Improving Motorcycle Functionality: The Mitchell Pro-Bagger
June 23, 2008
Filed under Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Road Tests: Reviews on Harley Motorcycles, Motorcycle Features: Bikes, Blokes, Culture and Beyond
by Reg Kittrelle
[Improving Motorcycle Functionality: The Mitchell Pro-Bagger was originally published in American Rider magazine]
There’s your Harley-Davidson motorcycle and there’s my Harley-Davidson motorcycle. That they are identical models, came off the same assembly line on the same day, and have consecutive VINs means nothing. After a while our respective selves have begun to add, delete, modify and otherwise change any number of things. Hey, it’s what owning a Harley is all about; making our bikes a personal expression of the way things ought to be. For me, “ought to be” means increasing the motorcycle’s functional abilities. I know that doesn’t sound all that sexy, but given the choice between an extra place to store something or a pretty billet doodad, storage will always trump doodad.
Regular readers know that I’m a fan of the big FLs, in particular the Road Glide. Although, for as much as I like it, it has never quite been the perfect bike. So, I figured, why not take one of these and see how I might move it closer to my version of perfect?
The project kicked off with a discussion with Art Mitchell, owner of Mitchell’s Modesto Harley-Davidson in Modesto, California. After a few minutes of “What if…” he offered up a 2008 Harley-Davidson FLTR Road Glide as a start for what has become the Mitchell Pro-Bagger.
I had been thinking about this for quite a while so it didn’t take long for me to come up with a basic parts list. For reasons of fit, finish, and familiarity, the Harley P&A catalog served as the primary source for the improvements I had in mind. However, if Harley didn’t have what I wanted, or if what it had was less effective than an aftermarket part, I went that way. By the way, everything I’ve used is an attachment easily managed by an owner handy with tools. I divided my efforts into six target areas with the goal of improving each along the lines of function and utility.
Night riding is not everyone’s pleasure, but I do more than a bit of it and actually enjoy it, particularly with the lighting modifications on this Pro-Bagger. The key to this is the PIAA 1100X driving lights mounted atop the Pro-Bagger’s engine guards. These are wired to operate only on high beam. They toss a very bright light 35 degrees wide and a couple of hundred yards down the road. I consider them indispensable in the mountains as they light up those roadside deer in time to hit the binders.
Complementing these are fog lights. By spreading a much wider beam they “paint,” and much better define, the road’s edges. We’ve connected them to operate on low-beam only. Another advantage to these lights is that they can be used inoffensively during the day to give the motorcycle a much larger front signature in high traffic conditions. I find these particularly useful while lane sharing (legal in California). Surrounding the headlight chamber is an LED Illumabezel that flashes in unison with the turn signals.
At the rear, saddlebag lid lights have been added and are wired to work both as taillights and brake lights in conjunction with the LED taillight assembly. The taillight also has a modulator function that rapidly flashes the brake light making it highly visible to following vehicles.
Lighting Parts List:
H-D Fog Lamp Kit, Part No. 68913-98B $134.95
H-D Saddlebag Lid Lights, Part No. 58606-XXXXX $189.95
Note: “XXXXX” designates paint color; price varies according to color
PIAA 1100X Driving Lights (price varies widely)
Note: Your mounting preference will determine final price
Kisan tailBlazer Taillight Modulator, Part No. 100HM-M $84.95
Illumabezel, Part No. CV4853 $179.95
Fortunately, the FL’s designers had someone like me in mind when it came to the motorcycle’s basic ergonomics, so the handlebars and saddle remain stock; they suit me and my inseam just fine. Instead I put thought into keeping warm because I do a lot of wet- and cold-weather riding. Heated grips were the first order here. Next we took the Harley heated clothing harness and buried it under the tank. It now ends in three locations; just under the left rear of the seat and on each glove-box lid. Controlling the output is an easily reached thermostat attached to the inside left of the fairing. The three terminals use the Salamander Zip-On Power Outlets. These fused SAE-style terminals are well made and easy to install, giving you 12-volt power just about anywhere you need it.
The Klock Werks 12-inch Flare windshield replaces the stock unit. This unique, wind- tunnel-designed shield (notice the flip at the screen’s top) does an excellent job of protecting from wind and rain, yet gives an unobstructed view of the highway—and it looks cool.
Sometimes it’s the smallest things that can make a big difference, and we installed three that make the Pro-Bagger a more efficient machine. First, a push-button gas cap removes what has always been an irritant to me—locating my key. Yes, I know I should get in the habit of always putting them in the same pocket, but I wear any number of different jackets and rainsuits and besides, I’m not that organized. Secondly, a knurled knob now replaces the Phillips screw for under-seat access. The third one may seem a little silly, but they work—turn-signal button extenders. These slick gadgets move, in effect, the turn signal switch one-half inch closer to your thumb, making it easier for winter-gloved hands to hit the switch. Trust me, you’ll like ’em.
Comfort Parts List:
H-D Portable Thermostat, Part No. 98540-04V $60.00
H-D Connecting Harness, Part No. 98536-04V $20.00
H-D Heated Grips, Part No. 56512-08 $229.95
H-D Push Button, Keyless Gas Cap Cover, Part No. 53919-04 $24.95
H-D Detachable Seat Hardware, Part No. 51676-97A $15.95
Turn Signal Button Extenders, Part No. BE-1 $13.99
Salamander Zip-On Power Outlets, SAE-style $54.99 ea.
Klock Werks 12-inch Flare Windshield $169.95
I like soft luggage, so I didn’t install one of Harley’s Tour-Packs. But I did mount saddlebag-lid rails, making it easier to strap down my tent, sleeping bag, and other gear. I went with Harley’s new—and very nice—molded liners inside the bags. You’ll also see the saddlebag guardrails fitted with small storage bags and a water bottle. Several items, such as the lid rails, are powdercoated black. These are not available from Harley. I did this to minimize the overall mass (or look of mass) of the bike rather than for style reasons, although I do like the look it lends.
On the front end, liners and lid locks have been fitted to the glove boxes. At the tail a handy helmet lock resides on the license-plate frame.
Storage Parts List:
H-D Premier Saddlebag Liners, Part No. 90485-08 $169.95
H-D Saddlebag Guard Kit, Part No. 46548-03 $169.95
H-D Saddlebag Lid Rails, Part No. 53640-96 $129.95
H-D Saddlebag Guard Bag, Part No. 90939-97 $69.95
H-D Saddlebag Guard Bag/Water Bottle, Part No. 91991-98 $74.95
H-D Road Glide Compartment Liners, Part No. 58932-98 $21.95
eGlide Goodies Road Glide Glove Box Lock, Part No. GL-1 $79.95
eGlide Goodies License Plate Helmet Lock, Part No. L-48 $39.95
These items might better be called peace of mind, as they watch out for the vital functions that keep you rolling. I replaced the fairing-mounted air-temperature gauge with an oil-temperature unit. On the right glove box lid is mounted a Kisan chargeGuard. This compact unit not only tells me (via LED readouts) the state of the battery’s voltage, but also its amperage. Additionally, it shows air temperature and emits a warning in case of icy conditions.
On the right glove box lid is the Kisan tireAlert Tire Pressure Monitor (TPM) which gives a continuous LED readout of front and rear tire pressures (while the tires are moving). Notice that both the TPM and chargeGuard are mounted on Mitchell-fabricated aluminum stand-off plates.
Monitor Parts List:
H-D Oil-Temperature Gauge, Part No. 75324-05 $139.95
Kisan chargeGuard, Part No. CG-25 $149.95
Kisan tireAlert, Part No. TPM-30 $299.95
Note: Special valve stems may also be necessary
The idea of having a radio on my motorcycles was, at one time, material for a good laugh. No more, but not just any radio. We’ve fitted a 170-channel built-in XM radio to the Road Glide. Other electronic necessities include a Garmin Zumo 550 GPS unit (not shown in these pictures) and a radar detector. Less techy, but still important communication devices, are the Split-Vision mirrors (still just about the best mirrors I’ve found), and, to get the attention of the cell-head in the car crossing my path, an air horn to take the place of the stock squeaker.
Communication Parts List:
H-D Road Tech 75 Radar Detector, Part No. 92098-04 $249.95
H-D Road Tech 75 Mount Kit, Part No. 91674-04 $59.95
H-D Road Tech XM Radio, Part No. 76404-06 $499.95
H-D Road Tech XM Radio Install. Kit, Part No. 76316-06A (see HD dealer)
H-D Split-Vision Mirrors, Part No. 92190-06 $119.95
H-D Premium Air Horn, Part No. 69400-05A $139.95
Garmin Zumo 550 GPS, Part No. 010-00567-00 (price varies widely)
GPS Mount Kit (many different versions available)
Supporting the Pro-Bagger is a fairing bra, a Geza Gear bike cover, a CruzTOOLS Tool Kit, a Python motorcycle lock, and a Stop & Go tire repair kit. All of these items rank among the best of their kind.
Support Parts List:
H-D Fairing Bra, Part No. 57846-01 $99.95
Geza Gear Cover $189.95
CruzTOOLS Road Tech H3, Part No. RTH3 $89.95
Masterlock Python, Part No. 8428DPS $20.39
Stop & Go Tire Repair Kit, Part No. SNG-1001 $47.95
That then is a capsule review of the accessories that I’ve added to the Road Glide to make it the Pro-Bagger. The parts listing shows the parts I used; keep in mind, particularly with Harley-Davidson items, that there are a wealth of variations with differing prices. There’s a reason behind each accessory I’ve used, and each works very well to make my trips just that much more safe, comfortable and enjoyable. So is this my perfect motorcycle? Nope, but it’s a lot closer than it was before I started with it. You might not choose the items I selected but, in this case, it’s my way on the highway.
Contributing to this project in a huge way were Randy Sumner and Nate Larios, Modesto Harley-Davidson employees who went the extra mile to assure the Mitchell Pro-Bagger came out just right.