2015 Harley-Davidson Road Glide First-Ride Review + Video

After a year hiatus the Road Glide’s back in black

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2015 Harley-Davidson Road Glide

Editor Score: 79.5%
Engine 17.5/20
Suspension/Handling 8.0/15
Transmission/Clutch 8.25/10
Brakes 9.0/10
Instruments/Controls4.25/5
Ergonomics/Comfort 7.75/10
Appearance/Quality 8.75/10
Desirability 8.5/10
Value 7.5/10
Overall Score79.5/100

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.

2015 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Preview

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).

Check out them thar speakers! You can almost hear AC/DC coming through the photo. Below each speaker resides a small, self-closing glovebox. The one on the right features a USB connector, but no way to secure your smartphone or iPod.

Check out them thar speakers! You can almost hear AC/DC coming through the photo. Below each speaker resides a small, self-closing glovebox. The one on the right features a USB connector, but no way to secure your smartphone or iPod.

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.

The Road Glide is comfortable two-up for short periods. As is, the passenger seat, which, while well-padded, is narrow and has downward slope. My co-tester-by-marriage, Maria, kept having to riggle forward lest she be sliding down the rear fender.

The Road Glide is comfortable two-up for short periods. As is, the passenger seat, which, while well-padded, is narrow and has downward slope. My co-tester-by-marriage, Maria, kept having to riggle forward lest she be sliding down the rear fender.

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.

Ser Samsquamsh, in the comments section of the Road Glide Preview, says the Road Glide’s new headlights resemble Bender, from Futurama. Regardless their looks, they light up the night. According to Harley: 85% more spread and 6% more punch on low beam, 35% more spread and 45% more punch on high beam.

Ser Samsquamsh, in the comments section of the Road Glide Preview, says the Road Glide’s new headlights resemble Bender, from Futurama. Regardless their looks, they light up the night. According to Harley: 85% more spread and 6% more punch on low beam, 35% more spread and 45% more punch on high beam.

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.

+ Highs

  • Distinctive
  • Comfy rider triangle
  • Simple saddlebag accessibility
- Sighs

  • Heavy
  • Limited rear suspension travel
  • ABS should be included in base model price

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.

Our base model test unit was equipped with the optional Reflex Linked ABS brakes ($795). Standard on both model Road Glides is cruise control.

Our base model test unit was equipped with the optional Reflex Linked ABS brakes ($795). Standard on both model Road Glides is cruise control.

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.

We conducted a shootout between Kawasaki’s Vulcan 1700 Vaquero and H-D’s Road Glide a few years ago,. Both have frame-mounted upper fairings, but the Vaquero’s swoopy lines and fairing lowers (shrouding the liquid-cooled motor’s radiator) present an altogether different-looking bike compared to the Road Glide.

We conducted a shootout between Kawasaki’s Vulcan 1700 Vaquero and H-D’s Road Glide a few years ago. Both have frame-mounted upper fairings, but the Vaquero’s swoopy lines and fairing lowers (shrouding the liquid-cooled motor’s radiator) present an altogether different-looking bike compared to the Road Glide.

2015 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Specifications
MSRP $20,899/$23,399
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
Compression 9.7:1
Fuel System Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
Transmission 6-speed Cruise Drive
Final Drive Belt
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
Wheelbase 64 inches
Rake/Trail 26°/6.8 inches
Curb Weight 849 pounds
Fuel Capacity 6 gal.
Observed MPG 39

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  • Ser Samsquamsh

    Pheh. Why would I buy this gorgeous bike when for the same price I could have 500 pairs of vintage rollerskates?

  • Kevin

    849 pounds? Even the liquid cooled Vaquero doesn’t weigh that much (845 wet)!

    • Jess Skillings

      The Harley has less plastic.

      • http://www.mymotorrad.com/ james lagnese

        True, but the Kawasaki will hold up better.

        • Jess Skillings

          Well that is opinion. Ford, Chevy, Dodge, Porche, Honda, Kawasaki you get the picture. What is known is that the resale value of the H-D will be much better.

        • Hal Bennett

          Harley is a culture. How many “Kawasaki Special” Ford truck have you seen? What about the Kawasaki pool table light, bar furniture set, etc… None.

          Secondly, what non-Harley riders fail to realize is that we can continue getting parts for our bikes for decades to come. One of the reasons I left Honda was after 8 years from production, many parts were impossible to find. As a solution I even had a dealer to tell me to buy another goldwing for future parts. I don’t have that problem with Harley. Parts for Harley’s made in the 30s and 40, and 50s are still readily available. Finally, compare the resale on 10 year old goldwing to a 10 year old Ultra. Which one held their value better? H-D.

      • Kevin

        Water still weighs a lot more than air! Can you imagine what this bike would weigh with the twin cooled motor?

        • Jess Skillings

          Yeah, kind of like the integrated oil cooler in this one added NO weight to the bike from the previous year’s air only cooler. Hope your radiator doesn’t spring a leak, you will be getting towed. I won’t and neither will a rider on the new one with a dual cooling system.

  • Kevin Polito

    The Harley Mystique continues to override logic and reason. Year after year, Harley touring models with TWO INCHES of rear suspension travel fly off the showroom floor. Is two inches adequate to prevent a harsh ride on bumpy roads and bottoming on big bumps? No, according to every moto-mag review written in recent years. But it’s a HARLEY!

    • http://www.mymotorrad.com/ james lagnese

      Any religion is not based on logic, especially bike religions. The closest that comes to it is BMW and even they jump the shark at times.

    • Jess Skillings

      AS an ACTUAL rider that takes his 2011 Road Glide Ultra on long rides, loaded, with passenger, on all road surfaces, I can tell you… it ain’t an issue. This was my last ONE DAY ride: Wife and I with 4 days worth of gear from Seattle south to Highway 410, over Chinook Pass to Yakima. From Yakima through the Canyon Road to Ellensburg. North from Ellensburg to Highway 2 and then east to Spokane. From Spokane north to Cusick, WA and back to Spokane. That was ONE DAY with a large group. I do this kind of thing frequently. It has an AIR ADJUSTABLE suspension Mr. moto-mag. It needs to be ADJUSTED. :-)

  • http://www.mymotorrad.com/ james lagnese

    I don’t get the 2″ suspension thing and the special has a low profile suspension. Are these bikes made for midgets that ride on pool table smooth roads? If so, they are missing out on a huge part of the market. if Victory can build cruisers with nearly 5″ of travel out back, why can’t HD? I thought buckhorn handlebars went out in the 80s. With internal wiring, I bet it’s a pain to change them, which a lot of people will…

    • Jess Skillings

      Nope, It’s not. I changed out the stock bars on my ’11 road glide. You push the wire through the tube.

    • Kevin

      The extra suspension travel is mostly found in a wheel base that is a half foot longer and to me not very desirable

  • michael jackson

    As Harley builds bikes with more hi tec gizmoos and what nots , I remember the day a carburetor and cables air cleaner and simple ways to address bike issus call.me old school I can work on my old Harley and don’t need no master tec person to be around. Harley building an industry of never ending bikes that need dealer ship support .

  • WTF

    Its pretty, but Come on Harley, make those bags fit full-size helmets! Its BS to have ABS, but no way to store the most essential piece of safety on a bike.

    • Auphliam

      Which bikes in this class have that capability?

      • WTF

        But I usually ride fjr1300. They are not the same class, but the fjr does some good touring in really good comfort… All the tourer/sports tourers do! I can carry 2 fullface helmets in the stock bags and leave them. I know beemers can do the same, so can Kawasaki. I have not tried other aircooled v-twins.Do you think they have it?

        I rode a Harley extensively (over a 1000 miles) for the first time a few weeks back in South Africa. It was the latest street glide. Comfy, slow, very pretty, but man I hated having to carry my helmet all over the place!

        • Auphliam

          “Do you think they have it?”

          No, that’s why I was asking. I don’t know of any of this genre that can. I know Victory has the biggest bags of the “bagger” class v-twin bikes, and they won’t fit one. I have a Victory Cross Country Tour and can’t fit a 3/4 helmet in the side bags. I have to put it in the tour pack.

          • Goose

            Your right about the helmet thing but I do wish Harley would make the bags as big as your Victory’s.

            If putting your helmet in a locking box is that important to you get a top box. That way your passenger can also put a helmet under lock and key and out of sight.

          • Auphliam

            Yeah, the storage is pretty amazing in the side bags, but I was disappointed about the helmet thing. I normally take the tourpack off and run just a backrest when I’m not traveling, which means hanging the helmets on the bars or leaving on the seat. I believe there are a couple companies making aftermarket, bar end locks.

          • Goose

            Ya never get everything. I carry a short piece of “stainless steel rope”, about 1/4″ in diameter, that I formed with loops at each end and dipped in bright yellow plastic dip (to prevent scratches and so people can see the helmet is locked) and a lock. I just lock the helmet to the bike with that. Not as good as having it out of sight but it has worked so far.

          • WTF

            I’ve been lusting after Victory CCT for a bit now. Sad to hear that even that can’t take helmets. I guess everyone is gonna avoid it till the US makes helmets mandatory. Ah well…

  • stevewood

    It’s hideous.

  • Little Jimmy

    Need I say More… Bagger Nation….

  • Jack Hammer

    Jack Hammer
    In June did a 3200 mile ride in 7 days on 2012 RG Custom. Did one leg, one day, from Albuquerque home was 723 miles. As far as i’m concerned there is not a better bike. Handling, comfort, stability, manuverability, it has it all.Oh, by the way, my wife rides her own RG.

  • RightRongWrite

    Always A Harley Hater… why? does this happen when Honda posts a review? and you RG owners whining about the new design… GTFO!! your answer is simple… Keep the one you have or buy a hold over 14… I ride tank to tank 600 miles a day on trips and I think this thing is SWEET!! it surly will improve my rider experience and with those vents on a hot day… just the thing an old guy needs!! I look forward to taking one home. :)

  • Tom Lahey

    Got mine ordered and should be here soon!

  • Magnum

    Magnum
    I rode the new 2015 Road Glide as soon as the mechanic built and test rode it. Here are my findings. The newly designed shark nose fairing worked great. Cut through the wind and no buffeting. The front suspension was okay. That being said here are the downfalls. The rear suspension is a back breaker. Not a touring bike at all. The wireless throttle was way to sensitive. Terrible for stop and go traffic situations. Was not impressed with the sterio. I could not hear it while riding in traffic. Personally I feel the wheel base is too short as well. Harley Davidson needs to go back to the drawing board on this one. Very disappointed.