Same Look Outside, But Major Changes Inside

LISTEN 11:31

Harley-Davidson updates its popular Street Glide family for MY17 with a few much-needed tweaks that make it as suitable for the superslab as it is for the boulevard. The earlier generation suffered from lack of power, uninspired suspension and a definite heat-to-rider transfer problem to boot. Harley addressed these problems to make the Street Glide into the bike it always should have been. Dual Bending Valve Forks and rear emulsion shocks take care of the suspension problems, while the Milwaukee-Eight engine brings 6.7 additional pounds of torque to help it push that front fairing into the wind comfortably at highway speeds and above. Adjustments made to manage the heat problem results in a whole new animal in the bagger stable. So, let’s check out the new models and try to act like we’re seeing the family for the first time, because in a way we are.

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


2017 Harley-Davidson Street Glide - Street Glide Special
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I gotta say I really like Harley’s boulevard bruiser look nowadays. It has matured and evolved beyond the original custom-homejob bruisers that were really just regular touring models stripped of their Tour-Pak with a predictably unfinished look. The Street Glide family leads the way with a cyclops headlight set in a Batwing fairing. A smoked, low-profile wind deflector boosts the size of the pocket behind the fairing and increases the updraft felt by the rider, which is normal enough but it prevents full-face and modular helmet ventilation from working properly. A vent just below the glass relieves some of the head-buffeting action, but it does little to make your bucket breathe.

Visually, the new SG and SG Special are virtually identical to last year’s models, except for the engine of course. A trim front fender leaves the front wheel readily visible with none of the chrome trim or skirting one frequently sees on members of the FL family. Chrome bullet turn-signal housings are the only other devices up front, and even the mirrors are tucked in behind the handguard section of the fairing so the entry is relatively clean. Having said that, personally I wouldn’t mind seeing a set of pimp lights to clutter up the front just a little bit ’cause I’m all about that extra visibility.

The backside of the fairing mounts a quartet of round instrument gauges with the 5.25-inch front speakers and mirrors. While the standard Street Glide comes with Harley’s 4.3-inch, color touch-screen Infotainment center, the Special upgrades to the 6.5-inch version. Both have glove-friendly screens and buttons, come with a USB port to plug in your virtual jukebox and can be upgraded to include Bluetooth capabilities. This is on top of the AM/FM/Weatherband receiver and SD card port that come as standard equipment. Yes folks, with one of these bikes you could scratch “ride around like I’m in my own private ZZ Top video” off your bucket list.

Moving aft we come to the six-gallon fuel tank with its large chrome console and fuel door, and you can go ahead and pencil me in as “not a fan.” It’s difficult to find words fit for polite company to describe how much I loathe the glare of the sun glinting off the chrome panel and stabbing me in the eyes, and even with a console insert in place, the dash is going to have some hotspots in broad daylight.
Continuing back, the saddle carries a deep scoop with a short rise to the pillion pad that is little better than vestigial, and not appropriate for long stints. Some consideration was given to the passenger though; the catalytic converters were moved so that less of their heat makes it to the backseater.

Monochrome hard bags with One-Touch latches and 2.3 cubic-feet of storage close off most of the rear wheel and fender from view and finish the iconic bagger look.


2017 Harley-Davidson Street Glide - Street Glide Special
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As usual, the MoCo uses welded, mild-steel tubing to assemble the bones of the beast. A 26-degree rake and whopping, 6.8 inches of trail make the Street Glide family supremely stable on the straights at highway speeds and beyond. This makes the bike a little reluctant in the corners, though Harley claims 31 degrees of lean to the left, and 32 degrees to the right, so it isn’t all that reluctant, though it won’t carve like a Honda’s Goldwing or F6B by any means.

Four-pot calipers bite the dual front discs and single rear with Harley’s proprietary Reflex ABS on board that disperses brake pressure according to need, regardless of which brake lever you push/squeeze for even more contact-patch protection than you get from vanilla anti-lock brakes. Showa’s Dual Bending Valve Forks run in a standard, right-way-up configuration with chrome beer-can covers over the fork tubes, and while the forks don’t have any rider adjustments as such, the DBV technology provides a ride that is superior to what you typically get from fixed-value forks.

In back, the emulsion shocks come with a handwheel adjuster and a 30-percent larger preload range. The suspension on the previous generation was a bit lacking in refinement, and consequently, ride quality suffered. Now, the stems and struts are more in line with the touring category this bike falls into.

Cast wheels mount the road rubbers with a fat, 130/60-19 up front and fatter,180/65-16 in back for ample contact patches to help you manage the approximate half-ton of man/woman/whatever-you-identify-as-today. The layout leaves the unladen saddle height at 27-inches off the ground, but even though the primary chaincase and derby covers are of the low-profile variety, the footboards force a rather wide stance, thus negating some of the advantage from the low height. Still, the SG should fit shorter riders quite well, but once you hit six-feet tall, the rider triangle starts to feel a little cramped.


2017 Harley-Davidson Street Glide - Street Glide Special
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Harley’s all-new, 107 cubic-inch Milwaukee-Eight engine powers the SG family with a total of 111.4 pound-feet of torque on tap to propel these bikes well into the power-cruiser category. The Mil-8 runs a typical-for-Harley, undersquare configuration with a 100 mm bore and 111.1 mm stroke for a total displacement of 1,746 cc and a 10-to-1 compression ratio. Air cooled, the engine uses precisely aimed oil jets within the cases to cool the most critical hotspots; another thing the factory did to reduce the heat felt by the rider and passenger. Four-valve heads top the jugs, and a good, old-fashioned, external pushrod valvetrain times them. Simple, effective and classic Harley.

A chain-type primary drive carries engine power to the wet clutch, and a six-speed tranny helps keep the engine within its rather broad powerband. Top gear is good for highway cruising, but you will have to downshift to 5th gear to get that blistering roll-on response the factory keeps going on about. The usual belt-type final drive makes the connection to the rear wheel for quiet delivery of power. Gearing, and fuel metering by the EFI, gives the SG a combined mileage of around 45 mpg.


2017 Harley-Davidson Street Glide - Street Glide Special
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A base-model SG in Vivid Black will set you back $20,999 while the optional solid-color packages can be had for another five Benjamins. The SG Special rolls in Vivid Black for $23,699 with solid colors for $24,199, custom colors for $24,899 and hard candy flame jobs for $26,699.


2017 Harley-Davidson Street Glide - Street Glide Special
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2015 - 2019 Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Vaquero / Vulcan 1700 Voyager
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As tempting as it was to pit the Street Glide against another U.S.-built bagger such as one of Victory’s models, I decided to stick to bikes that are still in production and liable to be into the foreseeable future. With that in mind, the hands-down choice has to be the Vulcan 1700 “Vaquero” by Kawasaki with its down-and-dirty, boulevard bruiser looks.

Rather than going for the bling, the Vulcan carries a blackout treatment that connects to the custom underworld with plenty of that bottom-heavy look that makes the SG look so tough. The Vaquero sports a frame-mount front fairing, instead of a tripletree-mount type, and it has some interesting shapes and vent scoops that are vaguely jet-fighterish, but not comically. Myself, I think it looks sharp as a mouse turd.

The fixed fairing is narrower than Harley’s batwing, which puts the mirrors back out on the bars for a less-clean look. I do like the black tank console for obvious, light-bouncing reasons, and the rest of the bike mixes the red sheet metal with black features and touches of chrome for an altogether darker feel than that of the SG.

Neither ride really caters very much to the needs of potential passengers. The saddles on both taper off to a Mustang-style seat that retains a tapered pillion pad that is really better suited for solo riding. Sure, it looks cool and it’s more comfortable than a wadded-up jacket bungeed to the rear fender, but if you ride with a significant other, you’re probably going to want to peruse the accessories catalog or the aftermarket.

Kawi runs with fat, 45 mm front forks and twin, preload-adjustable air shocks for an even more vanilla setup than the SG. Both families enjoy ABS protection with some sort of in-house, electronic brake balancer feature. Kawi makes another nod to the custom sector with 30 degrees of rake and 7 inches of trail; even more than the SG, and enough to make it track like its on rails. A pair of 16-inch wheels rounds out the Vaquero’s running gear versus the asymmetrical Harley’s 19-inch front and 16-inch rear wheels.

Harley brings the inches with a 107-inch, 1,746 cc mill and Kawi slips just a little here with a 103.7-inch, 1,700 cc plant. The power figures bear this out with a claimed 111.4 pounds o’grunt from the Mil-8 and the Vaquero close behind with 107.6 pounds. Folks, this power difference will not even be a blip on the heine-dyno, but what will be apparent is that, even with its reduced vibration levels, the Mil-8 still shakes around much more than the smooth power delivery from the 52-degree Kawi twin.

Of course, Kawi lands some heavy shots at the bell with its U.S MSRP. At $16,799, the Vaquero is significantly cheaper than the $20,999 Street Glide, but I have to point out that Harley’s name power eats up most of that offset, so the two are kind of closer than the face value suggests.

He Said

“I really like this bike a lot more since the factory addressed the problems with the old version. Though it’s kind of similar to the Road Glide, I hate the “shark nose” fairing with every earthborne fiber of my body, and so this makes a nice alternative. The batwing fairing is a nice touch, too. So much slimmer than the old barn door.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, "I was not a fan of the old Street Glide for many reasons shared by other folks who pointed out the short-comings. I am a fan of the new Mil-8 engine and the improvements to the suspension and changes to the way it handles heat. Seriously, who wants that hateful up-rush of heat? Harley revamped the whole bike, which it sorely needed before crowning it with the new engine."


Engine: Milwaukee-Eight® 107
Bore: 3.937 in.
Stroke: 4.375 in.
Displacement: 107 cu in
Compression Ratio: 10.0:1
Fuel System: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
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, 4-piston fixed front and rear
Engine Torque Testing Method: J1349
Engine Torque: 111.4 ft-lb @ 3,250 rpm
Lean Angle, Right (deg.): 32
Lean Angle, Left (deg.): 31
Fuel Economy: Combined City/Hwy: 45 mpg
Length: 95.4 in.
Seat Height, Laden: 26.1 in.
Seat Height, Unladen: 27 in.
Ground Clearance: 4.8 in.
Rake (steering head) (deg): 26
Trail: 6.8 in.
Wheelbase: 64 in.
Tires, Front Specification: 130/60B19 61H
Tires, Rear Specification: BW 180/65B16 81H
Fuel Capacity: 6 gal.
Oil Capacity (w/filter): 5.2 qt.
Weight, As Shipped: 793 lb.
Weight, In Running Order: 830 lb.
Luggage Capacity -Volume: 2.3 cu ft
Size: 4.3 inch (Special: 6.5 inch)
Type: Color
Watts Per Channel: 25.0
Speakers: 2.0
Speaker Size: 5.25 inch/6.5 inch - P&A Upgrade
Headset Specifications (if equipped): 16-64 ohms
AM: Standard
FM: Standard
Weather Band (WB): Standard
SD Card, Flash Drive and MP3 - via USB Connection: Supported
Languages: English (US/UK), German, Spanish (Mexico/Spain), French (Canada/France), Italian, European Portuguese
Hands-free Mobile Phone - via Bluetooth: P&A Upgrade, Headset connection required
Voice Recognition Languages: Phone functions only: English (US)
Vehicle Information Screen (Air temperature, oil pressure and EITMS): Standard
Text-to-Speech (TTS) Languages: English (US) (Special: English (US/UK), German, Spanish (Mexico/Spain), French (Canada/France), Italian, European Portuguese)
USB: USB/MTP/iPod/iPhone
Bluetooth: Phone/Media Supported
SiriusXM Presets (Special only): 20 - P&A Upgrade (USA & Canada only)
Lights (as per country regulation), Indicator Lamps: High beam, running lights, directional lights, low oil pressure, engine diagnostics, neutral, cruise control, speakers, accessory, battery, gear indication, security system (optional), 6-speed, low fuel warning, ABS (optional), miles to empty display, fog/aux lamp indicator
Gauges: Larger speedometer and tachometer with wide numbers; large fuel and volt gauges with wide numbers; display features odometer, trip A, trip B, range to empty, clock and gear indicator; and larger telltale indicators
Street Glide: Vivid Black, Black Denim, Superior Blue, Velocity Red Sunglo
Street Glide Special: Vivid Black, Black Denim, Superior Blue, Velocity Red Sunglo, Charcoal Denim, Crushed Ice Pearl, Laguna Orange, Hard Candy Black Gold Flake, Hard Candy Hot Rod Red Flake, Hard Candy Mystic Purple Flake
Vivid Black: $20,999 (Special: $23,699)
Color: $21,499 (Special: $24,199)
Hard Candy Custom: N/A (Special: $26,699)
ABS Option: $795 (Special: Standard)
Security Option: $395 (Special: Standard)
Premium Radio Option: N/A (Special: Standard)
TJ Hinton
TJ Hinton
T.J got an early start from his father and other family members who owned and rode motorcycles, and by helping with various mechanical repairs throughout childhood. That planted a seed that grew into a well-rounded appreciation of all things mechanical, and eventually, into a formal education of same. Though primarily a Harley rider, he has an appreciation for all sorts of bikes and doesn't discriminate against any particular brand or region of origin. He currently holds an Associate's degree in applied mechanical science from his time at the M.M.I.  Read full bio
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