2017 Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special Review | Town-Tough, Touring Smooth
Since its introduction in 2006, the Harley-Davidson Street Glide has become a staple in The Motor Company’s Touring lineup. For 2017, the Harley-Davidson Touring motorcycles have been imbued with a host of updates that should make all American V-twin fans stop in their tracks.I took a 2017 Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special and put it to the test, winding it out in the back country and slogging through LA’s world-renown traffic, which led us to one conclusion—this is Harley’s best non-CVO Street Glide yet, and let’s find out why.
1. The 2017 Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special gets a few important features that make it Special. Linked braking with ABS, a high-end infotainment system, a security system, and upgraded paint are the primary differentiators from the standard Street Glide.2. The big story for the 2017 Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special is the new Milwaukee-Eight 107ci engine. We’re not going to get into the nuts and bolts of the Milwaukee-Eight update, as it’s a subject we’ve written about quite a bit. Featuring a claimed 111 ft/lbs of torque at 3250 rpm, the air-cooled 107ci powerplant (with oil-cooled heads) has flawless power delivery everywhere in the power band.3. Unlike the Twin Cam it replaces, which most certainly tapered off towards the upper regions of the rev-range, the Milwaukee-Eight shows no signs of doing so. The M-E spools up with much more urgency than its predecessor, especially in the further regions of rpm. Another point of praise is the Street Glide Special’s 2-1-2 exhaust. While it doesn’t have the boom of an aftermarket system, I certainly grinned when I’d open the Street Glide Special up. In short, it sounds superb, and that’s not reviewer bushwah.4. Engine vibrations have been reduced a claimed 75 percent. Now featuring counterbalancing, Harley-Davidson engineers worked to improve the comfort level of the touring line by reducing vibration, and they’ve done so by a massive margin. Before purists fret, yes, it still feels like the American V-twin we all know and love, but with a refinement that will certainly reduce fatigue on any journey.5. Shorter riders will find the Street Glide Special more accommodating this year. Though there are no changes to the chassis, riders swinging a leg over the 2017 Street Glide Special will take heed of the much narrower riding position. Thanks to a dramatically slimmed down primary cover and air cleaner, riders of all shapes and sizes will have more confidence maneuvering the 830-pound touring motorcycle.6. Heat dissipation has been improved. The Street Glide Special’s powerplant deals with heat management far more efficiently than any of its predecessors. That means much more comfort when on those long summer trips and, most importantly, at low speeds while dealing with traffic.7. A slip-assist clutch is standard. Owners of any model in the Touring line will be pleased to know that Harley has sprung for a slip-assist clutch. While it lightens the clutch pull, the 2017 Street Glide Special still is a hearty clutch pull. However, the real story here is the slip feature. Botching a downshift won’t be meant with a rear-wheel hopping about or skidding. Riders can rest a little bit easier when moving down the gearbox quickly.8. Comfort has improved by leaps and bounds due to suspension upgrades. Now featuring remote spring-preload adjustable emulsion shocks and Showa’s Dual Bending Valve fork, the Street Glide does just that—glide. In all, the Street Glide has much more confidence, remaining planted especially over inconsistent surfaces. Potholes, expansion joints, and unkempt roads do little to upset the Street Glide Special’s chassis, even while cornering aggressively.9. The emulsion shocks deserve special praise. Hard impacts no longer deflect energy directly into the chassis, improving the overall comfort massively. Harley-Davidson has made great strides in this department, no doubt.10. One-touch, quick release saddlebags are now standard on the Street Glide Special and other touring models. The one-touch latch system works effortlessly, and snaps in with confidence, but that isn’t all. If you’d like to adjust your rear preload while out and about, it will only take a couple minutes to pop the saddlebags off, adjust your preload and be back in the saddle. That same principle extends to tire changes and flat repairs, which long distance touring riders know all about.11. The 2017 Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special is no slouch when it comes to handling. The 2017 Street Glide Special is nearly unassailable in terms of stability. With a substantial 64-inch wheelbase, 26 degrees of rake and 6.8 inches of trail, I found myself pushing into corners far more aggressively than the spec sheet would suggest. Whether I was trolling around town or out in the canyons, tipping the Street Glide Special into corners is truly satisfying. Due credit should also be given to the predictable Harley-Davidson branded Dunlop tire.12. If you’re going to ride fast, you’ll have to stop fast, and the Street Glide Special can do just that. Equipped with 300mm dual rotors up front, a 300mm disc out back, and Brembo calipers, the Street Glide Special can stop in a hurry when needed. Brake feel at the lever is firm and progressive, but for my own personal tastes, I’d like a tad more bite out of them.13. The rear brake is quite strong, though your ankle will be kept at a steep angle if you’d like to keep it on the floorboard. It takes some getting used to or you can start doing yoga because nothing says Harley-Davidson like yoga pants on bearded men.14. The Street Glide Special is equipped with linked braking and ABS. Having ABS doesn’t detract from the ride in the least bit, as it takes some ham-fisted brake applications to engage it in the front. In the rear, you may hear a tad bit of chirping before the ABS engages. The linked braking operates at speeds above 20 mph or so (depending on conditions), and balances the front and rear brakes whether you use the brake lever or pedal alone, or in tandem. It’s an excellent system that is generally transparent.15. The 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system with BOOM! Box 6.5GT audio system works flawlessly. In truth, I’ve never been a rider that listens to tunes while riding but I gave the 6.5GT auto system a go and was pleasantly surprised. At cruising speeds, I could make out the soothing sounds of Los Tigres del Norte. The touchscreen responds to a gloved touch or can be manipulated on the left-hand control with ease. Additionally, owners can expect a handy GPS feature that works as intended. Even in direct light, the screen is still visible.16. Where the marketing meets reality: The 2017 Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special is a cut above its predecessor. There is no other way to put it—the new Street Glide Special is simply better, and the Special is better than the standard. From comfort, to performance, and functionality; the ride quality has vastly improved. The Street Glide Special performs well for long distance, and short runs, making it a worthy option for those that want a bike that is built to go the distance.Photography by Don WilliamsRiding Style:
Our first segment introduces you to the new Arch 1s. This latest, slightly more sporting American V-twin, adds to the original KRGT1 coming from the boutique manufacturer based in Hawthorne, Southern California. Senior Editor Nic de Sena rode through Malibu with Gard Hollinger, who co-founded Arch Motorcycle with his friend, Keanu Reeves. The 1s is a unique ride for sure, and Nic explains what makes the bike really stand out.
For the entertaining story behind Arch Motorcycle from Gard Hollinger himself, you must listen to his podcast episode on Motos & Friends HERE
The guest segment of Motos and Friends is brought to you by the faster and most technologically advanced, 2023 Suzuki Hayabusa—visit your local dealer or suzukicycles.com to learn more.
In our second segment, Associate Editor Teejay Adams chats with multiple Emmy award-winning writer, Producer, Director, and actor, Thom Beers. the former Chairman & CEO of Fremantle Media North America, responsible for American Idol and America’s Got Talent.
Thom’s fertile imagination led to most of the really big reality TV shows such as ‘Deadliest Catch’ (now in its 17th season!), and many others. Of course for us in the motorcycle world, you’ll be interested to hear the genesis and story of how he started the first real fabrication reality show ‘Monster Garage’, that showcased Jesse James, and then how that led to ‘Biker Build Off’ and the ‘Zombie Choppers’ movie.
You’d imagine that most of Thom’s time is spent sitting behind a desk and on his phone. Not so. His intense stories of capturing much of the content for these shows make for some hair-raising listening.