2023 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Special Review [120th Edition]

One of the rides I enjoy most as Editor of Ultimate Motorcycling is heading home after picking up a test bike for the first time. Harley-Davidson’s fleet center is about 35 miles of urban sprawl from my home, at least as the crow flies. However, when my hands are on the grips, that ride can easily be twice that, and I’ll never put a wheel on a freeway. While the 2023 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Special may not seem like an ideal motorcycle for that application, plenty of urban Road Gliders are tearing up inner city streets. With the 120th Anniversary Heirloom Red Fade paint job, I definitely stood out among them—and in a good way.

2023 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Special Review: For Sale

The Road Glide Special takes the standard Road Glide and gives it more of an urban attitude. A snarling Milwaukee-Eight 114 motor in the Special replaces the standard’s 107—there’s a big difference, and you feel it every time you twist the throttle. H-D slams the Special’s bags for a profiling attitude. The wire-spoke-like Gloss Black Prodigy wheels on the Special are also more stylish than the cast aluminum Enforcer II wheels on the standard bike—again, you’re expected to ride the special where it will be seen and appreciated. Also, the RGS’s Boom! Box GTS infotainment system is a step up from the standard’s dash. Finally, the standard RG has basic black, red, and paint options, compared to a dazzling palate of colors available on the Special, including the attention-grabbing 120th Anniversary Heirloom Red Fade paint and Black Finish.

2023 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Special Review: 120th Anniversary

As I mentioned, the 2023 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Special’s Milwaukee-Eight 114 announced itself as soon as I exited the driveway and onto the city street. It’s a muscular powerplant, with 112 ft-lbs of torque on tap for the 853-pound motorcycle when the V-twin is spinning at just 2750 rpm. The motor is undeniably authoritative, yet has a smooth power delivery as you hit the 95-horsepower peak at 5020 rpm—not that I haven’t shifted by then to enjoy the stump-pulling grunt. The Grand American Touring chassis allows just the right amount of vibration to caress the rider. Inarguably, the 114 is a sweet way to get around town.

Harley-Davidson has the ergonomics for the Road Glide Special perfected. The handlebar is wide enough to provide needed leverage, while retaining a natural width. Floorboards leave plenty of room for foot positioning, and the 114-emblazoned air filter cover is non-confrontational. The seat offers good support for hours-long excursions without a stop, and a stepped seating area for the passenger. The smoked windshield hits the right balance between protection and unobtrusiveness, at least for my five-foot-ten frame. Accessory windshields are available for taller or shorter pilots.

2023 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Special Review: Urban Motorcycle

My ride home, as is often the case, kept me off the freeway. I already know that the Road Glide can gobble up highway miles without the slightest hint of indigestion. Despite its touring credentials, plenty of riders stick to the city on their Road Glides. It’s an imposing motorcycle with the fixed fist-like shark-nose fairing, which doubles as a carrier for the infotainment system. Plus, the slammed bags are handy for a trip to the Range Rover paradise of Trader Joe’s or the infamously grimy Circus Liquor.

While most people would be revulsed at the thought of spending hours riding amongst the caged in urban and suburban locales, I love it. I get to enjoy the vibe of the city, eat somewhere interesting, and field countless positive comments about the motorcycle I’m riding. At the very first red light I stopped at, a guy and his wife in a pickup checked out the Heirloom Red Fade paint and announced unprovoked, “That is a nice motorcycle.” A nod is all that’s required in response, in the unlikely case you’re an introvert riding a Road Glide Special. “Thanks,” and a knowing smile works for me.

2023 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Special Review: Heirloom Red Fade

Front there, I headed north toward DTLA. I saw many motorcycles along the way, including a few Road Glides. After giving me the obligatory two-fingers-to-the-road signal, more than one of the RG riders did a bit of surreptitious rubber-necking. Even those who ride Road Glides are impressed by the 120th Anniversary paint. Of course, that attention is drawn just passing by. When you see the paint up-close in-person, it’s just that much more appealingly impressive. It isn’t quite CVO quality, but it’s close enough for rock ’n’ roll and well worth the $2900 premium it commands.

In the uncrowded sections of town—there are some—it’s fun to wind up the 114 and enjoy the song it sings. Los Angeles streets are so lightly policed these days that I don’t have to look in the rear-view mirrors or check the speedometer—I just ride. Many would consider the 2023 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Special to be too big of a motorcycle for urban use. The presence of so many sharks in the city waters disputes that, as does riding the bike.

2023 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Special Review: 120th Anniversary Heirloom Red Fade

Even though it’s more than a half-ton with me in the comfortably firm saddle, the weight is low, the power helps mask the mass, and the slip-and-assist clutch means my left hand doesn’t get overly worked when traffic is especially LA-like. Gearshifts are deliberate and reliable.

The sound output of the infotainment system isn’t enough to overcome my full-face HJC i10, even though I’m sans earplugs. The UI for the Boom! Box GTS infotainment system is quite good, once you get used to it. GPS comes in handy, even though I have a strong grasp of the layout of Los Angeles streets. Against all odds, this Road Glide Special is a pleasure to ride through all urban neighborhoods.

2023 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Special Review: Touring Motorcycle

Part of my rides home include the twisties. This can be famed Mulholland Drive and its tributaries that connect the Los Angeles basin to the San Fernando Valley, or something a bit more off-beat like Chevy Chase Drive that links Glendale and La Cañada Flintridge, the gateway to Angeles Crest Highway. The robust touring chassis offers reassuring stability on mixed-quality canyon roads, though you have to be prepared to add some muscle to the proceedings.

Accelerating out of the turns is much more fun than using the linked Brembo calipers to slow down. While the brakes have plenty of power and the Dunlops plenty of grip, it’s building up g-forces when aggressively decelerating, which calls for more than casual riding.

The weather dashed my original plans to ride north to visit my uncle in Bakersfield or my sister in San Luis Obispo. Although the government experts predicted a winter with “warmer-than-average temperatures for the Southwest,” precisely the opposite happened. It has been cold and wet, with severe (and deadly) snowstorms in the mountains.

2023 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Special Review: MSRP

As I’m not a glutton for punishment, I put those travel plans on hold until the spring. That’s not a big deal, as it will give me an excuse to procure another Grand American Touring motorcycle from Harley-Davidson when the temperatures rise. Instead, I spent more time riding through the grand metropolis of Los Angeles.

There’s always a battle raging between the Road Glide and Street Glide for the hearts and minds of Harley-Davidson riders. I’m neutral in that conflict, though I’d probably go with a Street Glide if my balance is city riding and the Road Glide if I got out on the highway more. Especially in the wind and when bearing down on semis at a 140 mph closing speed on a two-lane highway on a breezy day, the frame-mounted fairing makes a lot of sense. Fortunately, either choice is a good one as the two Glides are versatile enough.

If you haven’t spent much time in the city on a Road Glide Special, it might not make much sense to you. However, for those who understand its character, the RGS is a great way to get around town, despite not being anywhere near agile or economical. If you’re willing to work with it, the 2023 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Special is a fantastic urban motorcycle, and the 120th Anniversary Heirloom Red Fade paint makes it just that much better.

Photography by Kelly Callan


2023 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Special Specs


  • Type: Milwaukee-Eight 114 V-twin
  • Displacement: 114 cubic inches (1868cc)
  • Bore x stroke: 4.016” x 4.5”
  • Maximum torque: 122 ft-lbs @ 2750 rpm
  • Maximum power: 95 horsepower @ 5020 rpm
  • Compression ratio: 10.5:1
  • Valvetrain: Single cam w/ pushrods; 4 vpc
  • Exhaust: 2-1-2 dual
  • Cooling: Air and oil
  • Lubrication: Pressurized dry sump
  • Transmission: 6-speed Cruise Drive
  • Clutch: Web multiplate w/ assist and slipper functions
  • Primary drive: Chain
  • Final drive: Belt


  • Frame: Mild tubular steel w/ two-piece stamped and welded backbone
  • Front suspension; travel: Showa 49mm Dual Bending Valve; 4.6 inches
  • Rear suspension; travel: Emulsion shocks w/ hand-adjustable spring-preload; 2.1 inches
  • Wheels: Gloss Black Prodigy
  • Front wheel: 19 x 3.5
  • Rear wheel: 18 x 5
  • Front tire: 130/60 x 19; Dunlop Harley-Davidson Series D408F
  • Rear tire: 180/55 x 18; Dunlop Harley-Davidson Series D407T
    Front brakes: 300mm floating discs w/ 4-piston calipers
  • Rear brake: 300mm fixed discs w/ 4-piston caliper
  • ABS: Standard


  • Wheelbase: 64 inches
  • Seat height: 27.4 inches
  • Rake: 26 degrees
  • Fork angle: 29.25 degrees
  • Trail: 6.8 inches
  • Fuel capacity: 6 gallons
  • Estimated fuel consumption: 43 mpg
  • Curb weight: 853 pounds


  • Vivid Black w/ Chrome Finish
  • Prospect Gold/Vivid Black w/ Black Finish (+$750)
  • Baja Orange w/ Chrome Finish (+$750)
  • Gray Haze w/ Chrome Finish (+$750)
  • Vivid Black w/ Black Finish (+$1000)
  • Bright Billiard Blue/Billiard Gray w/ Chrome Finish (+$1500)
  • Atlas Silver Metallic w/ Black Finish (+$1750)
  • Bright Billiard Blue/Billiard Gray w/ Black Finish (+$2500)
  • Industrial Yellow/Vivid Black w/ Black Finish (+$2500)
  • Heirloom Red Fade (+$2900)

2023 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Special Price: $27,999 MSRP (as tested with Heirloom Red Fade, RDRS, and $1000 Surcharge: $32,999)

2023 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Special Review Photo Gallery