When the rumors started circulating that the Road Glide may or may not be in the 2010 lineup we decided to get our hands on both the FLTR and Custom Vehicle Operations (CVO) versions and give them a good run through to see just why people either love or hate these bikes.
The Road Glide was introduced in 1998 as a slightly re-engineered version of Harley's famed Tour Glide and is only currently available in the United States and Canada.
The '09 CVO is the third edition of the Road Glide from Harley's Custom Vehicle Operations division, which was started in 1999 and built exclusively at H-D's York, Pennsylvania plant. The bike that grace the CVO moniker are limited-edition factory-customized bikes that have big motors as well as many CVO-only parts gathered from Harley's P&A catalog.
The Road Glide is cherished by some and loathed by others due to its distinctive shark-nosed frontend. Many heated debates have been sparked both online and in the flesh about which fairing is more stable, the fork-mounted Batwing fairing that the Electra Glides possess, or the frame-mounted fairing on the Road Glide. Having extensively ridden both Batwing bikes as well as Road Kings with aftermarket fairings, I was chomping at the bit to throw a leg over the pair of Road Glides to see if I could finally put the frame versus fork fairing debate to rest.
I decided to first ride the Orange FLTR and on its inaugural ride under my 205 pound frame, I took the bike on a 150-mile ride starting out on the freeway, then through the Southern California canyon roads, and finally finishing the ride with a leisurely beach cruise.
What I immediately liked about the stock Road Glide was the balanced feel of the bike while at freeway speeds above 60 mph. It seems as if from 45 to 59 mph the buffeting from the fairing was the worst with it calming down the faster I went. The suspension on the bike was soft, but not squishy and on any sweeping "cloverleaf" freeway interchanges the bike felt solid at speed with no wobble to speak of.
When I hit the canyon, within the first three miles I was challenged by a pretty stiff crosswind and found that the fixed-fairing design of the Road Glide seemed to slice through it much better than any fork-mounted fairing I have ridden. Whilst hitting the mid-canyon twisties the bike felt pretty much the same as its other Harley-Davidson FL brethren and seemed to not like getting pushed to any sort of extreme limit without a bit of back-end wobble.
While cruising Pacific Coast Highway, the box-stock bike with orange paint seemed to garner a ton of looks and when I stopped for gas I had a guy on a Kawasaki Vulcan ask me who painted it. So at least the paint scheme gets a thumbs up from one member of the metric community.
After the first day of riding, I had the orange Road Glide for another week and used it primarily as my daily driver. I was a bit sad the day I had to bring it back since it seems as if I came to feel a bit of affection for the funky looks and bright paint.