2017 Road Glide Special Test

I couldn’t get enough of riding the Road Glide Special. Touring, back roads or city riding. On numerous outings I went several off-ramps past where I normally exit the Freeway because taking the extra-long way home was such a joy.

Part of the enjoyment was down to the fact that Harley had kitted the test bike out with some of their ‘tall’ options.

It was fitted with the genuine accessory ‘extended reach’ saddle and taller touring screen. Subsequently the comfort level for a tall guy like me was simply outstanding.

It turned this ‘Roadie’ into the most comfortable Harley I’ve ridden in 15 years of throwing a leg over test bikes.

Accordingly I tried to ride the wheels off it.

That included several 400km-plus touring-style days, numerous shorter day runs, city commutes and a heap of relaxed boulevard cruising – and the bike didn’t put a foot wrong through any of it.

The other significant contributor to the enjoyment factor is just how good the Milwaukee 8 engine, slung in the touring chassis with its upgraded suspension, really is.

The new motor is smoother, sweeter, has more torque and taps out longer and harder than any previous (standard) big block Harley– 110 cubes included.

While cruising at freeway speeds there is virtually no vibration from the engine. It’s as smooth as silk. Then opening the throttle produces a crisp response and gob-fulls of grin-inducing torque.

With all the excellent touring extras, like the superior comfort and wind protection, excellent sound system, integrated navigation system, cruise control, trip computer and long list of other creature comforts - it really does dare you to ride further and further every outing.

The Sound system is also excellent and with my phone stowed in the ‘Jukebox Media Compartment’ (read glove box) I was constantly pumping out a pre-selected music playlist that remained clear and audible - even at freeway speeds.

The infotainment controls are intuitive and easy to use with two joysticks on the switchblocks to navigate through the various menus and options. Of course you can use the touchscreen directly too, but on the open road the switches seem easier.

Actually, it’s on the open road that the whole touring package seems easier. Correctly dialling in the rear preload proved to be important in getting the most from the new emulsion shocks and Showa front forks - but that also proved to be pretty easy. There’s no fiddling around with pumps and air pressure to adjust the rear any more. Simply unscrew the ratchet fasteners inside the left pannier and dial preload up or down with the knob under the box. Job done.

Ultimately the real beauty of the machine is still the new 100x111.1mm bore and stroke, 8-valve Vee-twin engine with 10:1 compression ratio. Matched with the 6-speed cruise drive gearbox, lightweight clutch lever and tried and trusted touring chassis the bike is a confidence-inspiring delight to ride. It’s very stable, sure-footed and remarkably nimble (for such a large machine) – all at the same time.

On the Freeway you can sit back, relax and watch it all roll by with minimal input required. But then on the back roads it has good cornering clearance and excellent stability - even over rough tarmac and demanding surfaces.

The linked Brembo Reflex brakes with ABS are everything you would expect from Brembos. I rarely used the back pedal because the linked system worked so well. The confident way they performed, even over the broken roads in the aftermath of Cyclone Debbie in Northern NSW added even more to the pleasure factor of this quite remarkable motorcycle.

In town, the width of the large frame-mounted Sharknose fairing makes lane splitting ‘discretionary’, but the motor is strong and tractable at low speeds and its unique looks, wonderful paint and deep chrome make it a very serviceable Boulevard cruiser too.

Apart from the all-round capability of the Road Glide, the biggest take-away I got from the test was that Harley have a range of saddles, screens and handlebar options to make their bikes fit all sorts of body shapes and sizes - short and tall and everywhere in between. It’s probably the most important part of the customising process.

I couldn’t get enough of riding the 2017 Road Glide.


Bike: Harley-Davidson FLTRXS Road Glide Special

Type: Milwaukee-Eight™ 107
Carburetion: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection
Air Cleaner: Paper, washable

Type: 6-Speed Cruise Drive®
Clutch: Hydraulically actuated 9 plate wet,
Assist & Slip
Primary Drive: Chain, 34/46 ratio
Rear Drive: Belt, 32/68 ratio

Type: Mild steel; tubular frame; two-piece
stamped and welded backbone; cast
and forged junctions; twin downtubes;
bolt-on rear frame with forged fender
supports; MIG welded
Seat: Harley Extended Reach

Wheels3: Enforcer Cast Aluminum
• Front 19 in. x 3.5 in. (483 mm x 89 mm)
• Rear 16 in. x 5 in. (406 mm x 127 mm)

F Tyre: D408F 130/60B19 61H
R Tyre: D407T BW 180/65B16

F Brake: Dual floating rotors 300 mm x 5.1 mm (11.81 in. x 0.2 in.)
R Brake: fixed rotor 300 mm x 7.1 mm (11.81 in. x 0.28 in.)

Front: 49 mm Dual Bending Valve
Rear: Premium Low Hand-Adjustable

Canon G5 X Camera Review

I have been using a Canon Ixus 125 pocket camera that is a few years old now - it doesn't take a bad pic in good conditions or if you have ample time to set up, but it's slow - as in lag from hitting the trigger to making the exposure. Moving targets are pretty much out of the question.

I had a Kodak DC4800 back in 2001 and always liked its 'pocket-ability'. We had heaps of shots published in the local bike press because Co-pilot was really good at hanging off the back of the bike and getting rider shots and we were among the first to do it locally.
The Hippie apace

This isn't one - but I like the pic.
Co-pilot at work

Then as I got more serious about imaging the kit grows and grows. This is just some of what I can cart around to a gig now. The soft boxes and lights are still in the car.

If I'm shooting bikes for a mag I still carry the Nikon D800, lenses, flash and kit in a backpack, and it's usually worth the effort.

But it's all a bit too much to carry for social rides and non-giging stuff - sooo I just bought a Canon G5 X.
It had the things I wanted - view finder, manual control, F1.8 lens and is very compact - pocket size  (if you have a big pocket.)

It's a lovely feeling, tactile thing. Touch screen is good - controls are good, all pretty intuitive - I got it worked out with just a cursory flick through the manual.

It's not that much bigger than a Go Pro:

So far I'm very happy with it too. Tried it out last night - rode down to the Bayside and not having to carry the weight of the full kit was great. Just the lightweight tripod and the tiny camera was like nothing at all.

Here's the full size jpeg:
It's had a slight crop and minor colour correction in PSD.

I also shoot a lot of bikes and vehicles for sale in dealerships.
Using the 36mpx capable D800 has always seemed overkill for low-res online stock shots so I used the G5 X today to see how it coped.

It struggled a bit with auto white balance , but got a reasonable result with balancing manually. They are only half this size online. Should save some wear and tear on the big gun.

We'll see how it goes with moving targets next. Burst mode is 10fps so it should work OK.

Low light and high ISO is pretty noisy on auto. Slow it down and use a tripod and it's surprisingly good.

There's no 4K video - but it does 50fps in 1080 -  I mainly produce 720 for You Tubes so it didn't bother me. There in no external mic input either, so that could put some off.

So there's the long winded story. So far the Canon G5X seems like a pretty good solution for a portable camera that takes a good shot and is motorcycle friendly.

More to come.

Not just any Sunday

Easter Sunday’s run on the Road Glide Special was another one for the almanac. A real high water mark - in more ways than one.

It was not only notable for the wonderful 435km jaunt that took in some of the most picturesque countryside on the Eastern Seaboard and the spectacular motorcycle roads that run through it, but also because the 2017 FLTRXS continued to prove itself as a truly outstanding, capable and delightful touring motorcycle.

And literally - from the evidence of just how high the floods from cyclone Debbie really were.

For the third time in the last five years – and the second time in the last three days - I visited Murwillumbah, but today we took a much different route to get to the river town.

A planned and technologically enhanced route at that.

Because choosing the route for this ride had defaulted to me I spent quite a lot of time pawing over Google Earth on Saturday night - trying to come up with a suitably cunning plan for the lads.

Plan A was to have a look at the Lamington National Park loop and Beechmont, but a quick search of the main roads web site showed several road closures in the park, so it was on to Plan B: Look at the map and pick the twistiest roads I could find.

From Brisbane that generally means heading to the Sunshine Coast or Gold Coast hinterlands. The Sunshine Coast was off the agenda because of the Easter Traffic bun-fight coming home - worse than the normal every-other-Sunday afternoon bun-fight.

So it was Border Ranges here we come - again - but here’s the hi-tech angle.

In case you haven’t checked it out yet, Harley have a very good ride planner on their web site. Start by entering “” in your web browser and click on “Create my Ride” after the page loads.

From there it’s simply a matter of entering your list of places or waypoints you want to visit into a dialogue box – and they are automatically placed on the embedded Google map while the route is drawn. Now here’s where it gets really clever.

You can then export a .gpx file of the planned route, save it to a USB stick and then transfer the ride data to your motorcycle’s on-board navigation system via the USB plug in the right hand glove box.

This You Tube video shows how to import it once you have the data on the USB stick:

So, with the ride wired into the Road Glide’s on-screen display I met up with Jason at Yatala and waited for Rowey, Spook and Hughesey to make their way north from their hook up at Coomera – and I was ready to navigate. (Although Rowey already knew the way and took the first lead.)

Well … almost ready to navigate. 10 minutes out of Yatala we had to turn back towards the Freeway and head north to Beenleigh because the bridge at Crystal Creek had partly washed away and the road was closed.

Then it turned out that Spook only got as far as Tambourine and he was called in to work. Then Rowey bailed at Beaudesert because he’d shagged his back fitting new footboards on his Road Glide the night before.

After all this, the remaining three of us looked at each other and mumbled maybe we take a soft option too, and head for a beer at Rathdowney instead. But fortunately we didn’t pillow and from Beaudesert we motored across the flat and relatively straight bits past Rathdowney to the start of the Mt Lindsay ascent.

Across those plains, over the very rough and irregularly corrugated strip of bitumen that the map calls the ‘Mt Lindsay Highway’ the Road Glide felt like it could do with a bit more rebound or damping on the front suspension. Perhaps it was due to not having enough pre-load on the rear shocks, but by the time we got to the climb up the mountain and started really chucking the bike around again it was back to feeling like a fine fettle.

The climb up the mountain on the Queensland side is very twisty and the tarmac is quite rough. Jason took the lead and set a cracking pace on his nicely ‘breathed on’ 103 cube Street Glide.

And that’s where the day started to get really, really good.

I settled in tight behind and gave the Road Glide a good workout too. We had a charmed run with no traffic in front of us pretty much all the way up and over the mountain.

The Roadie was magnificent. Stable, sure footed and we hit a couple of big dips and hits on the suspension that didn’t throw it off line or cause any grief at all. Rowing it up and down the cogs and engine braking was delightful, the brakes did everything asked of them perfectly, without fading, and tapping the 107 out in low gear between corners was honey.

Hughesy on ‘Pearl’; his 2006 Ultra was in our mirrors all the way too.

Over the summit and on into NSW the road surface improves, but remains just as twisty almost all the way to the Summerland Way turnoff and the road to Kyogle. Note this road. It's mint.

Through the hamlets of Grevillia, Rukenvale and Wiangaree and on to Kyogle the sweeping road runs along the valley floor and the countryside at this time of year, after all the rain, is a spectacular shade of green.

The late morning sunshine was streaming through the stands of Beech and silver gums and it all was postcard perfect. It was almost a shame that we were having such a blast on the bikes that I didn’t stop to take a pic.

We did stop for a quick leg stretch in Kyogle before heading on to the Kyogle Road and our planned lunch stop at Uki Pub.

Kyogle Road: Another one to note.

I was quite rapt with the ride over Mt Lindsay. I think the run up the hill from Kyogle to Cawonga, Wadeville, Mount Burrell and on to Terragon was even better. The road was certainly in better nick and the countryside just as picturesque with Mt Warning looming - and through this spectacle I was still marvelling at how comfortable, accomplished and freakin’ nice the new Road Glide is to ride.

Ten Kilometres short of Uki the aftermath of the floods suddenly became apparent. Until there we’d glimpsed the damage as we rode by the creeks and smaller rivers, but when the road started to run alongside the Tweed, beyond Terragon, the scale of the destruction was remarkable.

Most of the Landslips and washouts along the roadway had been (partly) rectified, but the way the vegetation was pushed over - 10 metres above the waterline, and the chunks of missing tarmac and road seal that littered the way were cause for pause. Which is what we did at the pub at Uki, pause that is, but it was way too busy for bikers on a mission so we continued on to Murwillumbah and had a good feed at the (slightly damaged) pub by the river.

The flood debris that was still plastered to the handrails of the Tweed River Bridge was really the most striking example of a high water mark we encountered all day.

At the pub we did the usual motorcyclist routine, your first bike? Favourite bike? And all the other standard topics before Hughesey headed east and Jason and me pointed the baggers to the coast, on to the M1 and a run in reasonably heavy motorway traffic all the way back to Brisbane.

Including having to turn back for the closed bridge near Yatala I covered 435km in about 6 hours (with all the stops).

The tall saddle was still comfortable by the time I got home - if fact the whole set up was still good for more. The tall screen kept the buffeting to a minimum, and it really was lounge chair comfort all day. Yet it still proved capable of carving up some twisty mountain roads, rolling away big distances between stops and all while looking like the type of machine that the old ducks say ‘nice bike’ when you do pull into the pub.

What a day.

More ride reports to come - and the full test will be in an upcoming edition of Heavy Duty Magazine.

A very Good Friday

Mates, motorcycles and fish and chips.

Good Friday in Brisbane dawned dry and slightly overcast with light winds. It was a day typical of the last vestiges of the sub-tropical summer.

By the time I was ready to saddle up and head south for a rendezvous with my pal Rowey and his Gold Coast crew the temps were in the early 20’s and the sun was breaking through enough to make the ‘Superior Blue’ paint and chrome on Harley’s magnificent FLTRXS Road Glide absolutely pop.

As I pushed its 388kg (wet) mass out of my garage I was absolutely tongue-ing for this one. I’d been anticipating the ride so hard that I didn’t get much sleep on Thursday night – knowing what Friday would bring.

It didn’t matter - because by the time I had put my gloves on I was fully awake anyway. Beaming. Ride wired.

I had picked the Press Bike up from Morgan & Wacker on Thursday morning and subsequently spent a few hours around Brisbane that afternoon - coming to grips with its road manners, controls and the info-tainment system.

By the time I wheeled southward on Friday morning I had my phone blue-toothed to the excellent sound system and it was pumping out a pre-selected ‘Road Glide Playlist’. There were several route maps plotted into the navigation system as options for later in the day too.

The 8am traffic on the M1 was comparatively light so I dialled in the cruise control, cranked the sound and sat back and enjoyed the custom ‘tall boy’ comfort.

Yep - this one up is set up with Harley’s tall rider seat and windscreen. If any of you other tall guys and girls are reading this – the 'extended reach' saddle for the touring models is absolutely fan-bloody-tastic for the over six-foot crew. I’m 195cm (or 6’5” in the old school) and the Roadie with the tall seat and screen option make this as comfortable as I have been on ANY motorcycle. If you’re tall you have got to gets you one of these. It’s as good as the ‘reduced reach’ options are for the shorter inseams out there.

After a very easy hour of freeway I pulled in to Reedy Creek and met up with the Gold Coast crew. A good mix of Tourers, Softails, Dynas and a couple of Victorys were already lined up.

 Meet and greets concluded I set about giving the Roadie a bit more rear pre-load. The back felt like it was dragging a little on the rougher concrete freeway sections on the run down. The new knob adjustment set up and ‘bigger piston’ emulsion rear suspension is so much easier than fiddling around with a pump and air adjustment on the older models. It’s now just a matter of undoing the left hand pannier – now held on with easy ratchet-type thumbscrews - and dialing up – or down – the preload knob. The whole process took a couple of minutes.

From Reedy Creek we headed north-west, up the hill to Advancetown, before wheeling south and following the sweeping corners around the Hinze Dam – and where I was starting to really fall in lust with the Roadie.

Maximum comfort, virtually no buffeting from the tall screen and triple vent fairing, gorgeous sound system pumping, and road manners that made it so easy to really relax and take it all in.

With the rear suspension properly dialled in it made the big Showa front forks with their dual valve bendy bits perform even better. The bike’s stability through some of the dual-apex sweepers around the dam was really confidence inspiring.

Beyond the dam we headed into the Numinbah valley and skirted the beautiful rainforest before making the ascent to the Queensland/NSW border.

The further south through the valley we travelled, up and over the border ranges and then through the descent into Murwillumbah was a real eye-opener. The flood damage and destruction from Cyclone Debbie’s aftermath is still very evident. In places the riverbanks are severely eroded, the vegetation destroyed and the roads and bridges are also badly affected.

Landslips and washouts block parts of the road in both directions, potholes abound and in some parts the tarmac has simply washed away. The Road Glide proved to be sure-footed, the handling responsive and the way it changed directions while manoeuvring around the damaged surfaces was very reassuring. Having the weight of the large ‘shark’ fairing mounted on the frame (rather than the batwing’s fork mounted setup) no-doubt helps.

Many of the houses close to the river in Murwillumbah still have large piles of flood-damaged home wares piled up in their front yards awaiting collection.

We re-grouped by the river near the town centre and were all a little shocked by the damage.

We then headed out towards Burringbar and what could be described as the optimum road for a Road Glide. Fast, smooth sweeping corners that dare you to make the most of its excellent cornering clearance. I gently kissed the boards on the deck twice and was pleasantly surprised as to just how fast a 31 degree lean angle will get you around the right type of corner.

I was still buzzing as we made our way along the Tweed Valley way down to the excellent Seafood Co-op at Brunswick Heads. It was 26 degrees and sunny as we pulled in.

As we expected the fish-o was Good-Friday-type busy, but the crumbed Snapper was well worth the wait and I headed towards the river mouth to see if I could jag a portrait shot of the bike while the rest of the crew kicked back in the shade.

The general consensus was that the roads were too damaged to head homewards through the valley again so those of us with cruise control dialled in, got in staggered formation and steamed back up the M1 freeway northwards from the Ocean Shores turnoff.

The last of the Gold Coast crew took the Helensvale exit and I continued in reasonably light traffic for another hour or so northwards, back to east Brisbane base, stereo at force ten pumping a Bon Jovi and Springsteen mix - and feeling the kind of feeling that you get when a brilliant day’s motorcycling comes together. So good in fact that I took the long way home around Redland Bay and Victoria Point, simply because I was so comfortable on the bike and I wasn’t ready to stop yet.

It turned out to be a wonderful 380km first test on the 2017 Road Glide Special. It covered super-slab, twisty back roads, fast sweepers and several sections of treacherous conditions - at town, city and country speeds - and it didn’t put a foot wrong all day.

The M8 engine is so smooth it really reduces fatigue on a long day like today; while it’s so strong and torque-ey it’s just remarkably pleasant to use. The gearbox is superb, - I’ve done several thousand K’s on M8s now and haven’t missed a gear change yet.

The brakes are equally good. I only engaged the rear a few times all day – on the really bad sections of road - because the fronts are so good – and the ABS really adds confidence when all of a sudden the road is strewn with gravel from a wash-out.

After dialling in the rear suspension the handling was also remarkably precise for such a big girl and the overall road manners are very good. The ride is quite firm with 117mm of front suspension travel available and 54mm at the rear, but I didn’t bottom out once or hit the stops at all.

With its outstanding comfort levels, rockin’ stereo, Sat-nav, pretty good luggage capacity (I took three cameras and a spare jacket – just in case it got too hot), excellent paint, fit and finish - and all the other niceties the FLTRXS proved to be a very capable and highly enjoyable motorcycle.

Plenty more testing to follow and the full write-up will be in an upcoming edition of Heavy Duty magazine.