I was glad I was aboard a 2019 Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special when we hit appalling weather and narrowly avoided a tornado in the Midwest ofthe US of A.
The big tourer is as sure-footed as anything else on the road.
And it needed to be.
I was on the first day of a media launch for the new Touring range riding from Minneapolis to Milwaukee to take part in the company’s 115th anniversary celebrations when the weather gods spurned us.
Conditions were damp to start with as we rolled out of Minneapolis, but by the time we got to Red Wing for lunch the heavens had really opened up and we were drenched.
Stupidly I had chosen to wear an open-face helmet and almost water-boarded myself when the neckerchief became soaking wet, preventing me from breathing!
I was one of only two Aussie motorcycle journos on the launch. The other was Neale Brumby from Heavy Duty magazine. The rest were Americans who decided over lunch to hot-foot it down the interstate to the safety of the hotel at our overnight stop at La Crosse.
Maybe we were just foolhardy Aussies who didn’t realise the potential for danger, but we decided to stick with the scheduled winding route along the Mississippi River.
Later on we were to find that only an hour or so after we left Red Wing a tornado ripped through town and did some impromptu roofing work.
Meanwhile we were somewhere down the road getting drenched with lightning crashing so closely around us the hairs on my arms were standing on end.
You could feel the sound wave of thunder ripple through the air the very second the lightning struck – it was that close.
Still, the Street Glide Special was the bike to be on when the weather turned this nasty.
2019 Touring models
There have been very few changes in the Touring range for 2019, but the biggest is that the Street Glide Special, Road Glide Special, Road King Special and Ultra Limited all now come with the 114 cubic-inch Milwaukee Eight engine with a whopping 163Nm of torque.
That’s a lot of twisting, cranking energy turning that back wheel through the standing and running water on the winding back roads of Midwest America.
So I was glad of the smooth ABS, linked brakes and the new slipper clutch (Drag-torque Slip Control System) preventing any rear-wheel lock-up on hamfisted downshifts.
There were several moments where the bow wave from the front wheel caused me to flinch and I may not have responded with my natural smooth calm.
It didn’t matter, as the braking and transmission technology, together with 362kg of weight (plus my 80-odd kilograms) pressing down on the tyres, helped keep the bike straight.
Another feature of the 2019 Touring models is the new BOOM! Box GTS infotainment system with extra functionality.
The infotainment system now has a TFT display with edge-to-edge Gorilla Glass designed to minimise reflection and optimised for touch sensitivity even with gloves and in the wet.
While my eyes were as wide as saucer plates in the treacherous conditions, I was still able to test the claims that the screen works in the wet.
A few times the rain was so heavy I couldn’t really see which way the next corner went or how tight it was, so I leaned forward and use my gloved thumb and forefinger to zoom in on the map.
Yes I could have used the toggle controls on the handlebar switch blocks to perform the same function, but the thumb and forefinger zoom-in manoeuvre is so ingrained in us from using our smartphones it was my natural reaction.
By the way, you can also pay an extra $300 (approx) to fit a wireless interface module installed which that adds Apple CarPlay compatibility.
It basically makes many of your iPhone apps available on the screen.
You can also use Siri to tell the system what to do. No need to use your hands at all!
Not that Siri would have reacted to any of my “colourful” verbal commands as I steered the Street Glide Special through the maelstrom around me.
You’ll be happy to know that the Street Glide Special and I made it safely to our La Crosse hotel.
Harley-Davdison FLHXS Street Glide Special tech specs