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Friday, June 9, 2023

The Harley-Davidson Road Glide Is America On Two Wheels

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I don’t know about you, but I hate it when people make fun of pride in our country and its accomplishments. I’ve been around the world like Lisa Stansfield and I still think the United States is the best place to live and work.


I’ll give you two reasons for that. If you look at the charts of best-selling vehicles around the globe, you’ll see that most of them are poverty-spec tiddlers with no power, no space and no style. There are plenty of reasons for that, having to do with everything from national economies to taxes to public transit to the size of the roads, most of which are beyond the control of the average vehicle buyer. But the results are noteworthy.

Here in the USA, our best-selling passenger vehicle is the mighty Ford F-150, a glorious aluminum-bodied testament to excess and, at least relatively speaking, efficiency. The same is true for motorcycles. The chart-toppers everywhere else tend to be 90cc scooters or 125cc entry-level bikes. In the Land Of The Free, however, the most desired bike is a $23,000 luxury tourer from Harley-Davidson called the Street Glide Special. We really do offer more opportunity for everyday folks to own and experience some pretty serious machinery.

For 2017, H-D upgraded the Street Glide to include the all-new 107-cubic-inch Milwaukee-Eight V-Twin. Much like the fifth-generation General Motors L86 6.2L V8 in my Silverado, the Milkwaukee-Eight represents the application of extreme technological competence to a prehistoric concept. In this case, Harley-Davidson has managed to get a single cam to operate two four-valve heads on a V-Twin. I’ve looked at diagrams of it and I still don’t quite get it. It makes Honda’s fabled single-cam four-valve heads seem simple.

The Milkwaukee-Eight idles with a solid and fuss-free lope at 850rpm, shaking the bike pretty hard but not in the rattle-filled, slightly-unsteady manner of all but the most recent Harleys. There’s a remarkable lack of heat coming off the engine, particularly on the left side. In an Ohio summer that’s good news, but during these cold, rain-soaked Los Angeles nights I kind of missed the old leg-burner layout.

It’s easy to see why these bikes are so popular. Like Ford with its F-150, Harley-Davidson has relentlessly engineered the rough spots out of the product while adding the features that its owner base really wants.

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