2018 Harley Davidson Sport Glide Test Ride


Me riding a 2018 Harley Davidson Sport Glide.

The Breakdown

The Sport Glide is two cruisers in one thanks to the quick-detach mini batwing fairing and lockable, hard saddlebags. It can cruise the open highway for a long time, or boulevards in town for a good time. Sporty it is not unless we compare it to the original 1985 FXRT Sport Glide. It definitely can glide thanks to Harley’s new generation Softail frame and 107 cubic inch Milwaukee 8 engine.
Overall
Pros
Cruise control / Quick detach windshield and locking hard bags / Great torque from the M8 107 engine / Bright, LED headlight
Cons
Uncomfortable seat easily dents / Unstable at high speed (got sport?) / Fairing isn’t large enough to protect the rider from the wind

The Not So Sport Glide

2018 Sport Glide.

Have you ever really wanted to like a motorcycle and had it disappoint you? That’s what happened to me with Harley’s new Sport Glide. It’s not awful or anything like that, but it’s not what it could have been with some better execution on the part of Harley’s designers.

With a Sport label and featuring cruise control along with detachable hard bags and fairing, I thought this would be a sporty cruiser equally capable of mastering long rides and sharp corners.

As it turns out, it can do those things, just not as well as I hoped. It’s not a sport tourer, or even worthy of the sport cruiser label.

Numbers and Noteworthy Features

  • 107 cubic inch (1746 cc) engine with 78 hp and 105.5 pound-feet of torque at 2750 rpm
  • Standard ABS and cruise control
  • Inverted front forks with adjustable preload on the rear suspension
  • 30 degrees of rake
  • 698 lbs wet
  • 26.5-inch seat height
  • 47 mpg

First Impressions

I like the simple look of this bike, especially with the front fairing detached. It presents as a clean and classy Harley Davidson motorcycle in that form.

Me riding a 2018 Harley Davidson Sport Glide.

The fairing intrigues me. I love the potential of it providing some good wind protection, but I have serious doubts it will be effective at all. It looks too short and small to be anything more than cosmetic. I’m eager to find out just what this bike is about.

The Ride

The Engine and Transmission

2018 Harley Sport GLide air cleaner housing and gas tank.
The torque is excellent from the Milwaukee 107 cubic inch engine. The Sport Glide flexes that rear wheel muscle to pull powerfully away from stop signs and many other vehicles on the road. It’s terrific to have full torque almost from idle at the rider’s disposal. Full credit to Harley for building this updated engine in comparison to the old twin cam one. It may be all new, but it still has that lovely Harley exhaust note people like me adore.

That torque combined with a six-speed transmission mesh very well and I experienced no missed shifts or desire to change anything about it. In true Harley form, the bike clunks loudly when you drop it into first gear, but other shifts happen smooth and solid.

The Lack of Sport Performance

Me riding a 2018 Harley Davidson Sport Glide.

Around town and on back roads at regular speeds the Sport Glide moves around well overall when we speak of its powertrain. I had no complaints until I decided to find out whether it would live up to the Sport side of its name by accelerating past 100 mph. Any legit sport touring bike should be smooth at that speed, but the SG was just plain scary.

Right around the 100mph mark, it started shuddering strongly and making me very uncomfortable. I’m not sure whether it could be blamed on the Michelin Scorcher tires and 30 degrees of rake not meshing well with the cold asphalt that day (it was only 54 degrees), but this bike had no interest in going fast.

Comparatively, my experience test riding the new Fat Bob last fall was just the opposite. That bike was noticeably more powerful with its 114 cubic inch engine, lighter weight and very smooth ride even above 100mph. That bike wants to go fast and handles it well.

2018 Harley Davidson Sport Glide.

Too Harsh?

Am I perhaps being unreasonably critical? Yeah, maybe.

It’s true there isn’t a single road (other than racetracks) in North America that I can legally ride this bike over 90 mph and it performs just fine in that normal range of speeds. Still, I was hoping for more, whether that’s reasonable or not.

Cornering

Me riding a 2018 Harley Davidson Sport Glide.

The Sport Glide is one of the new generations of Softails which is supposed to handle better than ever before thanks to a completely redesigned frame. That’s definitely the case for this Sport Glide compared to previous Harleys, but again the Fat Bob is noticeably better in the corners.

What A Drag

When I took some tight turns I found my heel dragging almost right away on the road because of the angle and height of the footpegs.

Me riding a 2018 Harley Davidson Sport Glide.

I’m not tall at 5’7, nor do I have skis for feet by any reckoning so that shouldn’t have been happening. If I lifted my foot up and rested my heel on top of the pegs I could corner nearly as sharply as on the Fat Bob, but that’s not a reasonable thing to expect to do with a bike named Sport Glide.

Suspension

Preload adjuster handle on a Sport Glide.

The suspension is decent in the front and rear. I like that the rear is easily adjusted now with a manual dial behind the driver’s right leg.

Rear suspension preload adjuster handle on a Sport Glide.

I didn’t find the forks dove exceedingly under hard braking. Generally, I can say Harley did good with it.

The Seat

The seat is one I just can’t figure out.

018 Harley Sport Glide.

The one on the Fat Bob is the most comfortable stock Harley seat I’ve sat on. That sounds really weird, but is definitely the case even compared to stock seats on the big baggers for my backside. I really wish they had gone with it on the Sport Glide instead of the one they did.

2018 Sport Glide seat.

My main complaint with the Sport Glide seat is that after riding for an hour it produced a dent right where my tailbone rests on it. There was a noticeable pucker in the leather when I got off it and I think over time this would only get worse to the point of failure.

It’s also wickedly uncomfortable to have your tailbone dig into the foam progressively deeper while out riding.

No Passengers

The rear seat isn’t something any passenger would want to use long. They may as well have just left it a solo seat.

The Convertible Aspect

Two Sport Glides showing with and without fairing and bags installed.
The fairing and saddlebags come off quickly and easily thanks to latches inside the bags and ones on the inside of the fork tubes near the triple tree up front.

Quick detach front fairing from a 2018 Harley Davidson Sport Glide.

This design is efficient and seems bulletproof. The fairing can’t be easily stolen off the bike when it’s parked unattended because when the steering lock is engaged you can’t get fingers in far enough to unlatch the release on one side.

The bags are hard and leather covered with nice logos on each side. I had no trouble removing and reinstalling them afterward with only one or two attempts at learning how it all works.
Full marks to Harley on doing these things right.

The Instrument Panel

2018 Sport Glide gauges and gas tank.

The dash is a 5-inch diameter speedometer with an LCD display below it mounted on the gas tank. It’s not too hard to see how fast you’re going, nor are the warning light for ABS, neutral, low fuel, oil pressure, high beam or indicators for turn signals.

The only problem is you have to look down to access the information. It’s par for the course with many Harley Softails and helps keep the style of the bike sharp. From a practical standpoint, I’m really not a big fan though.

The fuel gauge is a good feature along with the distance to empty, digital tech and trip meters. It’s actually a very good setup, just not located well.

The Style

I think a better name for this bike would be Style Glide.

2018 Sport Glide Engine.

The rims are unique with their bending, polished aluminum spokes front and rear that somewhat resemble shuriken (ninja stars!).

2018 Sport Glide front wheel.

No other builder mixes a distinct package of physical features so well of chrome highlights and blacked out contrasting areas than the Bar and Shield in my opinion. Often imitated, but never duplicated this bike is a looker without question.

The Little Things

Rear tire on a 2018 Harley Davidson Sport Glide.

The Michelin Scorcher tires even have small depressions around the edges of the rubber that are shaped like the Harley logo. Small badging and tasteful, low key branding on the side of the gas tank among other locations on the engine and saddlebags is all done just right.

In short, I give it two thumbs up in the looks department.

Who Is It For?

Who should buy this Harley? Who is Harley trying to target with this Sport Glide? I really can’t make up my mind about the answer to that question.

Me riding a 2018 Harley Davidson Sport Glide.

At first, I thought it would be an excellent option for riders that can’t physically handle the big touring bikes and their 900+ lb weight, but who still want to go on long rides.

The fairing on the Sport Glide just isn’t big enough to make really long rides in wind comfortable, so I’m going to stop looking at this machine as a legitimate touring bike alternative now.

I think this is one for people who want a bike they can quickly, easily and noticeably change the look of. That’s really it because the truth is this is just a Heritage Classic with modern styling and a less useful quick detach windshield when you drill down to the core.

I thought I understood what Harley was going for with this bike, but it turns out either I was right, but they missed the mark or I’m wrong and have no idea what the Sport Glide is for.

So Much Potential

Me riding a 2018 Harley Davidson Sport Glide.

This bike could have been much more if they had built it more like the Fat Bob, but put in some touring features.

It should have had the 114 engine in it, not the 107.

The footpegs should have been raised to allow sharper cornering.

The windshield should be at least 8” taller.

Change the rake to 28 degrees and raise the exhaust slightly to allow for sport cruiser cornering.

Fix the seat.

The sad truth is that I really wanted to like the Sport Glide, but I don’t. I can’t see it selling well or staying in the Harley lineup long either unless they really tweak it, but I could be totally wrong.

What’s New for the 2019 Sport Glide?

The 2019 Sport Glide is virtually identical to the 2018 other than the shape of the primary drive case. The photo below shows the new, narrower primary case with the smaller diameter derby cover on it.

A primary cover on a 2019 Heritage Classic Softail.

There is a better cooling effect on the oil and primary drive gears gained due to the shape change according to the sales staff at Calgary Harley Davidson who I’d like to thank for offering up this bike for a test drive and review.

A Harley Sport Glide at Calgary Harley Davidson.

Final Shots

I haven’t enjoyed writing this downer of a review. I like Harleys and all motorcycles, but this one just does very little for me, sadly. It’s pretty ordinary overall and I prefer to review bikes I feel make a statement or fit a rider’s needs better than on average.

It would have been more worthwhile for Harley to have built a touring friendly version of the Fat Bob instead of the Sport Glide, because the Fat Bob IS the Softail with sport handling.

That’s about to change though with the new 2019 FXDR 114 from what I hear, but that’s a whole different review than this one.

Steel sculpture of an eagle.

Pros

  • Cruise control
  • Quick detach windshield and locking hard bags
  • Great torque from the M8 107 engine
  • Bright, LED headlight

Cons

  • Uncomfortable seat easily dents
  • Unstable at high speed (got sport?)
  • Fairing isn’t large enough to protect the rider from the wind

Specs

  • Manufacturer: Harley Davidson
  • Price (When Tested): $22,399 and up
  • Made In: USA
  • Alternative models & colors: 6 different paint choices
  • Sizes: 107 engine only
  • Review Date: September 26, 2108

Harley Davidson Sport Glide Image Gallery

14 Comments

  1. Avatar
    October 24, 2018
    Reply

    Ugly schmugly.

  2. Avatar
    Brian
    October 24, 2018
    Reply

    It might not be sporty, but I’ve never been on a Harley that glides on anything but pristine blacktop either. With Harley’s low, short stroke suspensions, every Harley I’ve been on has been horribly rough on real-world pavement scenarios, especially compared to non-cruiser bikes, but even compared to metric and Indian cruiser models.

    • Avatar
      Jim Pruner
      October 25, 2018
      Reply

      Yeah this Sport Glide wasn’t what I would call plush or sport firm either.
      I did find it a bit harsh over bumps but it wasn’t unbearable.

  3. Avatar
    Belloc
    January 27, 2019
    Reply

    I read somewhere that HD made this for the Euro market, and that makes sense to me. The bags are similar to those on an old BMW of mine – light, practical day-to-day, no paint to ding up, removable for lane-splitting. The fairing isn’t a coast-to-coast type deal, but keeps you from turning into a sail for an hour or two on the flat top, while giving your head a clear stream of air. It’s pretty much unnoticeable below 65. The suspension on crappy city streets is the most comfortable I’ve had, but my last 4 bikes were 2 standards and 2 sport tourers, not touring bikes or cruisers, so not apples to apples. I’m fine with the seat for an hour or so, but the passenger seat is really crappy, like all the Softails, I think. But I’ve got over 10k on mine and don’t have the center part dented down like yours did, so I don’t know if there was a problem with the seat, or a mismatch with your tailbone. I’ve scraped the pegs a couple of times, but its ultimate lean angle is like its stability over 100mph – a theoretical problem, like its enduro manners and its racing potential. In spite of its name, it’s not a sport bike any more than the Fat Bob is – when compared to actual sport bikes. But it’s dead stable on the 70 mph sweepers we have in the country here in Texas, and dead stable cruising at 85, and nimble enough for in town. I wanted a bike that I could commute on, noodle around the back roads on, carry my wife around on, take day trips on, run to the store on – a multi-purpose bike, neither too big nor too small, that could carry stuff easily when I wanted to. If fills those roles really well, and I find it a blast to ride. I don’t hold the “Sport” against it any more than I would the “Slim” for not being skinny enough, or the “Valkyrie” for not carrying warriors to Valhalla. Maybe better to look at what the bike is designed to do, rather than what the marketing department named it.

    • Avatar
      Jim Pruner
      January 28, 2019
      Reply

      Thanks for the comment Belloc! It’s great to get an owner’s perspective on here. I can only garner so much from a limited time test drive after all.

      I’m glad to hear your bike is more enjoyable to ride than the one I reviewed. It’s fair to say there could have been something funny going on with the one I got and it’s not the norm, but I can only write about what I personally experienced and that’s what I did.

      As far as Harley’s intent for this bike goes based on what’s written on the site for the 2019 Sport Glide I’d say they have sport touring in mind with the option to take the top off (fairing I mean) while in the city when it strikes your fancy to do so. Here’s the exact write up from the HD site:

      “Devour endless miles of highway. Lean hard through twisting roads. Hit the night spots. Adventure is yours for the taking on the Sport Glide®. ”

      “Leaning hard” is a relative term I concede and maybe I’ve spent too much time on sport bikes to be fair.
      Leaning hard in corners is possible with this bike, but only when you set your heel on the foot pegs otherwise your heel drags (at least mine did). I didn’t experience that with the Fat Bob or FXDR. You don’t mention whether that’s the case with yours or not, but I can’t believe there would be that much difference between your bike and the one I tested… or is there?

      That’s why I stand by my comments about this being a confusing bike. Even if they didn’t call it Sport Glide I would have called out Harley on this idea the bike is made for cornering.

      • Avatar
        Belloc
        January 28, 2019
        Reply

        Hi Jim, thanks for the reply. Yeah, everyone is going to ride differently, in different places, with different expectations. Ad hype aside, this bike is a Low Rider with a better front end, forward-ish pegs, and detachable fairing and bags. If strafing apexes at top speed is your game, I wouldn’t look to a Low Rider, or really any Harley, or really anything much over 400 lbs. I’d pick something different if I lived in the mountains and rode hard there. Everything is a compromise, except for the one bike that isn’t, until that one bike gets bested, then it’s a compromise. Saying the Fat Bob is the best corner carver in Harley’s line-up may be true, but it’s like being the tallest midget. If you want a corner carver, you’re at the wrong store, unless it’s the compromise you like. FWIW, the rear brake and shift lever seem to be set up for operation with your heels on the pegs. In your fourth picture, where you seem to be shifting, that’s where your heels are, but you must drop your feet when not shifting or braking, because your heels are hanging down in other pictures. Not sure. I’m in Houston, and the hardest corners I carve are in town, and it hasn’t been a problem there. My last bike was a Speed Triple, and the rider triangle took some getting used to, though – it may be that foot position on the peg is something that changes with forward controls, but it’s been a year and I don’t remember.

        Anyway, thanks for the review and the excellent pics.

        • Avatar
          Jim Pruner
          January 28, 2019
          Reply

          I think your assessment of the bike as a low rider is bang on. That’s what this bike is in the end: looks cool and deserves to be ridden in a way to show off the looks. It still provides modest handling compared to any cruiser too. Definitely not a bad motorcycle and I think my score of 3.7/5 reflects that.

          I know what happened in the photo you’re referring to. I am indeed shifting the bike into first gear without my foot in the usual position. You’ll laugh when you hear why I’m doing that. I had stopped in front of my wife (the photographer) to get some close ups and then planned to take off quickly from there. I forgot I had shifted the trans into neutral and the bike embarrassingly revved up loudly but didn’t move when I tried. My wife was laughing at me and snapped that pic as I slapped the shifter down into first in an exaggerated fashion while laughing at my rookie move. Why is it moments like those always get captured on film, eh?

          At any rate I also agree the pics were great in this one. My wife had just bought a new lens for the camera and caught some real beauties with it of the Sport Glide. Maybe someday I’ll be in the Houston area and we can tour around together?

          I’ll bring a Fat Bob though. Thanks again for the conversation Belloc. I hope you chime in again anytime. If you’re on FaceBook please join the WBW group as we often have great discussions on there too.

          • Avatar
            Belloc
            January 28, 2019

            Congrats to your wife on the good pics, Jim. Yeah, you’ll often catch something you didn’t intend in those pics.

            I paid attention to the position of my feet on the pegs riding into work this morning, and it was with heels resting on them, with toes at the level of the levers. Otherwise you have to raise them for each shift and use of the rear brake, which is an ab workout and a delay, for me, anyway. I note that your toes are nowhere near the levers in any of the other pictures, so maybe just a riding style thing. The bike is definitely too low to be subtracting several inches from each side.

            I read that the Sport Glide and the Low Rider were developed together by the same team, so not my observation there. A lot of guys on the forums want forward controls on the LR, or want mids on the SG, so you’re not alone. My problem with the seating position is that the stock seat makes my butt slide down into the cruiser slouch, where I like to be in a more “standard” position. A Corbin should put my rear further back, allowing a more upright position, and fix my wife’s situation to boot.

            Anyway, drop me a line if you ever get down this way, whatever bike you happen to be on. I’ll treat to you some local barbeque and some long straight roads 🙂

  4. Avatar
    Jim Pruner
    January 28, 2019
    Reply

    Ok now you’ve got my curiosity really piqued about my foot positioning on pegs.

    I place my foot on the peg so that the gap between the front and heel portion of the boot’s sole rests on the peg. When I’m not braking or shifting I pivot my toes outwards so that they aren’t resting on the brake lever or shift lever. I think this is mainly to avoid riding the rear brake but it also allows me to quickly pivot my toes back over the brake lever when needed.

    I note using this positioning is for riding cruisers that are laid back seating only because the weight of my legs isn’t on my feet at all. When I ride sport bikes, standard or dirt bikes I position my foot further backwards so that the ball of my right foot is on the peg instead of the gap between heel and front. I didn’t even realize this difference until you started talking about it. Very interesting. I’m going to have to do a survey on what everyone else is doing out of interest.

    You sound like a taller fellow (everything’s bigger in TX, right?) while I’m a little person and I suspect that has a lot to do with it.

    Man I was in Amarillo years ago and still remember how tasty that BBQ was there. The fact you’re riding today and have access to that kind of lovely food stings a lot because I’m more looking at shoveling snow off my walk than anything else today. Hahaha.

    • Avatar
      Belloc
      January 29, 2019
      Reply

      Ha – I was thinking about it on the way home, too! I’d been wearing my old aircrew boots for riding boots since the early 90’s, and replaced them with some Corcorans a year or so ago, then bought some Bates Tasers for summer riding. I never went back to the Corcorans when winter came, because the Bates were so much more comfortable for riding, but it didn’t become clear until today just why. My old boots and the Corcorans have defined heels, but the Bates are flat on bottom, like sneakers. I remember now having to move my feet around before to get to the levers and the heel step made it awkward, but it was weird riding with my heels on the pegs. Now that is what I naturally do – my legs are relaxed that way, and the levers are right there. All of this I had forgotten! As I said before, my last few bikes were standards and sport tourers, and like you I rode with the peg in front of the heel when relaxed, or on the pad of my foot in the twisties (I used to live in Japan). Getting out of the cruiser slouch and leaning forward more puts more weight on the legs (and takes it off the tailbone, though mine still goes to sleep after a while) – the flatter bars on the SG make that comfortable. I have a 32″ inseam, so not too tall, but my legs are just a little open from 90 degrees, which probably makes a difference. You might like the mid-pegs of the Low Rider better. Way more factors involved than I had thought about when I first read this, but yours was the first review of the SG I’d read where the lean angle was the central criticism, so it caught my attention. I’d never given any thought to foot position (much less sole shape) either.

      Yeah, I don’t miss snow at all, I’m afraid. If I still rode in heavy rain, I could ride pretty much all year here, and do, aside from rain. Having a car has made me lazy. And the barbecue doesn’t hurt 🙂

      • Avatar
        Jim Pruner
        January 29, 2019
        Reply

        I feel enlightened thanks to this exchange. The sole design on my Sidi boots is perhaps entirely to blame for the heel drag it seems. I’ll keep that in mind should the same issue pop up again.

        I’m also going to have to check out some Bates boots now it seems.

        • Avatar
          Belloc
          January 29, 2019
          Reply

          I learned a lot too, Jim, thanks! Yeah, I like the Bates, and there are several others of similar design. Decent for walking, too. I think they’re on sale at Revzilla at the moment, FWIW.

  5. Avatar
    Chris Kmiec
    March 7, 2019
    Reply

    Interesting review, and I usually agree with your assessments, but I have to say, we are far apart on this one. I usually have two bikes in my garage, a sportbike and a cruiser/commuter bike. I currently have a Z900 for weekend fun in the twisties, and had a V-Rod for commuting/looking good duty. After test-riding a bunch of new Softails, I bought the Sport Glide, and couldn’t be happier with it. Let me address few points:

    1. Stability over 100mph. Something must’ve been wrong with your bike. I bought mine on a 30F day from a dealer 2 hours away. I rode the snot out of her on the way back, and never once felt unstable.

    2. Seat – I only use it for two-up with my wife, and we have no complaints for day trips. I bought a Mustang Solo seat, and love it.

    3. Fairing – it’s perfect for me. I’m 5′ 11″ and it takes most of the wind off of my chest, and leaves my helmet in clean air.

    4. Lean angle – I scrape the pegs or my boots all the time. The only thing I wish was better, as my V-Rod was 32 degrees, and it made a difference.

    Overall, I love the bike, and put 3k miles in 2 months on it. It’s my commuter and weekend trip machine.

    • Avatar
      Jim Pruner
      March 8, 2019
      Reply

      Hi Chris, thanks for the feedback.

      I’m starting to think you’re right and that this specific SG I rode was an anomaly in some ways.

      Maybe I need to try it again sometime this year. I’m glad to hear yours is working out for you. The concept still appeals to me and I wanted to like it more than I did.

      In truth I didn’t hate it, it just wasn’t as good as I hoped.

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