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2021 Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special: Road Test Review

17 November 2021, 06:00 PM Neil Nair

Introduction

Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special Left Front Three Quarter

Pros: Has huge road presence, Is feature-loaded, Has a massively powerful engine

Cons: Is heavy, Offers a stiff ride, Comes with a heavy clutch

Harley-Davidson comes from the land known for monster trucks, Hollywood, the Grand Canyon, multi-patty burgers, and a billion barrels of oil…well, you get the drift. It’s mostly about being larger than life in the US of A, and so is the case with Harley’s motorcycles. Or at least most of them. The brand had a brief, seven-year stint with the smaller capacity, lightweight Street series before deciding that it’d rather stick to motorcycles that define Harley’s larger-than-life approach.

And one such example is the 2021 Street Glide Special we have here. It is part of Harley-Davidson’s creme-de-la-creme Touring range. Now, having the chance to get astride one of these and ride it for over a week in every situation it would find itself in, in our country, here is what we thought about it…  

Quality

Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special Front View

‘Massive’ is the apt word to describe the Street Glide Special. You could even add ‘road presence’ while at it. First glance at the motorcycle and you are bound to have your jaw drop, baffled and amazed by its size. The large batwing fairing  doubles up as a wind deflector and the stretched-out saddlebags mainly contribute to its aesthetics. If that’s not all, Harley-Davidson has also been generous with chrome here. The mammoth of an engine, chunky forks, and the strip running down the middle of the tank are all finished in chrome.  

Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special Rear View

And even though the entirety of it will make you stop and stare, the Street Glide’s chrome does not look overdone, thanks to the subtlety of the black finishes here and there. As you step closer, the build quality comes to light. Every element is well thought out and constructed while the fit and finish are top-notch too.

Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special Right Side View

 The switchgear is easy and tactile to use, the handle grips offer a good feel whereas the footboard and pillion footpegs feel sturdy as well. Overall, the build quality on the Street Glide is excellent and completely worth the near Rs 32 lakh price tag it comes with.

Comfort

Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special Right Side View
Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special

Avg. Ex-showroom price

₹ 32,09,000

Now, not only is the Street Glide Special intimidating to look at because of its size, but also equally overwhelming to lift the 375kg motorcycle off the stand. If you can get that task done, the Street Glide feels relatively manageable with ergonomics that wouldn’t scare away shorter riders. The seat height is low and the handlebar is easy to reach while the foot controls, although forward set, are easy to reach too.   

Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special Bike Seat

That said, the rider’s seat is wide and welcoming for large individuals and comes with good contouring to support the backside. The cushioning is soft too and feels comfy even after hours on the saddle. However, the words of praise for the Street Glide’s comfort seemed to have ended there. For a motorcycle that is completely focused on touring, that felt like a significant letdown.   

Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special Right Rear Three Quarter

To begin with, the Street Glide’s ride feels rather wooden and even jarring at times. With barely any suspension travel at either end, feedback from even the smallest of undulations on the road is prominently felt but is somewhat manageable. But, it is on the bumps and potholes our roads are infamous for that can prove to be unbearable with the Street Glide threatening to throw you off the seat. Adding to that, the pillion seat is not as accommodating as the rider’s and comes with a backward sloping design and misses out on a backrest- a combination that can turn uncomfortable rather quickly. 

Performance

Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special Left Front Three Quarter

Thanks to its heft and dimensions, you wouldn’t want to find yourself stuck in slow-moving traffic with the Street Glide Special. Manoeuvring it through tight spots needs more than a thought and if you aren’t built like Schwarzenegger, moving it around in parking would be a task too. However, once the Milwaukee 114, 1868cc engine has been ignited and slot into first gear with a distinct thud and on the move, the Street Glide’s weight is manageable. And for a 375kg motorcycle, it handles surprisingly well. Although not sharp, the motorcycle tips in with confidence, the Touring chassis almost flowing along with every direction change.   

Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special Engine From Right

Adding to the experience is the 1868cc motor growling between your legs with a whole 161Nm available on tap. Plus, with all that torque offered from as low as 3,000rpm all through the rev band, the Street Glide can perform overtakes just as quickly in sixth gear as it does in third. Although, the clutch and the gearbox offer a mixed experience. The lever is heavy to use and left my fingers cramped by the end of the city ride, but the cogs which come with a slip and assist function shifted smoothly.  That said, the Street Glide’s heart belongs to the open highways. It begs you to wring the throttle and let the Milwaukee 114 loose for a bit. And when you do its bidding, the motorcycle rewards by surging ahead with its full might, the growl of the exhaust notes in the background,

Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special Right Rear Three Quarter

 and the traction control grappling to keep the Street Glide Special in line. Here, when it is given the chance to stretch its legs, you’d forget the pains of riding it in the city.  Slot the long-stroke motor into sixth gear and the motorcycle’s rumbling exhaust note transforms into a silent harmony. And from then on, it is willing to cruise at 130kmph all day. There are no vibes as it glides along, only rumbling back with utmost enthusiasm and hitting the rev limiter at 5500rpm when you twist the throttle again. With the relaxed and comfortable riding position it offers, your highway tour will be stress-free…for the most part.

Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special Front View

 Even with the large batwing fairing and small windscreen, there is quite a bit of windblast pushing it over 150kmph. But since most would not look at chasing top speeds, or competing in King of Baggers, you’d want to take it slow with the Street Glide Special, enjoy the ride and feel the ‘wind in your hair’. What I also liked was the feel of the brakes. The setup offers strong bite and progression bringing the massive motorcycle to a standstill quickly and in a composed manner. 

Technology

Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special Handle Bar

While the Street Glide Special’s ride quality is not something to look forward to, the hoards of creature comfort it comes with sure are. And the Kohinoor in its crown is the Boom Box GTS Infotainment system. This comprises a large, colour-customisable touch screen with Bluetooth connectivity, flanked by two speakers. Now, this touchscreen display has a tonne of information to offer. 

Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special TFT / Instrument Cluster

Firstly, it is Bluetooth-enabled so you can connect the system to your smartphone without an app for music playback. And the audio experience from the speakers is above and beyond par. The music quality is crisp and audible over 120kmph. Moreover, the infotainment system also provides access to receiving and dialing calls, although it is quite tricky to be talking to the caller with 20 other passersby hearing your conversation over the speakers. 

Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special TFT Touchscreen Instrument Cluster

The system also comes with an inbuilt satellite navigation system, although we found it a bit tricky to figure out and get used to. It also displays information like the trip summary and engine information.   

Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special TFT Touchscreen Instrument Cluster

That’s not all, the Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special also comes equipped with traction control and cruise control system that can be activated simply via buttons on the switchgear. It also gets a tire pressure monitoring system for good measure. And lastly, the Street Glide Special comes fitted with full-LED lighting that includes the ‘Daymaker’ LED headlamp that illuminates the road brilliantly. 

Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special Head Light

 

Fuel Efficiency

Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special Fuel Tank

This is one motorcycle that you’d have to answer the evergreen ‘Kitna deti hai?’ question the most. While we didn’t test it on our dedicated route, the Street Glide Special managed to return around 13-14kmpl in the city. And on highway rides, that number went up to 18kmpl. With a 22 litre fuel tank, that would mean a range of around 400kms which is decent for a 1868cc motorcycle.   

Verdict

Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special Right Side View

The Harley Davidson Street Glide Special is indeed a special motorcycle and caters to a small niche of buyers, particularly in India. And that is mainly thanks to its size and price. At Rs 32 lakh, the Street Glide Special is the kind of motorcycle you’d brag about owning. That said, its massive road presence would do most of the talking when you pull up at a signal or the nearest cafe.  Yes, with a heavy clutch, tedious slow-speed ride, and heft, it might not have the best character for city use, but the Street Glide Special has great touring motorcycle traits and scores full marks for being fit for its purpose. It offers a comfy riding position and decent luggage space. And with open highways in sight, the Street Glide Special shows its true colours and it does not disappoint with its handling and immensely torquey motor. 

Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special Right Rear Three Quarter

However, the biggest downside to the package is the Street Glide Special’s stiff ride. Or does it just not complement the embarrassingly poor conditions of most Indian roads? In either case, the motorcycle does seem to be out of place here and would only suit your needs for the occasional tours to places with well-paved roads… 

Photos by Kapil Angane

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