H D SPORT GLIDE
Struggling to decide between a bagger and a naked cruiser? Step this way…
New ‘cruiser-tourer’ hybrid joins ranks of Harley’s revamped Softail range.
IF YOU THINK you’ve seen it all, what with the ‘cruiser trailie’ (Yamaha’s Xv950-based SCR950 retro) or the ‘adventure scooter’ (Honda’s X-ADV) Harley might now have all other oddball motorcycling marriages beat, (at least in terms of practicality) with this: the ‘cruiser tourer’ – or FLSB Sport Glide to use its official name. It’s the latest addition to Harley’s fully-revamped-for-2018 Softail family, bringing the total number of newbies to nine. And although last, this new Sport Glide is certainly not least – in fact it’s possibly the most significant… While its reframed (with a new, lighter, stronger, monoshock double cradle), re-engined (with the updated and now partially oil-cooled Milwaukee Eight) and restyled Softail siblings (including the Fat Boy and Low Rider), are all evolutions of existing models, the Sport Glide stands alone as an all-new model – hence this separate introduction. It’s been conceived in response to feedback from market research, the biggest, Harley claims, in company history, and is designed to have the broadest appeal of any of its cruisers. ‘We wanted something that would increase its capabilities,’ Matt Van Dyke, Harley’s motorcycle product planning lead told Bike. ‘To give it the flexibility to be both a cruiser and a touring bike.’ To do that, Harley have effectively come up with the ‘convertacruiser’, a transformable custom that, thanks to a quickly detachable mini-fairing and pair of panniers, can change from faired bagger to naked cruiser – or anything in between for that matter – in a matter of seconds. In truth it’s not a new concept. Dyed-in-the-wool Harley-istas will remember the short-lived FXDS Dyna Convertible of the mid-1990s, which, via a clip-off Plexiglass screen and unboltable, soft, studded (yes, really) sidebags, attempted a similar trick. But, having ridden one the length of Norway and never once wanted to glimpse my reflection in a shop window let’s just say that was at best a partial success. This time, though, it’s different. First, thanks to the much improved frame, fat USD forks from the Fat Bob and uprated engine, the Sport Glide handles and goes almost as dynamically as any of its Big Twins. Ergonomics are natural if a touch laid-back
‘This ’Glide is a hoot to ride, comfortable, easily transformable and has a slick style all its own with shades of the ultra successful Street Glide’
thanks to slightly forward ‘Highway Pegs’; steering is pleasingly precise with a controlled, smooth ride and the 107ci version of the Milwaukee Eight – although not the full fat 114ci offering available to some Softails, with 85bhp and over 100 lb.ft has enough grunty pep to entertain. Second, though a decent base bike, the touring goodies this time around are genuinely stylish and elevate the whole Sport Glide proposition to another level. The mini ‘Batwing’ fairing is handsome, detaches in seconds via two fork leg clamps and, although weather protection is minimal, it’s better than nowt and meanwhile, can be boosted though via leather-look an optional are tall rigid, screen. well-made, The panniers, stylish, their lids lock shut via neat, chrome levers and the whole shooting match can be removed again without tools via clips on the inside. But third, and best of all, is how the new Sport Glide makes you feel when you’re getting down the road. The old Convertible certainly worked, yet wasn’t easily transformed and made you feel as cool as a caravan owner. Not a great place to be then. This ’Glide, however, is a hoot to ride, comfortable, easily transformable and has a slick style all its own with shades of the ultra successful Street Glide. And if that and starting at just under £15,000 – the Street Glide begins at over £21,000 – isn’t a tempting, do-it-all Harley-davidson, even if it hasn’t got the bigger engine option, we’re not sure what is.
One minute a naked cruiser, the next a bagger with a screen
Rear preload adjuster uses a sliding scale
Note digital modernism creeping in
Harley: never known to underplay the brand