice ride on all but the sharpest bumps. But since I do not ride 2-up all the time, I HAD to try the air shocks. And solo, they are really good. 2-up however, the jury is still out. Besides my girlfriend not really noticing an improved feel with the air shocks, on two occasions we apparently lost air pressure after a ride. The first ride was about an hour and half long local ride, over some bumpy roads. We started with 20psi, and ended up with about zero. I immediately checked all my airline connections, and sprayed soapy water around everything and tried to compress the shocks and find a leak. Nothing. Then I rode for a week at about 12psi solo and checked it every day. No change in pressure. Then, we went for a weekend trip to Milwaukee. We started at 23psi and ended up with 19psi at the end of the trip. I have since ridden the bike solo with that same psi for weeks, and we even went for a couple short trips around town and the pressure is still at 19psi. I can’t figure it out. The ride is still pretty nice solo at 19psi, so I will probably leave it there for the rest of the riding season. Next year, I am not sure what I will do. I would love a setup with good (adjustable) dampening that would be easily switchable between two settings, without pumping air, leaking oil, or using a special tool to change preload.
If you are interested in putting on some shocks yourself for cheap, you will need some sort of bike lift. I used plans for a really cool cheap bike lift at http://www.nightrider.com/biketech/bikelift.htm