Harley-Davidson Road Glide Special | DOIN’ TIME

FRESH MEAT! A new 2015 H-D Road Glide touring machine joins the long-term fun.

WRIST: Andy Cherney
MSRP (2015): $23,699 (as equipped)
MILES: 3,162
MPG: 41
MODS: None
UPDATE: 1

It's been three weeks and about 1,900 miles since I picked up Harley's retooled-for-2015 Road Glide from the SoCal fleet center, and I've had little to complain about in that time—the bike is powerful, composed, comfortable (for the most part), and well appointed. The sleeker shark-nose fairing looks the business too. My neighbors are drooling over the thing. Still, I've managed to identify a few niggles so far.

First and foremost is the seat; it’s comfy for about 120 or so miles, beyond which the shape of the dish simply becomes too binding. I’m looking at Harley’s Road Zeppelin aftermarket unit as a possible replacement. Second is the suspension, which isn’t so daunting on interstates—where the adjustable (but short travel) air-ride rear unit manages bigger bumps okay—but rather the sharp, back-road stuff. It’ll literally kick you in the spine. Harley offers Premium Touring Shocks that might be an improvement, but I’ll also troll the aftermarket for options.

My initial 1,100-mile blast from SoCal to NorOre was ideal weather-testing territory, and the Glide’s new Slipstream vents proved to be a real bonus through the heat of California’s Central Valley. Once I hit Oregon’s unrelenting rain belt, though, I found the shark-nose layout exposed me more than, say, the Street Glide’s Bat Wing. Part of the reason is that the Road Glide’s fairing is more open and angled away from the rider, so there’s no chance of tucking into it. The chasm between your body and the shield invites encroachment from the elements (read: getting wet).

In the grand scheme of things, though, we’re talking small potatoes. Long-distance warriors will probably be more positively swayed by the Road Glide’s dialed-in control setup, which lends itself to easy and intuitive actuation. After a couple of days on the road, I could easily find and activate almost every button blindfolded and with one hand. (You know what I mean.) And the infotainment? Frankly, that Boom! Box 6.5 GT system is, as the kids (used to) say, the “shiznit.” The touchscreen is amazingly responsive, even to bulky leather gloves, but also I’ve figured out how to toggle through nearly every function with the thumb-activated joysticks—a much safer bet while the bike’s in motion. One big fly in the ointment is the screen’s excessive reflectivity—under certain conditions, the sun’s reflection relentlessly pounds your corneas. Harley’s engineers said they’re aware of the issue and are working on a solution. Some kind of angle adjustability would be nice, though obviously that would add complexity and cost.

I can also confirm that the Glide isn’t at its happiest when slogging through the urban jungle. After painfully slow rush-hour crawls across three major urban centers, this touring bike was left gasping for air more often than not. That’s mainly because H-D’s EITMS (engine idle temperature management system) shuts down the rear cylinder in high temperature and stop-and-go conditions (among others), making for harsh vibes and the occasionally unwieldy handling scenario. But now that I’m in the cooler Northwest, I might disable that function (easily done through the touchscreen menu).

Finally, with a dozen or so fill-ups under its belt, the Road Glide’s gas mileage has become fairly steady. I’m averaging about 40 mpg on most trips, for an approximate 220-mile range on a tank of premium before the warning light comes on (considerably less on high-speed interstate blasts or around town). All in all, I’m stoked about the addition of a proper touring bike to the stable. I have plenty of destinations in mind for the next few months, and once the aforementioned upgrades are installed (along with some heated grips and luggage improvements, of course), I’m sure the Road Glide will prove to be even more long-haul happy.