Harley-Davidson Sport Glide Ride Review
The 2018 Harley-Davidson Sport Glide is truly a fun, intuitive, motorcycle to ride. It’s the perfect cruiser for women motorcycle riders, for intermediate riders and those seeking a fun undressed – or dressed – cruiser for commuting or touring. The quality finish and overall engineering offers advances exceeding earlier years. It’s a cruiser which handles surprisingly well and the big V-twin motor can drive this Sport Glide Softail out of bends and past traffic with ease.
It’s capable of cruising, commuting, and touring say the folks at Harley-Davidson and – I agree.
Yet during my ride review, there was another aspect Harley-Davidson didn’t really mention – that being its awesome corner performance on twisty roads! Truly solid. Okay, the lean angle is a challenge, however, I noticed a huge improvement in the front end and suspension holding its line. Of course its removable luggage and front windscreen, low seat height and surprising performance, make it truly one of the most versatile Harley-Davidson’s I’ve ridden.
If you recall, Harley-Davidson embarked on an upheaval in 2017 with the release of an entirely new line of Softails, succeeding the old and accompanying the discontinuance of the Dyna, or rather, absorbing the Dyna line into its new chassis platform. We saw the intro of eight new bikes and shortly after, number nine the new Sport Glide.
This ninth model, based on the all-new Harley-Davidson Softail platform the Sport Glide presents an engaging combination of technology and style. Designed to be lightweight and stiff (about ‘road stick’ as I like to say), the new Softail chassis delivers agility and performance that will exceed the expectations of the most demanding cruiser riders. The rigid-mounted Milwaukee-Eight 107 V-Twin powertrain delivers a mountain of torque for outstanding acceleration and passing power.
What is it Exactly?
The new Harley-Davidson Sport Glide motorcycle is a duo styled cruiser – two options in one. One being an aggressive factory-custom cruiser and the second, when outfitted with a detachable windscreen and panniers becomes the perfect touring bike. This is somewhat similar the former Switchback.
Features in Short:
- A new windscreen fairing deflects wind away from the rider’s chest while leaving your head in a clean stream of air. The windscreen fairing is secured to the fork tubes with quick-release clamps. I did it, and it was fast and easy.
- All-new Softail mono-shock rear suspension with remote hydraulic pre-load adjustment, controlled with an exposed knob below the right side cover. This makes it so easy to quickly adjust for weight of luggage, passenger or when handling the mountainous curves.
- New and very notable are the inverted forks which stiffen the front end and feature a single-cartridge damping system to keep the front wheel stable over changing road conditions. This offers precise handling, a controlled ride
- Excellent braking performance enhanced by the standard Anti-lock Braking System (ABS).
- The 2-into-1 exhaust enhance cornering clearance with a sweeping rear header and a black muffler contribute to the bike’s sporty style and.
- Electronic cruise control/ throttle control is standard on the Sport Glide model.
- A broad and supportive saddle sets the Sport Glide’s seat height of 673mm (26.5in), with forward foot controls designed to fit a broad range of riders.
- Brilliant Daymaker LED headlamp is surrounded by a ring of LED signature lighting. A bright LED tail/brake lamp and LED rear turn signals provide enhanced visibility while ensuring you see the road ahead.
- Keyless ignition, Harley-Davidson Smart Security System, and a USB charging port come standard on the Sport Glide.
“When I powered up the Sport Glide, put it into gear, and rode that first few metres, one word popped into my head – ‘light’. Truly, there was no weight in the handling – it’s a motorcycle that you can get to know right away and asks no effort to manoeuvre. I was surprised!” ~ Vicki
Power, Torque, Engine
The engine is a blacked-out smooth 1745cc Milwaukee-Eight 107 making a healthy 107 lb-ft (145 Nm) at just 3250 rpm. Some of the fellas riding with me during this test thought the Sport Glide could use a larger engine. I found the Milwaukee-Eight 107 perfectly fine. It performed off the mark, full-out and around the corners. But that might be the fact that I weigh a little less than the other riders.
The motor is visually dressed up giving it a similarity of the engines of the past. Solidly mounted in the frame with dual counter-balancers tuned to cut primary vibration at idle while permitting some engine character to reach the rider at speed. And it is one smooth ride. But don’t worry, the new two-into-one exhaust, with its deep-chrome trim, offers up that beloved and distinctive Harley growl when rider at higher speeds.
Often I find with larger engines, they tend to be hungry with regard to fuel usage. Yet, the Sport Glide claims 5.3 Litres per 100 kilometres (53 mpg), which given the 18.9litre tank, could mean a range of over 338 kilometres (210 miles), depending on how you use the power.
Handling, Suspension, Chassis
When I powered up the Sport Glide, put it into gear and rode that first few metres, one word came up – “light”. Truly, there was no weight in the handling– it’s a motorcycle that you can get to know right away and asks for no effort to manoeuvre. I was surprised. The Sport Glide does exactly what you want it to do and its handling is fully intuitive.
Rough roads don’t upset the Harley-Davidson Sport Glide. The new suspension effectively insulates your ride from knocks and jolts, providing a smooth ride on various surfaces. Certainly the belt drive helps make the riding experience smoother.
Harley’s chassis is redesigned for the new range including its 43mm upside-down cartridge forks and a single shock that’s adjustable for preload via a remote, hydraulically operated adjuster, tucked below the right-hand side cover. During my ride through the Volcanic hills of Teide National Park, I dialled in the shock into 4.5 – harder. It made a difference to the back wheel placement during cornering. It was an advantage being able to adjust this so quickly and easily.
The lean angle isn’t Harley’s best attribute and despite the 27.9° clearance on the right, and 28.7° on the left. I had no real concerns with my constant pegs and boot heels contacting the road surface while riding the twisty mountain roads of Tenerife. I will be honest, my biggest and only disappointment with the Sport Glide and often most Harley-Davidson models, is the limited cornering clearance. For my riding style, the Sport Glide pegs grind against the ground – as well as my boot heels – far more often than I want. I imagine this is worse for a heavier rider (suspension compression). It’s not that big of a deal, and is manageable. However, the characteristic of this occurrence for me is that it distracts me and causes me to correct while usually mid-corner. If the lean angle clearance was better, I’d be allowed to flow through the corners, taking in only the sensation of cornering. Still, the handling is unlike any other Softail. And at least Harley designed the forwards/pegs to lift gently long before anything more structural touches down.
The new machine does weigh a 317 kg yet to me feels like a feather. It is really easy to manage at slow speeds and manoeuvre around in tight parking spots.
The 18 inch front and 16 inch Mantis cast aluminium wheels, were fitted with Michelin Scorcher 31 tires. This I understand are a first for Harley. And the rims of the “Mantis” wheels are designed to give “a sense of motion even when the Sport Glide is parked.
Road surface was sunny and dry when I tested the Sport Glide and the tires, set up provided solid grip!
A single four-piston calliper bites a 300mm floating disc up front, with a two-pot sliding calliper gripping a 292 mm rear disc. I found the braking perfectly enough and had some unexpected quick-stops to test the ABS, standard to the Sport Glide. The ABS system worked as expected – excellently! The braking capacity, though a single disc in the front, proved perfect delivering great response, plenty of power without creating too much dive.
Harley-Davidson Sport Glide Photo Gallery
How Comfortable Is It To Ride?
The 673 mm (26.5in) high seat is wide and very comfortable; I sometimes find bikes with forward pegs / controls often put too much weight on my rear or bottom of my spine. But the Sport Glide has been built with great ergonomics, and for me, a pleasant riding position. And I like that there’s electronic cruise control, a feature I personally did not expect to find. This makes it easier on the hand for long distance tours giving your throttle hand a break every so often.
Helping the aerodynamics of the Sport Glide is a smaller Batwing inspired windscreen, scaled down to take some of the buffer of the rider. This is intentionally designed to leave your head in a clean airflow. And I liked the fact that I could see over it. Often H-D windscreen’s are exactly the correct height for me. The windscreen is secured with quick-release clamps so that it can be added and removed in seconds. If the size of the windscreen isn’t enough for your liking, there’s a taller version available.
With wide bars and a spongy seat, with or without the windscreen I find is personal. I enjoy seeing all the road and indeed feeling wind against my chest without the windscreen is a trade-off. However, personally I don’t have an issue with this even when riding long distances for hours. The snap on windscreen certainly makes a difference. Shame you can’t store it anywhere when you remove it.
The small rear seat may not be that comfortable for your passenger. But that will depend on the length of your ride and, your passenger.
Shifting gears, I did find the gearing refined. The Sport Glide’s shift is still rather heavy, but it’s never vague and I like that.
The mirrors sit just above the grips, and give a good view without sticking out beyond the ends of the bars. And thanks to the reduced vibration, there’s generally very little shake to your rear view.
The seating position with the low seat and forward pegs, fits perfectly with the effortless nature of the Sport Glide.
The solid plastic panniers are lockable and hold 25.5 litres of your stuff (combined stowage). Their internal quick-release mechanism is easily opened even while you are sitting on the bike. There is a limit to how far they’ll open though. There is a built-in fabric reinforcement around the bottom edges stopping anything getting caught in the pinch points and ensuring gear stays dry and inside. You won’t be able to fit a helmet in these panniers not even an open-face. But if you need to carry a spare helmet, you can add a luggage rack from the H-D accessory catalogue.
The Sport Glide starts at $22,299. CAD (plus on-road costs) with panniers in “Vivid Black” and features a host of unique elements designed to make it comfortable to ride and convenient to use. Other colours will cost a little more from $22,749. CAD.
- USD Price: Vivid Black $18,599.; Colour $18,999.
- UK Price: Vivid Black £14,995; Colour £15,345
- EU Price: Vivid Black €21.500.; Colour €21.890.
Harley-Davidson have created something that’s immensely rewarding to ride. The Sport Glide is a super fun ride. For me it’s all about performance and handling with of course the confidence I get from these factors. It’s build, the ABS, the suspension, tires all make the right combination on the Sport Glide. The Sport Glide’s ride won my heart. I can’t say it’s the most attractive looking Harley-Davidson I’ve observed, however, there are some style features which I do admire. The engine looks fabulous, simple and finished.
The Sport Glide panniers are well designed, and easy to remove. Some have commented on my social media, that the panniers do not appear in the usual expected H-D quality. And it is here where my photos don’t do the panniers justice. The screen might not be the most wind-reflective however, I like that it is an option.
I do wish it was about eight or so thousand dollars less in price and that the ground clearance wasn’t an issue. However, I’m not sure most riders who would buy the Sport Glide ride in the manner I do. So, indeed it is not for everyone. But if it is for you, you’ll be more than happy – for a long time!
What I Loved About the Sport Glide
- Handling, manoeuvrability and comfortable relaxed ride
- Diversity – either a naked cruiser or the ability to tour with added windscreen and panniers.
- The look of the Mantis cast-aluminum wheels
- Michelin Scorcher 31 performance tires.
- Easy adjust rear shock.
- That unique Harley character I expected
What I Didn’t Love Much
- The minimal ground clearance.
- High price point. Though in Harley-Davidson standards the pricing is inline. I’d just like to see this type of Harley made more affordable to the younger generation and women on a budget, for example, mothers.
- Riders seeking even more wind protection can exchange the standard 1.5-inch-high windshield for a 5.5-inch Light Smoke Windshield available from Harley-Davidson Genuine Motor Accessories.
- The lockable, hard panniers feature a sleek clam-shell design. These are easy to load and unload, and can be opened with one hand by a seated rider. The bags can be removed in seconds with an internal quick-release mechanism, leaving behind mounting points that are barely visible.
- Additional luggage capacity can be added to the Sport Glide with an accessory sissy bar upright, a luggage rack or a Tour-Pak mounting rack, each with the all-new HoldFast Detachable latch system designed specifically for the new Softail platform. HoldFast accessories can be installed or removed in seconds to strip the bike back down to its essential cruiser form.
- The first service is due after 1600 kilometres (1000 miles), then it’s every 8050 kilometres (5000 miles) or 12 months, whichever comes first. The warranty is 24 months with unlimited mileage.
Harley-Davidson Sport Glide 2018 Specifications
|Engine||1745cc precision oil-cooled Milwaukee-Eight 107 V-twin|
|Power||84.3bhp (62kw) @ 3250rpm|
|Torque||107 lb-ft (145nm) @ 3,250rpm|
|Bore||3.937 in. (100 mm)|
|Stroke||4.375 in. (111 mm)|
|Transmission||6-Speed Cruise Drive®|
|Fuel system||electronic sequential port fuel injection|
|Exhaust||2-into-1; catalyst in muffler|
|Seat height, unladen||673mm (26.5in)|
|Ground clearance||120 mm/ 4.7 in|
|Rake (steering head)||30°|
|Front Tire||130/70B18 63H BW|
|Rear Tire||180/70B16 77H BW|
|Fuel capacity||18.9 litres / 5 gal|
|Oil capacity (with filter)||4.7litres|
|Weight, as shipped||304 kg / 670 lb|
|Weight, in running order||317kg/ 698 lb|
|Lean angle, right||27.9°|
|Lean angle, left||28.7°|
|Claimed fuel economy||5.3 l/100 km (53 mpg)|
|Wheels||Black, machine highlighted, Mantis cast aluminium|
|Colours||Vivid Black; Twisted Cherry; Silver Fortune|
Visit Harley-Davidson for more info or to book a test ride at your local dealership!
By Vicki Gray
Editor, founder MOTORESS; motorcycle basic, advanced and race instructor certified for over 28 years. Motorcycle On-road and race licensing examiner. Coached, taught, examined riders for European, Caribbean and North American training institutes.