The History of Harley-Davidson Dyna Motorcycles

Although the Dyna name itself did not come about until 1991, the origins of this line of Harley-Davidson motorcycles can be traced back two decades prior to that. The late 1960s brought forth a spike in the scene of custom motorcycles.

In response to this trend, Harley-Davidson’s Chief Styling Director Willie G. Davidson set out to create a type of hybrid between the smaller Sportster models and the larger Touring models.

Dyna Origins – Creation of the Super Glide

In 1971, the FX Super Glide was born. It was considered by many to be the original factory custom motorcycle. Davidson designed the FX chassis to feature the frame and rear suspension from the FLH Electra Glide along with the smaller telescopic fork suspension from the XLH Sportster.

Fusing the FLH and XLH acronyms produced the FX moniker, also referred to as “Factory Experimental.”

The FX Super Glide was met with mixed reception. The contemporary design was welcomed by some, but many were not fond of the boat tail-like fender that had also been chosen for the Sportsters at that time.

Variations of the Super Glide would be introduced throughout the remainder of the 1970s, and sales on the model began to improve once the rear styling was modified.

The first FXR model, the Super Glide II, was introduced in 1982. The FXR chassis replaced the solid-mounted engine and four-speed transmission from the FX in favor of rubber mounting and a five-speed transmission.

The FXR line was broadened not long after the release of the Super Glide II. The FXRS Low Glide was unveiled later in 1982 and the FXRT Sport Glide debuted a year later in 1983.

By 1987, the FXR line had completely supplanted the original FX bikes. Although the FXR line was doing well, Harley-Davidson began to work on replacing the new chassis not long after its launch.

The Dyna is Born

In 1991, the first official Dyna model was released with the introduction of the FXDB Sturgis. This limited-production model was named in honor of the annual bike rally located in South Dakota that is still held to this day. Approximately just 1,500 units were produced.

The FXD chassis kept the rubber mounting implemented with the FXR Super Glide II, but reduced the number of mounts from three to two. This vastly improved production time on the assembly line and made these bikes cheaper to construct, but unfortunately resulted in substandard vibration control.

Although they caused more vibration, the new Dyna rubber mounts cut down on engine movement within the frame compared to the FXR chassis. This helped eliminate airy spacing with select units of the bike, such as the gas tank.

The new FXD frame was considerably stiffer than its predecessor, though, giving it the ability to better handle the new Evolution engine that Harley-Davidson debuted a few years prior.

The FXD line expanded in 1992 with the release of the FXDB Daytona as well as the FXDC Dyna Glide. These bikes were very similar apart from their respective paint schemes, with the Dyna Glide being completely silver and black upon initial introduction.

By 1993, the FXR models that had launched in the ‘80s began to be phased out in favor of newer FXD models. The FXRT Sport Glide and the FXRS Low Rider were both discontinued, and in their places came the inception of the FXDWG Dyna Wide Glide and the FXDL Dyna Low Rider.

These two models specifically garnered rave reviews from the community at large, and by this point the Dyna model was really starting to gain traction and establish itself in the Harley lineup.

Growth of FXD Eliminates FXR

The year of 1995 brought a couple of different changes to the Dyna world. Not only did the FXD Dyna Super Glide launch alongside the FXDS-CONV Dyna Glide Convertible, but these were the first Dyna models to present a 28° rake. All previous Dyna models featured a 32° rake.

The debut of these two models essentially replaced the FXR Super Glide and the FXLR Low Rider Custom, which happened to be the final FXR models in regular production.

The line was discontinued, but in hindsight only took a four-year hiatus. The FXR chassis returned briefly in 1999 with the creation of the FXR2 and FXR3.These models were of limited production, though, as only 900 of each were ever produced.

The FXR4, of which 1,000 units were produced, was released in 2000. This effectively marked the end of the line for the FXR line.

Building 42, which had previously been used to create military machines, shifted its focus from the FXR to the dawning of its Screamin’ Eagle line. This line would eventually be rebranded in 2009 as the Custom Vehicle Operations, or CVO, line as it is known today.

Additionally in 1999, the FXDX Super Glide Sport launched. This model advertised triple disc brakes as well as enhanced suspension. A variation, the FXDX-T Super Glide T-Sport, debuted the same year. This model featured improved removable saddlebags and a fork-mounted fairing.

Harley-Davidson unveiled its first Twin Cam engine this same model year, with the first iteration sizing up at 88 cubic inches. This was an improvement on the 82 cubic inch Evolution engine.

Sons of Anarchy and the Dyna’s Prime Era

These FXDX models would then become obsolete by 2006, when the Dyna line once again introduced a new chassis. The first Dyna models to feature this redesigned chassis were the FXDBI Street Bob and the limited production FXDI35 35th Anniversary Super Glide. The addition of a six-speed transmission came to the Dyna family that same year.

The following year, in 2007, a new fuel-injected Twin Cam 96 engine replaced the Twin Cam 88 for Harley-Davidson’s complete Big Twin lineup, including the Dyna series.

The Dyna family celebrated another significant year in 2008. The FXDF Fat Bob first launched, giving the Dyna a bit of a more beefy look. Harley’s new muscle bike featured twin headlamps, a 2-1-2 exhaust system and a 130 mm front tire.

Later in 2008, critically acclaimed crime tragedy television series Sons of Anarchy premiered. The program was based around an outlaw motorcycle club in a fictional Californian town. Many believe this marked the apex of the Dyna’s popularity, as most of the club members sported various blacked out Dyna models.

Complex media even created a list of the top 15 “coolest” motorcycles featured in the hit TV series, and seven of the bikes chosen were Dyna models. Protagonist Jax Teller (portrayed by Charlie Hunnam) rode a modified 2003 FXD Dyna Super Glide during the series.

The program had a successful run for seven seasons before concluding in December of 2014. Although the series has ended, it provided an invaluable spike in popularity for Harley-Davidson motorcycles and Dynas in particular, helping make them coveted models to this day.

The Final Days of Dyna

Even through two decades of producing the Dyna, Harley-Davidson still wasn’t afraid to mix it up and try something new with the established line. 

In 2012, the FLD Switchback was born, becoming the first Dyna truly configured as a Touring bike complete with saddlebags and floorboards. Along with the Switchback, a new 103 cubic inch engine was also offered along the Dyna line.

Twenty-seven years after the Dyna was conceived, its time had officially come to an end. In 2017, Harley-Davidson announced there would be no Dyna line for the 2018 model year. The remaining popular Dyna models that were still in production at the time were merged into the redesigned Softail line.

That’s not to say the Dyna went out without a fight, though. The final few years of the Dyna produced a strong showing, creating bikes that many found to be appealing. Cycle World named the 2017 FXDLS Low Rider S its best cruiser of that model year.

Legacy and Aftermath

Different reasons have been contended as to why Harley-Davidson decided to eliminate the Dyna. Many speculate that it was due to Harley’s falling stock hitting a five-year low the year before they made the announcement, and that they needed to cut production and downsize their staff.

Some believe that the stock drop just meant Harley needed to mix it up. Since their target market wasn’t purchasing bikes quite like they used to, they had to do away with some of their existing models and come up with something fresh and new. Something they hope would catch the eye of a younger generation, including the female demographic.

Others dispute that the existing Dyna chassis would simply not be able to accommodate Harley’s new Milwaukee-Eight engine; its first all-new Big Twin engine released in 18 years with displacement ranging from 107 to 117 cubic inches.

Regardless of the reason, the legacy of the Dyna will forever live on through its loyal fan base. Sure, it was sometimes criticized for never being quite the best in any one aspect in particular.

It never had the overpowering intensity of the Touring models or looked as sleek as some of the Sportster models, but it did a great number of things very well.  It was relatively affordable, possessed a high performance potential, and was easy to work on.

Above all, the Dyna was loved by its diehards because it had evolved into something so versatile and customizable; the very goal that Willie G. Davidson set out to conquer in 1971.

The good news if you currently own a Dyna? The entire family is that much closer to becoming a vintage line altogether. Have you always been a fan of the style and customization options that these bikes have to offer, but never found the right moment to pull the trigger? There’s no time like the present to find your dream Dyna and continue carrying on the rich tradition that this line has built.

23 comments on “The History of Harley-Davidson Dyna Motorcycles”

  • I have owned my 1989 FXRS since 1990. Bought from a guy who had it for a couple months in Sylmar CA..he did a couple of minor mods…I spent a few more $ on her. I’ve tried to keep it pampered, and still find it a kick in the pants to ride.. Only 26K..sad in a way..
    Get asked to sell her or trade her all the time. I would like to have a touring HD, but trading or selling my FXRS would make me feel like I still feel from selling my old XLCH. You can’t sell your kids.
    Great bike. Ride one if you get the chance.

  • I am currently putting my 95th Anniversary model on the market. It’s number 0799 of 1998 and in showroom condition with only 6460 miles. I love this bike and hate to let it go. She’s the dream bike I always wanted since starting to ride in 1963. Thank you for a great article and wonderful info. I hope the future buyer knows what he/she is getting.

    • We agree that they’re never easy to let go of. The memories will last a lifetime. Thank you for reading and commenting, Oren!

      • I started on a dyna went to soft tails back on a 2009 dyna super glide custom won’t never looked back love them

    • I have a 2003 Dyna FXD 100th anniversary with 19,883 miles on it. Blue original color. I have been thinking about selling it but it’s just hard to get rid of a good wife.

      • I own a 2012 dyna super glide, I love it. Sold my o5 fatboy just so I could go back to riding a dyna. My first was a 07 wide glide. Love em

    • I’ve owned a few over the years, the first, a 86 FXR Super Glide with a 96 inch Evo was a dream and a half! God I loved that bike. After that a 88 inch twin cam then a 96 in twin cam and then a brand new 14 120 inch Super Glide. That was another dream bike. Then a couple more 88 inchers and last my current love a 117 inch Dyna Wide Glide. Love it. They were all great bikes. Before all the dynas the only really good bike I had was a 78 low rider with a s&s sidewinder kit 93 inch. It would run 11 seconds and was pretty good, but no comparison to a a big inch Dyna.

    I OWN SEVERAL OTHER BIKES FROM CHOPPERS TO RICE GRINDERS, But keep going to my Dyna for pure enjoyment. Regardless if just running to the store or hitting the highway for long trips.
    Love camping in the mountians with it.
    Seem to get alot of positive comments about my ol gal.
    Well enough rambling.
    Love those Dynas.

  • I own a 2012 dyna super glide, I love it. Sold my o5 fatboy just so I could go back to riding a dyna. My first was a 07 wide glide. Love em

  • Great reading. My last bike was a 1982 fxr shovelhead 5 speed I bought in 1990. I loved that bike, owned it for 23 years. I now own a 2017 fxdl I bought this year, I love the rubber mount bounce at idle of both bikes, I just don’t think I would enjoy the counter balanced motor as much. Thanks for the informative reading.

  • I own a 2017 Harley Davidson Dyna Street Bob bought the last one off the show room floor. They don’t make them any more. Just curious will I be able to get collectors plates for the bike in 15 years? Also how many Dyna Street Bobs were built in total?…under 1500?…
    Thank you love my bike❤️…

  • I bought a FXDB new in August 17, right before the ’18s hit. I didn’t know then the history and legacy of the Dyna line, and am proud to say I’ve never watched a single episode of SOA. I love the handling and the availability of custom and aftermarket parts, and have made it mine. I’ll never get rid of my Street Bob. Loved this article, thanks

  • Bought 2006 wide glide in Florida last year. I retired to Italy 5 years ago. Turns a lot of heads. Super glides,yeah wide glides never. Real happy with my choice.

  • I absolutely love my 2015 FXDF Dyna PhatBob it handles great , great power to road and looks great . I’m doing custom touches to back fender and adding batwing fairing LED lighting along with custom airbrush work Best investment to my future happiness.

  • I like the Dyna, I really considered it as my next choice of HD.
    So why was Dyna consolidated into the Softail line? And why did I change my decision?

    1- The Milwaukee 8 was not compatible with the existing Dyna frame, so the Dyna frame required a redesign (expensive). The Milwaukee 8 already fit the Softail line.

    2- The maximum weight carrying capacity of the 2008 Dyna models had a miniscule difference when compared to the 2008 sportster models (1% – 3%, depending on the Dyna Model). Designing a New Dyna dual shock frame, would not have improved this minor variation.

    3- The Softail models provided a much larger variation in maximum weight capacity for both the FX and FL versions when compared to the Sportster ( 9% increase for the FX and 12% increase for the FL). The touring models (FL) provide a 25% increase compared to the Sportster but, because the touring models already come with bags fairings and backrest installed (part of the wet weight to GVW calculation), that increase provides more rider/passenger usable weight.

    4- Many of the Dyna models were comparable with the Softail models.

    5- Harley Davidson cruiser market share was shrinking, when the decision was made to consolidate the Dyna with the Softail. Therefore part of the decision was long term business strategy (survival). 3 models are less expensive to market and maintain than 4 models.

  • I was raised by my uncle on an early model Super Glide, most likely the 1971. I have just purchased my second Wide Glide. A 2012 FXDWG. It’s predessessor, a 2014 FXDWG, was murdered by a cage-driving motorist who ran a stop sign. I will only ever own a Dyna.

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