My, oh my, was I in for a pleasant surprise when I first hopped on the Sport Glide. If you already have one in the garage, then you will know exactly where I am coming from. Sleek, elegant, powerful, comfortable, precise, fun… yep, I could go on…
But let’s head backwards in time, to 1950 in fact, when the name ’Glide’ first came on the scene as the ‘Hydra Glide’, in reference to the replacement of H-D’s former undamped leading-link springer front end with a modern telescopic design that provided greater travel and a much higher level of riding comfort. That was some sea change.
So what’s with the ‘Sport’ prefix, because it doesn’t look like a sports bike because Harley don’t manufacture them (yes, I know there is the new Sportster S, but you know what I mean), it’s a cruiser. Yep, it’s got a new 43mm inverted fork with triple-rate springs and Michelin Scorcher 31 rubber, but it’s still a cruiser, albeit a damn fine one.
In a way, this bike is a dead ringer for the old Dyna Switchback, a wonderful bike that was, and still is, ripe for conversion if ever there was one. Recently I missed out on a bit of a stunner whilst trawling t’Internet, but hey ho, you’ve got to be quick nowadays if you want to grab yourself a looker and I was ping-ponging questions with the seller whilst someone else jumped ahead of the game.
Oh yes, the Sport Glide. It can be a coat of many colours, or motorcycles, if you will. My test bike came as standard with the bikini fairing and hard side cases, giving it the traditional, if not smaller, bagger styling. The dual bags and fairing can be whipped off in seconds, giving you a naked cruiser. Reattachment is simple enough too, requiring a slightly longer timeframe, but no need to dive into the tool roll.
If it’s character you’re after, then there are various configurations to play with, such as with the fairing but no bags, or vice versa, or nothing at all. Personally, I like the look of the bike with the kit on, as it still looks sleek. So there are four options for you. If you can think of any more, let me know.
At 317kg in running order, it was easy enough to back it out of the garage without the need for rippling muscles to keep it upright. Riding is what it’s all about, and I did a number of runs on the bike, from short town hops to weekend countryside jaunts to A-roads bustling with cars and vans and artics. From a headwind perspective, I found it most noticeable on the main roads, with the wind deflected from my lower torso, thanks to the bikini fairing, but I got it face on and to the upper body. To be honest it didn’t bother me that much, because I was enjoying the ride too much, and it was good to see a couple of Harley riders on Road Glides stick their right arms in the air as they rode past, so they were obviously in cruise mode.
So, where does that lead us? Well, I am not sure whether this would be the right bike for a big tour with tons of motorway miles to endure, but for those weekend retreats into the hills, it’s nigh on perfect, but then H-D has always been good at giving its loyal customer base a reason for splashing the cash.
At £15,995 for the Vivid Black with Denim bags, the numbers start to rise as you work your way through the other four colour options. My test bike came in the rather striking Gauntlet Gray Metallic, which adds £350 to the RRP; that’s the same for the Stone Washed White Pearl and the Vivid Black Deluxe; and just to spit in your eye, we jump to an additional £1,140 for the Snake Venom.
Back to the ride, and it’s a nice place to be, with a comfortable seat at 680mm, forward pegs and wide bars supplying a nicely neutral position. No hefting it round corners. In fact, on a couple of roundabouts I scraped the pegs as I used up the 28 degrees of right lean angle.
Punching you down the road is 83HP/x62Kw @ 5450rpm and a peak of 103ft-lb/139Nm torque @ 3500rpm from the juicy Milwaukee-Eight 107-inch V-Twin engine. Redline? What redline? You can forget about that, as I found myself shifting comfortably through the six-speed box way before that came anywhere into play. With 4-piston fixed front and 2-piston floating rear brakes and ABS as standard, breaking is assured should an emergency arise, although it never did during my time with the Sport Glide, and tickling the rear brake in urban environments made it a veritable joy to putter along in traffic.
Of course, this bike is happiest on the open road, where you can expect an estimated range of 43mpg fuel economy whilst enjoying the power of the vee-twin, the noise, the knowing nods of approval, the sheer fun of riding an adaptable cruiser. The Mantis-cast Aluminium wheels nuance those looks.
So, the big question. Did the Sport Glide exceed my expectations? Most definitely. I’m not much into sports bikes any more. I’m too long in the tooth and I don’t like the inevitable onset of neck ache after a ride. But as I mentioned previously, this isn’t a sports bike, it’s a cruiser; one that will take you through urban sprawl or on a pleasant weekend ride to a nice countryside retreat, and I’m always up for that. I like to keep things simple, and there are no ride modes to switch between, the only downside I can think of being that you have to drop your eyes to see the display on the fuel tank, but that’s no biggy really. If ever there was a do-everything bike, then this is it. It’s that good.
2021 Harley-Davidson Sport Glide
Price: From £15,995
- Engine: Milwaukee-Eight 107ci (1746cc) V-twin
- Torque: 139Nm @ 3500rpm
- Horsepower: 83HP/x62Kw @ 5450rpm
- Transmission: 6-speed Cruise Drive
- Frame: Mild steel tube with rectangular backbone
- Wheels: Mantis cast-aluminium
- Tyres: (F) 130/70B18 63H BW (R) 180/70B16 77H BW
- Brakes: (F) 4-piston fixed (R) 2-piston floating
- ABS: Standard
- Rake: 30 degrees
- Curb weight: 317kg / 699 pounds
- Seat height: 680mm / 26.7 inches
- Fuel capacity: 18.9 litres / 4.16 gallons
- Estimated fuel consumption: 43mpg