"That motor smoothness combined with the rubber-mounted chassis and suspension adds up to one of the plushest, most refined rides I've ever experienced. "
Icon Strongarm II
The Road Glide is the direct descendant of the 1980 Tour Glide (FLT) that featured the shark-nose fairing and the MoCo's first-ever rubber-mounted chassis.
There are few images so burned into our collective psyche as the sight of a Harley-Davidson out on the open road. We hardly notice the details, if any, when a cage passes by. Yet we can recount in vivid detail the lone rider that imprinted our retinas. This is certainly true of H-D's FLTR, the Road Glide.
In a general sense, there are three types of H-D touring bikes with similar yet easily definable characteristics: the Electra Glide's iconoclastic batwing fairing, the Road King's classic/retro styling lines and, perhaps the most distinct of all, the Road Glide. Visually, people seem to either love or dislike the large, protruding, shark-nose fairing. Unlike the slimmer Electra's fairing with little depth, the Road Glide's is deep, extending beyond the vertical plane of the front axle. Aside from aesthetics, the two fairings diverge dramatically in how they're attached to the motorcycle. The batwing mounts directly to the fork, thereby moving as the handlebar does. On the FLTR, the fairing is fixed to the frame, the dual headlights always pointing straight ahead regardless of bar orientation.
Having just put 4,000-plus miles on an '08 Electra Glide and 1,500 on this Road Glide, I felt a noticeable difference between the two bikes. The Road Glide feels more manageable at slow speeds due to less weight attached to the bar and fork as well as greater resistance to crosswinds. The batwing fairing, acting like a sail, can introduce unwanted steering. As with many things, there was a tradeoff for this rider-wind protection and buffeting. While the Electra Glide has a 12-inch tall windshield, it's placed much closer to the rider than the FLTR's and provided a calm riding pocket. The Road Glide's 16-inch windscreen (placed directly at eye level) didn't provide nearly as much wind (or rain) protec-tion. Trying to look over the windshield caused turbulent air to buffet my helmet. Conversely, if I hunched down to avoid the air, I was both physically and visually uncomfortable. This could be remedied with a different-height windshield.
Right off, the Road Glide, shod in flat Crimson Red Denim with slashing graphics, wrapped my body like a custom-fit motorcycle (for reference, I'm 5 feet 9 inches, 155 pounds). There was no problem flat-footing the deceptively large bike. The two-up seat is narrower at its tip to give more legroom without sacrificing comfort. With a relaxed reach to the handlebar, the hand controls were easy to use and intuitive, although the left radio control button (volume/ options) often took coaxing to operate. The right-side control contains channel switching and cruise control functions. A cockpit-style instrument cluster provides speed, rpm, oil pressure, battery voltage, ambient air temperature and fuel level info. The speedometer has two tripmeters, an overall odometer and a nice miles-to-empty feature that also automatically kicks in when "reserve" is hit. A yellow gas pump lights up when there is approximately 1 gallon remaining in the spacious 6-gallon fuel tank. A green "6" lights up on the speedo face when sixth gear is engaged. The jewel in the setting is the 40-watt Harman/Kardon audio system with AM/FM/WB/CD and MP3 capabilities that drives two front-mounted speakers. It's plenty loud enough to hear with a full-face helmet with earplugs in. An added bonus is an auxiliary port that can accommodate an iPod.
Thumbing the starter for the first time brought the black-and-chrome 96-inch mill to life with idle speed perfectly controlled by the closed-loop EFI. Cold or hot, the motor responded well, never hiccupping or hesitating throughout the entire rev band. H-D's Cruisemax tranny shifted quietly and easily through all gears with a relatively light, linear clutch pull. When the need arises, this bike pulls hard through the gears. Torque kicks in around 2500 rpm, bringing the machine up to speed as briskly as needed. Out on the open road, sixth gear is a pleasure to cruise along in, with the tach reading about 2500 at 75 mph. That motor smoothness combined with the rubber-mounted chassis and suspension adds up to one of the plushest, most refined rides I've ever experienced.
Comfort often has a tradeoff, and in this case, it's the soft, nonadjustable front suspension. Even under moderate braking, the frontend tended to dive to a degree that affected handling-nothing that some stronger springs wouldn't take care of. Some of the diving action can be attributed to the dual Brembo calipers up front. Combined with the rear Brembo, the bike slows extremely well for such a large motorcycle. I found the fronts to be a bit grabby, which exacerbated the fork's compression. The rear brake had an intermittent squeal that remained after washing. This bike was equipped with the new ABS option ($795) that prevents wheel lockup. The ABS is a passive system that only engages when the "ABS brain" senses a difference between vehicle speed and wheel velocity. A pulsing feeling comes through the brake controls when the ABS is working. It's strange to be able to stomp the rear brake pedal and not get the bike to skid.
Handling is predictable and well mannered, but one must remember that 1,000 pounds rolling along doesn't like to change direction quickly. H-D has done an amazing job making a large bike feel average in size. This chassis likes a relaxed rider in the saddle-a death grip on the bar can sometimes induce feedback into the bike that can upset high-speed stability. Ground clearance is exceptional, allowing big smile leans before touching down the floorboards.
As well as the Road Glide eats up the miles, it's equally at home as a commuter or honey-do machine. The biggest plus is the lockable, spacious hard saddlebags that easily hold the largest of laptops, spare clothes, shoes, camera gear, etc. We can't confirm if H-D engineers measured or not, but a six-pack of bottles (with carrier) will drop right into the bag-a nice feature when you have to run out to the store and a wonderful excuse/reason/justification to get off the couch and ride.
All in all, the entire Road Glide package works amazing for its intended purpose: touring. But, it also does everything else with style, comfort and grace. Be bold, be unique, get a Glide and get out and ride.
|(Laden/Unladen)||26.9 inches/29.5 inches|
|Ground Clearance||5.1 inches|
|Head/Trail||26 degrees/6.2 inches|
|Fuel Capacity||6.0 gallons|
|Oil Capacity||4.0 quarts|
|Dry Weight||752 pounds|
|Running Order||789 pounds|
|Engine||Air-cooled, Twin Cam 96|
|Bore x Stroke||3.75x4.38 inches|
|Engine Torque||92.6 pound-feet|
|at 3500 rpm|
|Fuel System||Fuel injection (ESPFI)|
|Miles Per Gallon||54.0 highway/35.0 city|
|Exhaust System||Chrome, crossover|
|exhaust with dua|
|mufflers and taper|
|Primary Drive||Chain, 34/46 ratio|
|GEAR RATIO (OVERALL)|
|Front Wheel||Chrome, profile laced|
|Rear Wheel||Chrome, profile laced|
|Front Tire||MT90B16 72H|
|Rear Tire||MU85B16 77H|
|Brakes||32mm, four-piston, fixed|
|front and rear with ABS|
|Lean Angle (L/R)||30.0 degrees/|