Harley-Davidson calls it a “stripped-down bagger.” I prefer to think of it as half-a-bagger or a boulevard bruiser because of the trade off between storage space and low, mean good looks.

Whatever you call it, the Street Glide Special — one of Harley’s Project Rushmore bikes — is a compromise between carrying capacity and vanity, and I mean that in the best possible way. It retains the capacity of the big side bags and the comfort of the front fairing, so this ride can serve as a bar hopper, grocery getter or open-road tourer right off the lot.

Continue reading for my review of the Harley-Davidson Street Glide and Street Glide Special.

Design

2015 - 2016 Harley-Davidson Street Glide / Street Glide Special
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Stripping the bike dramatically changed the look and implied role for the bike without divorcing it entirely from its predecessors.

The silhouette still screams "Harley tour bike," but removing the Tour-pac and passenger backrest cleans up the top lines and loses the "old-man's bike" vibe of the full bagger models.

The silhouette still screams "Harley tour bike," but removing the Tour-pac and passenger backrest cleans up the top lines and loses the "old-man’s bike" vibe of the full bagger models.

Bullet turn signals and a compact taillight keep the lines as smooth as one could expect from a full-fairing bike, and while the Rushmore-inspired, vented batwing front fairing is anything but inconspicuous, it’s still sleeker than the old "barn-door" fairings back in the day.

Close attention to ergonomics produced a comfortable rider triangle that encourages a relaxed and well-supported riding posture. Handlebar switch layout benefits from said attention, and the inner fairing boasts large, easy-to-read gauges and the 6.5-inch touch-screen, full-color display radio control. The virtual jukebox connects to your phone or media-player device via USB so you can take your jams with you wherever you go while the GPS makes sure you find your destination.

Chassis

2015 - 2016 Harley-Davidson Street Glide / Street Glide Special
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The Rushmore influence continues to play a role in the rolling-chassis design. Massive, 49 mm front forks stiffen and shore up the front end, and the hydraulic-adjustable suspension allows you to dial it in for your load, road and riding conditions.

Seat height checks in at 27.4-inches, unladen, and 26.1 inches with a 180-pound rider.

Harley’s "Reflex Linked Brakes" with ABS works with the dual-front and single-rear Brembo, four-pot calipers to remove some of the guesswork and requisite skill level involved with properly using the brakes. The system intervenes to prevent skids during emergency braking as well as wet conditions. In short, the brakes are smart enough to make almost any rider look good – or at least keep them rubber-side down.

Seat height checks in at 27.4-inches, unladen, or 26.1 inches with a 180-pound rider. This is low enough for most riders to reach the ground comfortably, though the floorboards protruding from the sides will force a rather wide stance.

Even though you don’t have the weight of the Tour-pac to deal with, the big 6-gallon fuel tank will definitely raise the center-of-gravity a bit and you will likely need a wide stance to keep her under control when you have the training wheels down.

Drivetrain

2015 - 2016 Harley-Davidson Street Glide / Street Glide Special Exterior
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The Twin Cam 103 engine shows its roots with a traditional air-cooled, 45-degree V-twin look that pays tribute to its history. This 103.1 cubic-inch mill cranks out an impressive 104.7 pound-feet of torque at 3,250 rpm, and upholds H-D’s reputation for coming on strong and early. An integrated oil cooler helps protect the oil, and hence the engine, when conditions and circumstances turn the heat up. It ain’t all bottom-end power either, this bike enjoys a strong 60 to 80 mph roll-on, not quite as strong as its 110-inch brother, but still a marked improvement over the old Evo Big-Twins.

A smart fuel-injection system helps to provide a combined mileage of 42 mpg and keep emissions within federal standards. The six-speed transmission funnels the power to the rear tire via the quiet and low-maintenance belt drive. I gotta say that after riding in a pack with a few six-speeds, I really envy them their low and comfortable cruising rpm.

Pricing

2015 - 2016 Harley-Davidson Street Glide / Street Glide Special
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As with most Harley bikes, the $22,899 sticker on the 2015 Special — $2,300 more than the base model — only covers the price of the high-gloss, Vivid Black paint job. Bump that up to $23,399 and you can opt for the Deep Jade Pearl, Charcoal Pearl, Brilliant Silver Pearl, Amber Whiskey (my favorite), Morocco Gold Pearl or the matte-finish Black Denim. Security, ABS, cruise control and the premium radio come as standard equipment, but the California Emissions package will set you back an additional $200.

The 2016 model year sees the addition of a number of hard-candy and/or flame paint schemes and a narrower primary chaincase and derby cover. A base-model, ’16 Street Glide will run you around $20,899 in black, $21,399 for the custom color package and $23,899 to get one of the hard candy color options. The 2016 “Special,” with its enhanced infotainment and security systems comes out at $23,199 in Vivid Black, $23,699 for the solid color option, $24,399 for a Custom color selection or $26,199 to get the sheet metal shot in a Hard Candy color option.

Competitor

2015 - 2016 Harley-Davidson Street Glide / Street Glide Special
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2015 - 2018 Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Vaquero / Vulcan 1700 Voyager
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We see a number of close-enough rides within this genre to have a pretty good selection from which to choose. Rather than go with another one of our domestic manufacturers, I decided to look to the Japanese offerings, and the Vulcan 1700 Vaquero by Kawasaki floated right to the top.

Looks-wise, the two are remarkably similar. A fat front end, hard bags and front fairing show the common touring roots between the two rides, and they both run an abbreviated windshield and a clean rear end sans Tour-Pak for the boulevard bruiser look. Kawi even tossed a V-twin mill in the Vaquero, a move that helps it fit within the American market. Though Harley uses a batwing fairing on the Street Glide, the frame-mounted and vented fairing on the Vaquero isn’t far off the mark, and in fact looks an awful lot like the fixed fairing on the Harley Road Glide.

Both come with ABS, cruise control and an entertainment system that will accept input from a number of mobile devices, and come satellite-radio ready. At a glance, the H-D “Infotainment” system looks to be superior to the Kawi version, but just having a decent radio on a bike is head-and-shoulders above the norm, so I’m not going to split hairs on that point.

Harley drives the Street Glide with its 1,689.5 cc,air-cooled, High-Output Twin Cam 103 that cranks out 104.7 pound-feet, but Kawi went even bigger with a 1,700 cc V-twin monster that puts out a total of 107.6 pound-feet. Looks like the rest of the world finally gets what we mean when we say “a big engine,” we mean a big damned engine, and while Harley does have an 1,800 cc-plus engine out now, even it ain’t the biggest available in the North American market. It’s safe to say the pressure is mounting on The Motor Company, and this “cowboy” from Kawi is a clear threat.

Kawasaki definitely scores at the till with a $16,699 MSRP on the Vaquero versus $20,899 for a Street Glide. Of course, the Harley “mystique” or whatever you want to call is still worth something to some people, but for some that four grand difference can buy some really good protective gear and accessories after the sale. Bottom line for me; I would pick the H-D, but the Vaquero is “closer enough” to be worth consideration if you want the bruiser look but are up against a budget.

He Said

“This is a lot of bike for a relatively low price, especially if you compare it to its CVO-endowed cousins. It has many of the same features for a much lower price, and all you really give up is a little performance and a slightly more tricked-out engine. Definitely a good ’grown-up’ bike for people not wanting to mortgage their houses to upgrade their rides”.

She Said

My wife and fellow writer,
Allyn Hinton, says, "I can’t say anything bad about a Project Rushmore bike. Yes, I know there are plenty of folks that think it’s cool to be a hater. I ask some why. They don’t have an answer; they just know they hate the brand. Okay, let’s look at alternatives. The Indian Chieftain with a slightly bigger engine — 103 cubes versus 111 cubes — has comparable torque; 119 pound-feet at 3,000 rpm for only $100 (MSRP) more than the Street Glide Special. Star doesn’t have a bagger that big. The most they have in their lineups is a mid-size 80-cube in the V Star 1300 Deluxe. Any of the Victory Magnums or Cross Country baggers — some with wacky paint schemes —have the 106-cube, 50-degree engine and range in price from $4,900 less to $1,600 more than the Street Glide Special. All things considered, if I’m going to spend that much money on a ride, I’d go for the Rushmore bike with its rider-inspired innovations and developments. All you haters can do what you want."

Specifications

Engine: Air-cooled, High Output Twin Cam 103™ with integrated oil cooler
Displacement: 103.1 cubic inches
Bore: 3.87 inches
Stroke: 4.734 inches
Compression Ratio: 9.7 to 1
Fuel System: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
Engine Torque Testing Method: J1349
Engine Torque: 104.7 pound-feet at 3,250 rpm
Lean Angle, Right (deg.): 32
Lean Angle, Left (deg.): 31
Fuel Economy: Combined City/Hwy: 42 mpg
Fuel Requirements: 91 octane or higher fuel (R+M)/2.
Chassis:
Primary Drive: Chain, 34/46 ratio
Gear Ratios (overall) 1st: 9.593
Gear Ratios (overall) 2nd: 6.65
Gear Ratios (overall) 3rd: 4.938
Gear Ratios (overall) 4th: 4.0
Gear Ratios (overall) 5th: 3.407
Gear Ratios (overall) 6th: 2.875
Exhaust: Chrome, 2-1-2 dual exhaust with tapered mufflers
Wheels, Front Type: Enforcer Cast Aluminum
Wheels, Rear Type: Enforcer Cast Aluminum
Brakes, Caliper Type: 32 mm, four-piston fixed front and rear
Length: 96.5 inches
Seat Height, Unladen: 27.4 inches
Seat Height, Laden: 26.1 inches (Measurement reflects 180-pound operator weight)
Ground Clearance: 5.3 inches
Rake (steering head) (deg): 26
Trail: 6.8 inches
Wheelbase: 64 inches
Tires, Front Specification: 130/60B19 61H
Tires, Rear Specification: BW 180/65B16 81H
Fuel Capacity: 6 Gallons
Oil Capacity (w/filter): 4 Quarts
Weight, As Shipped: 775 pounds
Weight, In Running Order: 810 pounds
Luggage Capacity -Volume: 2.3 cubic feet
Lights (as per country regulation), Indicator Lamps: High beam, running lights, front fender running lights, directional lights, low oil pressure, neutral, engine diagnostics, battery, cruise control, speakers, accessory, security system, gear indication, low fuel warning, ABS, miles to empty display, fog/aux lamp indicator
Gauges: 10 percent larger speedometer and tachometer with 68 percent wider numbers; 28 percent larger fuel and volt gauges with 30 percent wider numbers; display features odometer, trip A, trip B, range to empty, and gear indicator; and larger telltale indicators
Infotainment:
Screen: Size: 6.5 inch; Type: Color, Colour Choices: Orange (default), Blue, Brown, Green, Gray, Purple, Red; Day/Night Dimmer: Standard
Audio Output: Watts Per Channel: 25, Speakers: 2, Speaker Size: 5.25 inch/6.5 inch - P&A Upgrade, Distortion (THD): 1 percent, Internal Amp: Standard, External Amp: P&A Upgrade
Audio Sources: AM: Dependent on Region, FM: Standard, Weather Band (WB) Dependent on Region, MW: Dependent on Region, LW: Dependent on Region, MP3 - USB Connection: Supported, SD Card - via USB Connection: Supported, Flash Drive - via USB Connection: Supported
Audio Setup: CB Presets: 6; AM/MW/LW Presets: 6; FM Presets: 15; SiriusXM Presets: 20.0; iPod Device Presets: 20.0; USB-Storage Device Presets: 20.0; WB Presets: 6; Media Player Device Presets: 20; Global Presets: Selectable; up to 20 presets; Favourites: 1 FAV hardkey plus 6 favorites; Classic Mode: Selectable; Seek/Scan: Standard
Interface Languages: English (US/UK), German, Spanish (Mexico/Spain), French (Canada/France), Italian, European Portuguese
Voice Recognition: Hands-free Mobile Phone - via Bluetooth: P&A Upgrade, Headset connection required
Voice Recognition Languages: Phone functions only: English (US/UK), German, Spanish (Mexico/Spain), French (Canada/France), Italian, European Portuguese
Voice Recognition Languages: Tuner/Media/Navigation: English (US/UK), German, Spanish (Mexico/Spain), French (Canada/France), Italian, European Portuguese
Communication: Rider/Passenger Intercom: Not Supported
Other Features:: "Vehicle Information Screen (Air temperature, oil pressure and engine temperature)": Standard; Software Update via USB interface: Standard; Text-to-Speech (TTS) Languages: English (US/UK), German, Spanish (Mexico/Spain), French (Canada/France), Italian, European Portuguese; USB: USB/MTP/iPod/iPhone; Bluetooth: Phone/Media Supported
Colors:
2015 Street Glide: Vivid Black, Amber Whiskey, Black Denim, Crushed Ice Pearl, Olive Gold, Hard Candy Gold Flake, Hard Candy Black Gold Flake
2015 Street Glide Special: Vivid Black, Deep Jade Pearl, Charcoal Pearl, Brilliant Silver Pearl, Amber Whiskey, Black Denim, Morocco Gold Pearl
2016 Street Glide: Vivid Black, Amber Whiskey, Black Denim, Crushed Ice Pearl, Olive Gold
2016 Street Glide Special: Vivid Black, Deep Jade Pearl, Black Denim, Charcoal Denim, Velocity Red Sunglo, Hard Candy Gold Flake, Hard Candy Black Gold Flame, Cosmic Blue Pearl
Price:
2015 Street Glide: Vivid Black $20,599, Color Option $21,099, Custom Color Option $21,649
2015 Street Glide Special: Vivid Black $22,899, Color Option $23,399
2016 Street Glide: Vivid Black $20,899, Color Option $21,399, Hard Candy Color Option $23,899
2016 Street Glide Special: Vivid Black $23,199, Color Option $23,699, Custom Color Option $24,399, Hard Candy Color Option $26,199
What do you think?
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