First Ride

First ride: Harley-Davidson’s 2017 tourers

We sent Kane Dalton, Visordown's resident Harley enthusiast to test the firm's new touring range

HARLEY-DAVIDSON recently announced that it’s added a new engine to its roster – the Milwaukee-Eight. That’s big news - it’s only the ninth two-cylinder engine in the company’s history, and Harley’s most powerful touring motor to date. The new engine is available in three options, for the following bikes:

1. The 1745cc Milwaukee-Eight 107 for the Road King / Road king Classic, Road Glide Special and Street Glide Special

2. The 1745cc Twin-Cooled 107, for the Road Glide Ultra, Ultra Limited and Ultra Limited Low

3. The 1870cc Twin-Cooled Milwaukee-Eight 114, for the CVO Limited and CVO Street Glide

Along with a new power plant, all those models also feature revised suspension.

I have been riding the new bikes at the launch in Seattle, Washington, USA. With all the new models in one place to take my pick from, I tested the CVO Street Glide before spending some time on the Street Glide Special and the Road Glide Special. The CVO Street Glide is powered by the new Milwaukee-Eight 114 (which replaces the 110), while the non-CVO bikes get the 107 engine. 

The Milwaukee-Eight engine has four valves per cylinder, a single chain-driven cam,dual spark plugs and is counter-balanced and rubber-mounted in the frame to aid smoothness.

Harley says it runs cooler and smoother than previous motors. It's designed so you do not need to set or service the valve clearances for the life of the engine. The dual spark is to improve fuel efficiency.

There are three versions of the new engine - a water and oil cooled version and a stage - three Screaming Eagle. All three can be tuned for more performance. Stage one is a big air filter with an upgrade exhaust. Stage two adds a high performance cam. Stage three also includes a big-bore piston kit. A 1745cc converts to 1870cc and a 1870cc to 1917cc.

A cooler running engine isn’t just designed to improve performance, it also aims to improve rider and passenger comfort on Harley’s 2017 touring bikes.

There was no heat coming up over the tank and I didn't feel any heat on my legs, which I put down to the fact that the cylinder heads have been moved in and further forward away from my legs. Some of the new models also have a heat shield behind the closet cylinder and exhaust. Some also have a fan that draws heat off the engine and away from your legs.

Part of the reason for the impoved smoothness is the new internal single counter-balancer. 

According to Harley-Davidson, some vibration has been deliberately retained so it stills feels like a Harley. Yes, they said that out loud. 

In a not-very-scientific test, I put a glove on the seat while the bike was idling to see if it would shuffle off and fall to the ground; it didn't. On my own Harley, a Dyna, that glove would have been straight on the deck and probably still shaking. 

More importantly, I didn't feel much tingle through the bars when riding, either.  

As soon I got the chance I did a few hard acceleration tests to see what the 1870cc could do off the line, the engine delivers constant and smooth drive, which made it fun to spin the back wheel up away from lights in the rain.

The Milwaukee-Eight 107 cubic-inch (1745cc), which is the replacement for the 103 engine, similarly feels like it has taken its steroids at breakfast. When I cracked the throttle open, I was rewarded with forceful drive, although the engine was also as smooth as I wanted when treated with more moderation.

The six-speed transmission on the CVO Street Glide has tall ratios, so I never needed to shift that much. The gear-box thanks you for taking your time as you shift. Regardless of that, the ’box on the new bikes is much less clunky from new and the heel plate makes it easier to change up.

These new bikes also have a slipper clutch, which is a gem for any big twin engine. The new richer iconic V-Twin rumble tone comes from optimised covers, driveline improvements, lighter valves and a less mechanical powertrain.

When it rained in the afternoon, I got a good chance to see how the 114 cubic-inch CVO Street Glide handled in the wet; it was stable and comfortable and it only took me a short while to feel confident to roll through the bends.

That’s something I put down to the new suspension, which felt like it handled a rage of different roads and conditions with ease – on the test rides I encountered smooth motorways, urban roads along with technical and sweeping bends.

I rode on a number of surfaces and conditions, ranging from motorway to sweeping and tight bends often with gravel. The new suspension handled everything with ease.

At the front, the CVO Street Glide (plus all the other bikes in the touring range) has Showa dual-bending valve forks and bigger pistons. At the rear, the shock offers 30% more damping. The new suspension is designed to improve ride comfort, control and performance and unlike previous models, doesn’t require tools to make adjustments. It’s definitely plush and comfortable and all the bikes I rode smoothed out road imperfections. It feels like riding a flying magic rug.

Access and rear shock adjustment is easy. The left pannier box drops back after loosening two easy access screws, then you just adjust by turning the knob. You only do this on one side. 

I was still comfortable after a long day in the saddle thanks to the cooler engine, a very comfortable riding position and good wind protection, plus a plush seat. It's like a very torquey armchair.

Each model has some kind of fairing or wind protection. The CVO Street Glide and Street Glide special both have a large and effective screen that can let air through a vent if you want a breeze on your face. The CVO Street Glide also has wind deflection in front of your legs (with built in speakers) and the deflectors did a good job, so I never got the feeling that my feet were being pushed back off the pedals. The wind protection also eliminated the need to hang on the bars to keep your feet on the pegs (or in this case the runner boards), is also eliminated which makes for a more relaxed ride.

The wind deflectors gave great above-the-knee protection from the rain too.

The simple dashes on both the CVO Street Glide and Street Glide Special are really easy to read and the lovely analogue gauges display fuel, voltage, speed and revs.

The controls of both bikes are similarly easy to use and include creature comforts like cruise control and in-built sat nav as standard – as do the rest of the touring models.

Harley have improved the charging capacity and increased output by 50% to accommodate running extra touring accessories

Compared to the bikes they replace, Harley’s new touring models do everything that little bit better – the new Milwaukee-Eight engine is smoother and gives better acceleration, and aids comfort thanks to less heat and vibration, while the new suspension is as capable as it is comfortable.

Follow the Sun this winter: Win a trip to South Africa - To enter book a test ride between the 1st October and the 31st November. Book a test ride in person at your local dealer or book online at

www.h-d.com/testride

First ride: Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide

CVO Street Glide

I covered 180 miles on a CVO Street Glide , powered by the twin-cooled Milwaukee-Eight 114 engine. This bike has the new suspension and is decked out fender to fender with custom details and although I was riding a ‘Burnt Orange’ bike, it’s available in four new colour schemes.

The big 114 provides uber torque and drives the bike forward with ease. The available power helps make the bike feel more agile on the move, which is always a plus with a motorcycle that tips the scales at 380kg

The CVO comes with Harley’s Boom sounds system, featuring a 300-watt amplifier. It makes massive sound and cruising around with music blaring is very satisfying, but you need to be careful – I definitely got a few looks when pumping out Katy Perry's Roar. 

The CVO Street Glide is the ultimate armchair cruiser. If you want to sit back and take in the world, this is the bike to do it on. The seat is super comfortable; the only thing missing is the built in massage option.

Because it’s a substantial bike, there’s ample storage room in the panniers so you can comfortably carry a ton of stuff for an adventure.

Even though you sit higher and more upright on this bike, it still feels like it has a lower centre of gravity, so handles smoothly and hides it bulk well when cornering.

The ABS brakes have plenty of power. At the front there’s two drilled discs, with new calipers. When braking hard, I never sensed any intrusive intervention. (even when I tried to lock the rear wheel)

There are modern five-spoke wheels which look good and will be easy to clean.

The back of the bike looks like it was inspired by a ’50s Cadillac thanks to two large and effective vertical brake lights, the distinctive panniers and the two exhausts that exit between the wheel and panniers.

The standard passenger seat is comfortable and pillions also get use of some large rubber mounted foot pegs.

One criticism I have is of the very heavy clutch. It's hard work riding in traffic. The CVO Street Glide makes the most sense when it’s out on the open road, where it makes riding hundreds of miles a day a breeze.

Model tested: Harley-Davidson CVO Street Glide

Price: £30,545

Engine: 1868cc Twin-Cooled Milwaukee-Eight 114

Torque: 165Nm (rpm) 3,250

Weight: 380 kg (wet)

Fuel capacity: 22.7 litres

Seat height: 690mm

Luggage Capacity: Volume 0.068 m3

Length: 2,435 mm/ Wheel Base 1,625 mm

Lean Angle: Right (deg.) 32Lean Angle, Left (deg.) 31

Colours: ‘Candy Cobalt / Indigo Ink’, ‘Sunburt Orange / Starfire Black’, ‘Dark Slate Candy / Arctic Black’, ‘Starfire Black / Atomic Red’

Follow the Sun this winter : Win a trip to South Africa - To enter book a test ride between the 1st October and the 31st November. Book a test ride in person at your local dealer or book online at

www.h-d.com/testride

First ride: Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special

Street Glide Special – 107 Boom

The Street Glide Special is another stripped-down bagger hot rod model, with massive torque and drive. 

This bike is 4kg lighter than the CVO, 10mm shorter with the same wheel base, and the seat is 5mm lower. It feels and rides differently.

After riding the CVO with its bigger 114 cubic-inch engine, I was expecting something far more timid but I got just the opposite.

I’m sure I could feel the weight difference because the Street Glide Special is quick off the line. It is really easy to light the back wheel up if you are so inclined (and I was).

Vibration is minimal but as on the CVO, the clutch felt too heavy in traffic. 

This Street Glide Special feels like a scaled down version of the CVO. It has the smaller capacity engine but as it is slightly smaller and lighter the handing characteristics are different. It feels more like a hot rod and easier to throw around corners, so I was really confident riding at pace through the bends – the bike wasn’t touching down or decking out anywhere.

Like the CVO, this is an armchair cruiser with a very similar riding position, but everything feels a bit more compact and focused.

It's got a similar batwing fairing but a smaller screen, while the dash lay-out is almost identical to the CVO's. 

There are no leg wind deflectors, but I didn't notice that much wind on my legs at speed.

Braking is taken care of by two front discs and new Brembo calipers, backed-up with ABS. There was no problem at all getting the bike to stop and quickly. 

Like the CVO, the Street Glide Special has a 6.5-inch touchscreen display with integrated GPS and Harley's 'Boom' audio system.

As far as touring goes this is an all-rounder touring bike that will take you anywhere, ideally far away from traffic. 

Model tested: Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special

Price: £20,695

Engine: 1745cc Milwaukee-Eight 107

Torque: 150 Nm (rpm) 3,250

Weight: 361kg

Fuel capacity: 22.7 litres

Seat height: 685mm

Luggage Capacity: Volume 0.064 m3

Length: 2,425 mm/ Wheel Base 1,625 mm

Ground Clearance: 125mm

Lean Angle: Right (deg.) 32Lean Angle, Left (deg.) 31

Colours: ‘Laguna Orange’, ‘Crushed Ice Pearl’, ‘Hard Candy Black Gold Flake’, ‘Hard Candy Hot Rod Red Flake’, ‘Hard Candy Mystic Purple Flake’, ‘Velocity Red Sunglo’, ‘Charcoal Denim’, ‘Black Denim’, ‘Superior Blue’, ‘Vivid Black’

Follow the Sun this Winter : Win a trip to South Africa - To enter book a test ride between the 1st October and the 31st November. Book a test ride in person at your local dealer or book online at

www.h-d.com/testride

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