2017 Harley Davidson Road Glide Special Review

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Touring is synonymous with motorcycles; it’s an integral part of the riding experience. No other feeling satisfies a man’s desire to freedom, to head in a direction unknown. And if you don’t have the right tool to do it, the whole feeling just becomes uncanny. Harley Davidson is one company that understands your emotions and requirements and have been giving us some of the greatest hits of the touring motorcycles since the beginning of the 20th century.

For the year 2017, this American legend gave the world a brand new lineage of motorcycles that are sophisticated and technologically packed while keeping the core values of its predecessors intact. Running under the hood of each of them will be the all-new Milwaukee-Eight, the ninth generation of Harley-Davidson V-Twin engines that delivers power and reliability unlike no other before.

Running this new power mill will be one of HD’s iconic tourer, the venerable Road Glide Special. The bike takes the touring must-haves and wraps them in a no-apologies style making it the motorcycle of choice for the high-mileage road warrior.

STYLING

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This is more of a personal choice kind of a section. But this Road Glide carries the ‘Haters gonna hate’ flamboyant outlook. Harley have always been the bigs, but this Road Glide’s proportions will give it a whole new meaning; courtesy the gargantuan ‘Shark Nose’ fairing carrying the Dual Daymaker Reflector LED Headlamps slapped right up front.

For people used to the ‘Batwing’ fairing, it might end up getting them a little nervous but otherwise having designed in a wind tunnel, it sure does a respectable job for those who live to ride the long miles. And Harley-Davidson claims that ‘No fairing in the history of motorcycling has ever cut through the wind like this one does’ and I believe them. They have split stream vents that could close or open to equalise pressure on both sides of the windscreen. Mind = Blown. Rest apart, this motorcycle carries a distinctive, menacing and a road-eating look with modern and streamlined design attributes of a quintessential Harley-Davidson.

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One can identify the huge chromy Milwaukee-Eight from a mile away, almost like a jewel machined out of metal making it the ironclad statement of being the visual centrepiece of the puzzle. Everything you see on this Harley makes a ‘form follows function’ statement including the classic and bold fuel tank which brings out the paint job like a wide canvas and within it the Harley Davidson medallions showing the world what the motorcycle is made of. You also get hand-applied pinstriping and a painted inner fairing. A work of art, born out of passion.

On the sides, you can notice the (again chromy) full-length streamliner footboards along with the heel/toe shifter and the exhaust pipes. Then you have the saddlebag, a definitive equipment for every tourer on the road. Harley Davidsons give you some of the industry’s biggest saddle bag storage with clean and simple ‘One-Touch Design Philosophy’. Making the best of the last impression, it’s the combination rear stop/turn tail lights along with everyone’s favourite single FM/AM antenna.

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Let us get talking about the dashboard that this mile cruncher carries. Harley-Davidson has managed to keep the old charm look with an analogue instrument panel featuring the main speedo and rev counter and smaller fuel and battery gauges flanked on either side of the 6.5” full-colour touch infotainment display. Called as the Boom! 6.5GT Radio, the infotainment system puts out 25 watts per channel to two 5.25” speakers that can change the levels of sound according to the speed you will travel. A musical companion throughout your journey. An interface such as USB, Bluetooth, SD card can be hooked on to this system to navigate your smartphone and the GPS which by the way can be operated by multi-lingual voice commands.

“This is more of a personal choice kind of a section. But this Road Glide carries the ‘Haters gonna hate’ flamboyant outlook.”

Overall Dimension

Make Model 2017 Harley Davidson Road Glide Special Indian Chieftain Dark Horse Moto Guzzi MGX-21
Length 95.4 in 101.2 in 100.78 in
Width 40.2 in 39.4 in 36.22 in
Height 52.3 in 54.6 in 50.1 in
Wheelbase 64 in 65.7 in 63.93 in
Seat height 25.9 in 26.0 in 29.1 in
Wet weight 853 lb 1385 lb 7516 lb
Fuel Tank 6 gal 5.5 gal 5.41 gal

POWERTRAIN

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The big story here is the presence of the big Milwaukee-Eight engine of course. Why the ‘Eight’? you may ask. It is because of Harley Davidson equipping it with four valves per cylinder.

It’s difficult not to be enamoured with the twin-Cooled, 450 V-twin mill harvesting 1745cc which rumbles with a signature fell but with a gentler manner than the previous Twin-cam Project Rushmore ones. The engine also meets the emission norms in all countries the motorcycle is sold. It features a single chain-driven cam, dual spark plugs, counter-balanced and rubber mounted to thwart the vibrations. A sad demise according to Harley loyalists.

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The engine boasts of 154 bhp @ 5000 rpm of peak power and 104.7 ft-lb @ 3250 rpm of torque enough to get you to a 100 kph faster than ever before. High flow airbox with 55 mm throttle body lets the engine breathe better for making use of every ounce of power. Redesigned heat management system will improve rider and pillion comfort and keep your inner thighs cooler. The 107 gets re-tuned ride-by-wire system and more sensitive knock sensors for gaining all the torque on offer.

Higher compression ratios of 10.5:1 will offer better economy ratings but might become sensitive to lower fuel qualities. You can be assured of a richer exhaust note pouring out of the 2-1-2 pipes due to the less mechanical noise of the powertrain and optimised cover designs and driveline improvements for that aural glory. A 6-Speed Cruise Drive Transmission and a slip and assist clutch provides the rider smooth shifting of gears that helps in maintaining fatigue free long rides.

Engine Specification

Make Model 2017 Harley Davidson Road Glide Special Indian Chieftain Dark Horse Moto Guzzi MGX-21
Capacity cc 1745 1811 1380
Bore/ Stroke mm 100/111.1 101/113 104/81.2
Output 154 bhp @ 5000 rpm 75 bhp @ 5057 rpm 96.6 bhp @ 6500rpm
Torque 104.7 ft-lb @ 3250 rpm 139 ft-lb @ 2600 rpm 89 lb-ft @ 3000rpm
Type Milwaukee-Eight 107 Engine, 45° V-twin, Air and oil cooled Thunder Stroke 111 Air and Oil-cooled, 4-stroke, 49° V-Twin cylinder, Three-OHC 90° Transverse V-twin, 4-stroke, 4-valve, dual spark ignition per cylinder
Clutch type Wet- Multiplate with slipper and assist Wet- Multiplate Single plate with integrated flexible coupling
Transmission 6-speed Cruise Drive 6-speed 6-speed

RIDE AND HANDLING

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It is a known fact that no other manufacturer puts more miles to design a saddle than the Harley-Davidson Motor Company. It is one place that every rider’s bottom wishes to sit on. The Road Glide gets a one-piece, two-up saddle similar to the Street Glide that combines custom look with a design that’s built for comfort.

Then there is the handlebar whose comfortable swept bars and an upright riding position can accommodate a wide range of riders. With it closer to the rider, you can lie back and crunch any number of miles with a smile on your face. The only contention would be the too wide tank which will force you to place your legs very wide initiating a tightening of sorts in your trousers. Overall, the Glide’s ergonomics are far better compared to the 2016 model even on long strides at a stretch.

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It is not exactly light. It is a humongous thing actually, weighing in at a whopping 853 lbs. That is a lot of weight and one need more than a couple of muscles to heave it from side to side. This will make start/stop riding a tedious job. But at highway rides, especially with the cruise control on, this weight vanishes just like your wife’s anger that came with you buying this motorcycle and vanishes when she rides it.

With the launch of the new Milwaukee Eight, a totally new re-engineered dual bending valve with beefy 49mm Showa Dual Bending Valve front forks front and rear suspension with easily-adjustable emulsion shocks also donned the 2017 line-up. They can be adjusted with just a turn of a knob and bigger pins will give improved damping performance. Compared to the 2016 model, the new fork technology improves the ride, especially over the harshest bumps, and reacts faster to keep the wheel planted for confident braking and handling.

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Braking duties are to be taken seriously, especially when you have to stop a 853 lbs motorcycle. Hence, Harley-Davidson has given the Glide 32 mm, 4-piston fixed front and rear Reflex Linked Brembo Brakes with ABS that catch on to twin 320mm discs. Sometimes you don’t get to choose times to haul things down in a hurry. But with the help of these, you are sure to be in safe hands. Enforcer Cast Aluminum wheels get Dunlop Multi-Tread Blackwall Tires which are perfect for making this bike agile on every curvy stretch of road.

“It is a known fact that no other manufacturer puts more miles to design a saddle than the Harley-Davidson Motor Company. It is one place that every rider’s bottom wishes to sit on.”

Chassis Specifications

Make Model 2017 Harley Davidson Road Glide Special Indian Chieftain Dark Horse Moto Guzzi MGX-21
Frame Double-downtube, Double-cradle steel Cast Aluminum Frame ALS steel twin tube cradle frame
Suspension / Front 49 mm Showa Dual Bending Valve telescopic fork 46 mm Telescopic fork 46mm fully adjustable USD forks
Suspension / Rear Adjustable emulsion shocks Single Shock with Air adjust Swingarm with double shock absorber with adjustable spring preload
Brakes / Front Reflex Linked Brembo Dual 320 mm disc. Calliper: 32 mm, 4-piston fixed Dual, 300mm Floating Rotor, 4 Piston Caliper Double stainless steel floating disc 320 mm clamps radial 4- piston opposed
Brakes / Rear Reflex Linked Brembo Single 220 mm disc. Calliper: 32 mm, 4-piston fixed Single 300 mm Floating Rotor, 2 Piston Caliper Stainless steel floating disc 282 mm, two-piston callipers
Tyres / Front 130/60B19 61H 180/60R16 80H – Dunlop Elite 3 120/70 R21 62V
Tyres / Rear 180/65B16 81H 130/90B16 73H – Dunlop Elite 3 180/60 R16 80H

PRICE

The Road Glide Special will empty your bank account to the tune of $23,999 (MSRP). It comes in Vivid Black and for an extra $1000 you can get it in Superior Blue, Laguna Orange, Olive Gold, Velocity red sunglow and Black Denim. Again for another additional $1000 you can get it custom painted. But wait for it, for another $1000 you can get a special ‘Hand Candy Custom’ paint job like the Black Gold flake, Mystic Purple flake and Hot rod red flake.

Being a Harley-Davidson, you can literally build your own custom Road Glide Special with accessories like Screamin’ Eagle performance parts, Aglitator 19” front wheel, engine guard kits, wind reflectors, handlebars, Brawler solo seat, extended side covers, front fenders, Boom! High-performance entertainment updates, fog lamps, heated seats and handgrips and a million dozen more.

Make Model 2017 Harley Davidson Road Glide Special Indian Chieftain Dark Horse Moto Guzzi MGX-21
MSRP $23,999 $22,599 $21,990

COMPETITION

Coming from the same country is another touring brand, Indian Motorcycles. The Polaris owned manufacturer has launched the 2016 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse, a solo saddle amalgamation of the mechanicals and stature of an Indian Chieftain and the blacked out theme carried from the Indian Chief Darkhorse. Then there is the italian powerhouse called the Moto-Guzzi. They have the mighty MGX-21 that is also called as the “Flying Fortress”.

Indian Chieftain Dark Horse

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The 2016 Indian Chieftain Dark Horse is a solo saddle amalgamation of the mechanicals and stature of an Indian Chieftain and the blacked out theme carried from the Indian Chief Darkhorse. It gets updated with subtle cosmetic changes to give it a stealth outlook while blacking out just about everything apart from the exhaust. It carried around the same panache and poise of the Chieftain, a once flagship motorcycle (Indian Roadmaster being the new flagship) that leaves no question of having a prominent place in the lineup of this historic brand.

It is huge. No getting around that. Huge handlebar mounted fairings which look like the 50’s steamliner locomotives add to the gigantic stature of this motorcycle. The black matte theme goes on all sides to put things blatantly into perspective. It includes the fairings, teal drop fuel tank and the fenders. In fact, even the headdress forks, rear view mirrors, handlebars and switches, turn signals, tank console, engine and air box cover, lower controls, floorboards and taillight housing are completely finished in black. There are however a few chrome bits to keep the appeal of this bike – the two into one exhaust, fuel cap, saddlebag locks and a couple of other small bits like the single pinstripe on the fenders compliment the dark cruiser really well.

Indian has kept the old school charm for this engine layout with its valvetrain geometry, head construction and valve-cover design. But don’t get fooled because the inside story is a whole new world. The Thunder Stroke 111 engine used in the Chieftain makes way here too with its 1811cc 490 V-Twin capable of belting out 73bhp of power and 139 ft-lb of torque. Enough torque to tear apart the tarmac. It is both oil and air cooled and operates pretty smooth compared to the heavy throbbers around.

The Magnum rolls for $22,599 MSRP, just a skosh under the Chieftain at $22,999. The Dark Horse comes with Thunder Black Smoke, a deep black with a matte finish that throws subtle highlights as light plays across the curves with no hotspots like you get with a glossy finish. Ofcourse, Indian will give you a plethora of accessories to make it your own deal and the list includes 300 different fitments to your Dark Horse.

Moto Guzzi MGX-21

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Given the evocative sobriquet as the “Flying Fortress”, the MGX-21 is Italian’s take at the traditionally styled cruisers and tourers or what we also call as Baggers, a mainstay of motorcycling in America.This motorcycle was primarily developed to boost the brand’s American sales and now has entered the Indian shores along with the V9s’. As stealth as something on two wheels can get, this motorcycle features everything you would expect in a bagger.

Designed by the futuristic thinkers of the Centro Stile Piaggio Group, with input from the Piaggio Advanced Design Centre (PADC) in California, this mysterious nocturnal creature fulfils everything for a bagger connotation and does it in carbon – fibre.A futuristic looking batwing-style fairing at the front is what you see as an immediately obvious appearance and then there is the big 90° transverse V-twin engine with two large cylinders that seem to literally explode out of the petrol tank. The red paint on the aluminium head covers is the only place other than the brake callipers where you will see a concept known as ‘colour’.

Carried over from the award winning Moto Guzzi California, the MGX-21 is armed with 1,380cc, longitudinally mounted, V-twin, fuel-injected and air and oil-cooled motor. Armed with a pair of 104 x 81.2mm cylinders, it punches a flat torque curve of 89 ft-lb at 3000 rpm and power peaks at 97 bhp at 6500 rpm. The big air-cooled V-twin is a little too lazy and soft to be considered angry. Make no mistake, since the 1400 engine features ride-by-wire, it has three on-the-fly, rider adjustable engine maps: Veloce, Turismo, and Pioggia.

A price tag on the motorcycle depicts $21,990 which is definitely not cheap. But is very much in line with the likes of the Harleys and the Indians available making the choice a rather more difficult one. You will get it in just the carbon-fibre flaky natural colour.

VERDICT

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We have featured the Harley-Davidson CVO Limited and we know for a fact that it is the cream of the lot. The best tourer. Period. Nothing much can come quite close to matching the features and comfort the CVO offers you and quite honestly not even the Road Glide Special.

But that being said, the Road Glide has a few tricks up its sleeves to sway you over. It is a solid, comfortable and a well-equipped tourer that also happens to flaunt credibility with non-riders as well, much more than any other brand could manage to. You will most definitely find car drivers stop and wave at you or children jumping and cheering at the site of you passing by on this hunky Road Glide. Being a motorcyclist myself, I know how much that will calm your soul and bring you solitude unlike no other.

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When you have an idea of crunching up hundreds of kilometres in your mind, there aren’t many bikes that could fit the bill. Of course any bike would do but with the Road Glide Special, you don’t have to feel compromised. And if you happen to have $23,999 lying around, stop dreaming and start riding.

  • Leave it
    • Short pillion seat
    • Bulky weight
    • Shark nose fairing might be deceptive for some

(topspeed.com, https://goo.gl/gn6xpF)

 

 

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