The fairing and stock windscreen keep a good bit of the weather off without causing any head wobble or overly unpleasant buffering. Though, wind noise at highway speed was pronounced enough that my Auritech earplugs weren’t really up to the task. Speaking of wind, the Street Glide lacks the Road Glide’s spiffy fairing, so back pressure is a (very minor) issue.
It’s not an issue that creates discomfort, per se, but riding in wet weather will result in the raindrops-from-every-direction experience. If one of those raindrops happens to land on the too-tiny digital display housing the bike’s gear indicator it will manage to obscure said indicator from view. That display is housed in the speedometer, which, along with the dashboard’s other analogue dials, looks good but doesn’t really offer information as clearly as I’d like. Maybe it’s simply that I’m aging into Harley’s core demographic, but I feel the dials’ numbers are too small. The large infotainment touchscreen in the center of the dash is easier to read, however, so you’ll have no trouble tuning in NPR as you roll toward your favorite road house.
Speeding through the back roads of Washington state, I chose to blare Sam Cooke, whose rasp I could hear over the wind, through a closed modular helmet while wearing earplugs. I’m guessing that means everyone else in a quarter-mile radius could hear him, too.
Passenger accommodation is sub-par, but, you know: customization. Harley’s all about that sort of thing and fat pockets will allow you to hit the Street Glide with the mightiest of bling hammers. A quirk of Harley bikes is that leaving the kickstand down will not cause the bike to shut off when it’s in gear. So, it’s possible to roll off with the kickstand scraping away. It’s not an immensely important thing, but just sort of strikes me as odd. (After I published this review on RideApart I had many readers suggest I was wrong about Harley’s lacking kickstand cutoff; it may have been that for the sake of ease Harley had disabled the feature on its press bikes, but I definitely saw a few mo-jos riding with their stands down.)
As I say, the Harley-Davidson Street Glide looks damned cool. I am particularly fond of the (admittedly cliché) Black Denim color scheme. There is something about this bike that draws and holds the eye. It’s the sort of motorcycle that makes you appreciate stoplights, so you can sit there staring at the tank, or the curve of the handlebar, or the way sunlight glints off a lever. You sit there and think: “Man, I wish someone would take a picture of me on this thing.”
Plenty of bikes look cool, but few can stand up to the test of both far and near observation; the Street Glide you can appreciate from just inches away. People put thought into this thing. A rider may disagree with certain stylistic choices, as I do with the gear indicator or kickstand or the use of two turn signal switches rather than one, but I’m willing to bet there’s someone in Milwaukee who could write an entire dissertation on how and why each decision was made. The build is robust, the hard luggage looks and feels durable, switches and buttons feel as if they will stand the test of time. Regular maintenance will probably result in your being able to pass the bike on to following generations so that they can one day be like Panhead Jim, travelling the country on an 80-year-old machine.
Of Harley’s two fairing-laden baggers I’d rather own a Road Glide. That bike’s ergonomics are better suited to my frame and its weather protection is slightly better. But the Street Glide still takes the Most Improved prize for transforming from a motorcycle that was good for posing to a motorcycle that is good for posing AND going places. As a Polaris dork, I wish Victory would put this level of work into the Cross Country.
There is a part of me that looks at how my opinion of the Street Glide has changed so rapidly and thinks, “Golly, isn’t it surprising what two little changes can make?” But, of course, an entirely new engine and an overhauled suspension are hardly little changes. Perhaps this is part of why Harley-Davidson gets hit by critics as being “stuck in the stone age” or what have you: because the differences can be hard to spot. From across a parking lot, I doubt anyone would be able to tell the difference between the bike I rode in April and the bike I rode in September. Hell, even those of us who are supposedly in the know are easily confused by ultra-subtle differences that Harley employs. When I initially wrote my review for the 2017 Road Glide I referred to it as the Road Glide Special. It took an eagle-eyed reader to help me get things straight.
With the 2017 Street Glide, Harley-Davidson’s giving off the appearance of not having changed since the days when people thought Gallagher was funny (Yes, I know the Street Glide was only introduced in 2006, but the batwing fairing has a distinctive 70s/80s feel to me), but in truth the company has delivered a motorcycle that is modern, high-quality, and good right out of the box – no “Harley Tax” required.
The Three Questions
1) Does the Harley-Davidson Street Glide fit my current lifestyle?
Well, as I said in my review of the Road Glide, it’s a bike that surprisingly could meet most of the demands I have for a motorcycle at this point in my life, i.e., that it be able to take me pretty much anywhere at pretty much any time of year. But, for me, the Road Glide could meet those demands more effectively, being the more comfortable of the two.
2) Does it put a grin on my face?
Of course it does. That’s something that’s always been a pretty much guaranteed part of the Harley experience (initially, at least). The Street Glide definitely delivers on intangibles.
3) Is it better than my current bike?
Uhm… As I mentioned in my review of the Road Glide, that’s a difficult question to answer because it creates such an apples-to-oranges comparison. But because I like the Street Glide less than the Road Glide, I can more confidently mutter: “no.” I mean, in looks and sound and badassness and resale value, the Street Glide is an infinitely better ride than a Suzuki V-Strom 1000, but it’s not as all-round useable, affordable, powerful, or (out of the box) comfortable. As I say above, if someone were to give me a Street Glide I would happily learn to live with its imperfections, but if I were facing a cross-country adventure and had the keys to both it and a ‘Strom, I’d start packing my stuff onto the latter…
No, actually, that’s totally untrue; I’d choose the Street Glide regardless. If I had to pay for the Street Glide, though, that’s when I’d go to the ‘Strom. The Harley costs more than twice the price of the Suzuki but is not twice as good.
Name: Chris Cope
Height: 6 feet 1 inch
Physical build: Slender