Harley-Davidson Road Glide Special | DOIN’ TIME

Long-Term Update: Genuine cleaning kit from the Motor Company

WRIST: Andy Cherney
MSRP (2015): $23,699
MILES: 7,235
MPG: 41
MODS: Fancy new dipstick, H-D bike wash kit

Okay, let's get this out in the open. A couple of months ago, I mentioned having maintenance done on my Harley-Davidson Road Glide Special, including getting the radiator and coolant checked. Naturally, the email lit up with Harley owners reminding me that the Road Glide, though technically a Project Rushmore bike, is still very much air-cooled. In my defense, I was writing a story on the CVO Road Glide Ultra, which is "Twin Cooled," as Harley calls it. Dumb mistake.

Now, about my air-cooled Road Glide. I've taken to wearing lighter-weight gloves to better feel the warmth emanating from the Streamliner grips, and that's upped the comfort quotient for my paws, at least somewhat. Problem is the lighter mitts don't protect my digits as much from windblast at higher speeds, so it's not an ideal compromise. The bike has a scheduled visit to the H-D Fleet Center later this month, where techs have promised to diagnose the low grip-heat issue. And maybe bolt on radiators just to mess with me.

Another compromise worth noting is the Zeppelin saddle’s material durability. The seat cover’s textured fabric portion now sports a couple of fresh snags in the pilot’s section. Whether it’s fallen victim to errant boot heels or prickly keychains I can’t be entirely sure, but I’d guess this kind of wear probably wouldn’t have happened as easily with a leather or vinyl saddle. Coincidentally, Harley has just listed a vinyl-topped version of the Road Zeppelin ($740) in its online catalog, so there are other options.

What else… Oh, yeah, winter. Oregon’s soggiest season can be brutal on bikes, and it’s not because of rock salt on the roads (the state generally uses less corrosive calcium magnesium acetate and/or sand) but the effect of mud and muck that’s found on pretty much every street this time of year. The wet grit kicks up onto fenders, wheels, engine parts…you name it. And it’s a royal pain to clean off.

Frustrated with those coin-operated washes, I’ve resorted to ordering the Complete Bike Wash Kit from Harley (available at Harley dealers; $50), hoping to remove some of the caked-on gunk that accumulates even after just one ride. The kit comes with a concentrated cleaning solution, bug remover, wash mitt, Bug Eater Sponge, detailing cloth, and a drying towel.

After several hours with a bucket and hose and lots of elbow grease, the bike is looking noticeably shinier, with chrome now restored to gleaming status and the crusty undercarriage reacquiring a good part of its formerly glossy self. The Bug Remover seems to have melted fly carcasses especially well, or at least way better than the standard-issue bike wash I’d been using, and now most of the crust is gone. Next I’ll probably order the Harley Detail and Protect kit, to better seal off the Glide’s painted surfaces from environmental gremlins. As soon as it stops raining, anyway.

Meanwhile, I’ve also added an Oil Level and Temperature dipstick with Lighted LCD Readout ($150) from the H-D Parts & Accessories Catalog, mostly because the stock black ’stick wasn’t the easiest thing in the world to make out during roadside oil checks, and I wanted a more reliable gauge of the Road Glide’s oil consumption on longer trips. This item’s pretty pricey, but so far the gauge has given me far more convenient and accurate measurements without much fuss. Maybe next on the list is a coolant-temp gauge, huh?