Harley-Davidson has axed the Road Glide for 2014. But I doubt it will be the last we see of the big frame-mounted fairing Touring model.
While the Road Glide has an ugly “bull nose” that some refer to as a shark nose, I reckon it’s the best handling of the Touring range.
The fact that the fairing is mounted on the frame means there is less weight on the forks, so the steering is lighter. There is also less weaving at high speed and less buffeting from passing trucks. It also had the CVO shock on the rear which makes it more manageable.
I road one several thousand kilometres from Brisbane to Canberra last summer and loved it. Unfortunately, it had the shorty windscreen fitted and had a lot of wind noise, but otherwise, it was a great bike for long-haul missions.
And although it looks ugly from the side, there is probably no more menacing sight than a Harley Road Glide Custom rumbling toward you.
It is powered by an air-and-oil-cooled Twin Cam 103 with automatic compression release valves that reduce the “thump” when starting the bike placing less strain on the engine, battery and your spine.
The compression release valves may soften start-up, but the rubber-mounted twin then shudders into life, rattling the mirrors, handlebars, seat and your fillings. It’s an experience you either love or loathe, but it does make it difficult to tell if that’s an ambulance approaching from behind.
Although Harley never talks power, torque is an impressive 132Nm and it’s great for roll-on overtaking maneuvres, especially long road trains out on the vast plains around Narrabri.
It also features strong and secure anti-lock brakes (ABS) and a security system with proximity-based, hands-free key fob. Make sure you always carry a spare battery for the fob.
American hi-fi specialists Harmon/Kardon provide the 40-watt, sound system with FM/AM radio and CD player. There is also an aux-in plug for an MP3 player, but there is nowhere to secure the player, so you need to run a lead to your coat pocket.
Rider position is comfortable with wide pull-back handlebars, 45.7cm floorboards and a deep-dish seat. The pillion seat isn’t the greatest as it slopes away to follow the line of the rear fender. The addition of an optional sissy bar should make them feel more comfortable as well as secure. Adjusting the rear shock for the extra weight of a pillion and luggage is difficult as you first have to take the left pannier off. At least the shock adjuster is a convenient hand-turn device.
Clearance is not great, but with its stiff frame and CVO rear shock it has to be fully loaded with pillion and luggage before it regularly grinds the floorboards.