As baggers take over the planet, it becomes not so much a matter of if you should own a tour-built machine, but which one. If you’re looking for a versatile motorcycle that feels at home on the highway or mean city street, Harley-Davidson’s Road Glide Custom may be a good fit and getting a used one is a great deal.
Reality is kind of tough to deal with these days so road escapes, whether for a short stay or extended holiday, will help keep what’s left of your mind together, maybe. Motorcycling has always been good therapy, maybe more so now than ever. It’s cheaper than psychiatry and usually more fun, except when electroshock is on the menu.
We secured a Road Glide Custom for a recent mission, cruising from street to shore, onto highways and into mountains. For a few balmy days aboard this scarlet bagger, we were the red menace.
The Harley’s 96ci fuel-injected Twin Cam moves a claimed 92.6 lb-ft of torque (at 3,250 rpm) to the rear wheel via a smooth shifting six-speed transmission, which is nicely geared to handle city and highway duties. The stock two-one-two exhaust pipes are factory quiet but still echo that distinctive Harley rumble, at least enough to disturb pedestrians.
Although I like the wind and bugs and other such road splatter smashing me in the mouth at 75 per, other riders may not share this acquired taste. One remedy would be an electronically adjustable windshield to replace the sliver of shield presently topping off the Road Glide’s broad but largely cosmetic fairing.
The Glide’s 32mm Brembo brakes with four-piston calipers (dual disk up front, single disk rear) hauls in the 817-pound (wet) beast with alacrity. The 180/65 rear, 130/70 front, special compound Dunlops (stickier on the sides, harder in the middle) are wrapped around black slotted five-spoke cast aluminum wheels. The result is a tight turning radius and a touring bike that’s more agile, especially at parking lot speeds, than it looks like it should be.
Full-length rubber-isolated floorboards make for that feet flat and firm feel, but the heel shifter is an awkward annoyance, even though Harley claims we’ll like it once we get used to it. A 40-watt Harman/Kardon audio system with AM/FM receiver, CD, and MP3 player filled my head with just enough road melody to make me forget the thing at the bottom of my left boot. The system’s controls, though, are hardly intuitive, needing some instruction for my Baby Boomer-spent brain.
The bike offers good ergonomics and a comfortable ride, as expected from a touring machine. The 5.1-inch ground clearance and air-adjustable suspension (on factory setting) gives the Road Glide Custom a firm but pleasantly predictable ride. The slick, sloping seat, however, left my passenger hanging on for dear life, feeling like she could slide off and away at any moment. This left me conflicted. I happened to like my passenger, which probably had nothing to do with the cute way she safely wrapped her arms and bare legs around me. I really didn’t want her cast to the wind—but I did like the look of that low-slung seat. This bike’s 6-gallon tank and 45 mpg in combined city and highway riding make it an inviting machine to take anywhere. The Sedona Orange color ensures it gets noticed everywhere. Presumably named after Sedona, Arizona, noted for its stunning red rock vistas and new age weirdness, the Road Glide looks a lot like fire engine red. But no matter, we were off to the races.
The Road Glide is an empowering ride, the kind of bike that can turn the average, mild-mannered motorcyclist into a street hero. The 2011 Road Glide Custom costs $18,999. I picked this one up for $3,000 cheaper being a last year’s model with only 4000 miles on it.
I found it under the “used bikes” section on harley-davidson.com.