2015 Harley-Davidson Road Glide First-Ride Review + Video
After a year hiatus the Road Glide’s back in black
When it comes to liking the cut of one’s jib, no motorcycle owns a profile quite like the Road Glide’s. Not only is the Road Glide unique in Harley-Davidson’s line-up, but also in the realm of cruiserdom. Others emulate the fork-mounted, batwing fairing of Street Glides and Ultras, but the Road Glide’s frame-mounted fairing and its distinctive styling sets it apart from the crowd.
This striking fairing quality was what made the omission of the Road Glide from Harley’s 2014 lineup so apparent. In an ends-justify-the-means scenario, the yearlong vacation was well-deserved because the Road Glide has returned, endowed with the benefits of Project Rushmore upgrades.
In summary, those upgrades include: High Output Twin Cam 103 engine, dual Daymaker Reflector LED headlights, triple splitstream fairing vents, color TFT Boom! Box 4.3 infotainment system, a swept-back handlebar, one-touch hard saddlebags, cruise control, adjustable air-ride rear suspension and new ergonomic hand controls.
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When we tested the HO Twin Cam 103 engine in the Street Glide Special against the Indian Chieftain, Editor of Persuasion, Evans Brasfield, and I were impressed with 103’s performance. “The HO Twin Cam is more responsive and revs quicker than the Thunder Stroke,” said Brasfield. “This is not to say that the TS feels like it lacks power, but the Harley’s engine always feels raring to go, eagerly awaiting that next twist of the throttle.”
And so it is with the Road Glide, even though it carries an extra 39 pounds than the Street Glide Special. Acceleration is brisk, passing power abundant, speeds above idle are vibration-free, and the R-b-W throttle feels nicely cable actuated. We experienced no excessive engine heat, and our observed fuel mileage was 39 mpg (H-D claims 42 mpg).
The new buckhorn handlebar is internally wired (nice touch), and provides a comfortable reach for this five-foot-11-inch tester, with only full-lock U-turns requiring some stretching to the outermost grip. Handlebar-mounted controls are easily manipulated once familiar with the operation of each, but not quite as intuitive as BMW’s class-leading scroll wheel.
The Boom! Box 4.3 infotainment system comes over loud and clear, even at freeway speeds, with radio reception that’ll make cell phones cry. The full-color interface is attractive, but direct sunlight turns it into a black hole of information. Riding westward with the rising sun to my back had me guessing what radio station I was tuning in to. Thankfully, the white-faced speedo and tach are of the analog variety and legible no matter what the sun’s doing.
At a claimed 849 pounds fueled, the Road Glide is no ballerina. The bike’s weight and balance remain in complementary accord until a wheel turned too sharply unleashes its heft. Then, as you slam your foot to the ground to help prop up 949 pounds (passenger included) of teetering mass, you realize that next time you’ll let the bike fall over – it’ll scratch the chrome on the crash bar, but it’s better than a tweaked ankle.
Ridden within its design parameters, the RG rewards its pilot with confident, competent handling. Pushed outside its comfort zone and you’ll quickly use up the rear shock’s two inches of travel, bottom out a hard part and begin looking for a safe exit route, if you’re not already sliding and sparking. From what we’re told, only moto-journalists, with their need to push the limits on everything they swing a leg over, will experience these performance restrictions. So, if you find yourself dragging a chrome exhaust pipe through a long sweeper, send us your resume.
Getting back to the Road Glide’s signature fairing, the triple splitstream fairing vents are a wondrous improvement. The job of the top vent is to reduce helmet buffeting and it takes this task seriously. We have no complaints of excessive or even mildly disruptive airflow common with fairings of the Road Glide’s proportions.
It’s those two, voluminous fairing gills that really grabbed our attention. Located at high-pressure points on either side of the headlights, the ducts, once opened, act like ram-air intakes, only instead of going into the airbox to feed the throttle bodies, the blast is directed at your chest, providing a climatizing airflow during a muggy ride. Each vent is manually closed via a mechanical switch inside the duct. Manipulating the right duct entails reaching your left hand to the fairing’s far side when in motion. Proceed with caution when attempting, or pull over and do it the safe way.
Another Project Rushmore upgrade comes in the form of revised saddlebag lids and locks. Identical in style to previous Road Glide bags, the new single-switch opening mechanism makes for easy ingress/egress – an attribute unattributed to previous H-D hard bags. The saddlebags are easily removable via two quarter-turn fasteners, exposing the rear adjustable air-ride shocks. Included bag liners would be nice.
At $20,899 for Vivid Black, the 2015 Road Glide, with all its Project Rushmore improvements, retails for $1,100 more than a 2013 Road Glide Custom. Other base model colors retail for $21,399. Optional on the base model Glide is Reflex Linked ABS brakes ($795) and a security system ($395).
Or, you can choose to go with the Road Glide special; $23,199 for Vivid Black and $23,699 for other color choices. The Special includes ABS and the security system and sweetens the pot by also including the larger, premium Boom! Box 6.5GT infotainment system with touch screen and GPS navigation, and hand-adjustable low-profile rear suspension. The Special also receives exclusive painted inner fairing and hand-applied pinstriping.
If you weren’t at Sturgis or the National Bikers Roundup in Tulsa, to see the new Road Glide in person, or, better yet, take one for a test ride, the new model is scheduled to arrive in dealerships beginning August 26.
|2015 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Specifications|
|Engine Capacity||103.1 cu. in. / 1690 cc|
|Engine Type||Air-cooled, High Output Twin Cam 103 with integrated oil-cooler|
|Bore x Stroke||98.4 mm x 111.1 mm|
|Fuel System||Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)|
|Transmission||6-speed Cruise Drive|
|Frame||Mild steel; tubular frame; two-piece stamped and welded backbone; cast and forged
junctions; twin downtubes; bolt-on rear frame with forged fender supports; MIG welded
|Front Suspension||49 mm telescopic fork|
|Rear Suspension||Air-adjustable low profile twin shocks|
|Front Brakes||32 mm, 4-piston calipers and dual floating rotors|
|Rear Brakes||32 mm, 4-piston caliper and single rotor|
|Front Tire||D408F 130/60B19 61H|
|Rear Tire||D407T BW 180/65B16 81H|
|Seat Height||27.4 inches|
|Curb Weight||849 pounds|
|Fuel Capacity||6 gal.|
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