A First Look: Performance Tuning The ’09 Harleys

Speed's Secrets, March 2009

Last issue we talked about performance tuning 2007 and 2008 Harleys. The guys at Speed’s Performance Plus have worked on plenty of them and the results have always been exactly what they’ve come to expect from performance mods to a Harley. Maybe even a little better, starting with the longer-stroke 96” engine. They re-mapped the fuel-delivery and ignition timing, added all the standard bolt-ons, dug in deep for the big-bore kits and cam swaps, and it all worked great. The SPP tuning sessions resulted in smoother running engines that produced more torque and horsepower. And as a bonus fuel economy improved and the engines ran cooler.
About the time SPP ironed out the problems on the ’07 and ‘08s, along come the all-new 2009 models with their own set of problems. There is some good news, though—if you’re looking at an ‘09 Softail, Dyna or Sportster nothing has changed. The new bikes are virtually identical—at least mechanically and electronically—to the 2007 and 2008 models. Everything that worked with last year’s bikes works for ’09, too. Performance-wise Speed’s has found it’s business as usual. All the exhaust pipes fit the newer bikes, all the slip-ons work, and all the air filter kits install with no problem. There is, however, one exception, and it’s a big one. The 2009 FLH models require some special attention. These bikes have changed for the new model year, and the changes are significant.
For 2009 Harley-Davidson completely reconfigured the frames for the FLHs. There’s now a separate bolt-on tail section, a new swing arm and the engine’s mounting/isolation system has been revised. All this makes the bike much better on the road. But last year’s performance pipes won’t fit the new model. The new FLH frame is dimensionally different enough to prohibit an easy bolt-on of a full exhaust system. Slip-ons still work fine; they fit as they always have. It’s the head pipes that are the problem. Vance & Hines recently released two new pipe sets—the Power Duals and Dresser Duals—addressing that ’09 FL dilemma, and they’re direct bolt-ons. While Vance & Hines is first out with full performance exhausts for the ’09 FLH more are on the way from all the usual suspects. Stay tuned . . .

Problem number two is a carry-over from the ride-by-wire electronic fuel control introduced on the 2008 FLHs that concerns replacement air cleaners. Not every free-flow air filter kit fits the new throttle bodies, but you should know that the SPP Speedy Flow kit fits, and K&N has just released a full line of high-flow filter elements with their RK Series kits for the newest FLH. You can be sure more ‘09 FLH fitments are coming but in the meantime keep it in mind that any air-filter upgrade for the newest Harley baggers must be specific to that model.
Concern number three: Revised H-D touring bike electronics, changes dictated by the ride-by-wire feature, have initially caused some snags during and after a re-mapping session to optimize the air/fuel ratios and ignition timing. The problem was a tendency for the “check engine” light to flash on intermittently. This glitch, however, is limited to tuning devices that convert the OE closed-loop system to an open-loop system by substituting limiting devices to regulate the signals from the oxygen sensors. Speed’s notes that this has been addressed by the aftermarket module suppliers and should no longer present itself as an issue. The ‘09 FLH can be re-mapped to deliver crisp response, strong acceleration, good passing power and—important to touring riders—up to 45-plus MPG in the cruising ranges. Just be sure you’re using the latest-edition tuning modules re-programmed for the 2009 FLH.
Those FLH concerns aside, the result of all these bolt-on “Stage I” additions for a new Harley is exactly what it’s always been, a pick-up of about 15-percent more horsepower and torque. As for internal hop-up tricks, they remain the same as always, too. The chain-drive camshaft upgrades work in the 2009 models and so do the big-bore and stroker kits. A Speed’s Performance Cam Support Plate is a great bolt-in to these engines. Harley-Davidson eliminated the outer cam bearings in the 96” engines and the Speed’s kit replaces them.

The new Harleys are here and Speed’s Performance is ready for them, FLHs included. SPP can take care of any and all of these upgrades right at a bike show, most often doing the work while you wait. Check out the SPP web site for the full schedule, starting with the V-Twin Expo in Cincinnati (Booth #344) February 7-9, Daytona Bike Week February 27-March 8 (at Destination Daytona behind J&P Cycles), at the Southern Expo in Jackson, Mississippi, March 21-22 and the AHDRA races at Southwest International Raceway in Tucson, March 28-29.

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