"Special" Means So Much More This Year

Harley-Davidson brings its Road Glide and Road Glide Special into the 2018 model year in a much more humble manner than it did with the Softail lineup. The base-model Glide is more or less a direct carryover in everything but color selection, however the “Special” rocks a host of improvements, especially if you group blackout treatment in as an improvement. A new, more sinister look and new paint schemes across the board differentiate these rides from last year’s models, and as far as hardware improvements go we have improved suspension from Showa cushioning the ride, and the Milwaukee-Eight 107 engine makes its sophomore appearance in the touring lineup having proven itself in the market last year with its 111 pound-foot output. Ripe for customization, this duo gives prospective bike builders a blank canvas to work with, and the Special’s dark touches start it well down the custom road right off the showroom floor. It looks like this is the “new normal” for H-D tourbikes, so let’s dig in and make friends with the new RG line.

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

  • 2018 Harley-Davidson Road Glide / Road Glide Special
  • Year:
    2018
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    Milwaukee-Eight 107
  • Displacement:
    107 cubic inches
  • Price:

Design

2018 Harley-Davidson Road Glide / Road Glide Special
- image 742004
Right off the bat, you can pencil me in as “not a fan” of the shark-nose fairing, but I know some of you are wild about the thing, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder after all.

Right off the bat, I have a confession to make; you can pencil me in as “not a fan” of the shark-nose fairing. Seriously, where’s the SCUBA tank and Garand when you need them? It’s not even the fact that it’s a frame-mount fairing — I loved my old FXRP’s bullet fairing — but this thing is just too wide. In my humble opinion of course, I know some of you are wild about the thing, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder after all, so let’s move on.

Dual “Daymaker” LED headlamps light the way from their recess in the leading edge of the fairing with a low-profile, vented-and-smoked windshield up top and standoff bullet turn signals to finish off the forward lighting. While the front fender carries a full-length shape that is reminiscent of the classic old FL fender, the sides a cut high and tight for ample view of the front cast aluminum “Enforcer” wheel (base model) or “Talon” wheel (Special) and it passes on any sort of adornment for an ultra-clean presentation.

Chrome fork shrouds finish dressing up the front end with another link to the past. Inside the fairing we find the Infotainment interface braced by the speakers with the speedo and tach down in a handlebar-mount housing. The base RG rocks (if you’ll forgive the pun) Harley’s Boom! Box 4.3 infotainment system with the Special’s Boom! Box 6.5GT available as an option, and that comes with MP3, flash drive and SD card compatibility so you can import your tunes anyway you like through the USB port. Of course, that’s on top of the AM/FM/WB and built-in intercom system. A Bluetooth feature enables hands-free mobile phone operation with full voice-recognition support and text-to-speech capability to round out the yummygoodness.

A classic chrome fuel door and tank trim adorns the tank ahead of the deep-scoop seat and stadium rise to the pillion pad that drops off almost Mustang style for a pseudo-solo look. Hard panniers bring 2.3 cubic-feet of storage on the RG (2.7 cubes on the Special) to the table to complete the bagger package that is currently enjoying a good deal of popularity, and the Special takes the custom look a step further with stretched saddlebags that add a sweet detail to the lower lines.

Chassis

2018 Harley-Davidson Road Glide / Road Glide Special
- image 742020
If you go all the way with "Reflex" brakes and ABS, you'll have twofold protection for your contact patch and greater peace-of-mind for those high-pucker hauldowns when you need every ounce of stopping power you can get.

As usual, H-D relies on a double-downtube/double-cradle, tubular-steel construction to form the wide FL frame, and it carries the steering head at 26 degrees with a whopping 6.8 inches of trail for stability and low-fatigue interstate work. Yeah, it’s a heavy way to go, but since the thing tips the scales at 855-pounds wet I really don’t think that trying to save weight with an aluminum frame would accomplish much. Harley still isn’t on-board the adjustable front-end train, but at least it’s using Showa’s Dual Bending Valve forks for a better-than-vanilla ride up front with hand-adjustable preload that allows for quick adjustments to cargo and passenger loads out back.

Harley’s “Reflex” brake system electronically balances brake effort between the front and rear end for safer operation, particularly in emergency situations. ABS comes stock on the Special, but if you want it on the base RG, you’d better be ready to cough up another $795 come check-out time. If you go all the way, you’ll have twofold protection for your contact patch and greater peace-of-mind for those high-pucker hauldowns when you need every ounce of stopping power you can get.

Seat height rides at 27.4 inches unladen, but that squats on down to 25.9-inches high with at least 180 pounds of rider aboard for a confidence-inspiring stance when you deploy your training wheels.

Model: Road Glide Road Glide Special
Lean Angle, Right (deg.): 31 32
Lean Angle, Left (deg. ): 29 31
Wheels, Front Type: Enforcer Cast Aluminum Black, Talon Cast Aluminum
Wheels, Rear Type: Enforcer Cast Aluminum Black, Talon Cast Aluminum
Brakes, Caliper Type: 32 mm, 4-piston fixed front and rear 32 mm, 4-piston fixed front and rear
Tires, Front Specification: 130/60B19 61H 130/60B19 61H
Tires, Rear Specification: BW 180/65B16 81H 180/65B16 81H

Drivetrain

2018 Harley-Davidson Road Glide / Road Glide Special
- image 742018
The new mill carries all the usual hallmarks of the brand starting with a 45-degree V-twin configuration that is as much part of the overall aesthetic as the sheet metal and tank badging.

H-D tested the Mil-8 107 in its touring lineup last year, and apparently things worked out since here we are the next year and it looks like the Twin Cam is gone for good. (Ding dong the witch is dead!) The new mill carries all the usual hallmarks of the brand starting with a 45-degree V-twin configuration that is as much part of the overall aesthetic as the sheet metal and tank badging. Since the factory has (thankfully) gone back to a single-cam design, the nosecone has shrunk back to normal proportions and the pushrod-tube geometry returned to its classic layout for a more Harley-looking Harley this time around. The engineers stuck to their guns with good old-fashioned air cooling rather than going the radiator route for an overall cleaner design.

The factory passed on the rider modes and traction control, again, for a relatively simple engine-electronics suite. Sure, it sports electronic fuel injection, but relies on throttle cables rather than a sexier RbW setup, so there’s definitely room for improvement.

As for what it does have, well, I’d say it has what matters most: inches and feet. The 3.937-inch bore and 4.375-inch stroke gives us the 107 cubic-inch displacement and 111 pound-feet of torque at a relaxed 3,250 rpm that lets you chug effortlessly down the boulevard or put state lines behind you. Plus, the 45 mpg mileage rating means that the six-gallon fuel tank will long outlast your butt. That’s OK, you can still use the “fuel stop” as an excuse to give your derriere a break.

Model: Road Glide Road Glide Special
Engine: Milwaukee-Eight® 107 Milwaukee-Eight® 107
Bore x Stroke: 3.937 in. x 4.375 in. 3.937 in. x 4.375 in.
Displacement: 107 cu in 107 cu in
Compression Ratio: 10.0:1 10.0:1
Engine Torque Testing Method: J1349 J1349
Engine Torque: 111 ft-lb @ 3,250 rpm 111 ft-lb @ 3,250 rpm
Fuel System: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI) Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
Exhaust: Chrome, 2-1-2 dual exhaust with tapered mufflers Black, 2-1-2 dual exhaust with tapered mufflers
Primary Drive: Chain, 34/46 ratio Chain, 34/46 ratio

Price

2018 Harley-Davidson Road Glide / Road Glide Special
- image 742071
MSRP on the Road Glide runs from $21,299 up to $24,999 for premium paint. Add $5k for the Special colors.

As ever, the King of Paint prices the bikes according to paint package. The Vivid Black base model rolls for $21,299 while the Special bumps that on up to $26,299 for the same color. At the second tier we find the base model “Color” option for $21,799 and the Hard Candy Custom option at $24,299 with the same $5,000 hike for like packages in the Special range.

Model: Road Glide Road Glide Special
Color: Vivid Black, Black Denim, Sumatra Brown, Twisted Cherry, HC Shattered Flake, HC Chameleon Flake Vivid Black, Wicked Red, Bonneville Salt Pearl, HC Hot Rod Red Flake
Pricing:
Vivid Black: $21,299 $26,299
Color: $21,799 $26,799
Hard Candy Custom: $24,299 $29,299
ABS: Option: $795 Standard
Security System: Option: $395 Standard
Cruise Control: Standard Standard
Premium Radio: Option: $795 Standard

Competitor

2015 - 2018 Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Vaquero / Vulcan 1700 Voyager
- image 737317
2018 Harley-Davidson Road Glide / Road Glide Special
- image 737304
Looks-wise, these two are cut from the same cloth with fixed fairings and all-up-front builds all around though Kawi takes it a step further with fairing lowers that shroud the sides of the downtube-mount radiator and beef up the visual weight up front even more.

To be honest, Kawasaki usually isn’t the first name that comes to mind when I consider a competitor for an American-made bagger, but the Vaquero seems a good competitor for the Road Glide Special and it fits quite nicely. Looks-wise, these two are cut from the same cloth with fixed fairings and all-up-front builds all around though Kawi takes it a step further with fairing lowers that shroud the sides of the downtube-mount radiator and beef up the visual weight up front even more.

The upper lines are like a brother from another mother all the way down to the reluctant wane in the pillion section of the saddle. Pannier shape is a bit rounder, even a bit teardrop shaped on the Kawi, but they serve the same purpose both functionally and aesthetically to complete the bagger package.

Frame-design is similar, as is the suspension though Kawi loses a bit with plain vanilla all around versus the auto-variable damping on front of the Harley. Kawi’s K-ACT II ABS delivers the same sort of functionality that we see from the RGS, and so it doesn’t gain anything here either. At the powerplant, Kawi gets it right with a 52-degree V-twin that boasts a 103.7 cubic-inch displacement with 107.6 pound-feet of torque that falls just short of Harley’s numbers but are impressive nonetheless, and definitely enough to put it into the power-tourer category.

So, with Kawi “close enough” in nearly every major category including infotainment gadgetry, what would draw buyers to it rather than the American King? Why, pricing of course. Kawi lets loose of the Vulcan 1700 Vaquero ABS for $16, 799, a paltry sum compared to the $26, 299 Vivid Black Road Glide Special. Sure, name power counts for something, but it’s hard to credit that for the 10-grand difference.

He Said

“Still hate the fairing, but it’s a typical FL at the end of the day. The new engine is a definite win in my book, as is the new suspension, but I gotta’ say that H-D needs to get on the ball with some adjustable suspension, traction control and rider modes, and sooner would be better than later.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, "In prior years, the "Special"simply meant you got a gloss black inner fairing and the upgraded Infotainment center. Now there’s so much more than that. The "Special" now gets you the whole black-out theme — which is really popular in recent years — upgraded black Talon wheels, and premium options as standard equipment. Harley redid the clutch last year and added the Mil-8 engine, so performance is stellar. Suspension is nice; it’s just stiff enough to be a little sporty. If you like to get a little jiggy in the corners, the Road Glide is a better option than the Street Glide because the Road Glide has a fixed fairing and you’re not wrestling that windage on the forks like you are with the SG."

Specifications

Model: Road Glide Road Glide Special
Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine: Milwaukee-Eight® 107 Milwaukee-Eight® 107
Bore x Stroke: 3.937 in. x 4.375 in. 3.937 in. x 4.375 in.
Displacement: 107 cu in 107 cu in
Compression Ratio: 10.0:1 10.0:1
Engine Torque Testing Method: J1349 J1349
Engine Torque: 111 ft-lb @ 3,250 rpm 111 ft-lb @ 3,250 rpm
Fuel System: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI) Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
Exhaust: Chrome, 2-1-2 dual exhaust with tapered mufflers Black, 2-1-2 dual exhaust with tapered mufflers
Primary Drive: Chain, 34/46 ratio Chain, 34/46 ratio
Gear Ratios (overall) 1st: 9.593 9.593
Gear Ratios (overall) 2nd: 6.65 6.65
Gear Ratios (overall) 3rd: 4.938 4.938
Gear Ratios (overall) 4th: 4 4
Gear Ratios (overall) 5th: 3.407 3.407
Gear Ratios (overall) 6th: 2.875 2.875
Chassis:
Lean Angle, Right (deg.): 31 32
Lean Angle, Left (deg.): 29 31
Wheels, Front Type: Enforcer Cast Aluminum Black, Talon Cast Aluminum
Wheels, Rear Type: Enforcer Cast Aluminum Black, Talon Cast Aluminum
Brakes, Caliper Type: 32 mm, 4-piston fixed front and rear 32 mm, 4-piston fixed front and rear
Tires, Front Specification: 130/60B19 61H 130/60B19 61H
Tires, Rear Specification: BW 180/65B16 81H 180/65B16 81H
Dimensions & Capacities:
Length: 95.7 in. 95.7 in.
Seat Height, Laden: 25.9 in. 25.9 in.
Seat Height, Unladen: 27.4 in. 27.4 in.
Ground Clearance: 5.5 in. 5.5 in.
Rake (steering head) (deg): 26 26
Trail: 6.8 in. 6.8 in.
Wheelbase: 64 in. 64 in.
Oil Capacity (w/filter): 5.2 qt. 5.2 qt.
Weight, As Shipped: 820 lb. 820 lb.
Weight, In Running Order: 855 lb. 855 lb.
Fuel Capacity: 6 gal. 6 gal.
Luggage Capacity -Volume: 2.3 cu ft 2.7 cu ft
Electric:
Lights (as per country regulation), Indicator Lamps: High beam, neutral, running lights, turn signals, low oil pressure, engine diagnostics, cruise control, speakers, accessory, security system, 6-speed, low fuel warning, ABS. High beam, 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: Gauges styled to complement each vehicle. Display features odometer, trip A, trip B, range to empty and gear indicator; and larger tell-tale indicators. Gauges styled to complement each vehicle. Display features odometer, trip A, trip B, range to empty and gear indicator; and larger tell-tale indicators.
Infotainment:
Infotainment system: Boom!™ Box 4.3 - standard / Boom!™ Box 6.5GT - optional Boom!™ Box 6.5
Type: Color Color
Watts Per Channel: 25 25
Speakers: 2 2
Speaker Size: 5.25 inch standard 6.5 inch standard
Headset Specifications (if equipped): 16-64 ohms 16-64 ohms
AM/FM/Weather Band (WB): Standard Standard
SD Card, Flash Drive and MP3 - via USB Connection: Supported Supported
SiriusXM Presets: 20 - P&A Upgrade (USA & Canada only) 20 - P&A Upgrade (USA & Canada only)
Languages: English (US/UK), German, Spanish (Mexico/Spain), French (Canada/France), Italian, European Portugese English (US/UK), German, Spanish (Mexico/Spain), French (Canada/France), Italian, European Portugese
Hands-free Mobile Phone - via Bluetooth: standard standard
Voice Recognition Languages: Phone functions only: English (US/UK), German, Spanish (Mexico/Spain), French (Canada/France), Italian, European Portugese English (US/UK), German, Spanish (Mexico/Spain), French (Canada/France), Italian, European Portugese
Voice Recognition Languages: Tuner/Media/Navigation: English (US/UK), German, Spanish (Mexico/Spain), French (Canada/France), Italian, European Portugese English (US/UK), German, Spanish (Mexico/Spain), French (Canada/France), Italian, European Portugese
Rider/Passenger Intercom: Standard Standard
Vehicle Information Screen (Air temperature, oil pressure and EITMS): Standard Standard
Text-to-Speech (TTS) Languages: English (US/UK), German, Spanish (Mexico/Spain), French (Canada/France), Italian, European Portugese English (US/UK), German, Spanish (Mexico/Spain), French (Canada/France), Italian, European Portugese
USB: USB/MTP/iPod/iPhone USB/MTP/iPod/iPhone
Bluetooth: Phone/Media Supported Phone/Media Supported
Details:
Fuel Economy: Estimated City/Hwy: 45 mpg 45 mpg
Color: Vivid Black, Black Denim, Sumatra Brown, Twisted Cherry, HC Shattered Flake, HC Chameleon Flake Vivid Black, Wicked Red, Bonneville Salt Pearl, HC Hot Rod Red Flake
Pricing:
Vivid Black: $21,299 $26,299
Color: $21,799 $26,799
Hard Candy Custom: $24,299 $29,299
ABS: Option: $795 Standard
Security System: Option: $395 Standard
Cruise Control: Standard Standard
Premium Radio: Option: $795 Standard

References

2015 - 2018 Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Vaquero / Vulcan 1700 Voyager
- image 716650

See our review of the Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Vaquero.

All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: harley-davidson.com, kawasaki.com

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