2017 Road Glide Special Test
I couldn’t get enough of riding the Road Glide Special. Touring, back roads or city riding. On numerous outings I went several off-ramps past where I normally exit the Freeway because taking the extra-long way home was such a joy.
Part of the enjoyment was down to the fact that Harley had kitted the test bike out with some of their ‘tall’ options.
It was fitted with the genuine accessory ‘extended reach’ saddle and taller touring screen. Subsequently the comfort level for a tall guy like me was simply outstanding.
It turned this ‘Roadie’ into the most comfortable Harley I’ve ridden in 15 years of throwing a leg over test bikes.
Accordingly I tried to ride the wheels off it.
That included several 400km-plus touring-style days, numerous shorter day runs, city commutes and a heap of relaxed boulevard cruising – and the bike didn’t put a foot wrong through any of it.
The other significant contributor to the enjoyment factor is just how good the Milwaukee 8 engine, slung in the touring chassis with its upgraded suspension, really is.
The new motor is smoother, sweeter, has more torque and taps out longer and harder than any previous (standard) big block Harley– 110 cubes included.
While cruising at freeway speeds there is virtually no vibration from the engine. It’s as smooth as silk. Then opening the throttle produces a crisp response and gob-fulls of grin-inducing torque.
With all the excellent touring extras, like the superior comfort and wind protection, excellent sound system, integrated navigation system, cruise control, trip computer and long list of other creature comforts - it really does dare you to ride further and further every outing.
The Sound system is also excellent and with my phone stowed in the ‘Jukebox Media Compartment’ (read glove box) I was constantly pumping out a pre-selected music playlist that remained clear and audible - even at freeway speeds.
The infotainment controls are intuitive and easy to use with two joysticks on the switchblocks to navigate through the various menus and options. Of course you can use the touchscreen directly too, but on the open road the switches seem easier.
Actually, it’s on the open road that the whole touring package seems easier. Correctly dialling in the rear preload proved to be important in getting the most from the new emulsion shocks and Showa front forks - but that also proved to be pretty easy. There’s no fiddling around with pumps and air pressure to adjust the rear any more. Simply unscrew the ratchet fasteners inside the left pannier and dial preload up or down with the knob under the box. Job done.
Ultimately the real beauty of the machine is still the new 100x111.1mm bore and stroke, 8-valve Vee-twin engine with 10:1 compression ratio. Matched with the 6-speed cruise drive gearbox, lightweight clutch lever and tried and trusted touring chassis the bike is a confidence-inspiring delight to ride. It’s very stable, sure-footed and remarkably nimble (for such a large machine) – all at the same time.
On the Freeway you can sit back, relax and watch it all roll by with minimal input required. But then on the back roads it has good cornering clearance and excellent stability - even over rough tarmac and demanding surfaces.
The linked Brembo Reflex brakes with ABS are everything you would expect from Brembos. I rarely used the back pedal because the linked system worked so well. The confident way they performed, even over the broken roads in the aftermath of Cyclone Debbie in Northern NSW added even more to the pleasure factor of this quite remarkable motorcycle.
In town, the width of the large frame-mounted Sharknose fairing makes lane splitting ‘discretionary’, but the motor is strong and tractable at low speeds and its unique looks, wonderful paint and deep chrome make it a very serviceable Boulevard cruiser too.
Apart from the all-round capability of the Road Glide, the biggest take-away I got from the test was that Harley have a range of saddles, screens and handlebar options to make their bikes fit all sorts of body shapes and sizes - short and tall and everywhere in between. It’s probably the most important part of the customising process.
I couldn’t get enough of riding the 2017 Road Glide.
GUTS & BOLTS
Bike: Harley-Davidson FLTRXS Road Glide Special
Type: Milwaukee-Eight™ 107
Carburetion: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection
Air Cleaner: Paper, washable
Type: 6-Speed Cruise Drive®
Clutch: Hydraulically actuated 9 plate wet,
Assist & Slip
Primary Drive: Chain, 34/46 ratio
Rear Drive: Belt, 32/68 ratio
Type: Mild steel; tubular frame; two-piece
stamped and welded backbone; cast
and forged junctions; twin downtubes;
bolt-on rear frame with forged fender
supports; MIG welded
Seat: Harley Extended Reach
WHEELS & TYRES
Wheels3: Enforcer Cast Aluminum
• Front 19 in. x 3.5 in. (483 mm x 89 mm)
• Rear 16 in. x 5 in. (406 mm x 127 mm)
F Tyre: D408F 130/60B19 61H
R Tyre: D407T BW 180/65B16
F Brake: Dual floating rotors 300 mm x 5.1 mm (11.81 in. x 0.2 in.)
R Brake: fixed rotor 300 mm x 7.1 mm (11.81 in. x 0.28 in.)
Front: 49 mm Dual Bending Valve
Rear: Premium Low Hand-Adjustable