The design of a batwing fairing such as our Road Captain fairing inevitably involves compromises. For the Road Captain one issue that came up early on was whether to optimize the design visually for the 'fairing on' or the the 'fairing removed' case. We noted that our competitors designs seemed to be optimized for 'fairing removed'. For reasons I will expand upon below we chose to optimize for 'fairing on'. This article is meant to explain the impact of this on our fairing design and highlight the trade-offs for each of these 2 optimizations in order to better inform our customers.
Background: Headlight placement on FL vs. FX models
If you look at the side of the headlight on an Electra Glide, Street Glide, Road King, Heritage Softail or similar FL models (with 7" headlights), you may note that the headlight is forward relative to the forks by about 4'. Because of this, a batwing fairing fits nicely on these bikes - the headlight is at the front of the 'nose' of the fairing leaving the remainder of the fairing room to swoop to the sides and rearward from that point.
Now look at the headlight placement on a typical dyna, sportster, softail or similar FX models (with 5" headlights). On these bikes the headlight is generally much further back than on the FL models, perhaps 1" in front of the forks. (Models with teardrop shaped headlights such as the Sportster Custom are a bit further forward.) Additionally, these bikes tend to have handlebars that are further forward than on the larger touring models, and therefore more likely to hit fairing-mounted speakers.
Batwing design issues - FX models
These issues present challenges when designing a batwing style fairing to these FX style bikes. As of this writing, and as far as I know, all of our competitors leave the headlight in it's stock location, which either results in the leading edge of the fairing far in front of the headlight - often 3+ inches in front - or a fairing that is flat nosed. To us, this either makes the headlight look like it's set back in a tunnel or gives it an unattractive shape. But there are advantages to this approach - for one, after removing the fairing the bike looks nearly the same as it did before adding the fairing mounting kit. Additionally, it's cheaper and simpler (no headlight relocation block needed). We look at these kits as optimized for the 'fairing removed' case.
Road Captain approach
We took a different approach with the Road Captain. We didn't feel comfortable with the 'tunnel headlight' look, and we didn't want to compromise with the shape of the fairing. We felt like it was worth a moderate price increase to position the headlight in a way we consider to be proper. So we include a headlight mounting block with our Road Captain fairing mounting kits. This block moves the headlight forward around 1.5 to 2.25 inches, depending on the model. This serves to put the headlight in what we consider to be the "right" place with the fairing installed and also helps move the inner fairing with speakers (if utilized) further from the handlebars. In this regard, we chose to optimize for the 'fairing on' case. But this is a compromise - if you remove the fairing, the headlight is further forward than it had been prior to installation of the fairing mounting kit.
Street Bob with headlight spacer
Sportster Forty-Eight with headlight spacer
Sportster 883R with headlight spacer
Appearance - fairing removed
So how does the bike look with the Road Captain fairing mounting kit installed but the fairing removed? Is there anything that can be done to improve the look in this case? The answers depend on the headlight and how it's mounted. Headlights mounted from bottom of the headlight to the top of the lower triple tree (2006 and later mid-glide dyna models, all Dyna Wide Glide models, all FX Softail models, FXR Lowrider Custom, Sportster Custom, Sportster Forty Eight etc.):
To us the look is acceptable, although the headlight is noticeably forward on some models. But it's what the customer thinks that's important, obviously, so judge for yourself based on the photos provided.
Improvement options for 'fairing removed' case (for models that mount the headlight from the bottom):
The use of a teardrop shaped headlight makes a "best of both worlds" situation (great/ideal look with or without the fairing). We will work on recommendations for this in the future.
The other option would be to switch back to the stock headlight mounting block after removing the fairing, but this requires some work including the re-aiming of the headlight and so is not ideal and not something anyone would want to do very often.
Headlights mounted from the top of the headlight to the 'eyebrow' bolted to the top triple tree (2005 and earlier Dyna narrow glide models, most FXR models, all sportster models except the Sportster Custom and Sportster Forty Eight, etc.):
Because the headlight spacer serves to place the headlight in front of the 'eyebrow' and exposes the large top headlight mounting nut, the look without the fairing in this case is really not acceptable in our opinion.
Improvement options for 'fairing removed' case (for models that mount the headlight from the top):
Again, conversion to a bottom-mount teardrop shaped headlight makes a 'best of both world' situation (great/ideal look with or without the fairing). We will work on recommendations for this in the future. In most cases this would require drilling a mounting hole in the center of the lower triple tree.
The other solution would be to switch back to the stock headlight mounting block after removing the fairing, but this requires some work including the re-aiming of the headlight and so is not ideal and not something anyone would want to do very often.
For these bikes with headlights mounted from the top of the headlight to the "eyebrow" bolted to the top triple tree, the fairing should probably be considered more of a permanent fitment - a conversion to dyna-bagger, sportster-bagger, etc, rather than something meant to be regularly removed.
Clearly it is up to you, the consumer, to decide what the right compromise is for you. We hope that this article will help you understand our design decisions and make the best purchase to suit your needs.
When researching fairings from other vendors we encourage you to look closely for and/or request pictures of their fairing mounted to the exact same motorcycle that you are interested in. We have noted that some vendors only have pictures on their web sites showing their fairing mounted to the 'best case' models such as the Sportster Custom with it's relatively forward headlight lens placement. No matter what fairing you purchase, we encourage you to make sure you are happy with the appearance prior to making a decision.