I'm riding the 2019 Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special along the highway, with my phone paired to the new infotainment system, the speakers blaring out the ideal music - a decently fast-paced guitar rhythm suitably complemented by lyrics in a nonchalant drawl, "This ain't no upwardly mobile freeway, oh no, this is the road to hell." As the Harley's speed increases, the volume automatically adjusts according to speed and engine noise. At that very moment, it struck me what the 2019 Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special is all about. Every second guy who swears by motorcycles will tell you that it's 'freedom' that they look for and find when they are with their bikes, and out riding on a long road. If that is the definition of freedom, then a big Harley bagger and a long open highway is as close as you get to feel 'free'.
The Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special, one of the most popular cruisers in Harley-Davidson's Touring range, gets updated for 2019. It now gets the bigger Miwaukee-Eight 114 engine, with a displacement bump to 1,868 cc, and also sports a new 6.5-inch Boom! Box GTS Infotainment system, with touch screen sensitivity, and a range of new features. It still retains that "look at me" appeal, and it's a proper highway star too, ready for munching hundreds of kilometres in a day for that inter-state trip you probably have been planning for. We rode the 2019 Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special for a few days, in the city, on the highway, and well, we can say, it's quite an experience only a big Harley can give you.
It's got the look!
If it's one thing the 2019 Street Glide Special has, it is road presence, and dollops of it! Big is an understatement, and muscular and sculpted are words best reserved for lesser motorcycles. The 2019 Street Glide Special has the same head-turning looks and presence the outgoing model had, but now gets improved and upgraded technology, as well as a bigger Milwaukee-Eight 114 engine. In the matte grey shade, called "Industrial Gray Denim," the Street Glide Special certainly looks the part of a superhero's choice of wheels.
In 2019, if Arnie had to choose another Harley to go with his "Terminator" persona, the new Street Glide Special can certainly become his ideal choice. It's big, brawny and turns heads everywhere, even when parked quietly in the shade. The big batwing fairing up front, the blacked out wheels and exhausts, engine and front fork all add to the sinister and foreboding looks a Marvel superhero can identify with.
The 6.5-inch Boom Box GTS infotainment system is one of the biggest talking points in the bike's new features. The touch screen is surprisingly responsive and easy to navigate, and you can even pinch the screen to magnify the built-in navigation screen or key in your choice of destination with a gloved hand. Bluetooth connectivity is as seamless as it comes, and you can get your apps working on the screen, including playback from your device, hands-free phone calls, as well as get voice-assisted navigation from your phone's navigation app. But the best bit is the playback from the dual speakers which offer crystal clear sound and powerful enough for you to listen to your favourite music even when cruising at 100 kilometres per hour. And yes, it provides some juvenile thrills too, blasting your choice of heavy metal music as you move back into suburban traffic from your relaxed highway ride.
It's got firepower too!
The new Milwaukee-Eight 114 engine is bigger than the outgoing model, in displacement, as well as with punchier output. The four-valve per cylinder v-twin engine displaces 1,868 cc, and puts out 163 Nm of peak torque which rolls in at just 3,000 rpm. You've got to be careful with the right hand, because there's wheelspin almost from the get-go on loose surface, and despite the 362 kg weight of the bike, the engine pulls with urgency, moving that big mass of heavy metal at a decent clip to cross triple digit speeds. Harley-Davidson doesn't publish peak horsepower figures, but for a big heavy cruiser, it's more about pulling power than pure horsepower, and that's where the Street Glide Special excels.
Getting to triple digit speeds isn't exactly quick, but then if you expect over 360 kg of mass to move with sportbike urgency then you're clearly not looking at the right bike. The Street Glide Special is all about relaxed highway cruising - chugging along with a nice bassy burble from the dual exhausts, and the wide fairing and windscreen providing decent protection from the elements to keep you going for hours on end, with your favourite music keeping you company. If it's highway cruising you're looking at, the Street Glide Special will be the perfect companion to cover hundreds of kilometres in a day, provided you stick to smooth tarmac for the most part.
It can hold cruising speeds of 140-150 kmph if you're the kind who's in a hurry to get everywhere, but that's not what this bagger is meant to do. Slow, relaxed cruising is what the Street Glide is meant for, if a 130 kmph cruise is what you consider 'slow'. But make no mistake, this is a true bue hot rod bagger, and just a twist of the throttle is all it needs to dispel any notions of 'slow' cruising and will reward you with suitable entertainment from the big v-twin. And with that 163 Nm of torque available, highway overtakes are just a matter of opening the throttle slightly, without the need for any downshifts.
It handles, and rides well too!
Tackling the daily commute may not be the Street Glide's forte, but all that mass and the 360 kg weight seems to disappear magically once you start moving. And when you encounter a corner or a twisty section of road, it remains surprisingly planted and stable to give you the confidence to push harder. The sleek 19-inch front, and 18-inch wheels are shod with low profile rubber, so going over the rough at high speeds isn't recommended. And the 125 mm ground clearance means you have to be a little careful while going over the occasional speed breaker. Ride quality, for the most part, is decent and comfortable, but this is a bike which is meant to stick to smooth tarmac; prolonged riding over bumpy roads won't be that enjoyable, or advisable.
The final word
The 2019 Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special is impressive, in every way, whether you're a fan of big baggers or not. It's got the performance and features to make your long two-wheeled journey comfortable and entertaining. Yes, it still doesn't get much in the way of electronic rider aids, so there's no traction control or other fancy electronics, apart from the linked brakes with standard ABS. For all its features, and the hi-end infotainment system that it boasts of, the Street Glide Special is a pure, thoroughbred highway cruiser.
But it has solid road presence and turns heads everywhere you go, even when it's parked at a quiet spot. If you're the kind of guy looking for a ride which screams out for attention, the Street Glide Special fits that bill to the 't'. And if you have a budget of around ₹ 32 lakh, or so, by all means, go visit a Harley-Davidson dealership and take a close look at the Street Glide Special. Whether you bring it home or not, it will make an impression, that is certain.
(Photography: Rakesh Singh)