There is one thing about Harley-Davidson motorcycles that every motorcyclist will agree on — you either love them or hate them. I ride with guys who look at Harley riders and shake their heads in disapproval. Part of my resentment for this legendary brand can be attributed to the fact that it’s more popular than any of the motorcycle brands I’ve ever associated with. Deep down inside, I want a Harley, but on the surface I prefer something that is totally against Harley-Davidson’s philosophy of motorcycling. So, when the opportunity to test-ride a 2013 Street Glide came my way, I embraced it with a big bear hug and looked forward to the day I would actually get my hands on this expensive motorcycle.
As I lounged on the couch at the H-D showroom in Dubai, waiting for the technicians to inspect the test motorcycle, I went around observing some of the models on display. I have to admit, the fit and finish on all motorcycles, irrespective of the price range, was immaculate. Everything feels solid and the chrome is just something else! Every model stays true to the traditional motorcycling ethos of ‘an engine, a seat, a tank and two wheels’. Modern-day Harley-Davidsons are laden with technology but unlike the Japanese and the Europeans, they don’t make it glaringly obvious.
After a rather anxious wait, I finally got my hands on the Street Glide. It looked rather bold and imposing in its gloss black and chrome finish. I wouldn’t say it looked ugly but I thought it looked a bit bland. I found it excessively plump but that’s the conventional V-twin tourer guise. The large fairing and the angular panniers gave it that ‘larger than life’ look but then there are other models in the Harley line-up that have even more adornments bolted on as stock.
Depressing the starter button kicks its monster of an engine to life with everything on the bike rattling rather excessively for a second as the engine settles into a smooth idle. The test motorcycle had custom exhaust pipes that amplified the thumps pulsating from its massive 1,690cc engine. A slight blip of the throttle and the trademark sound of the 45-degree twin mesmerises you. These are the times that you either love these idiosyncratic features of a Harley or you loathe them. For me, I loved the change it offered from my usual machine of choice and for a moment, I felt like a real ‘bad ass.’
The first few minutes on this motorcycle were scary, as a non-Harley rider, it takes time to get used to that heavy front-end. At first I wasn’t so sure of the visibility over that large dashboard which houses a speedometer, tachometer and gauges that display ambient air temperature, voltage, fuel level and oil pressure. The standard 40-watt Harman Kardon audio system occupies a prominent spot on the dashboard and two speakers are placed at the extreme ends of the dash. The large rear view mirrors are secured on the fairing rather than being mounted on the handlebars. Within a few minutes however, you get the hang of looking over the massive dashboard and it doesn’t seem to bother you any more.
Although Harley Davidson refrains from disclosing power output, torque on this 2013 variant is increased by 6% to an impressive 132 Nm over the Twin Cam 96 engine it replaces. The Twin Cam 103 comes with an oil cooler and features a new automatic compression release valves that reduce excessive pressure build up when starting the bike reducing the strain on the engine, battery and your spine. While cruising with the cruise-control on, I began thinking of how Harley Davidson has seamlessly blended new and old technologies together. The standard setup of a cradle frame housing a large air-cooled engine with a hemi-combustion chamber heads is nothing new. At the same time, the Street Glide’s fly-by-wire throttle linked to sequential port fuel injection and monitored by a Delphi engine management system is remarkable and innovative by every modern standard.
What this motorcycle lacks is cornering prowess and high-speed comfort but it makes up for it with its style and sex appeal. It turns heads everywhere it goes. Men, women and children seem to be fascinated by it. My lady friends who would otherwise find reasons to avoid a motorcycle ride were quick to hop on this motorcycle. The Street Glide ticks all the boxes when it comes to a comfortable city ride if you can deal with the excessive heat radiating from the engine at red lights which I found to be a bit irritating and uncomfortable.
Riding a Harley requires a certain level of style and sophistication which I obviously lacked. Owning a Harley is an acquired taste as I have observed. It’s more of a lifestyle statement. The Street Glide is rather expensive for a motorcycle but then again like all things classy and exclusive, it commands a premium.
The version I test rode was the standard Street Glide in vivid black priced at Dhs 104,900. You can also have it in pearl finish for Dhs 105,900. Harley Davidson will also sell a limited number of Custom and Anniversary editions for Dhs 112,900 in the UAE.
For more on other models, check out the 2013 Harley-Davidson range.