2020 Street Glide Special
Best Ever? Dave makes a call.
One of the (rare) criticisms we fielded on our Facebook page recently said that, “You guys say every new model is the best Harley yet.”
Brum and I talked it over and both of us are comfortable that we’ve only ever offered that plaudit to Press bikes when it has been properly deserved.
It’s true that I did claim that the 2017 Low Rider S was the best Dyna yet and the 2019 Softail Deluxe tested in Issue #167 was, “Easily the best Deluxe thus far.” But those calls are undeniable and easily justified. When we have awarded such a sweeping accolade as ‘best Harley ever’ it has been warranted and given due consideration and debate – and certainly not afforded to ‘every new model’.
So, with all those disclaimers firmly in place, here goes … it is easy to make the argument that the 2020 FLHXS is the best new Harley ever. Certainly, from a technological, appointment, safety and performance viewpoint it is an absolute standout.
Plenty of Practice.
The first Street Glide appeared in 2006 and in the ensuing years with numerous iterations and engine displacements the familiar Batwing has become one of Harley’s best sellers. It’s now a well-sorted package that goes, stops, and does everything in-between, with aplomb.
The 102mm x 114mm Bore and Stroke, 114 Cube, Milwaukee 8 engine keeps getting sweeter with every model year. This test unit was the smoothest and most responsive yet. It tapped out and pulled evenly and strongly through the rev range, even with the standard exhaust system fitted. No doubt that’s helped by the sports air cleaner that is included as standard. A stage one set up would free the top end up even further. It has tons of low-down punch and is a real delight to get on the gas and spool it up through some tight going. Conversely on the boulevard or out on the freeway it’s as comfortable and as close to vibration free as any air-cooled Harley has been so far. That certainly wasn’t the case with earlier 114cube models.
Combined with the latest touring chassis and its premium suspension it all makes for a 376kg (in running order) luxury tourer/cruiser that handles more like a nimble runabout.
It’s a beautifully balanced package that is very rewarding to ride while carving up a valley road or rolling away the interstate. It has become a good all-rounder that even works well as a head turning hot-rod cruiser with its great looking lines, stretched bags and menacing blacked-out profile.
Behind the Batwing the latest Boom Box infotainment system remains state of the art. It has an array of Navigational aids, GPS, route planner and range of diagnostic readouts available on the glove friendly TFT screen mounted below the analogue instrument cluster. It has a great sounding stereo that can Bluetooth or hard wire your phone with options for outputting to the built-in speakers, headsets or intercoms.
The 2020 model takes the bike’s technology to the next level and beyond with the introduction of Harley’s Reflex Defensive Rider Systems (RDRS).
The company line is that the RDRS system “Is a new collection of technology designed
to match motorcycle performance to available traction during acceleration, deceleration
and braking. The systems are designed to aid the rider in controlling the vehicle while
accelerating and braking in a straight line or while in a turn. Most helpful when riding in adverse road conditions and in urgent situations, the systems are electronic and utilize the latest chassis control, electronic brake control and powertrain technology.”
Cornering Enhanced Electronic Linked Braking (C-ELB)
With very good 32mm, 4-piston fixed twin front and single rear callipers the Electronically Linked Braking system “provides more responsiveness and allows for more balanced front and rear braking under a wide variety of conditions.”
Like most linked systems if you squeeze the front lever it applies braking force to both front and rear brakes, similarly if you only use the rear pedal it will also apply a calculated, optimum amount or force to the left-front calliper as well.
The really clever thing about this system is that it takes into account the motorcycle lean angle and will alter the proportioning of brake pressures while cornering “in an attempt to improve the ability of the bike to maintain the rider’s intended path.”
Cornering Enhanced Antilock Braking System (C-ABS)
This is a variant of previous ABS that takes into consideration the lean angle of the machine and the brake pressure required to limit wheel slip when cornering, which is typically lower than in a straight line.
I intentionally over-braked while tipping into a corner and you can definitely feel the lever modulating as the system takes over. It is quite confidence inspiring when you get used to it although stomping on the rear brake pedal and feeling the ABS activate on the front wheel is a little weird at first.
Cornering Enhanced Traction Control System (C-TCS)
This one is designed to prevent the rear wheel from lighting up under acceleration when going straight or cornering. It works well too. I tried spinning up the rear on a dirt road and the system cut in seamlessly. There are two riding modes. ‘Standard’ - optimized for dry surfaces and Rain Mode, optimized for wet. The system can be turned off for when you do want to ‘rark it up’ on the dirt (guilty). The action of the system is also tailored when cornering, based on lean angle.
Drag-Torque Slip Control System (DSCS) and Cornering Enhanced Drag-Torque Slip
Control System (C-DSCS)
Similar to the slipper clutch used on sportbikes, this system is designed to reduce excessive rear-wheel slip under deceleration or when the rider makes an abrupt downshift on slippery surfaces. When DSCS detects excessive rear wheel slip it will adjust engine torque delivery to better match rear-wheel speed to road speed and it is importantly tailored when cornering, based on detected lean angle.
Vehicle Hold Control (VHC)
This is a system that has been available on cars for some time. When you pump the lever or rear pedal when stationary brake pressure prevents the motorcycle from rolling backwards on hill starts. The system applies the brakes until the rider actuates the throttle and clutch to pull away. Unlike car systems however the clutch has to be pulled in for the system to work. You can’t just sit with it in neutral and wait at the lights.
Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS)
This clever system displays current front and rear tire pressure on the Boom Box screen and displays an alert when tyre pressure is low.
Do you need it?
Yes, you do. Particularly the less experienced and returning riders. These are brilliant additions for those finding their way.
For older hands, well, maybe you won’t need all of these features all the time, maybe you’ll never need them, we hope so, but some of these systems, particularly the ABS, operate in a realm and time scale beyond human capability. No matter how good you think you are.
I once thought that as a widely experienced and professional rider I didn’t need all this ABS ‘malarkey’.
But one rainy afternoon on a treacherously slippery overpass in downtown Auckland I had to perform an emergency stop when this ‘goober’ pulled right out in front of me. The front wheel of my Buell ‘tucked’ in an instant. Before I knew it, I was on the deck and looking up at my bike as it about to land on top of me. I was lucky and was able to ride home but it could have been a lot worse. If that bike had ABS back in 2006 I wouldn’t have spent the following 2 nights in hospital being monitored for blood clots from the crush injuries. Maybe you might never need to bring these systems into play. But it taught me the hard way that an advanced ABS might just save your bacon one day - even if you are a gun.
Help with hill starts, maybe not so much, but then remember when you were a bit green too?
So … is it?
With the latest motor, chassis, performance, handling, looks, safety and style the whole 2020 Street Glide Special package now adds up to a bike that I think is worthy of the accolade: Best New Harley ever.
With pricing just under the $40,000 mark in the Australian Market it’s reasonable to expect that it should be.
There. I said it. Meanwhile, I’ll prepare our defence for the Facebook page.
Engine2 Milwaukee-Eight™ 114
Bore 102 mm
Stroke 114 mm
Displacement 1,868 cc
Compression Ratio 10.5:1
Fuel System Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
Exhaust Black, 2-1-2 dual exhaust with tapered mufflers
Length 2,425 mm
Seat Height, Unladen 690 mm
Ground Clearance 125 mm
Rake (steering head) (deg) 26
Trail 173 mm
Wheelbase 1,625 mm
Tyres, Front Specification 130/60B19 61H
Tyres, Rear Specification 180/55B18 80H
Fuel Capacity 22.7 l
Oil Capacity (w/filter) 4.9 l
Weight, As Shipped 359 kg
Weight, In Running Order 375 kg
Luggage Capacity -Volume 0.071 m3
Engine Torque Testing Method EC 134/2014
Engine Torque3 163 Nm
Engine Torque (rpm) 3,000
Lean Angle, Right (deg.) 32
Lean Angle, Left (deg.) 31
Primary Drive Chain, 34/46 ratio
Wheels, Front Type6 Gloss Black Prodigy
Wheels, Rear Type Gloss Black Prodigy
Brakes, Caliper Type 32 mm, 4-piston fixed front and rear
Infotainment system Boom!™ Box GTS
Type Full Colour TFT
Watts Per Channel 25