2010 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Custom Review

Gliding toward ecstasy: Testing the Road Glide Custom and revised Street Glide

Harley-Davidson kills its competition in the touring-cruiser marketplace, outselling all others by a huge margin. In fact, it hogs (pun intended) about 70% of the touring market with yearly sales over the past few years approaching the 100K mark.

For the 2009 model year, H-D transformed its venerable FLH line of touring bikes into vastly improved machines, thanks mostly to a much stiffer frame. Too bad that a slumping economy will cut into sales of the '09 models.

However, this is still a huge market, and The Motor Company has already made a few tweaks to some of its popular touring models for 2010. We rode them around magnificent Colorado to find out how they work. Stay tuned also for a quick ride review of the new Electra Glide Ultra Limited luxury-tourer.

The new Road Glide Custom is an appealing blend of cruiser, tourer and sport.

As we learned from data shown to us at the Star Stratoliner Deluxe unveiling, the “casual full-dress” segment of touring cruisers is enjoying ever-increasing popularity, and this is largely due to Harley's Street Glide and Road Glide. Both baggers are updated for 2010 and share a retail price of $18.999. 

The Road Glide's steering is unaffected by its boxy, frame-mounted fairing.
Wind protection for a rider's torso is excellent, but it doesn't provide much deflection in the helmet area.

The RG and SG both receive a 1-inch-larger 18-inch aluminum front wheel wearing a lower-profile 130/70-18 tire and a new two-into-one exhaust system instead of the old dual-outlet pipes. Color-matched saddlebag latches and space-filling inserts between the bags and rear fender are other clues you're looking at a 2010 model. Both retain the ubiquitous rubber-mounted 96-inch Twin-Cam motor and 6-speed Cruise Drive tranny, the latter revised for quieter running in fifth gear.

While the Street Glide uses the archetypal bat-wing fairing mounted to the handlebar, the Road Glide is distinguished by its unique boxy fairing that looks like a refugee from the 1970s – it's so outdated that it's cool again! The RG receives the addition of the “Custom” suffix for 2010, and with that also comes a rear suspension lowered by 1 inch to yield a 26.3-inch seat height.

Revised trim for the dual headlamps (without the previous bike's headlight cover) and a dark windshield provide an updated face for the RG. The rear end is cleaned up with a combined LED brake/tail/turn light setup and a “Tri-line” LED rear fender light at its tip. Interestingly, unlike the SG, the RGC has no tank badge, just a cleared-over decal.

Straddling the Road Glide, a rider is greeted by a fairing that is visually massive from the cockpit. Nestled neatly inside is a Harman-Kardon 40-watt audio system (with CD player and MP3 input) and a pair of storage bins. The pleasingly familiar lope of Harley's 45-degree V-Twin rumbles beneath, and the sounds coming out the new tailpipe are just as pleasingly burly. Throttle response is excellent.

The fairings of the SG and the RGC are the primary difference between the two baggers, not only their appearance but also the way they are mounted. The Street Glide's bat-wing is attached to the fork, while the Road Glide's more substantial fairing is frame-mounted. The RG feels slightly more agile at low speeds because its fairing is separated from steering inputs, but both are fairly nimble for 800-pounders with 63.5-inch wheelbases. Full of fluids and fuel, the RGC is purported to scale in at 805 lbs, 5 lbs less than the SG.

A new seat sourced from the Street Glide seemed reasonably comfortable during our short stints in the saddle, although its passenger perch seems less than generous. “Streamliner” foot controls are placed further forward than the Electra Glide, and the passenger floorboards are height-adjustable. Controls are typical Harley, augmented by a handy (optional) cruise control integrated into the right-side hand controls. The stainless steel handlebar has a flatter bend than the more reclined tube on the EG.

Seen here is one of Harley-Davidson's new jackets that includes an exclusive reflective material from 3M. Typical reflective material emits a candlepower rating of 30 to 50. H-D's reflective rating is 200, making it highly visible at night and extending its visible range from 150 feet to 500 feet!

Once past a brisk walking pace, the Glides prove to be surprisingly agile and fun to ride. Grip from the Dunlop tires exceeds the available cornering clearance, said to be 32 degrees on the right and 29 degrees on the left, and the 180/65-16 rear uses dual-compound construction alleged to offer 25% greater durability. The rear suspension is air-adjustable to suit loads of various weights, and the resulting ride quality isn't much compromised despite 1 inch less travel (to 3.0 inches).

The Road Glide Custom is surprisingly sporty for a Big Twin touring rig.

Instrumentation is fairly comprehensive. A chrome console atop the 6.0-gallon fuel tank includes a tachometer, and various gauges relay info for fuel, oil pressure, voltage and ambient air temperature. It was pleasant to have the accompaniment of mobile tunes, although highways speeds can drown out the audio. Wind protection is a nice compromise of open-air motoring and relieving shelter.

While riding the Road Glide, I couldn't help but draw comparisons to a big American car. This is a machine for cruising, and it has good performance within its intended usage. It's like a Buick but in a good way. Self-canceling turnsignals are a nice feature, especially for the Leisure World set. A trio of 300mm discs provide decent but unspectacular speed bleeding, despite the high-end dual Brembo 4-piston calipers up front. Anti-lock is an $845 option.

Like everything from The Motor Company, the Glides offer impeccable finishes and artful details. The engine is dressed up with a plethora of chrome bits glistening against the black powder-coated cases, and the new rear-end treatment is very classy.

In fact, both the Street and Road Glides might be Harley's best attempts at balancing premium style with highly usable function. Among H-D's offerings, they're favorites of both Pete and I.

Live out your fireman fantasies on this Scarlet Red/Vivid Black Road Glide Custom, a $480 option over the base Vivid Black paintwork.

Although starting at $19K in Vivid Black, the Road Glide Custom's price bumps up to $19,479 for the Scarlet Red and Black Denim color options. Add optional equipment (ABS; cruise control for $295; and a security system for $370), and the price can reach $20,989.

It's intriguing to imagine how the new Road Glide Custom might match up with Victory's new Cross Country and Star Motorcycles' new Stratoliner Deluxe. Stay tuned for a bagger brouhaha!

Sportster Lineup

The only remaining 1200cc Sportsters in Harley's 2010 lineup are the 1200 Low, Nightster and the XR1200. Envy the Europeans again, as they get an upgraded XR1200X model which includes the high-end Showa Big Piston Fork, adjustable remote-reservoir shocks, and a blacked-out motor and exhaust. American XR1200 owners can order the suspension pieces for $1500.

This sinister-looking XR1200X is available only in Europe and features fully adjustable suspension.

Related Reading
2010 Victory Motorcycles Lineup Preview
Star Stratoliner Deluxe Preview
2010 Harley-Davidson CVO Model Lineup Preview
2010 Harley-Davidson Dyna Wide Glide Review
2009 Harley-Davidson Street Glide Review
2009 Harley-Davidson Touring Models Review
2009 Luxury Touring Shootout
All Things Harley on Motorcycle.com

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