’16 Harley-Davidson Road Glide
I’ve ridden and tested almost every model Harley-Davidson could throw at me in an 11 year period. The Road Glide, one of my personal favourites and because it is a “bagger”, didn’t disappoint in any way. With the MY17 model out and about, and with a 107Ci motor, will be the only reason why I would walk away from the previous model.
This time, with thanks to Anthony and his team at Harley-Davidson Durban, I found myself on a great machine once again.
The Road Glide, and Street Glide has always been a pleasure to ride because its chassis-mounted fairing reduces the unsprung weight on the front forks which gives it deliberate and easy steering. Decoupling the fairing and forks also means it is not affected by crosswinds and doesn’t have high-speed weave which is common among bikes with fork-mounted fairings.
Happy to say, after some school fees and back to the designers’ drawing board, these problems have been solved.
It still has a big nose, but with a bit of nip and tuck, they’ve made it less intimidating. More important than the cosmetic surgery, it now has the best aerodynamics of any tourer in their model line-up, thanks to not just one vent, like the Ultra and Street Glide, but three.
It has the same vent at the bottom of the windscreen as the Ultra and Street Glide which largely contradicts any annoying turbulence caused by negative air pressure behind the screen. But the Road Glide also has two vents beside the twin LED headlights that direct a clean stream of fresh air into the cockpit. (All of the vents can be closed for riding in the rain or in the cold.)
The Ultra’s vented windscreen has the same, but it leaves a bit of a stale-air vacuum for the rider, while the Street Glide’s vented fairing leaves a lot of wind noise and buffeting at the very top of the helmet for tall riders.
However, even tall riders will find the Road Glide’s triple-vent system creates a cooler, cleaner, quieter and less challenging environment, beneficial to long days in the saddle. On top of great aero, the Road Glide gets all the other goodies of the Rushmore Project bikes, including the highly refined high-output 103 Twin Cam engine, better aerodynamics, stronger brakes, improved controls and twin Daymaker LED headlights with a much greater spread and penetration of light.
The Road Glide Special comes with superb quality sound, GPS and touch screen simply called an Infotainment System. It is the best sound system I have experienced on any bike. Not just loud, but clear, no matter what speed you are cruising at.
Your music is also audible because of the lack of buffeting and reduced mechanical noise from the refined engine. If you don’t like listening to music, you can sit back and listen to the sweet tones of the exhaust.
The new Road Glide comes with a high-performance hand-adjustable shock for a more comfortable ride on poor roads. I tested it on a hard dirt road near Eston in KZN, and it didn’t even cause a stir. Although it doesn’t feel as plush as the Ultra, it is still very competent and reassuring. Taking the back road R603 between Eston and Amanzimtoti, it’s no slump in the tight twisties either; it handled superbly leaving me to finish the bends in one go and not in premiums.
To make it more comfortable, the handlebar has been moved closer to the rider. Not just a tad, either. How about 22cm! The previous Road Glide had an uncomfortable reach to the grips, but this is no stretch at all. Plus, the curve of the bar means a far more comfortable wrist angle for extra-long days in the saddle. Road Glide by name, easy does it by nature! Whack it baby!
A hallmark of the Road Glide experience is the open feeling of the cockpit. Some faired bikes feel so closed up, but not the Road Glide with its sporty windscreen some distance away.
However, it is strange that Harley has turned the Street Glide dashboard upside down with the Infotainment System mounted at the top and the instruments underneath. That means the touch screen is too far away for even tall riders to reach without leaning forward, although you can still perform every function with the two convenient toggle switches on the grips. It also means the speedo is too far down to catch a glimpse of your speed without having to take your eyes off the road. I’d rather see my speed in that high position than what radio station and track I’m listening to on my phone or where I am on the GPS map.
Not that you can see what’s on the screen anyway because the high-mounted touchscreen is titled up so it catches a lot of daytime glare. It needs to be tilted forward or have a shroud over it to keep the glare off the screen.
It’s all about Confidence & Control. The standard dual disc Brembo® brakes offer consistent stopping power at all speeds. The 4-piston front and rear caliper with dual front rotor brake system is state of the art and top of the line. It’s just another way the folks at Harley puts a high level of detail into their bikes to give you peace of mind no matter where you ride.
Without a doubt, there are times when you need to haul ass, and you don’t get to pick those times or decide whether or not they occur when you’re on a flat, smooth, dry, perfect stretch of road. That’s why their touring models feature the Reflex™ Linked Brakes with ABS. The front and rear brakes are electronically linked to provide exactly the right amount of brake to each tyre no matter what the road condition is.
The long and short of it all is that the overall style and comfort, with no second place to performance, is very satisfying. This said it could be time for you to upgrade and trade in your old bagger or tourer for a way better and cooler experience.
And if you don’t want to upgrade, then at least let your wife move up to a superior model, so she can stick it to you when cornering, braking, and running. Smile and wave, it’s time for an upgrade!