Harley-Davidson’s New Road Glide Adds Technology

Sunday, August 17, 2014
It’s been a month since Harley-Davidson delivered a one-two punch of innovative new product. After bringing its Street beginner bikes to market, it followed up with the sacrilegious all-electric LiveWire that continues to send ripples through the industry.

Both bikes have kept Harley above the fold in headlines, but Milwaukee’s finest continues to press pedal to metal. Weeks before revealing the entirety of its 2015 lineup, Harley ripped the wraps off its new Road Glide. Even better, company reps provided me with a key.

I spent the early part of last week roaming on Harley’s newest 2015 model, which, if nothing else, is well named. A La-Z-Boy of a touring bike, the Road Glide is a motorcycle that prefers big, broad sweepers to tight turns, and long hauls to bar hops, with the added benefit of something Harley seemed to shun until last year — modern technology.

The Road Glide was MIA for the 2014 model year when Harley underwent the most extensive update of its lineup in the company’s prodigious 110-year history. Last year, eight bikes got the Project Rushmore treatment, which added liquid cooling and tweaked the torque on many of its 103-cubic inch touring bikes, while also lowering the suspension, linking the brakes and adding Bluetooth and an infotainment touch screen.

Like the ninth-born child of the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe, the Road Glide was lost in the mix. But for 2015, it’s back with a complement of Project Rushmore improvements available in two versions — the base model Road Glide and a Special that increases the size of its infotainment screen to 6.5 inches and adds GPS, ABS and non-acronymic visual upgrades such as a low-profile, hand-adjustable rear suspension and hand pinstriping.

The most noticeable update to both Road Glides is the fairing. The iconic bat wing is now outfitted with more visible LED lights, its overall shape contoured from the hours it spent enduring artificial gusts in a wind tunnel. To help reduce buffeting, there are three built-in vents to direct air around, rather than into, the rider and keep the bike steady when plowing straight ahead at speed.

With a wheelbase of 64 inches, straight is the Road Glide’s direction of preference. It doesn’t take much flicking of the wrist to rocket forward, propelled as it is by the same high-output, 103-cubic inch, V-twin Harley began using with Rushmore. Tuned for better passing power on the open road, with more bottom-end torque, it employs a high-flow air box to give it even more grunt off the line.

It’s so powerful and smooth, in fact, that it’s easy to exceed the speed limit. Slowing things down are Brembo brakes front and rear. The front wheel gets a pair of 300 mm discs, the rear a single. Both are linked to compensate for Harley riders’ stereotypical tendency to avoid the more effective front brake. The linked brakes apply front, rear or both brakes simultaneously in proportion to what the bike determines is necessary. They remain linked as the bike slows to 20 mph, though the linking can only be activated at speeds above 20 mph. Any slower, and the front and rear brakes operate independently based on what the rider chooses.

The Road Glide is exceptionally stable at speed. And it’s comfortable, with a low, 27.4-inch, saddle and new pullback handlebars that made it easier to control than I would have anticipated for a bike that weighs six times as much as I do — 840 pounds.

The tradeoff for a bike designed for long hauls is turning. A motorcycle for unhurried Sunday rides, it’s a butter knife in the canyons, but it’s manageable, as long as you don’t mind cars stacking up behind you.

Susan Carpenter may be reached at scarpenterocregister.com.

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