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Late-model Harleys Need Love, Too

Speed's Secrets, February 2009

By now many TC96 owners have racked up some serious miles on their ‘07 and ‘08 Harleys.
Many of those same owners have the misconception that their new bikes—this even applies to ’08-up models with Electronic Throttle Control—are “off-limits” when it comes to making adjustments, additions, modifications and upgrades that are standard fare throughout the rest of the Harley world (that is, pre-’08 Big Twins). They’re mistaken, because all those time-honored modifications and additions that make good Harleys even better will work just as well on the new models, too.
That applies to exhaust systems or slip-ons, free-flowing air filters, Power Commanders with the attendant fuel-delivery and ignition-timing remaps, performance-grind cams, high-compression pistons, bigger throttle bodies—everything that’s worked its magic in the past works just as well on the newer Harleys that some owners feel are off limits. And the bottom line using any of those additions, upgrades and adjustments will be the same, too—a faster, smoother- and cooler-running motorcycle with crisper throttle response and perhaps even better fuel mileage to boot. Sadly, though, some riders don’t take advantage of this for their 96-inch engines.
“There’s nothing at all to be afraid of with those ‘07 and ‘08 bikes,” say the guys at Speed’s Performance Plus, and they’ve worked on and upgraded plenty of them. All the performance modifications and tuning tricks so common to the older Harley-Davidsons apply to the newer models, too, and because the base 96-inch, long-stroke engine has more torque to begin with, the result, in many cases, can be even more rewarding. Given the proper attention, a good bike to start with gets even better.
The confusion about that “hands off” approach to the new Harleys is somewhat understandable. When the 96-inch engine first bowed in ’07 its revised fuel-injection system raised questions about how to custom tune it. “Much ado about nothing,” say the guys at Speed’s. They’ve re-mapped the fuel delivery and ignition curve for these bikes right from the start, and the results have been exactly what riders have come to expect from a professional dyno-tune. The payback is more power, smoother delivery of that power, improved fuel mileage and, especially important in these newer Harleys, cooler-running engines.

Everything associated with a good performance dyno tune, a new free-flowing air filter assembly and a new equally free-flowing exhaust system, applies to the new 96 engines, too. In fact, the aftermarket is filled with equipment for these bikes. All the performance air-filter assemblies are available and most every full exhaust system currently offered includes mounting bungs for the factory O2 sensors. Looking forward to the ’09 model Harleys with catalytic converters in the head pipes, slip-ons become a no-brainer.
The ’07 and later Harleys are equally receptive to all the available high-performance internal hard parts, too. For instance, big-bore kits can turn the 96 into a 103, a popular move. Another time-tested modification that’s particularly beneficial to the new 96-inchers is to swap the cams for a set of performance lobes. Coupled with Speed’s Performance Cam Support Plates this bolt-in upgrade bumps up the horsepower significantly while also fixing what’s become a notoriously weak spot in the new 96-inch engines. For whatever reason Harley-Davidson eliminated the outer cam bearings in its 96-inch engines, so the camshaft spins inside the aluminum cam-support plate without the benefit of bearings. A Speed’s Performance Cam Plate Kit adds those missing bearings, and this custom-designed plate is thicker and more stable than the factory piece, as well. There’s also no flexing in the cam train using this plate. The Speed’s plate includes an improved oil passage system, plus improved venting to allow the engine’s crankcase to breathe more efficiently. It’s a great upgrade for any new bike, but especially welcome on the ’07 and later models.

Speed’s Performance can take care of any or all of these upgrades and modifications for your bike if you visit their mobile shop rig during any of the numerous rallies they attend. Everything from installing a Power Commander with the accompanying dyno tune, on up to installing a complete big-inch engine conversion, can be arranged. Indeed, dyno-tuning intake and exhaust upgrades can happen while you wait, while a cam swap and plate conversion might take the better part of a day; figure about a day-and-a-half for the guys at Speed’s Performance Plus to transform a 96-inch engine into a 110- to 120-horsepower 103-incher. Given all this, there’s no reason to leave your late-model Harley a slow-lane stocker. Check out the SPP web site to see when the guys will be at an event near you so you can arrange an appointment for your upgrade. There’s nothing to fear, and everything to gain in terms of performance and power.

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