• Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special: First Ride Review

We try one of Harley-Davidson’s biggest motorcycles on for size

Ben, how much of a problem will it be to move the bike?” asks Roshni as she preps her camera for the shoot. Such is the perception when one sees the Street Glide Special for the first time. It is one of the largest motorcycles in the Harley-Davidson lineup and in India. Admittedly, even I was apprehensive about riding the Street Glide Special. I have always preferred lightweight motorcycles and am one who thinks weight is the antithesis of quick progress when it comes to two wheels (and four). At this moment though, after four days of living with it, I have no problems lining up the Street Glide for Roshni to do her magic. In fact, the only times I have felt the Street Glide Special’s 375kg kerb weight is while taking it off the centre stand or executing really tight U-turns. Being seated just 690mm above the ground helps too, making it easier to navigate in traffic or the parking lot.

As Roshni clicks away, I can’t help but stare. Imposing looks aside, it is an attractive looking motorcycle. Very few motorcycles are able to pull off chrome and in my opinion, the Street Glide Special wears it well. The chrome is well balanced and relegated to the bottom half of the motorcycle allowing you to take in that deep red paint scheme. A highlight of the 2021 model is the dinner plate-sized headlamp aptly named Daymaker. It features huge LED elements that make day of night and is great even for highway rides after dark.

I reckon past midnight is the best time to ride the Street Glide. The next to non-existent traffic lets you revel with the large Milwaukee-Eight motor. This one gets the larger 114 V-twin that displaces a staggering 1,868cc. On paper, a peak torque of 168Nm is delivered at 3,000rpm but in the real world, you get a healthy amount of shove all across the rev range. Despite the size and weight, it can be blisteringly fast if you are brave enough. Just ensure you have ample room to slow down because you know, momentum.

That said, the brakes do a fantastic job of shedding speed. It is not the performance though that gets you. It is the sensation of having a massive motor ahead of you that almost feels alive. Harley-Davidson has done well to eliminate the shakes from the Milwaukee Eight motor but thankfully has retained some of the good vibrations. It sounds fantastic too. At slow speeds, the exhausts emit an understated baritone which turns into a sweet characteristic V-twin roar at high revs.

After dark is the best time to ride the Street Glide as during the day, in traffic, the large V-twin makes its displeasure felt with its low-speed throttle snatch, an understandable trait as the fuel injection has to intermittently feed two massive lumps at low speeds. However, riding the Street Glide Special in crawling traffic feels like trying to tame a Bronco.

As we reach Lavasa top, Ishan is inquisitive about its handling traits. “Does it turn at all?” He asks. It does and surprisingly well for its size. I reckon the low centre of gravity and sheer weight helps the Street Glide Special defy the laws of physics. Around corners, the tyres do not just grip the tarmac, they punch down with the force of a Silverback. The cornering clearance is surprisingly good too and it handled all of Lavasa’s hairpins while scraping its exhausts maybe twice.

With the chilly morning air getting to me, I reach out to one of the two large panniers to retrieve my warm jacket liner. Being a practical guy, I have always been a staunch proponent of saddlebags much to Abhay and Ishan’s annoyance as both prefer their motorcycles to have a cleaner look. Even these two approve of the sleek design of these panniers.

In fact, with the Street Glide Special, Harley-Davidson has gone for the Bagger look, a popular custom motorcycle culture in America. The Bagger scene is a wild one with custom bike builders creating one-off specials that easily cost upwards of 50,000 US dollars. These motorcycles feature custom paint jobs, swooping streamlined bodywork and panniers, trick air suspension, 26-inch front wheel and massive speakers. They are a sight to behold, like the one here.

The Street Glide Special gets a music system. Called the Boom! Box GTS, it is a large 6.5-inch touch screen infotainment system that you can hook up to your smartphone for calls, navigation and music. It gets two large weatherproof speakers on each end of the front fairing. To say that it is loud is an understatement. Even with the volume low, the music is crisp enough to attract attention while waiting at a signal. The setup feels almost car-like.

That, I feel, is the premise of the Street Glide Special. To offer car-like comfort and features. One example is the seats, one of the most comfortable seats out there and on which you can spend hours riding. It even gets hill-hold control and a tyre pressure monitoring system. Heck, you get a proper dashboard with an array of dials and mirrors inside the fairing.

At Rs 31.99 lakh, even the pricing is on par with premium cars. You buy it to make a statement. Riding this motorcycle is like signalling your arrival via large neon signs. The Street Glide Special is not a motorcycle you can ride on a daily basis. The ride isn’t plush, the large V-twin detests crawling in traffic and after prolonged riding, the heavy clutch will leave your forearm sore. For me though, the Street Glide Special justifies being special when shown the open highway. However, it makes you want to take it to that special place where you can cruise into the night at triple-digit speeds with the Boom! Box blaring songs by AC/DC and Led Zeppelin. Isn’t that special?

Bikes First rides

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