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Old November 13th, 2017, 11:40 AM   #1
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[RideApart] - 2018 Harley-Davidson Sport Glide - First Ride

2018 Harley-Davidson Sport Glide - First Ride

I thought my Harley-Davidson days were over after I wrote a review about the Forty-Eight that was, perhaps, less than glowing. I figured that the H-D folks would have crossed me off their list of journalists to test ride their bikes. I was a lost cause, so move on.

READ MORE: 2017 Harley-Davidson Forty-Eight – Ride Review | RideApart

Apparently I was wrong. Both RideApart Director Chris Cope and the H-D team wanted to give me another shot on one of the new Softails, a 2018 Sport Glide to be specific, and I was more than willing. To be honest, the Forty-Eight didn’t leave a bad taste in my mouth so much as it left a “meh” taste. It was my very first impression of a “real” Harley, and I was disappointed that I didn’t care for the bike that much.

I figured that the newly resurrected 2018 Sport Glide had the potential to redeem my opinions on Harley-Davidsons. These bikes will never be as fun as riding a sport bike, so Harley doesn’t need to even try to throw that impression at folks like myself.

Or so I thought.

READ MORE: Harley-Davidson Sport Glide Returns After 25-Year Absence | RideApart

“Sport” Glide?

I found it interesting that Harley would throw the word “Sport” in their cruiser line up (Did I mention that I’m a H-D noob?), and I raised my eyebrows a touch when I read the press release.

NEW HARLEY-DAVIDSON SPORT GLIDE MELDS STREET-CARVING AGILITY WITH LONG-HAUL CAPABILTY

All-New Softail Chassis and Milwaukee-Eight 107 Engine Deliver a Dynamic Riding Experience

Oh? Okay, now I’m really interested in riding this thing. At that time, I was thinking, “Sure you can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk, Sir Sport Glide?”

Back in August, Harley released eight new Softail models and a handful of new touring bikes. They withheld the Sport Glide though, as they wanted to showcase it at EICMA on November 7. As to why they did this, it was mainly to reach and appeal to the European audience. H-D commands about 40-percent of the market, and the goal is to get to 50-percent in the near future. In order to continue to grow in that market, H-D did plenty of research, and the data showed them that Europeans wanted a functional bike they could use every day (I mean, who wouldn’t want that?).

H-D didn’t only focus on the European market with the Sport Glide, they also did research to see if they can appeal folks like myself: Millennials riders who haven’t thought of owning a Harley. You see, I had no idea how customizable Harley’s are (H-D noob, remember?), and the Sport Glide was designed to give you all the possible options you could want in a bike – a street commuting, canyon carving, touring bike.

READ MORE: 2018 Harley-Davidson Softail Slim – First Ride | RideApart

The Sport Glide's reveal was open to just four moto journalists – me and three of my colleagues – and would consist of a thrash from Asuza, CA, to Mount Baldy in the San Gabriel Mountains. We were presented with three black Sport Glides and a silver one. The first thing I noticed about the bike was the LED lights, which gave the classic-style bike look a bit more of a* modern look. However, other than that, nothing aesthetically pleasing really popped out at me. It looks like a Harley, especially when you remove the windscreen/mini fairing and side panniers (which come stock on the Sport Glide).

But, I’m the type of person that doesn’t go for bikes because of the way they look — it’s what’s on the inside that counts. I was ready to see if this bike had a bit of personality.


Pre-conceived Judgement #1 – This Thing Drives Like a Bus

As I mentioned earlier, I had A LOT of pre-conceived biases/judgements about Harleys. One of them is the ergonomics, which was one of my bigger complaints about the Forty-Eight.

When I hopped on the bike, one the first thing I noticed was the controls. Just like the Forty-Eight, each handle bar control cluster has a button that operates the self-cancelling turn signals. I also noticed that the single gauge is mounted on the five-gallon capacity tank – as opposed to on the handlebars or in a permanent fairing mount – and gives you information like rpm, time, fuel level, etc. The other thing that I thought was pretty neat was the keyless ignition system. The key fob was tucked away in the panniers, and I was able to start the bike up with the push of a button.


It also has a self-setting alarm that activates when you walk away with the key, as well as cruise control. If I had to pick one word to describe these features it would be "luxurious". I’ve never ridden a bike with all these features before.

The second thing I noticed was how well the bike fit me… it just fit. When I took it off the kickstand, it felt perfectly fine, not overly heavy at all. What helped with the weight was the low,*25.7-inch seat height. Also, the bike has a narrower primary and shorter swing arm that made throwing a leg over it even easier.

Taking off was easy since this time around since I was familiar with the Harley riding position from my time with Dorothy. The Sport Glide is an easy bike to control — the clutch and brake controls were easy to reach and the mirrors was placed perfectly. Overall, I was pleased; this bike was a breeze to maneuver around city streets.

Pre-conceived Judgement #2 – The Motor Won’t be Exciting

I figured the motors in these bikes wouldn’t really provide an exciting ride. To add to this pre-conceived judgement is the that all Harley motors provide persistent vibrations. My last ride on one did, and I wasn’t a fan. I noticed that the Sport Glide did not (hallelujah!). But how can this be? For this model, H-D added tuned dual counter-balancers to get rid of primary vibration at idle.


At this point, I was very content as I had a bike that fit me very well and didn't aggressively vibrate while riding or at idle. How can get this better? By getting on the throttle and having the thing take off, of course. With just a small twist of the wrist, the Sport Glide lurches forward thanks to its Milwaukee-Eight™ 107 engine with 108 ft-lbs of torque. That small movement produced a small smile.

Pre-conceived Judgement #3 – This Bike Won’t Corner Well

As we headed toward the glorious Mt. Baldy, I was worried: Would this bike be able to handle its curves? So far, it didn’t feel like riding a tractor, but I didn’t trust it yet.

READ MORE: A Brief History of Harley's Big V-Twins | RideApart

Thankfully, the first section of our ride featured broad sweepers that the Sport Glide handled splendidly. Hitting the apexes on these types of turns was no problem for this bike, which made for a super fun ride. I knew that things were going to get technical soon though, so I mentally prepared for it.

I didn’t have to worry about anything — I think the bike handled the corners better than I did. As we went up through tighter corners the bike shifted and turned just fine. There were a few times where I botched my entry into corners, but fortunately the bike handled my mistakes as best as it could. For that I was very grateful. I think you’re on to something here, Harley…


Pre-conceived Judgement #4 – Going Over Bumps is Going to Suck

The Sport Glide has a pretty stiff chassis due to the rigid-mounted engine. This, along with the non-adjustable 43mm inverted forks, makes for a good front end feel while going through the corners. Even though the Sport Glide has a single disc front brake — which doesn’t provide enough braking power if you’re bombing into a corner — the dual rear-brake with ABS is enough to get the bike to slow down when need be.

As for the rear suspension, the Sport Glide is equipped with an all-new mono-shock with remote hydraulic pre-load adjustment. You can set it using a knob below the right-side cover of the bike, which is extremely convenient. Prior to getting on the one chosen for me, Director of Product Planning of H-D Paul James set its suspension to the lowest setting. Combined with decent front suspension, this helped settle the bike when I hit some rough pavement. I was actually bracing myself for the teeth-chattering thud I thought I would encounter, but the Sport Glide smoothed those out as best as it could.


Pre-conceived Judgement #5 – I Would Never Consider Buying a Harley

We rode for a total of 80-ish miles up and down Mt. Baldy before calling it a day. As we rolled into the parking lot, I had many good and confusing feelings happening all at once. I mean, I was never out to hate this bike by any means, but I was actually a bit surprised that I liked it as much as I did.

READ MORE: Tennessee, a '33 Harley, and Me| RideApart

When I first heard the price — $18,599 for Vivid Black, and $18,999 for the Twisted Cherry and Silver Fortune — I thought that was steep. But again, it was a pre-judgment. After riding the new Sport Glide, I can see why the higher price tag: It’s a bike you can ride anyway you like it. It’s also a bike that you can replace a car with if you feel so compelled. With its side bags, spacious rear, soft seat, and decent-sized gas tank, you can go a whole lot of places, and it can handle bumpy city streets or smooth canyon roads with equal aplomb.

When my husband picked me up from the airport afterwards, he asked what I thought about the bike. I told him my thoughts, and he seemed a bit surprised as well (he’s also a sport bike rider and racer). I even exclaimed, “Maybe I’ll get a Harley one of these days!” He laughed and said, “Yeah, maybe when you’re retired it’ll work.”

Yeah...

Okay, I’ll admit it. Maybe I’d consider one sooner than retirement age (did I really just write that?), but even if I don’t, I’m eager to kick my leg over other H-Ds. Obviously the Sport Glide isn’t a sport bike, but it’s a cruiser that kind of makes you feel like you are riding one, and that sure did leave a mark on me.

Come at me Harley, I’m ready to scrape some pegs on the next one.


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