The most popular of the Harley-Davidson Touring range is the Street Glide Special and it is easy to see why with the new Milwaukee Eight engine adding to its attraction.
The FLHXS Street Glide Special ($34,995 +ORC) features the famous batwing fairing, a slammed rear end and a very aggressive stature for a bike touted as a touring machine.
For 2017, the bike gets the 107-cube (1745cc) Milwaukee Eight engine like the rest of the Touring range.
It’s more refined, has less vibration, runs cooler, has a deeper rumble and features loads more grunt.
In fact, with 152Nm of torque from just 3250 revs, you can now describe the acceleration as “snappy”. That’s saying something for a bike that weighs in at 376kg fully fuelled.
At just about any revs, you simply wind on the throttle for instant acceleration.
I recall at the launch of the new Touring frame in 2008, the Harley tech guru said sixth gear was pointless until you were riding at over 110km/h.
Now, the Milwaukee Eight (M8) engine delivers so much useable grunt you can click through to sixth gear at 80km/h and still have plenty of effective roll-on acceleration.
It’s that good.
After riding several of the M8 range now, I have found I don’t rev them as much and short-shift more.
Without losing any acceleration performance, it has made the cruise a little more relaxed and also improved the fuel economy.
Coupled with the latest updates to the suspension, the M8 tourer now cranks through the twisties at a much smarter pace than a bike this size deserves to.
It will startle many riders on smaller and more nimble bikes.
I rode it over several tight and twisty mountain passes and kept pace with many other riders on sportier machinery.
The suspension upgrades include Showa Dual-Bending Valve forks with bigger pistons for improved damping.
It makes the front end more compliant, taking away that jackhammer affect through the grips, yet retaining a sharp and light steering feel.
It’s a big and heavy touring bike, but it still has the ability to change direction in a corner without upsetting the ship.
At the back, Harley has moved from air shocks to emulsion shocks with 15-30% more preload adjustment using a single hand-adjustable knob behind the left pannier.
However, with just 54.6mm of travel, it does tend to hit the bump stops a fair bit, no matter how much I wound it up.
I rode it with and without a pillion and the back end feels a bit abrupt, especially over the bumpier roads around the Sunshine Coast.
It’s not too bad for the rider but the pillion sits right over the rear shocks and has a narrow and thin seat cushion that slopes backwards to mirror the rear fender shape.
It’s more about looks that comfort for the pillion, however the addition of an optional quick-release sissy bar does improve comfort.
The new M8 engine is claimed to run cooler on the rider’s legs, but it seems to be hotter for the pillion.
Harley advanced the ignition, dropped the rear header down from the exhaust port and moved the catalytic converter rearwards.
This makes it cooler for the rider, although in slow traffic you do get some scorching on the outside of the right leg.
But the pillion’s right leg cops a lot of the hot air that has been moved backwards.
For 2017, it comes with the Boom! Box 6.5GT audio system as standard. It is loud and clear and easier to hear as the mechanical noise of the engine and transmission has been reduced.
The exhaust also sounds quieter at cruising revs, but under load it develops a beautiful deep trombone baritone.
The audio system includes a GPS with all functions able to be conveniently controlled via toggle switches on the left and right handlebars.
For Touring solo in aggressive style with the occasional short stint two-up, the Street Glide Special is the ultimate machine.