Harley-Davidson’s techno-bagger, the Road Glide Special. Is it really good enough? Watch our video review here:
What we like:
- Good fit and finish
- M8 engine a highlight
- Infotainment clever
Room for improvement:
- Front-end nervous at low-speed
- Pillion seat is a joke
- Hefty pricetag
You would have had to have been in state of suspended animation to not notice that Harley-Davidson has done it pretty tough in recent times.
In fact, I reckon it is fair to say, the Matt Levatich period, where the former CFO took over as CEO – from 2015-2020 – will not be gold-leafed on a mahogany honour roll in the entry foyer at HQ in Milwaukee. More likely, it will be sticking sadly dogeared, out of a dumpster in the lane behind. Yes, it’s been a forgettable patch for the big brand.
Sales globally have been poor; Covid, Trump, the Global Financial Crisis and a bunch of other things have conspired, but the fact is H-D is looking to turn a big corner. It is going to have a serious dip. And can. It’s come back before. Big time. The Big Yank can punch out of corners like no other. Right now, things are looking a bit brighter for The Motor Company.
You see, the Pan America looks like setting the sales charts alight, the new engine being universally welcomed, the Sportster has been given a new lease on life and additionally, H-D has realised that if it is to bother the big players, it needs to up its tech game.
So. Stepping up to the technical advancement plate has had to be part of its climb back to prominence, and the Road Glide Special is held up as a Stars-and Stripes-branded testament to the brave new world in which H-D is determined to operate.
Enough background…. The Road Glide Special. On the techo front there is a comprehensive suite of smart electronic gear in the realm of rider aids including smart traction control, Hill Hold, cornering ABS, linked brakes, and tyre pressure monitoring. For H-D, a big step up.
There’s also a whacking big stereo setup that will leave a bustle in a hedgerow or two with the decibels renting the air from the two-speaker arrangement. In fact, it’s billed as ‘Boom! Box GTS’, and it comes complete with a very well laid out 5.25-inch TFT screen.
There’s voice recognition, Bluetooth, USB connectivity, FM radio, media readouts and Sat Nav. It’s pretty comprehensive.
And it would wanna be. At $39,750 ride away, H-D has made a confident statement about the bike. It rates it and if you want one, you are going to have to as well.
It’s a whale at 387kg, and low-speed manoeuvrability is a little nervous to say the least. When out on the road however, the bike makes sense, chewing up kilometres with an impressive confidence that torque factory M8 displays. It’s simply a fabulous powerplant.
It’s a bagger. Yes, but the bags are too small. I need to be able to pack for a week on the road on a tourer I would consider owning and there really is not much space available on the RGS.
You’ll be going on your own anyway, unless you opt for the undoubtedly better optional seat. At stock, the pillion pad is canted backwards and is made for a behind of very minimal proportion. No grab rail adds to the silliness there.
So… I reckon the bike is delightful to look at and loves the room to stretch its legs, but around town it’s a bit of a nervous nightmare.
Indeed, you’ll love belting out mad tunes and punching out big long days across this wide brown land, but the bike really misses the mark for mine. It’s too dynamically-challenged for that pricetag.
Close, but no Snaggy-cigar this time.
Snag’s career in motoring journalism spans 29 years with stints at major bike mags Australian Road Rider, Motorcycle Trader and AMCN along with contributions to just about every other outlet worth a hill of beans. He was editor of Unique Cars magazine and hosts his legendary podcast ‘Snag Says’ when he gets off his date.