Milwaukee’s Bar and Shield brand is in the midst of a renaissance. To touch on a few recent achievements, Harley-Davidson has forged its path into the ultra-competitive ADV world, launched the all-electric LiveWire brand, and clinched the 2021 MotoAmerica King of The Baggers Championship title. Now, H-D is taking the plunge into the West Coast performance bagger style. To the latter point, The Motor Company has unleashed two new 2022 ST touring models: The Road Glide ST and Street Glide ST.
Driving the performance theme home for ST models is the hulking Milwaukee-Eight 117 powerplant, accompanied by increased shock travel—all signs point to Grand American Touring models with improved sporting potential. That’s not all, as designers have also melded blacked-out West Coast vibes while a few bolt-on Screamin’ Eagle bits nodding towards the MoCo’s championship-winning Harley-Davidson Screamin’ Eagle Road Glide Special.We took to the technical turns of the circuit at Inde Motorsports Ranch and some backroads surrounding Willcox, Ariz., to sample the 2022 Harley-Davidson Road Glide ST and see if these performance-minded upgrades live up to the hype. Now, let’s get on with the Fast Facts.
If immense torque is your thing, look no further than the Milwaukee-Eight 117ci V-twin engine. As with any American V-twin motorcycle, the powerplant steals the limelight, which the M8 117 demands with its massive 127 ft-lbs of torque at 3750 rpm—netting you a nod-worthy 9 ft-lbs of torque above the 114’s maximum output. Helping pump up the peak torque values are a high-flow intake, performance cam, and tuned exhaust. All that Herculean might is available anywhere in the rev range and delivered with just the right hint of twin-cylinder rumble. With 1923cc of displacement providing all that user-friendly bottom-end and midrange thrust, other creature comforts come in the form of excellent fueling, as well as limited amounts of radiant heat.
A hearty American V-twin shifting experience is still part of this performance bagger’s DNA. When the Milwaukee-Eight hit the scene, it arrived with an assist-and-slipper clutch, which we appreciate. Still, it does call for a generous amount of effort at the lever. We have to give H-D credit here, as it is noticeably easier to feather these days. Clicking through each gear of the Cruise Drive transmission is chunky and confident, while the wide-ratio six-speed gearbox allows you to settle into taller gears and let the torque do its work. Another handy feature is the Drag-Torque Slip-Control (engine braking management), part of the optional Reflex Defensive Rider System package. It helps eliminate wheel-hop should you get a little too enthusiastic with your downshifts.
The Road Glide ST ups its cornering game a notch with subtle improvements. Summing the Road Glide ST’s handling is done relatively easily—it flows into curves predictably, holds a line, and stays steady. A roomy 64-inch wheelbase and relaxed 29.25 degrees of fork angle create a steadfastly stable motorcycle perfect for touring. What has changed with ST models is nearly an additional inch of shock travel, raising the rear end to accommodate a bit more eagerness with its cornering abilities. The seat height is slightly higher, moving from 26.1 inches on the standard RG and RG Special to 26.7 inches on the ST.
While we have touched on upgraded suspension benefits, there is ground to cover yet. The beefy non-adjustable 49mm Showa Dual Bending Valve fork remains the same as other Road and Street Glide variants, hiding all the rough stuff from the rider and staying composed under braking. In the rear, twin Showa shocks offer a quick-adjust preload knob and are a cut above what is found on the standard or Special RG. The longer travel improves ride quality and shines on any road surface that is decent or above. The only hiccup is high-speed damping that transmits asphalt cragginess through the chassis.
One can upgrade further with Screamin’ Eagle Öhlins Remote Reservoir Rear Shocks, nearly the same pieces of kit on Kyle and Travis Wyman’s KOTB race baggers. Given the RG ST’s positioning and direct connection to their bikes, it would have been nice to see them installed from the factory.
The Road Glide ST is leaned out and trimmed up, carrying its sportier message through its design choices. There is more to the story than simply dressing the RG ST in a menagerie of black components, of which it has many, drawing some inspiration from Kyle Wyman’s championship-winning KOTB race bike. The few reflective elements can be seen on the machined cylinder heads, tappet covers, and pushrod tubes of the M8 117. The other piece of the design puzzle is what’s coming out of West Coast performance bagger circles—lean, mean, canyon-carving V-twin machines, seen in the cutback fender and standard bags. Two colorways are available: Vivid Black and Gunship Gray (tested here), with the latter tacking on an extra $575.
Standard bags are the final piece of the ST puzzle. If you’re a keen-eyed spec-sheet investigator, you will notice that the ST touring motorcycles have the same maximum lean angle as their standard and Special cousins, despite the ST being capable of more significant lean. Oddly enough, the SAE J1168 measurement method yields the same results. However, in practice, the RG ST carries a little extra angle before touching down for a few reasons. First, ride height is marginally taller, while the standard bags add ground clearance. With 2.3 cubic feet of storage, the one-touch latching bags provide plenty of carrying capacity.
The Boom! Box GTS Infotainment system delivers the goods once again. When it comes to H-D’s touring line, Boom! Box GTS is a household name. The touchscreen can be manipulated with a gloved hand, although it’s quite a reach on RG motorcycles. Instead, one can easily explore the menu with the controls on the handlebar. Navigation is accurate, and the audio is crystal clear. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are supported, assuring compatibility with most of the smartphone market.
Lean back and soak in the signs aboard the Road Glide ST. The only seating position change for the RG ST is that it sports a solo seat, ditching passenger accommodations and cleaning up the look. The extended handlebar of the RG kicks the rider back in a more relaxed riding position than its SG brethren, and the frame-mounted shark-nose fairing isn’t as affected by wind gusts. In addition, the glove box has a USB cable to charge your phone. However, I find that it’s the best place for road snacks.
Braking components are up to the task. No changes come to the four-piston calipers and 300mm rotors found on the touring beast, all of which help it stop with authority. Brake feel is good and, as we’ve come to expect with American V-twin touring machines, will require a modest pull at the lever. ABS and linked braking are standard, which means that the binders automatically work in conjunction, depending on the situation. The Heavy Breather intake does present one issue—it’s easy to run your leg into it while reaching for the brake pedal.
Our test unit was equipped with the $995 Reflex Defensive Rider System. As an option, H-D provides their IMU-supported rider aids suite, including cornering ABS, lean-angle-detecting traction control, motor deceleration traction control, hill-hold control, and a tire pressure monitoring system. The motto “better to have it and not need it” tracks well here, as leaning on those rider aids isn’t something we usually want to do. However, you might face adverse weather or situations that could benefit from them. Now, a motorcycle with a $29,999 MSRP usually would have these features standard, and they are if you’re picking up the illustrious 2022 CVO Road Glide for a dear $41,899.
Minor tweaks tease out something extra from the 2022 Harley-Davidson Road Glide ST. Dropping the powerful Milwaukee-Eight 117 engine into ST touring machines perked up the ears of bagger fans while its meaner looks and stance are vying for their attention. When the rubber meets the road, that extra hit of torque and single-step forward in handling performance is what makes the difference.
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This week, in the first segment Editor Don Williams talks to us about the new Kawasaki Versys 650 LT. It’s the middleweight ADV style machine that uses the same 650 parallel twin motor as the Ninja 650, so it’s an excellent performer in a user-friendly, good looking package.
In the second segment, I chat with one of my dearest industry friends—now retired Honda PR executive, Jon Seidel. Jon’s fascinating career spans some 30 years with Big Red, and gave him some great experiences with some incredible machines. I was fortunate enough to be invited on many of the press launches that he organized. His new project is documenting and saving many of the old archives from years gone by—and incidentally, if you have anything that may be of value to the project, please contact us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll pass it all on to Jon.
So on that note, from all of us here at Ultimate Motorcycling, we hope you enjoy this episode!