For years cruiser customizers have been stripping down full-dressers to create the modern bagger, but Harley-Davidson
was the first manufacturer to offer a showroom ready bagger. First introduced in 2006, the Street Glide is the result of H-D taking notice of it’s customers dressing down their Electra Glides
by removing the top case, passenger seat and extraneous chrome bits. To finish of the look the windshield was chopped down. As the original bagger, the Street Glide set the stage for others to follow suit. We were eager to see if the first on the scene would be first on the score sheet. But first we have to come clean.
The Street Glide supplied to us by the HD Fleet Center is not the base model Street Glide; instead it has the optional “PowerPak” installed. This $1995 option boosts the displacement from 96 to 103 cubic-inches and also includes the H-D Smart Security System and ABS brakes. Although the power was increased, the ‘Glide’s numbers on the MotoUSA dyno were still the lowest out of all three machines. Peak horsepower and torque were just a hair below the Vaquero at 68.62 hp and 86.61 lb-ft of torque.
Although our Street Glide was pumped up with the optional 103 cubic-inch engine in the "PowerPak", it still put out the least amount of horsepower and torque
It stands to reason that it wouldn’t set the world on fire in a straight-line exhibition of speed with the lowest dyno numbers, and the results bear that out. At our top-secret test strip of asphalt the Street Glide ran a 14.79 second quarter-mile at 91.35 mph with a 0-60 mph time of 5.86 seconds. So although the H-D was pumped up with the 103ci mill, it was still awarded the least amount of points in the engine power and performance categories in both subjective and objective scoring.
“The Harley definitely isn’t the fastest thing out there; which is disappointing considering how big its 103 cubic-inch engine is,” testifies our Road Test Editor, Adam Waheed. “It sure does run well though offering excellent fuel-injection settings and throttle response that enhance its character and make it more fun to ride, especially in the corners. Complementing the character is that classic and totally irreplaceable exhaust and engine note. It sounds so good that you literally wouldn’t need to invest in a set of aftermarket pipes.”
And there lies the conundrum in regards to the Street Glide’s V-Twin. It sounds so damn good; you really don’t mind that it’s the slowest. The fueling was dialed in at every elevation that we encountered, providing snappy throttle response that makes it feel just fast enough. Our crew voted the Harley number-one in engine character despite the lack of ponies.
The other factory installed option, besides the $480 Sedona Orange paint, is the $295 cruise control. We think this should be a standard feature on the Street Glide and wouldn’t mind the addition of three Benjamins to the base price. It is already the most expensive bike in the test with a base price of $18,999 ($21,769 as tested), so why not tack on the extra cost? The layout of the cruise control switch gear is not as straight forward as the Vaquero, and the buttons are cluttered with text which makes it a little more difficult to find what you need if you don’t know what’s what.
The Street Glide trailed the pack in the power and entertainment categories.
When it comes time to rock the tunes the Harmon Kardon stereo puts out pretty well in terms of sound quality, but it’s easy to over drive the fairing-mounted speakers by adding too much bass. Waheed had both the bass and treble set to 11 and there was some distortion. Bring the levels down from Spinal Tap proportions and the sound is crisp and clean. In terms of features the Street Glide’s dash mounted stereo is missing some important capabilities such as satellite radio and iPod connectivity. There is an auxiliary jack to plug in your MP3 player or stand-alone satellite system, but in this day and age it should all be right there and ready to go. Still, it’s light years ahead of Star’s half-assed attempt at a stereo.
“The sound system layout required too much effort to get it to work compared to the other bikes. It seems like the H-D could be much more refined,” says Ken Hutchison. “If it was, it would certainly justify the higher price tag. As it is, this is one of my few real complaints about this bagger.”
So if the power isn’t up to par, and the stereo is ho-hum, why did three out of four testers pick the most expensive bike as their personal favorite? The ride - it’s all about he ride with the Street Glide.
What the Harley lacks in power and refinement it more than makes up for with is road manners. Comfort on long rides is second to none in every aspect. The seating position is upright and relaxed, and the saddle has the perfect profile, putting less pressure on your posterior than the other two machines in this test. Long days in the saddle are pain and
The Harley-Davidson was in high demand as the days got long and the distances between
stops grew. There is no better seat on a bagger than the Street Glide's.
ache free, which can’t be said for the Vaquero or Stratoliner Deluxe. Towards the end of each day’s riding, every one of us had to plead our case on why we needed to ride the Street Glide again. Truth be told, our butts were sore, and the HD was the cure.
Waheed sums it up, “In terms of comfort the Harley’s ergonomics and seating position is hard to beat. From the layout of the foot controls to the bend of the handlebar and even the slope of the seat—it’s all perfectly suited to racking up some serious miles.”
With the longest range by over 40 miles (248.4) thanks to a large six-gallon tank and a 41.4 mpg average, comfort is king in this shootout.
The Street Glide was top dog in the curves with its short wheelbase and excellent cornering clearance.
Once we reached the mountains, the H-D continued to impress when put through the turns. Steering effort was the lightest of the bunch, and the Glide dipped into corners easily. Mid-corner corrections were not a problem and even the biggest bumps only brought forth a slight wiggle. The cornering clearance was adequate, and while the Vaquero was throwing sparks of its floorboards like the Fourth of July, there was plenty of lean left in the Harley.
A slightly stiffer suspension and short wheelbase no doubt helps the Street Glide cut and run, but how does that affect the bits in between the bends? While the ride was firm it wasn’t uncomfortable or jarring, but it wasn’t as smooth as the Kawasaki
or Star. We’d say it’s a fair trade for such awesome handling when the roads get fun.
“Without a doubt the Harley is the most fleet-footed bagger in this test. It is lighter and it feels lighter. It has the shortest wheelbase and as a result is the most agile in the turns. The suspension is very good as well. On the highway it feels firm and doesn’t exactly float like you would expect. But then in the hills it feels taught and gives the best feedback of these three bikes,” says Hutch.
When it came to the brakes on the Street Glide, our testers felt that the initial feel from the lever was a bit spongier than it should be, even though the stopping power was quite good. The trio of 292mm rotors mated to 4-piston calipers bring the Street Glide to a stop in 128.79 ft from 60 mph. This is the only area where the optional “PowerPak” may have provided an edge to the Harley, as the ABS allowed us to mash on the binders without locking the rear wheel and getting the most use out of the rear tire’s friction.
As surprising as it sounds the Street Glide was the top dog in the drivetrain category. The transmission has just the right amount of clunk and shifts smoothly without any hang-ups. It’s exactly what you envision a V-Twin cruiser gearbox
The Harley-Davidson Street Glide took the win in our bagger shootout but just barely. If it wants to stay on top in the future, Harley needs to find more power.
to be. Clutch pull was light and smooth, although I found the engagement to be a little too early in the throw of the lever, but once accustomed to the quick uptake of the clutch, things were silky-smooth.
After all the scores were tallied the original factory bagger just squeaked out the win over the Stratoliner Deluxe. Would the results have been different if had we tested the standard 96 cubic-inch model without ABS and cruise control? After pouring through the data, all we can say is maybe. The only category that might have turned out different is the 60-0 braking test without ABS, but then again maybe not. The Street Glide was the first and is still the best thanks to its superior comfort, handling and transmission.