The Closest Thing Harley Has To A Sport-Tourer

Not too long ago, Harley-Davidson vowed to release 100 new models over the next decade, and it seems the MoCo is working hard to keep that promise. So far, the “new” models have been variations on existing/past models or one of the new Softail models that absorbed some Dyna DNA as the successor to the FXR family was put out to pasture. Today’s feature is a combination thereof. Introducing the 2018 Sport Glide, an all-new Softail model that borrows from the past while looking to the future. The detachable panniers and mini-fairing give it some (very) light touring capabilities, but it’s the 108 pounds of grunt from the Milwaukee-Eight engine that reveals its true nature as a power cruiser. Is it enough to help revitalize flagging sales? Time will tell, but in the meanwhile let’s take a look at this latest Frankenstein creation from the mad scientists of Milwaukee.

Continue reading for my review of the Harley-Davidson Sport Glide.

  • 2018 Harley-Davidson Sport Glide
  • Year:
    2018
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    Milwaukee-Eight 107
  • Displacement:
    107 cubic inches
  • Price:
    18599

Design

2018 Harley-Davidson Sport Glide
- image 743260
The original Sport Glide (aka FXRT) was relatively unattractive; the new Sport Glide is like the smokin' hot cousin.

The original Sport Glide aka FXRT (T for Tour) was a bit of a different animal to be sure. Instead of the full bullet fairing carried by the old version, this new SG sports a mini-fairing that looks like someone left a Batwing fairing in the dryer too long, and it can be quickly removed without benefit of tools or a little different look. Same with the smallish lockable hard bags that can be quickly cast off for a cleaner cruiser look.

In a bid to give the new SG an undeniably sporty (not Sporty) look, the factory tossed on a set of inverted blackout front forks with black-and-polish “Mantis” wheels that are sharp as a tack if you ask me. Not only is the fairing smaller than that of the original recipe, the windshield is pared down to a mere suggestion in the style popular among the boulevard bruisers. Does it look cool? You bet. Will it protect you? Not a chance. Do we care? Forgetaboutit.

Moving aft we find the speedo in the tank-mount instrument panel along with an LED display and idiot lights to cover the rest of the important info. Rather than carry the chrome torture-reflector that is the instrument panel all the way back to the seat, the factory mercifully opted for some black trim to complete the coverage. The seat itself is typical of Softails with a deep scoop and steep rise to the stadium pillion seat that gives the passenger a reasonable chance to be able to see around and over the pilot.

A flat light strip serves as the taillight with a pair of bullet turn signals set close aboard for minimal clutter, and the tag hangs down below it to act as an extension for the rear fender. Blackout touches can be found at the exhaust and engine, and they tie those components right into the front end for some continuity of design.

All of the sheet metal comes shot in the selected color for the model, but unlike the baggers and full-bore dressers, the panniers are not color matched and come only in black. I like this bike, truly I do, but it resembles the original about as much as chalk to cheese.

Chassis

2018 Harley-Davidson Sport Glide
- image 743257
The inverted front forks deliver a superior ride to the previous gen and the rear shock got repositioned to just beneath the seat to allow for easy adjustments with no dirty knees or that silly little spanner we used to use.

Obviously, as part of Harley’s new Softail-ification program, what was previously an FXR model takes on the faux-rigid look that Harley is counting on to carry its cruisers into the next generation of riders. This year, the Softail lineup received its most serious frame update since its inception back in ’84 with something in the neighborhood of half the original frame components getting lopped off to save a ton (no, not literally...) of weight. Rigidity and flexibility are both engineered in, and the new frame really addresses much of the rather uninspired handling and lackluster cornering of the previous gen while the 30-degree rake maintains something of a chopper-esque profile.

The Mantis wheels mount a 130/70-18 up front and a 180/70-16 out back with 64-inches between contact-patch centers and 5.9 inches of trail. Ground clearance is typically low-slung at 4.7-inches off the deck with a 26.5-inch unladen seat height that should make for easy mounting for most riders, and a confident stance to manage the 698-pound curb weight when you deploy your training wheels.

Although non-adjustable, the inverted front forks deliver a superior ride to the previous gen, and the rear shock got repositioned to just beneath the seat (instead of under the freakin’ tranny...) with a hand-adjustable preload feature that allows for easy adjustments with no dirty knees or that silly little spanner we used to use. All good stuff, but you’ll have to take one for a test ride to fully appreciate the differences between the New Guard and the Old.

Lean Angle, Right (deg.): 27.9
Lean Angle, Left (deg.): 28.7
Rake (steering head) (deg): 30
Trail: 5.9 in.
Wheel, Front Type: Black, machine highlighted, Mantis cast aluminum
Wheel, Rear Type: Black, machine highlighted, Mantis cast aluminum
Brakes, Caliper Type: 4-piston fixed front and 2-piston floating rear
Tire, Front Specification: 130/70B18 63H BW
Tire, Rear Specification: 180/70B16 77H BW

Drivetrain

2018 Harley-Davidson Sport Glide
- image 743261
A counter-balance system in the engine tames the vibrations so you can no longer use a trip down the interstate to remove those pesky excess fillings in your teeth.

Back again for its second act is the Milwaukee-Eight 107 that Harley tested in last year’s baggers and dressers. The classic DNA is undeniable with a 45-degree V-twin configuration and external pushrods that would be familiar to even the oldest fans of the brand. Since the Twin Cam mets its well-deserved demise, the gearcase/nosecone area has shrunk back to historical proportions and the pushrod geometry returned to the old-school design that has all four tubes converging at a single cam, just as it should be.

A 100 mm bore and 111 mm stroke gives us the typical undersquare ratio and 1,753 cc displacement with a 10-to-1 compression ratio. What does all this give us? Well, the Mil-8 produces 108 pound-feet of torque at an incredibly low 2,750 rpm, so once you wash that power through the six-speed transmixxer you get a bike that can cruise at reasonable revolutions. Not only does the relaxed pace of the engine make for a pleasant ride, but a counter-balance system in the engine tames the vibrations so you can no longer use a trip down the interstate to remove those pesky excess fillings. Purists say they went too far, but I, for one, can do without my hands going to sleep on me everytime I hit the superslab.

As usual, Harley still shuns the fandanglery with nothing in the way of RbW, traction control or rider modes to be found. That’s OK though; I find skill to be more important than crutches, though for many nowadays that is definitely a dealbreaker. (See: skills). The 2-into-1 exhaust system contains a catalytic-converter to help meet emissions standards and the plant turns in a 47 mpg fuel-economy rating for a 200-plus mile range from a full five-gallon fuel tank.

Engine: Milwaukee-Eight® 107
Bore x Stroke: 3.937 in. x 4.375 in.
Displacement: 107 cu in
Compression Ratio: 10.0:1
Engine Torque: 108 ft-lb @ 2,750 rpm
Fuel System: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
Exhaust: 2-into-1; catalyst in muffler
Primary Drive: Chain, 34/46 ratio

Price

2018 Harley-Davidson Sport Glide
- image 743262
MSRP starts at $18.6k with ABS, cruise control, and the security system as part of the package.

Harley’s tiered pricing puts the 2018 Vivid Black Sport Glide at $18,599 and the color options that include Twisted Cherry and Silver Fortune for another four Benjamins. ABS, the security system, and cruise control all come standard.

Colors: Vivid Black, Twisted Cherry, Silver Fortune
Pricing:
Vivid Black: $18,599
Color: $18,999
ABS: Standard
Security System: Standard
Cruise Control: Standard

Competitor

2018 Harley-Davidson Sport Glide
- image 743264
2015 Suzuki Boulevard M109R B.O.S.S.
- image 744440
Sorry Harley, but on a bike that tops 800 pounds with a rider on it, dual anchors is the way to go. Point: Suzuki.

When I started this look at the Sport Glide, I wasn’t sure if I could find something close enough for a fairly direct head-to-head, but Suzuki was my Huckleberry with its Boulevard M109R “B.O.S.S.” The Blacked Out Special Suzuki seeks to strike the same sort of chord as the Sport Glide with a small, non-bullet fairing that does little more than shelter the top of the headlight, but does look pretty cool.

A beefy inverted front end suggests great strength while the sweeping lines over the rest of the bike lend it the impression of speed as well. Tank-mount instrumentation and a deep-scoop seat gives the BOSS a similar profile, but the two-up seat comes with a cover that snaps on to give the appearance (and function) of a solo.

A steel double-downtube/double-cradle frame and cast-aluminum swingarm forms the standing structure with 46 mm usd forks and an inconspicuous rear shock on suspension duties. All very similar to the SG, and equally as vanilla. One thing I’m definitely proud to see on the BOSS would be the dual front brakes. Sorry Harley, but a single up front on a bike that tops 800 pounds with a rider on it borderlines on criminal, and I don’t care how much the ABS allows you to use it to the max; dual anchors is the way to go. M’yeah, see? On the flipside, Suzuki shuns ABS entirely, and that’s a trade off that may alarm buyers who cut their teeth on that safety net.

Americans like their V-twins big, and Suzuki obliges with a 1,783 cc powerplant set at 54 degrees that gives us what we want in a configuration that we like. Power figures are sketchy, but honestly, you can expect these mills to be in the same neighborhood up in the power-cruiser bracket. Suzuki also keeps the gadgetry to a minimum but graces the engine with its proprietary dual throttle valve technology that smooths out the discrepancies that can develop between demand at the wrist and response by the engine for hesitation-free transitions throughout the range.

Naturally, Suzuki picks up a win at the checkout with a $14,999 sticker that is significantly cheaper than the cheapest Sport Glide. No, that won’t deter any Harley fans, but it may be the deciding factor for folks with no previously-established brand loyalty.

He Said

“Ya know, this is a fine ride, no mistake about it, but I’m disappointed. When I heard they were bringing back the Sport Glide, I immediately started dreaming of the ’89 FXRP (police version of the “T”) I used to own, and even dared to hope the MoCo was resurrecting the FXR frame. My disappointment was short lived when I learned the truth, ’cause while this bears little to no resemblance to the original, it’s got a charm all its own.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, "I really like it. I don’t usually like batwing fairings, but I’m really digging this miniature one as far as looks go. I’m curious about the storage capacity, though. Honestly, those bags don’t seem big enough to be anything but vestigial space at best, but it could be my expectations that are getting in the way. Overall, I like the new bike. I’m really quite excited about the new Softail performance and handling."

Specifications

Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine: Milwaukee-Eight® 107
Bore: 3.937 in.
Stroke: 4.375 in.
Displacement: 107 cu in
Compression Ratio: 10.0:1
Engine Torque Testing Method: J1349
Engine Torque: 108 ft-lb @ 2,750 rpm
Fuel System: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
Exhaust: 2-into-1; catalyst in muffler
Primary Drive: Chain, 34/46 ratio
Gear Ratios (overall) 1st: 9.311
Gear Ratios (overall) 2nd: 6.454
Gear Ratios (overall) 3rd: 4.793
Gear Ratios (overall) 4th: 3.882
Gear Ratios (overall) 5th: 3.307
Gear Ratios (overall) 6th: 2.79
Chassis:
Lean Angle, Right (deg.): 27.9
Lean Angle, Left (deg.): 28.7
Rake (steering head) (deg): 30
Trail: 5.9 in.
Wheels, Front Type: Black, machine highlighted, Mantis cast aluminum
Wheels, Rear Type: Black, machine highlighted, Mantis cast aluminum
Brakes, Caliper Type: 4-piston fixed front and 2-piston floating rear
Tires, Front Specification: 130/70B18 63H BW
Tires, Rear Specification: 180/70B16 77H BW
Dimensions & Capacities:
Length: 91.7 in.
Seat Height, Laden: 7 25.7 in.
Seat Height, Unladen: 26.5 in.
Wheelbase: 64 in.
Ground Clearance: 4.7 in.
Fuel Capacity: gal.
Oil Capacity (w/filter): 5 qt.
Weight, As Shipped: 670 lb.
Weight, In Running Order: 698 lb.
Electric:
Lights (as per country regulation), Indicator Lamps: High beam, turn signals, neutral, low oil pressure, engine diagnostics, cruise, ABS, security, low battery voltage, low fuel
Gauges: 5-inch analog speedometer with digital gear, odometer, fuel level, clock, trip, range and tachometer indication
Details:
Fuel Economy: 47 mpg
Colors: Vivid Black, Twisted Cherry, Silver Fortune
Price: Vivid Black: $18,599, Color: $18,999

References

2015 Suzuki Boulevard M109R B.O.S.S.
- image 744433

See our review of the Suzuki Boulevard M109R B.O.S.S..

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

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