Egli Harley – Davidson

Former Swiss racing champion Fritz Egli has been building beautifully engineered bikes around his own chassis for over 25 years. When Egli adapted his traditional steel spine frame to hold a tuned, 1607cc Harley – Davidson V-twin engine, the result was an exciting machine that was outrageous by any standards, and especially those of environment-conscious Switzerland, notorious for its strict limits on motorcycles’ power and noise.
Big, basic and muscular, the first Egli Harley, built in 1992, hand an aggressive and vaguely classic look, thanks to bodywork fashioned from 1960s style unpainted aliminium. A huge petrol tank curved over the top of the grey finished Evolution engine. Large triangular sidepanels ran below a one-and-a-half-person seat. Front and rear mudguards were also made from bare alloy sheet.

The frame consisted of a main steel spine, which doubled as the oil reservoir, plus narrower tubes that held the motor in a conventional twin cradle. Egli himself built numerous parts, including the 38mm diameter front forks and their yokes. At the rear, the triangulated steel swing-arm worked a single, multi-adjustable White Power Shock Absorber.
The motor was far from standard, having been built by Egli to incorporate a long list of tuning parts including Cosworth pistons, Carrillo rods and Manley valves. Plumbed with a 36mm Mikuni carburetor and an Egli made exhaust system, the results was an increase in the V-twin’s capacity from 1340cc to a massive 1607cc, raising peak output to 120 bhp at 550 rpm.

When the big Harley burst into life, it did so with enough noise to start an avalanche. The view from the pilot’s seat was intimidating. There was a long stretch across the alloy tank to adjustable clip on bars that were set low and wide. Standard Harley clocks perched above the protruding fork tops, the tacho needle flicking across the dial with every blip of the throttle.
Riding the Egli Harley confirmed that it was no docile modern sportster but a big, old-fashioned bruiser of a bike that needed a firm hand to give of its best. Its wheel base was compact by Harley standards, at 60ins. But conservative steering geometry, an 18 inch front wheel and a high centre of gravity meant a good deal of effort was needed to change direction.
Suspension was firm and worked well on smooth roads, the forks feeling reassuringly rigid and well damped rear unit keeping the back end under engine was a tractable as any Harley motor. Crack open the throttle and the bike hurtled forward to the accompaniment of an increasingly frenzied barrage of sound from the exhaust.

Vibration from the solidly mounted motor added to the sensation of speed, too. Below 3000 rpm the big V-twin was smooth, giving a relaxed feel up to 60 mph in top gear. But the vibes arrived at that Egli stormed past 100 mph on the way to a top speed of about 130 mph, fast cruising was best limited to short bursts.
Rubber mounting the engine would have been one solution, but, as Fritz Egli pointed out, much of the bike’s appeal came from its raw feel, to which the untamed V-twin lump was a major contributor. At least there was no pretence with an Egli Harley. What you saw was a big, old-fashioned V-twin brute of a machine, and that was precisely what you got. Plenty of sports bikes were faster and more agile than the Egli. Few were more thrilling to ride.


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