When the mercury plummeted to -2C it was the only time I wished I’d had more equipment on the stripped-down Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Standard, such as heated grips.
The return of the famous Electra Glide name from the ’60s when the iconic batwing fairing was introduced is marked by this stripped-down version of the top-selling Street Glide.
Harley has stripped $1500 off the price of the Street Glide by deleting the music infotainment system, heel shifter, pillion seat, USB output and windscreen vent button.
It is only available in “Vivid Black” and costs $34,495 ride-away ($NZ37,995) which compares with the Street Glide at $36,995.
Cold as ice
I didn’t know it was -2C until my mates told me later because ambient temperature info is only available on the infotainment system. However, my fingers certainly told me.
We were on the second day of our five-day ride through NSW and we had just left Glen Innes, heading south into even colder climes.
The batwing fairing was providing reasonable protection and my winter gloves were only just coping, but I had forgotten to put in a set of of hand warmers I had bought for just $10 at a servo. They were still in my panniers!
After stopping to warm up with a coffee at Guyra, the ambient temperature had rocketed to about zero, so I didn’t bother inserting the hand warmers in my gloves. I found the fairing offered enough protection, anyway.
So if, like me, you rarely ride in such freezing conditions, you probably don’t need grip warmers on this bike. But they are available as an aftermarket accessory. They are only standard on the Ultra Ltd and a couple of CVOs.
If you find music distracting while riding or use a helmet intercom, like me, then you also won’t need the infotainment system. I find they are pointless for music over 80km/h anyway.
So with the $1500 saved, I would invest in better rear shocks to improve and lift the rear ride. The hand-adjustable emulsion-technology rear shock absorbers are ok, but a bit too short for NSW’s bumpy country back roads.
Yes, I know the idea is to provide a “slammed” rear end for that hot-rod look, but it lowers clearance to 120mm, which is 5mm less than the Street Glide and 15mm less than the plush-riding Road King.
On some of the terrible northern NSW roads, it hit the bump stops on many occasions with the shock waves pounding through my already bad back.
I also didn’t miss the heel shifter, USB output and the button that closes the backdraft vent. It didn’t allow rain in as I’d expected.
However, it would be handy to have a lockable door on the gaping hole where the infotainment system was. It would be useful as a secure glove compartment.
Despite the stripped-down “unnecessary” features, the Electra Glide still has a lot of bling.
For example, chrome has been added to the rocker, cam and derby covers to emphasise the V-Twin shape of the Milwaukee-Eight 107 engine.
There are also practical features such as electronic cruise control, 49mm front forks with dual bending valve suspension and Reflex Linked Brembo Brakes with ABS.
Those forks are much better for sorting out the NSW country road bumps than the rear shock.
They keep the front wheel on the ground and provide good feel and traction which was handy in the wet conditions we encountered over the Thunderbolts Way.
I had a few slippery moments thanks to the slick combination of cold and wet, yet the big, black Hog was miles ahead of my BMW-riding colleagues by the end of the road.
Most of those “moments” came from the rear, anyway, on account of my over-exuberant right hand. It surprises me that Harley hasn’t added traction control yet.
I suspect it will come in their next round of Touring updates as they already have it on their Trikes and their upcoming electric LiveWire.
The biggest delight on my five-day tour and subsequent rides around a warmer South East Queensland over the past couple of weeks has been the Milwaukee Eight engine.
I’ve been a big fan ever since I first fired one up at the 2016 world launch in Tacoma and noticed the lack of thump and bluster.
The ninth-generation “big twin” has become more sophisticate with eight valves — hence the name — yet has returned to the old single overhead cam design. It is also now double counterbalanced.
This all results in a much more refined, smoother, more powerful, flexible, responsive and economical engine. Despite giving it a handful, it returned just over 5L/100km.
The transmission has also been updated. There is less clunk in the gears, neutral is easier to find and sixth is no longer only for illegal speeds on the highway.
Roll-on acceleration is effortless at any revs, although there is a sweet spot around 3000 revs that pulls your cheeks apart in a big wide smile.
Despite having massive pistons throbbing around in this 107-cube (1745cc) unit, it feels polished and civilised.
If you don’t need the infotainment system, heel shifter, USB port or pillion seat, then save yourself some money and try the Electra Glide Standard.
Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Standard tech specs
- Price: $A34,495 ($NZ37,995)
- Engine: Milwaukee-Eight 107, 1745cc, SOHC, eight-valve
- Power: Not available
- Torque: 315Nm
- Bore x stroke: 100 x 111mm
- Compression: 10:1
- Transmission: six-speed, belt drive
- Length: 2400mm
- Seat: 680mm
- Clearance: 120mm
- Wheelbase: 1625mm
- Tyres: 130/80B17 65H; 180/65B16 81H
- Tank: 22.7 litres
- Wet weight: 372kg
- Lean angles: 31 degrees (right), 29 (left)