What’s in a name? Harley Davidson definitely thinks that names are important because they chose to rename their basic FL model three times.
First, it was called the Hydraglide in 1949. Then in 1958, the name was changed to Duo-Glide. Finally, in 1965, the company changed its name to the Electraglide. This last name change stuck the longest, continuing on until today. This model has been in production for decades, making it one of the longest-running and most iconic Harley Davidson motorcycles.
Evolution of the Electra-Glide
Initially, the FL series was created by Harley Davidson as a marker for their large framed, mostly touring motorcycles. The traditional styling and sixteen-inch wheels gave the bikes their distinctive look. The large frames helped the FL series to become beloved by long-distance motorcycle enthusiasts.
Originally produced in 1941, the FL series started out with a 74-inch flathead engine but moved to a Panhead style engine in 1948. Through the Hydro-Glide production years, new suspension systems were added and marketed as a “hydraulic front end” to highlight the improved technology of the superbike. When the fully suspended chassis was added, the name changed to Duo-Glide.
The Electra-Glide continued to see major improvements. In 1966, the power of the bike increased by 10% with the new shovelhead engine. Today, the standard engine on the Electraglide is 80 cu in and the bike comes equipped with front-end brakes.
Why is it Electric?
The name change that makes the Electra-Glide distinctive has everything to do with its starter. This motorcycle was the same as its predecessor, the Duo-Glide, with the major exception of its electric starter. Hence the name “Electra”. However, the motorcycle retained its kickstart feature even with the rollout of the electric starter.
The gas tank size was almost doubled with the transition as well, from 3.5 gallons all the way up to 5 gallons. This allowed for longer trips without the need for refueling, letting motorcycle enthusiasts get a lot further on long trips.
Notable Short Run in 1977
Harley Davidson memorably produced a short run of the Elecraglide in 1977. The Harley Davidson Confederate Edition was an FLH Electraglide that showed off some unique decorations. There were only forty-four of these motorcycles made, making them one of the rarest Harleys ever produced.
There were five other models produced with the Confederate Edition marketing. It was created following the success of the Liberty edition during the previous year, 1976, the American Bicentennial. The rebel flag was embossed in metallic on the fuel tank. Harley Davidson discontinued its use of the Confederate flag in all of its products in 1993, and there is no version of the Confederate Edition on display at the official Harley Davidson museum.
Part of what makes the Harley Davidson Electraglide so iconic is batwing fairings. Originally designed by Dean Wixom, they became an option in 1969.
This iconic front end mounted design had the electrical components and the speedometer mounted on it. A windshield also attached, which again made this motorcycle more than a scooter, but took it towards superbike.
With the batwing fairing and a windshield, it seemed possible to go anywhere on this amazing machine. Just grab onto the handlebars and hit the road. Touring bikes like this one are a central part of motorcycles and motorcycle culture. The addition of the large gas tank and electric starter made this bike the perfect way to go for an adventure on the road.