Harley-davidson Street Glide Special
Harley’s touring family rearms with eight-valve engines and new suspension to defend against Indian attack
THE BATTLE OF the big tourers is hotting up in the US, with Indian’s revival prompting Harleydavidson to retaliate with an all-new engine: the Milwaukee-eight. It’s still a pushrod-operated, 45-degree V-twin, but justifies its name with Harley’s first road-going four-valves-per-cylinder layout. The Eight comes in three varieties. The basic Milwaukee-eight 107 – used by the Street Glide, Road Glide and Road King models – has enlarged capacity of 1745cc, or 107 cubic inches (up from the previous Twin Cam 103 unit’s 1690cc), and features new oil-cooled cylinder heads. A version of the 107 with liquidcooled heads powers the full-dress Ultra Classic; and there’s also a bigger, 1868cc unit, the Milwaukee-eight 114, for the exotic Custom Vehicle Operations models. It’s the Street Glide Special that’s likely to be most popular. With bar-mounted half-fairing, sound system and panniers, it’s cool looking, unmistakably Harley and well-equipped for distance, without being as huge as the Ultra Classic. The Glide’s natural habitat might be the American Midwest, but its updates make just as much sense on the A427 between Corby and Coventry in the English Midlands. Some are obvious even before pulling away: a new counter-balancer reduces vibration dramatically, so there’s much less of the traditional jiggling about at tickover. Idle speed is reduced from 1000 to 850rpm, which contributes, along with the new oil-cooled heads (and re-routed rear exhaust which benefits a pillion), to cooler running. Reduced mechanical noise has allowed Harley to make the exhaust’s potatopotato thump slightly sharper, while getting through Euro 4 regs. There’s also extra electrical output for heated gear that is thankfully unnecessary on this mild autumnal ride. Main benefit comes when the throttle’s cracked open. The increased engine capacity and four-valve layout’s better breathing has generated more grunt through much of the range, with a peak torque boost of almost ten per cent. Harley says that means a gain of two to three bike lengths from zero to 60mph, and one to two in top-gear from 60 to 80mph. That feels about right from the way the Special stomps forward with a crisp, responsive feel from as little as 2000rpm. Although smoother, it still has plenty of character. Its extra shove adds to the entertainment, makes A-road overtaking easier, and will doubtless be especially welcome when the bike is two-up and its usefully roomy, easily opened panniers are full. Such situations will also highlight this year’s other Touring family update: new suspension. The 49mm Showa forks are uprated; the same firm’s new shocks incorporate a remote hydraulic preload adjuster, instead of using
air-assistance as before. (According to Harley, many existing owners let the shocks go flat or over-fill them with garage air-lines.) The Glide’s ride is plush and its handling also impresses, the front end steering accurately and contributing to a well-controlled cornering feel. In fact all the revamped tourers handle well. Even the gigantic Ultra Classic corners remarkably sweetly for 400kg-plus of American buffalo. They say competition improves the breed, and in the case of these V-twins it’s absolutely true. The Street Glide Special and its siblings aren’t cheap but Harley have taken a step forward with a bunch of quicker, smoother, more refined and much better-suspended tourers.
Like when tractors got radios and quiet cabs. And with power take-o
Not so rened it’s a Hardley-davidson. Still a Milwaukee tractor, but with smoother edges