Tourer in a bagger style

Harley-Davidson Road Glide Special FLTRXS in a road test

Written by Thomas Schmieder , Date 5:20 PM

In 2015 Harley-Davidson is bringing the Road Glide with its striking “shark nose” to Europe: in the form of a “Special” luxury version with LED headlights and a large sat nav. In the Bavarian Alps, the Harley-Davidson Road Glide Special FLTRXS invites us to establish first contact.

The Road Glide has been available in the USA since 1998, but only tuned CVO versions made it across to Europe. Only now is it officially coming to good old Europe, in a special version – Model code: FLTRXS. Stylistically speaking, the Harley-Davidson Road Glide Special FLTRXS is a tourer in a bagger style, with a clean custom rear, and is technically speaking a one to one reproduction of the Street Glide. Just with a “Shark’s Nose“ rather than “Bat Wing” cladding. The typical batwing of the other touring models has been around since 1969, is mounted on the handlebars and pivots with them when steering.

In contrast, the striking, more exclusive wind-jammer front on the Harley-Davidson Road Glide Special FLTRXS is mounted to the frame. It remains fixed in place when the handlebars are turned. Only the tachometer and rev counter move with the handlebars, in a shaky plastic housing. All of the other dials (sat nav with large touchscreen, voltmeter, fuel gauge) are integrated into the panelling. At 25.4 mm (1 inch), the chrome-plated handlebar is thicker than that on the Street Glide (22 mm). It extends further towards the rider, and is offset further towards the rear. Good for people with short arms, but forces large riders into a slightly passive sitting position, leaning slightly backwards.

It is not speed that counts, but rather the pure and majestic drive sensation

To begin with the 385 kilograms of the Harley-Davidson Road Glide Special FLTRXS want to be hoisted from the stand, that’s a considerable 13 more than with the Street Glide Special. So what? Sheer bulk is part of a true man’s bike. And the very same applies to the inimitable running of this monument of an engine: potato-potato-potato. It is fascinating how the gleaming V2 shakes when idling, as if dancing back and forth on the steel frame. The powerful combustion engine stomps and quakes, with the entire handlebar stem trembling. However, once moving the vibration-isolating suspension calms: only a controlled pulsing penetrates through to the rider. Good Vibrations!

Two pistons with a 98.4 millimetre diameter whoosh back and forth with long strokes measuring a full 111.1 millimetres. Visually, the towering cylinders are like a mechanical engineering cathedral. Each with two pairs of crossed bumpers. A small oil cooler ensures reasonable cool (cylinder) heads in the air-cooled V- cylinder. The first gear gives a rich ‘tonk’ as it engages . What Harley calls the “High Output Twin Cam 103” (for 103 cubic inches) produces a manageable 86 HP from 1,690 cc. Here it is not speed that counts, but rather the pure and majestic drive sensation With the speedometer sitting at “100”, the rev counter on the Harley-Davidson Road Glide Special FLTRXS merely tickles the 2,500 rpm mark in sixth gear.

Drive in sixth gear? It’s pretty poor. You’re better to shift down to fifth, or even fourth. On the uphill sections of the unbelievably beautiful Rossfeldstraße, on the Harley-Davidson Road Glide Special FLTRXS you often find yourself pottering along in second and third. It’s striking when, depending on the gear, the flap on the right exhaust pipe opens at around 3,000 rpm (the one with the larger opening). Then the XXL-V-Twin turns more freely, offering noticeable additional thrust. Sitting on the panoramic seat, the landscape glides past you. There is indeed some pillion riders who will only be the passenger on a Harley. However, the backward sloping padding for the passenger on the Road (and Street) Glide isn’t very comfortable.

The wind screen is much better than on the Street Glide

In the front row, on the other hand, you could sit on the broad leather seat for hours. Style and feeling go hand in hand! Harley’s typical game of contrasts: on the one hand easy going, while on the other hand the feeling of power (and importance) is always with you. A real road cruiser, the Harley Davidson Road Glide Special FLTRXS. What towers in the enclosed space in front of the driver is beautifully bulky. The wind screen is much better than on the Street Glide. On the Street Glide there is a much stronger draught behind the small, flat screen. With the Road Glide three flaps open simultaneously for a turbulence free air stream and then close again when moving: to the left, to the right and above the “Daymaker” LED lights in the shark nose, which as the name suggests are as bright as day.

The tall, broad handlebars offer a large lever arm: the Harley-Davidson Road Glide Special FLTRXS folds harmoniously, predictably and accurately, taking a beautifully round line even through tight corners. An when braking in an inclined position it barely rears up at all. Just let go, then all is well in the swing arm club. Only when throwing the bike back and forth in S-shaped bends does the excessive weight at the front get annoying, although it is supported by the entire bike. Driven in a manner appropriate to the type of bike, the freedom when banking is okay. The two suspension struts get the best of the ultra-short 54-millimetre spring deflection. But in the event of rough bumps or holes in the road surface, they show limitations, striking violently into your lower back.

King-of-the-Road feeling from 25,785 euros

The telescopic fork glides better over bumps. It conceals its 49-series standpipes underneath huge covers, nevertheless still allowing its spring to travel 117 millimetres. Brecht was right: “Oh, the shark has pretty teeth dear…” Namely at the low-maintenance belt drive. And the brakes of the Harley-Davidson Road Glide Special FLTRXS are far from toothless as they bite down: From around 40 km/h the electronic brake distribution is active, with the pedal and hand lever working together, each sending around 30 percent of the braking force to the other wheel. Below this speed they brake separately. Every parking manoeuvre is a ceremony, you feel like a US cop. It inevitably draws in Harley fans, generally of the older generation, leaning casually on their side stands.

The Harley-Davidson Road Glide Special FLTRXS is simply a damn cool bagger. The country road cruiser spoils you with square metres of chrome, bulky solid metal and a host of details that are a feast for the eyes. It offers that king-of-the-road feeling from 25,785 euros, including an alarm system, immobiliser and keyless driving. And the way this shark continues to crackle for hours after it is switched off is just awesome.

Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special – Technical Data

Engine: Air-cooled two-cylinder, four-stroke 45-degree V-engine, two chain-driven camshafts mounted underneath, two valves per cylinder, hydraulic valve litter, bumper, dry sump lubrication, fuel injection, 2 x Ø 46 mm, unregulated catalytic converter, 650 W alternator, 12 V/28 Ah battery, mechanically actuated multi-plate wet clutch, six-speed gearbox, timing belt, secondary gear ratio 2.130.

Bore x Stroke: 98.4 x 111.1 mm
Engine capacity: 1,690 cc
Compression ratio: 9.7:1
Nominal power: 64.0 kW (86 HP) at 5,010 rpm
Max. torque: 138 Nm at 3,500 rpm

Chassis: Double-cradle steel frame, telescopic fork, Ø 49 mm, steel dual swing arm, two suspension struts, adjustable spring base, dual disc brakes to the front, Ø 300 mm, four-piston fixed calliper, disc brakes to the rear, Ø 300 mm, four-piston fixed calliper, ABS.

Cast aluminium wheels: 3.50 x 19; 5.00 x 16
Tyres: 130/60 B 19; 180/65 B 16

Dimensions + Weight: wheelbase 1,625 mm, steering head angle 64.0 degrees, trail 173 mm, spring deflection front/back. 117/54 mm, seat height 695 mm, Unladen weight 385 kg, Permitted total weight 617 kg, Tank capacity 22.7 litres.

Warranty: two years
Colours: blue, orange, black, matt black
Price incl. auxiliary costs: from 25,785 euros

2015 Series Harleys

The Street Glide, the most popular Harley worldwide, is only available as a “Special” in 2015. ­Including the Premium Infotainment System with large touchscreen and sat nav integrated into the batwing panelling.

The new models

Harley’s top touring model, the Electra Glide Ultra Limited is also available in a “Low” versions from 2015, the FLHTKL with a 685 rather than a 740 mm seat height. While retaining the same spring deflection, its chassis has been lowered by around 2.5 centimetres. The flatter leather seat and more streamlined engine casing cap (clutch case!) also reduce the distance between the road surface and the foot boards. The thinner handlebars extend five centimetres closer to the driver (22-millimetre diameter, no heated handles). Also on board: a slimmer pillion rider recess, an extended side stand boom and a hydraulic clutch with reduced manual force required. Harley views drivers from around 1.65 metres tall as the target group for the “Low” model. In actual fact, smaller drivers cope better with the 414-kilo colossus (factory specification when fully fuelled) when turning and manoeuvring. However, the Low model scratches the corner(s) earlier than the standard touring model. Like the Standard Ultra the Low is priced from 28,795 euros, depending on the paint finish. Unlike the Road and Street Glide, all E-Glides feature the 1,690 cc V2 with water-cooled heads; with the water coolers inside the leg shields.

The Street Glide is the most popular Harley in the USA (and worldwide) – a tourer without a topcase and with a tinted mini windshield on the typical batwing panelling. For 2015 there is still just the more expensive “Special” FLHXS version here in Germany, with its large touch screen for the “Boom! Box 6.5 GT Infotainment” system consisting of an audio system (radio plus mp3) and sat nav. The Special is also adorned with pinstripes on the paintwork and footboards with chrome inlays in an “Aerostream” design. Price: from 25.475 euros. There is also a “comprehensive re-design” of the braking system in all softail models for 2015.

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