2017 Harley Davidson Street Glide Special First Ride Review

April 20, 2017 09:35 AMVikrant Singh

What is it?

This is the revised Harley Davidson Street Glide Special. We know it doesn’t look it because not much has changed in terms of looks – it still has that long and low stance; a bat-wing styled front fairing; and the street creed of a blinged out hip hop artist. The bulky fuel tank and front fender, not to mention beefy forks, continue on the new bike as well. And once seated on the low and cushy seat, you are still welcomed by slightly dated analogue dials and a touchscreen infotainment system. The latter might have boring looking fonts and graphics, but the touchscreen operation, even with gloves, is pretty good. And there's handy navigation in there too.

The big change for the 2017 model, though, is the new 1745cc v-twin motor. Called the Milwaukee Eight, Harley has thrown everything at it to make it run cooler, quieter and with higher levels of refinement. Time to find out how all that work panned out.

How does it ride?

Before we get to the new engine let’s lay down the ground rule about the ‘Touring’ range from Harley of which this new Street Glide is a part. This Touring range was designed for the US. So, on straight, well-paved roads with long sweeping corners, the Street Glide, well, glides along. It feels planted, relaxed and effortless. It’s almost lovely.

The seating position with the tall and wide handlebar, and the large, sofa-like and supportive seat, is spot on for long-distance riding. So, if it's a Mumbai-Delhi or a Delhi-Kolkata trip you are planning in the winter months, the Street Glide will work like a charm.

But, show the Street Glide tight corners, bumpy or poorly laid roads or even road joints on a bridge, and things can get very uncomfortable. The new suspension has stiff springs with soft damping and very little travel. Naturally then, it gets quite jumpy over ripples and re-laid tarmac. It also tends to crash quite harshly into any sharp edge the road might throw up, the rear in particular.

Then when it comes to tight corners, two things happen. If you are slow, the front end wants to tuck in so you must apply constant and significant amounts of countersteer to hold your line. It's a lot of work. However, if you choose to be brave and enter a corner fast, you will run out of clearance the moment you tip the bike in. And this can be scary too because more often than not, the bike will end up running wide. As for the brakes, the Glide might have twin rotors upfront but the brake feel and bite for a bike that can gather quite a momentum feel inadequate.

Now, to the engine. And we must say, we quite like it.

Harley has made significant changes over the older Twin Cam motor. The engine runs four valves and two spark plugs per cylinder; it has a new combustion chamber design; and it runs higher compression ratio too. Harley also claims its engineers have all-round smart cooling solutions for the engine and thanks to a better balanced engine that’s now rubber mounted to the frame, vibrations are history.

And they are almost right! The new 107ci engine is smooth and almost vibe-free. Even when it is revved to the limit, which is barely 5,500rpm, it doesn't feel coarse or agricultural. Ride it at 80kmph in 6th gear and you will barely hear or feel the engine.

Moreover, the 107 has loads of torque that's accessible from the word go. Even the slightest of throttle openings – no matter the engine revs – gets you motoring along effortlessly. The throttle response is crisp but it’s never snatchy, and it's light to roll-on as well.

The engine gives the Street Glide the legs to cruise in excess of 120kmph all day without bother and thanks to the thickly laid torque right from the start, one rarely needs to work the gearbox to overtake or maintain a high cruising speed. This engine clearly is the highlight of the new Street Glide package.

But, it has its share of downsides. The gearbox is horribly clunky and though Harley claims the Milwaukee runs cooler than before – which we agree it does – it can still get quite hot.

Anything else I should know?

Well for starters, don't bother commuting on it. Especially on a summer day in a city like Mumbai that seems to have everlasting bumper-to-bumper traffic. The heat, lack of manoeuverability, and humidity – which was having me sip my own sweat inside the helmet – can be very draining indeed.

Second, always ride with a mate, a strong, well built one at that. You see the Street Glide weighs in excess of 370kg. So, if you drop it and don't have someone to help you up, well, you are done for. Little wonder Harley riders almost always prefer riding in groups.

Okay, we did say the Street Glide was great for touring, but we’d say do it in cooler months. That batman fairing, it keeps almost all the windblast out. But, on a summer day, it also keeps the much-needed airflow to your upper body out. And this can be quite stifling.

On to the good bits; the Street Glide gets ABS, comes with panniers that can actually hold stuff, and the near-23-litre fuel tank gives you a real world range of over 300km. We like the switchgear; it's quality stuff. The fit and finish is in line with the motorcycle's pricey tag as well, and that infotainment system with its high volume doesn’t just entertain you on the move; it’s a source of huge excitement for other motorists and pedestrians too.

The Street Glide comes with EITMS or Engine Idle Temperature Management System. It's switchable. And when enabled, it cuts the fuelling to the rear cylinder at idle reducing the amount to heat getting to your thighs. It's helpful but can cause an erratic idle.

Should I buy one?

The Street Glide is part of Harley-Davidson's Touring range of motorcycles, which also includes the Road Glide Special and the Road King. All three get the same new engine and there's little to differentiate in terms of cycle parts either. But, in terms of pricing, the Road King minus the fairing is the cheapest while the Road Glide with its extra headlamp is the most expensive. As for the Street Glide, true to its ‘range’ name, buy it if you are looking at touring often, albeit on mostly well-paved highways dominated by straights. Also, the Glide isn't an all-season motorcycle. So only pick it if you like riding in cooler months.

Where does it fit in?

The Harley Davidson Street Glide is priced at Rs 31 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi) and some. For similar money – give or take a couple of lakhs – you can also get the Kawasaki Ninja H2 and the Yamaha R1M. But, that's missing the point I guess. So, for Glide money you can also have the Honda Gold Wing and the Indian Chieftain Dark Horse. Like the Glide, the Wing and the Horse are long, low, heavy and torquey. So, the choice boils down to preference of brand and styling.

Photography by Kapil Angane

Gear check

1-Arai Axces-II helmet: The entry-level Arai helmet one can officially buy in India. It is great on fit, quality, safety, comfort and even visibility.

Price: Rs 48,000

2- Sena 20S Bluetooth set: Sena’s top of the line 20S is a one-stop solution for all one’s music and communication needs. It is expensive but I love it.

Price: Rs 20,999

3-Rjay Octane II Jacket: Extremely light with fantastic ventilation, the Octane works like a charm in Indian weather conditions.

Price: Rs 8,500

4-Ixon RS Circuit HP gloves: Not the best full-glautlet gloves I have used but the Ixons do a fair job be it comfort or protection.

Price: Rs 8,000

5-Café Racer Moto Kevlar Jeans: These Kevlar lined denims offer adequate breathability and are comfortable even on long rides.

Price: 4,500

6- Aplinestars SMX1R boots: These short boots are ideal for daily commute and have decent toe and heel protection. Comfort levels are high too.

Price: Rs 14,499

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