Harley-Davidson Road Glide Special | DOIN’ TIME

Long-Term Update: Practical mods for touring comfort and convenience.

Wrist: Andy Cherney
MSRP (2014): $23,699
Miles: 5,620
MPG: 34.5
MODS: Heated grips, saddlebag liners
UPDATE: 2

Because the Harley-Davidson Road Glide comes pretty well equipped, piling on additional cargo mods was never part of my original upgrade plan. First, I didn't want to gum up the Glide's flowing lines (I'm not completely blind to style), and, second, if I wanted an Electra Glide Ultra Classic I would have requested one in the first place.

Thousands of miles of fairly aggressive riding on the Road Glide had burned through about a quart or so of oil, and the air filter clearly needed swapping as well. I’d also ordered heated grips to make my winter jaunts a bit more tolerable, but Harley had insisted on handling the install. With all that in mind, I mapped a return route to Harley’s fleet center in Southern California for the 5,000-mile service, which should cost around $350 at your local dealer.

The Slipstream heated grips look slick but don’t crank out enough heat to keep my mitts warm when temperatures drop much below 40 degrees.

Just 970 miles later, Alan Barsi and his H-D crew were filling her up with four quarts of 20w-50, slapping in new air and oil filters, and going over the control cables, engine coolant, radiator, and brake system with a fine-toothed comb…er, hex wrench. The chrome and rubber Harley-Davidson Slipstream Heated Hand Grips I selected from the P&A catalog (harley-davidson.com; $270) turned out to be a seriously kickass upgrade over the stock units—aesthetically, anyway. To get heat flowing, spin the dial on the left grip to one of the variable settings, from 1 to 7; automatic monitoring is supposed to adjust to ambient temperatures and maintain a constant level of heat. The Slipstream grips also switch off with the ignition so no worries about draining the battery. Alas, the payoff was less than spectacular during my return ride with mountain temperatures in the mid-30s; even cranked up to 7, I didn't feel like the grips emanated a comfortable amount of heat, and they definitely never got hot, just warm. Either my gloves were too thick (not likely) or the control circuit inside the grips was glitchy. I've tested basic aftermarket heated grips that emitted way more heat, so I have a feeling these particular H-D units are somehow defective.

Top-loading luggage is the only way to fly, as we know, but the bag liners are an amazingly satisfying addition. No more digging around in the bike; just grab the bag and go.

I'd also sourced Harley's Hard Saddlebag Travel-Pak luggage liners (see harley-davidson.com; $130) for my longer trips. Although that might sound like a minor addition, they've turned out to be worth their weight in gold, helping to smooth post-ride offloads immensely by keeping all my loose gear sorted into easily removable soft bags. The pouch pair slips seamlessly into touring models equipped with hard saddlebags, with the right-hand bag keeping my laptop secure in a separate padded pocket.

As for the bike itself, I noticed mileage went down considerably on the return slog, probably because keeping the throttle pinned for seven hours straight (to maximize daylight riding hours) will do that and definitely because we were pushing straight into a nasty headwind. The numbers dropped to somewhere between 33 and 36 mpg or sometimes less than 200 miles on a tank.

Meanwhile, the infotainment system has been a godsend on those long, remote stretches of interstate when your iPod playlist is the only ray of light. The speakers are more than up to the task of cutting through windblast, even at 70 mph, and I’ve messed around with the nav system enough to have discovered some of its strengths (easily accessible inputs; clearly spoken directions) and flaws (not easily cancelled or changed; slow loading during complex navigational instructions). Bottom line: It’s a boon for road warriors, but it can be incredibly distracting as well. Use with caution.

All in all, the Road Glide is proving itself to be a more than capable touring mount, as delivered. Turns out the handlebar positioning fits me to a T, and it seems that even two- to three-hour stretches in the saddle are perfectly manageable without too much shoulder and arm strain. Handling isn’t exactly nimble, but the Dunlop tires and stiffer 49mm fork means the Glide tracks like a train on long sweepers, feeling completely planted at speed. The Reflex Lined brakes with ABS have also saved my bacon more than once on this trip, especially now with piles of wet leaves clustered in some corners of road. Regardless, the miles are begging to be piled on.

The Slipstream heated grips look slick but don’t crank out enough heat to keep my mitts warm when temperatures drop much below 40 degrees.
Top-loading luggage is the only way to fly, as we know, but the bag liners are an amazingly satisfying addition. No more digging around in the bike; just grab the bag and go.