In reality, the Street Glide just isn’t the full monty, it lacks the essential touring ability of the big brother Electra Glide.
Harley-Davidson’s Electra Glide is one of the most iconic machines ever made, but if you want a stripped-down version, more suited to solo touring perhaps, then the Street Glide might be more your cup of soda pop.
The Street Glide keeps the on-board music system, 6 speed 1584cc V-Twin motor, footboards, crash bars etc. plus there’s a range of accessories available. But is it worth saving three grand for the `Street’ version, or is the Electra Glide still the ultimate touring Hog? Alastair Walker motivates down the road…
When I was about 14 I saw a movie called Electra Glide in Blue, which was a largely routine cop thriller, punctuated by slo-mo 70s cinematography and stunning images of a Police spec `Glide, in a vivid shade of blue paint. I ended up making an Airfix kit replica of that bike ( no, I didn’t have a girlfriend at that age ) and always dreamed of riding such a massive, charisma-oozing motorcycle. A few years later, I watched Marianne Faithfull in Girl on A Motorcycle and for me, the legend was sealed – foxy chicks who wore nothing but Chanel Number 5 beneath their leathers, also rode Harleys. Elvis owned a fleet of Electra Glides too.
Surely this was the coolest bike ever made?
Fast forward to the 90s and I get to test one. Oh dear. The gearbox seems to made from garden implements, the engine chugs like a marine diesel and has the performance of an asthmatic Suzuki GS500 learner bike. As I rode home one of the pannier lids popped open – although it was locked – and my waterproofs fell out on the A55, never to be seen again.
But Harley have spent the last 15 years perfecting and honing the Electra Glide, although to confuse potential buyers they insist on calling it an FXTROTZULU Ultra Classic, or something instead. I tested it last year and the big Glide is a truly magnificent way to travel, a modern day P & O cruise ship. The new 6 speed engine gives you an overdrive for fuel economy on motorways, the music system is excellent and weather-resistant ( we went to Ireland, so it got wet ). In short, the Electra Glide makes you feel like a million dollars on tour because people love it, they want to talk to you, ask lots of questions and admire the way you handle such a humungous beast of a bike.
They don’t know that the latest 1584cc Harleys are easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy to handle. Apart from lacking reverse gear ( the Wing has that ace card ) the big Hog is a cinch to manhandle, even on a slippy petrol station forecourt. Just don’t trust the sidestand until its fully extended…
So what did I make of the Street Glide?
First off, it’s just as pleasant to ride, extremely comfortable and looks pretty, with lower suspension at the rear end than a stock Electra Glide, `Streamliner’ footrests, integrated mirrors in its `bat wing’ fairing and more styling flummery. Technically, the 2008 Street Glide has a fly-by-wire throttle, so there’s no cable, plus a new vibe-reducing gizmo to the belt drive assembly. It has slash-cut silencers too, plus a new tail fender to tidy things up near the panniers.
You don’t get any security as standard, but the proximity sensor key system is an optional extra – I would take it if I were you, the standard locks are poor – the type that MCN managed to open with biro pens a few years back.
Overall, the Street Glide is a similar riding experience to its big brother, although it feels a tad lighter, it still requires some planning before entering a sequence of corners. The brakes come with an ABS option and I would go for that, as the machine is heavy and the Bremebo brakes have a certain wooden feel about them. The only technical difference I detected was an even clunkier starter motor than usual, but it could have been an abused press bike – a pure one-off.
The Street Glide is OK, but just not good enough. The root of the problem is that this bike just isn’t the real deal. It’s no long distance tourer.
Imagine someone tells you that you’re getting a new laptop computer at work. It’s a top brand, Macbook Air thingy, but inside its whirring gadgetry there are several pieces of software missing that mean you can’t save documents and pics in all formats and when you email videos, you get a `bong’ noise and some bizarre error message flashes onscreen. You’d feel a bit short-changed, yet not to be churlish you’d keep the Macbooky thing, because…well, it looks cool and shit.
That’s exactly how I felt about the Street Glide. I thought it looked like a full dresser Hog, it sounded good when you gassed it up from junctions, and the screen `n’ panniers combo made it look ready to head for Route 66. But in reality, the Street Glide just isn’t the full monty, it lacks the essential touring ability of the big brother Electra Glide. The bottom line is that it can’t carry two people properly, plus a week’s kit, and it costs 15 grand, what the heck is all that about?
I took Anne to the Raven cafe for a proper truckers/Hog style Sunday breakfast. Within a few miles she was fidgeting aorund on the sloped pillion section of the saddle, trying to hang on each time I accelerated.
“You just keep sliding backwards,” said Anne, shaking her head in disbelief that Harley fitted a solo only seat to such a bike, ” and they should have a proper grabrail at the back, not make you reach down to those railings.”
As a rider, I found the cut-down screen meant I was getting my head blasted about at speeds above 70mph. You may think that’s the legal limit, so stop moaning Walker, but occasionally, even an old duffer like me needs to have a blast of speed to remind himself he is actually, still alive. On a windy day, there was little protection from the screen, and in Europe, there are lots of windy days Harley…
The only reason I think Harley have fitted a screen that is about two inches tall, and a pillion perch that’s like a mini ski slope, is to make you buy what they should have fitted in the first place. Not really fair on such an expensive motorcycle.
Here’s one more nitpick, the exhausts were going rusty, with just 900 miles on the clock. Imagine buying a 15 grand car and finding the pipework going brown before the thing’s run in – there would be a queue of emails in the Watchdog inbox until a recall was announced.
The Rock-Ola- Roadshow
The Street Glide still has enough appeal to make you want to jack your job in, leave this rain-sodden, tax-on-breathing-soon country and head off on the highway. It rumbles nicely at tickover, the bike’s chassis has a solid, iron horse durability about it and there is no finer feeling than riding along a favourite road with some classic Zeppelin booming from the speakers.
I liked riding the Street Glide, but I feel it just isn’t worth the money, considering it is basically a solo `sunny days only ’ tourer. Even ridden solo, the cut-down screen and fiddly pannier lids would start to have you looking at rivals like the Victory Vision, Yamaha’s Star cruisers and the Honda Gold Wing 1800 with some degree of envy. The Yamaha’s are cheaper by a huge margin, the Victory arguably looks more dramatic and the Wing carries two people plus luggage effortlessly. It does cost more than the Street Glide.
In the end, I think if I could afford to lash out on a Harley, then I would prefer to spend the extra 3 grand and get the full house Electra Glide. There’s still a bit of that Airfix modeller inside me that demands nothing less.
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|ENGINE||1584cc V-twin, air cooled, four stroke, twin cam.|
|BORE AND STROKE||95.3mm X 111.1mm|
|PEAK POWER||Not stated|
|PEAK TORQUE||95 ft/lbs @3500rpm|
|FUELING||Electronic fuel injection|
|FRAME||Steel tubular type|
|SUSPENSION||No details given.|
|BRAKES||Twin Brembo discs at front, single rear disc, 4 piston calipers on all.|
|WHEELS||16 inch diameter front and rear|
|ESTIMATED TOP SPEED||115mph|
|FUEL CAPACITY||22.7 litres|
|ESTIMATED FUEL CONSUMPTION||45mpg average|
|UK RRP||£14, 825 (£15,475 with ABS braking)|
|EQUIPMENT||CD/Radio, with handlebar controls. Fairing, panniers, crash bars, clock, voltmeter, cruise control, tripmeter, 6th speed indicator, black powder-coated engine, adjustable footrests, clear lens headlight, stainless steel handlebar etc.|