Harley Davidson has long been the king of North American motorcycle touring; the only question has been how close the competition is to emulating that success. The sea of baggers is becoming crowded, though, with legitimate contenders from Indian, Honda, and even BMW raising anchors and hoisting the Jolly Roger. In an effort to maintain dominance, Harley-Davidson turned to an unexpected place to make the Road Glide lineup more competitive: the race track.
If you haven’t had the pleasure of watching professional road racers chuck massive touring bikes around the Corkscrew at Laguna Seca, you’re missing out. In 2022, Harley-Davidson Screamin’ Eagle factory rider Kyle Wyman became the MotoAmerica King of the Baggers champion on a race bike based on the Road Glide. Don’t expect a homologation special anytime soon, but the Road Glide ST brings a lot of go-fast parts from the paddock to your garage. To see just what $29,999 ($30,574 for Gunship Gray) will get you, I took the helm of a 2022 Harley-Davidson Road Glide ST for two weeks and logged an 800-mile road trip.
- All-Day Comfort And A Six-Gallon Gas Tank To Match
- A Motor That’s A Bottomless Pit Of Torque
- Limited Edition Street Cred
- Fashion model: Road Glide ST
- Engine/Engine: 117-Cubic-Inch Air-Cooled V-Twin
- horse power: 106 Horsepower At 4,750 RPM
- torque: 127 Foot Pounds At 3,750 RPM
- drive train: Belt Final Drive
- Transmission: six-speed
- Endlessly Entertaining Engine
- Smooth Ride
- User-Friendly Infotainment Center And Controls
- Pre-programmed GPS Points Of Interest For Easy Navigation
- Fantastic Wind protection
- Sounds Great Right Off The Showroom Floor
- 842-Pound Curb Weight Can Be A Handful
- Hefty Price Tag
A Blueprint For Success
If you head over to Harley-Davidson’s website, you’ll find the Road Glide ST in the Grand American Touring category alongside known entities like the Road King and Electra Glide. It benefits from many of the features that make luxury touring bikes popular, like a plush but supportive seat, floorboards, a rubber-mounted engine that minimizes felt vibration, and controls that put the rider’s arms and legs in a relaxed position. The massive fixed fairing blocks wind with three air ducts and sheer size. Facing the rider are analog gauges, two speakers, an infotainment screen, a 12-volt outlet, and two storage compartments – one with a USB port. As you probably expect, it uses an air- and oil-cooled Milwaukee-Eight engine, six-speed transmission, and belt final drive.
What’s more unique is the 117-inch version of the Milwaukee-Eight, which produces 106 horsepower and 127 foot-pounds of torque. That’s a noticeable increase from the 114-cubic-inch motor’s output on a bike that weighs 842 pounds in running order. Peak power is available below 5,000 RPM and you can enjoy all the mill’s torque below 4,000 RPM. What that translates to is a swell of power that’s always available and can keep you sailing down the highway without shaking your hands until they’re numb or leaving your ears feeling like you just left a rock show.
California Cool, Anywhere You Ride
Harley-Davidson describes the Road Glide ST’s aesthetic as west coast style. What does that mean? Thinkless chrome and black leather; more plaid shirts and Converse sneakers. The single seat makes it clear that this is a bike for solo adventures. That standard bag height looks sleek, but it also maintains enough ground clearance for aggressive cornering. The hidden antenna delivers the connectivity you need without spoiling the bike’s clean lines. About the only thing that sticks out is the Heavy Breather air intake, which makes the motor’s powerful intentions known even when the bike is standing still.
One element on Harley-Davidson’s new ST line of bikes that I can’t help but love is the bronze paint on the wheels and select engine components. These touches look great on their own and seriously pop in contrast to the Vivid Black and Gunship Gray paint schemes. Everywhere else, blacked-out components keep the bike looking uncluttered and keep attention focused in specific places, like the polished cylinder fins, painted Harley-Davidson tank badge, and lucky rider in the saddle.
Harley-Davidson is so meticulous about hiding wires and sensors that it can be hard to spot all the modern tech in its touring bikes. Some of this comes in the form of rider convenience features like the Boom! Box GTS infotainment system and fairing mounted speakers. Not only can riders control their music, navigation, and external devices with controls on the left and right handgrips, they can use the 6.5-inch touchscreen even while wearing gloves. Riders can connect their phones via a USB port in the fairing’s right-side storage compartment or Bluetooth. Compatible in-helmet communications setups can also pair with the infotainment system to enable hands-free voice commands. Other standard features include cruise control, antilock brakes, and rear shocks that are adjustable for preload without tools. Optional features include cornering electronically linked brakes, cornering ABS, cornering traction control, Drag Torque Slip Control, vehicle hold control, and a tire pressure monitoring system.
The Road Glide ST Will Make You Plan More Road Trips
Riders who aren’t accustomed to big touring bikes might find the Road Glide ST a little intimidating at first. The wide, frame-mounted fairing looks like a dashboard in front of the handlebar and 842 pounds is a lot to lift off the kickstand. This bike makes the more sport-oriented Low Rider ST feel like a 600 supersport. The good news is that, like all Harley-Davidsons except the Pan America, the Road Glide carries its weight very low. That makes it easier to get two feet down and navigate low-speed maneuvers. By the time I merged onto the highway, I felt right at home with the smooth and steady ride that comes from Harley-Davidson’s touring chassis.
That on-ramp also put an end to any questions about how the Milwaukee-Eight 117 would handle such a big bike. It felt like a hot rod in the Low Rider ST I rode and was more than capable of shoving the Road Glide ST up to highway speed in a hurry. If anything, the relaxed riding position and long floorboards almost seem comical when paired with such a rowdy powerplant – in a good way.
Because the Road Glide ST is a touring bike, it was only fitting that I put it to the test on a real road trip. From eastern Wisconsin, I headed about 400 miles west on a combination of winding country roads and long stretches of interstate. The Road Glide has always gobbled up highway miles by the dozens, so it was no surprise to sit in comfort and listen to my music through the Boom! Box GTS audio system in a pocket of still air at 80 miles per hour. What I wasn’t prepared for was how well the bike handled on twisty two-lane roads through hilly farm country. With plenty of grip (no wonder, considering the weight), more than 300 miles of range from the six-gallon tank, and a bottomless pit of torque on tap, the curvy section of my road trip couldn’t last long enough.
Of course, touring bikes have to do more than entertain riders; they have to keep us comfortable and carry all our gear, too. The locking hard cases combine for 2.3 cubic feet of storage. That was enough to carry my backpack, camera case, rain gear, water bottle, and a SoloStove Lite camp stove. The USB port in the fairing kept my phone charged and my playlist rocking for hours, and the fairing did an outstanding job of reducing wind. Only when I waved to other riders did I remember how much air was flowing around me. Between the handlebar controls and glove-compatible touchscreen, I was able to cue up music and get directions to the nearest gas stations and coffee shops without missing a beat.
This style of motorcycle isn’t for everyone – the weight can make it a hassle to park and takes up almost as much room as a small car in the garage. For running errands around town or riding for the sake of riding, there are better (and much more affordable) options. If you have long-distance ambitions, though, it’s a downright joy to ride all day. By the time I surrendered the keys, I was already planning a trip to the Sturgis motorcycle rally next summer.
Be The Captain On Your Own High Seas
For 2022, the Road Glide ST’s optional paint color is Gunship Gray. That’s fitting because this bike is like a street-legal gunboat built to own American highways like a battleship at sea. Its asking price of $30,574 is nothing to sneeze at, but big touring bikes have been in that price range for a while now. It fits between the Indian Challenger Dark Horse and Challenger Elite. Since the Road Glide and Challenger both offer hard bags and a frame-mounted fairing, they’re natural competitors. None of Indian’s baggers are quite as stipped-down in appearance, though, since the aesthetic is busier and they all come with passenger seats. The Honda Goldwing and BMW K 1600 B aren’t far off in price but they’re so different on the road that most riders probably won’t cross-shop either with the Road Glide ST.
If you’re ready to sign on the dotted line, make sure to budget extra money for factory options and accessories. Harley-Davidson has a healthy catalog of seats, windscreens, go-fast parts, and service kits to make the bike your own. Just about the only thing I’d change is to make Harley-Davidson’s armed forces tribute paint an option, but we’ll all have to be patient on that one. In the meantime, it’s all engines full steam ahead.