Way back in August 2006, when I got my first chance to ride Harley-Davidson’s 2007 model line, I quickly found two bikes that stood out from the rest of the range and were immediately entered on my own personal ‘favorites’ list. One was a rough-and-tumble street brawler designated the Night Rod Special, which you can read about here. The other was a much more practical machine that nonetheless had a similar ‘bad boy’ feel to it.
The bike I’m referring to is Harley-Davidson’s Street Glide, which blends the long-distance comfort of H-D’s famed Electra Glide models with the ‘custom cool’ beloved by H-D enthusiasts worldwide. So, when it came time to talk to Harley-Davidson about adding one of their machines to our long-term test fleet, picking the Street Glide was a no-brainer for Dirck and I. Our ‘Deep Cobalt Pearl’ blue test bike arrived in early December, and we’ve been racking up miles ever since – despite a slightly chilly Southern California winter.
After spending quite a bit of time in the low-slung saddle of the Street Glide, I find myself hard-pressed to think of a more comfortable place to spend those long miles. With your arms resting on the wide handlebars, your butt resting on the well-shaped seat, and your feet resting slightly forward on the wide floorboards (themselves mounted on vibration dampers), the Street Glide offers one of the most comfortable riding positions I’ve ever experienced. The ‘Bat Wing’ fairing provides excellent wind protection, and the stubby smoked windscreen actually seemed to result in less helmet buffeting than the medium and high models offered on other bikes in the Electra Glide lineup, at least for the 5’10” author.
The Street Glide can be intimidating at first, especially to a smaller rider like me (130lbs) who usually rides much smaller, lighter bikes. However, the bike’s bulky appearance is deceptive – once in the saddle, the Street Glide seems to shrink underneath you, mainly due to its low seat height and even lower center of gravity. Combined with weight balance and steering geometry that gives easy, predictable handling, the Street Glide is no more difficult to control than a Softail or Dyna. The only time the Street Glide’s weight made itself known was when I stopped sideways on a hill – since I don’t pack a lot of weight in my upper body to counter-balance with, I had to apply a little muscle to correct things when I got a bit overbalanced.
Once you get into the mountains, you’ll be surprised at how rapidly the Street Glide can be hustled through your favorite twisties. Although the floorboards and engine guards do limit your ultimate lean angle, a skilled rider can still hustle the ‘Glide along at a very respectable pace. The big tourer’s capabilities are certainly beyond the pace at which I see most groups of cruiser riders traveling. In fact, back at the ’07 line intro, I took a few out-of-state journalists to visit famed sportbike haven Palomar Mountain, and my local knowledge allowed me to put a solid gap on them between the base of the mountain and the summit – notwithstanding my being aboard a Street Glide while the others were all on lighter, more nimble Softails and Dynas!
Like all the ’07 H-D models except the Sportster and V-Rod lines, our Street Glide is powered by Harley’s new Twin Cam 96 V-Twin, which sends power to the rear tire via the new Cruise Drive six-speed transmission (for more technical details about the new engine and trans, look back at my ’07 Harley-Davidson intro report). The air-cooled 1584cc (96ci) V-Twin is rubber-mounted to smooth out the ride, eliminating any annoying high-frequency vibration while still reminding the rider he’s aboard a Harley-Davidson. The engine’s rumbling low-frequency pulse matches up perfectly with the classic H-D ‘potato-potato’ exhaust note (which is clearly recognizable, though somewhat muted by the stock exhausts).
The TC96 motor provides a broad, smooth spread of torque that is nicely complemented by the excellent six-speed trans, and it is immediately clear that H-D’s engineers put a lot of thought and effort into proper gear ratio selection for this six-speed. The result is impressive flexibility that makes gear changes an infrequent occurance, while at the same time providing much-improved roll-on acceleration compared to the old TC88 motor. While the big Street Glide could never be called ‘fast’ in stock trim, and it’s certainly not even close to the fastest cruiser or tourer we’ve ridden, the motor has plenty of torque to get the job done, and the flexible nature of the powertrain enhances the riding experience immensely.
Braking is adequate but by no means impressive, although that doesn’t come as much of a surprise on a bike weighing a claimed 770lbs in ‘ready-to-run’ condition (claimed 730lbs dry). Still, the Street Glide is capable of bringing itself to a stop safely – the main problem is a simple lack of feel from the brakes, which offer little feedback through the spongy brake lever and rear brake pedal.
When using the Street Glide covering long distances, there are more features to enjoy than just the excellent comfort we mentioned earlier. The large front fairing mounts a radio/CD player unit, with controls mounted conveniently next to the handgrips, where they are easily operated by a gloved thumb. The stereo is powerful enough to sound good even while cruising at 80mph on the freeway (which the Street Glide does comfortably) wearing a full-face helmet, and it offers automatic volume adjustments based on speed so you don’t blow out your eardrums at the bottom of the freeway offramp.
The integrated hard saddlebags are nicely matched to the Street Glide’s styling, and while they’re not wide enough to store a full-face helmet, they’re certainly useful for riding gear, a couple days worth of clothes, some bottled water, or anything else you’d like to take along on your ride.
Overall, the more we ride the Street Glide, the more we like it. As a tourer, its comfortable and capable both on the freeway and on a highway through the mountains. Around town or in tight corners, we found it far more manageable than any bike its size has a right to be. And the stylists at Harley-Davidson have done an incredible job of eliminating the top-heavy look of many touring bikes and replacing it with a low, sleek, and aggressive stance that packs enough of a ‘custom’ flare to turn heads wherever you ride. Stay tuned as we tap into H-D’s incredible line of factory accessory parts to make the Street Glide look even tricker, ride even better, and offer even more comfort on all-day rides.