2015 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Special | FIRST RIDE

The Motor Company’s badass bagger is back.

They say: Massive bad attitude and mile-devouring function..

We say: In this case, bad attitude is a good attribute

A more aggressive fairing treatment looks meaner, and showcases a pair of new, dual-reflector Daymaker LED headlights that blast a bright hole in the darkest night.

When the Road Glide was cut from the Motor Company lineup in 2014, no one believed it was gone forever. This bike is an integral part of Harley-Davidson’s one-two bagger punch, the right cross that follows the best-selling Street Glide’s left jab. We all knew its absence was just a quick pause to clear the pipeline for a retooled Road Glide, one that incorporated the same Project Rushmore updates that revitalized the Street Glide platform last year. This is that bike.

Project Rushmore’s many functional upgrades, including One-Touch hard saddlebags (the lids open with one finger), Reflex linked brakes, electronic cruise control, and revised hand controls that extend the One-Touch philosophy to the supremely intuitive Boom! Box infotainment system (nearly every command can be completed by pushing a single button or toggling a joystick once), are incorporated into this new Road Glide. The powertrain is updated, too, with the High Output Twin Cam 103 V-twin that debuted last year, paired with the Cruise Drive 6-speed transmission with its light-action hydraulic clutch that was also new for 2014.

The Road Glide’s frame-mounted shark-nose fairing has been comprehensively overhauled this year in an effort to improve aesthetics, aerodynamics, and touring comfort. Sharper styling gives an even nastier look, while a trio of new, wind tunnel-developed Splitstream adjustable vents hugely improve airflow, says Harley. A horizontal vent under the tinted eyebrow windscreen is meant to reduce head buffeting, while massive vents on either side of the headlights—big enough to stick your hand through—route cooling air directly over the rider, which is much appreciated on a hot day like the one we enjoyed at Sturgis. A new, higher handlebar also sweeps back further, partially to clear the lids for new fairing pockets, but we prefer the older, flatter bar.

The H.O. 103 engine is a known quantity that performs exactly as expected in this capacity. With a claimed 105 pound-feet of torque available at just 3,250 rpm, stoplight acceleration is as robust as highway cruising is relaxed, and the sweet tune from the tapered chrome duals should have the aftermarket worried. Ride quality from the air-adjustable suspension is impressively plush at low speeds and over smooth pavement yet stiff enough for moderately spirited riding—aided by bigger, 49mm forks with stiffer triple clamps, more Rushmore improvements—but with just 2.1 inches of rear-wheel travel beware of hard hits. Relatively light, 5-spoke Enforcer wheels—also new last year—help handling even more. Reflex linked brakes balance forces front and rear and allow you to more consistently use the unexpectedly powerful rear brake—as certain Harley riders are wont to do—without activating the ABS.

The high-spec Road Glide Special we rode comes with the upgraded Boom! Box 6.5GT infotainment system that adds a touch screen and GPS navigation, HD Smart Security, linked brakes and ABS, hand-adjustable rear suspension, and hand-laid pin striping for a $2,300 premium over the standard, $20,899 Road Glide (in Vivid Black; colors add $500 to both the base model and the Special). The Road Glide, Harley-Davidson’s original badass bagger, is back.

tech SPEC

Price $23,199
Engine type air/oil-cooled 45° V-twin
Displacement 1690cc
Transmission 6-speed
Claimed horsepower N/A
Claimed torque 104.7 lb-ft at 3250 rpm
Frame Tubular-steel double-cradle
Front suspension Showa 49mm fork; 4.6-in. travel
Rear suspension Showa shocks adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Front brake Dual Brembo four-piston calipers, 300mm discs with ABS
Rear brake Brembo four-piston caliper, 300mm disc with ABS
Rake/trail 26.0°/6.8 in.
Wheelbase 64.0 in.
Seat height 27.4 in.
Fuel capacity 6.0 gal.
Claimed weight 849 lb.
Available Now
Contact [harley-davidson.com][]

VERDICT   8/10 Stars

A spot-on update of the Road Glide platform, thoroughly upgrading and thoughtfully improving performance and comfort without sacrificing any inherent character or style.
A more aggressive fairing treatment looks meaner, and showcases a pair of new, dual-reflector Daymaker LED headlights that blast a bright hole in the darkest night.