Back for the twelfth time since its introduction in 1998, the 2010 Road Glide earns the Custom suffix, as Harley-Davidson’s engineers have decided to drop down the seat height to give the bike an even longer and lower look, in line with contemporary tastes.
To accomplish this styling goal, the rear suspension was shortened an inch, while the leading 18-inch Harley-Davidson Series Dunlop gets a lower-profile. The back end also gets a visual cleanup, and the final result is a bike that is truly striking, particularly in the retina-scorching Scarlet Red (though two flavors of black are available for those who prefer to ride something a bit more understated).
Conventional wisdom would indicate that a 63.5-inch wheelbase would be a bit ponderous around town, but that presumption is instantly disputed by reality. Thanks to the sub-30 inch seat height, low-profile front tire, frame-mounted fairing, and torquey Twin Cam 96 engine, the Road Glide Custom is remarkably agile, even in tight quarters and despite its running weight of over 800 pounds. There is no windshield to look for and the fairing, as dominating visually as it is to the off-bike observer, seems to disappear from the rider’s view.
It may seem like heresy to turn a tourer into an errand runner, but the Road Glide turns that mundane duty into something enjoyable. Hard-nylon bags with over two cubic feet of storage are ready to get you there in style and have the means to let you easily carry your plunder back home in a secure manner.
That relaxed in-town handling extends into the canyons. Although Harley lowered the Road Glide-rear wheel travel is a mere three inches-the Custom retains enough cornering clearance to satisfy the vast majority of its prospective customers. You will touch down sooner on the left than the right, though I only found the clearance to be an issue in tight corners with unexpected dips.
In normal riding, even when trying to make some time, there is plenty of available lean angle and scraping gives you ample time to reconsider your speed before something untoward happens. No surprise, the purpose-built Dunlops stick flawlessly, plus they have a harder center compound for longer life for those who spend most of their time properly vertical.
The iconic shark-snout fairing has an aggressively aerodynamic appearance, and the 1970s muscle-car style dual headlights have a new shroud this year, so things are looking good. On the fairing sit circular analog dials keeping you abreast of fuel (capacity is six gallons), air temperature, oil pressure and battery voltage. On the bars are larger twin displays for road and motor speed (along with a few discreet warning lights).
TDC on the fairing sits a digital entertainment system, which is a bit visually incongruous. MP3 players can be accommodated, but without the convenience of Bluetooth. Also, two spring-loaded compartments in the fairing are excellent for carrying cargo that needs quick and easy access. Yet, for all the square footage of the Road Glide Custom’s fairing, it doesn’t direct air in a way that you may find satisfactory.
When touring the Interstates or high-speed highways, the low-mounted fairing does present some challenges. At freeway speeds the rush of air is kept off the rider’s body, but the shape of the fairing and tiny Lexan wind deflector send that gust directly to the rider’s head and legs. The blast on your face is consistent, so you can adjust to it a bit.
My left leg had no problem with the wind, but my right leg, which is forced farther out into the constant gust by the air filter cover, was doing constant battle to stay on the generously sized floorboard. Eventually, I moved my foot back on the board to give it somewhere tranquil to rest, but this is a less-natural position and puts the brake pedal at a distance-happily, the double discs up front do a great job on their own. It is not a great compromise if you plan on hitting the Interstate for hours.
The wind issues are unfortunate, as the Road Glide Custom’s chassis and motor are ideal for the long haul. The highly rigid, single-spar backbone frame is extraordinarily stable in a straight line at any speed the Twin Cam 96 can attain, and your head can withstand. Unbalanced and bouncy at idle, it smoothes out beautifully at speed and the 2-into-1 exhaust is relaxingly quiet.
Harley’s 6-speed Cruise Drive transmission has an authentic overdrive that you won’t even want to access under 65 mph. At slower highway speeds, fifth is more appropriate to the engine speed. Harley also updated fifth gear with a helical cut for quieter operation; some had complained about a whine from the transmission last year.
Along with the aforementioned right leg wind issues, the reach to the stainless steel bars is a bit farther than I would like at 5’10”; six-footers won’t find a thing to complain about. The Street Glide-style seat is very comfortable for the rider, with adequate support for the lower back and thighs. Passengers will need to hold on tightly, as the narrow back half of the one-piece seat slopes down toward the rear. This will be fine around town; long-distance passengers will demand a new seat or a backrest, or both.
Unquestionably an all-day rider off the highways, suspect wind management is a blemish that defines the utility of the Harley-Davidson Road Glide Custom. It is a fantastic in-town bike and the motorcycle welcomes the open road, as long as that road keeps speeds under a mile a minute. If that is where you ride, the Road Glide Custom is an ideal companion.