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Like the Street Glide, the Road Glide features an oil-cooled 107, slotting into the Milwaukee Eight line-up alongside the twin-cooled 107 and the larger twin-cooled 114 unit (though capacity ranges from 1745cc and 1870cc). It’s the latter that springs to mind as our cruise works its way through the windy roads and through the tight turns down towards Snug Harbour, given that heat expulsion has proven its Achilles Heel over the years: let’s just say, from personal experience, you don’t want to stand too close to the exhaust manifold wearing shorts.
Fortunately time and ‘sufficient’ resources have been spent optimising both the 107 and 114, and not just on the engine and how to disperse heat via improved airflow. Each engine has its very own strategy for heat management applied to it. The exhaust catalyst for instance has been relocated to move hot air away from the rider, while targeted oil or liquid cooling (depending on the version of the Milwaukee Eight) around the hottest areas of the cylinder head ensures the engine keeps its cool. Moreover, for the Middle East in particular, customers can spec a specifically designed fan unit – as I have on this particular model – to manage the heat output in hotter climates. It may sound a bit ‘Heath Robinson’ but it’s remarkably affective: even after hours of riding with various degrees of turns and straights, low and higher speed, my legs don’t feel like they are on fire. It’s intricate work designed to improve rider comfort and the ‘Harley experience’, a thought I find difficult to shake on the Road Glide Special.
“The cruise of the Street Glide may well have been effortless, but this quarter pounder with bacon is just unreal”
I could go on – there’s still a good few hours of our road trip to go – before I’ve already made my decision. Riding some of the best motorcycle roads in the USA on the back of America’s most famous motorcycle brand has been an utter joy, of that there is already no doubt. But the comfort and civility in which Harley Davidson’s revised line-up has made this possible has arguably made an even bigger impact than the scenery and these amazing winding roads. And I don’t mean that to sound disrespectful: Washington State, its people, and the Olympic National Park have comfortably made their way onto the ‘we’ll be back’ list.
Overall I’m very impressed with Harley’s ‘future’ of touring motorcycles and the Milwaukee Eight beating away beneath. Improved riding comfort, far better handling, well-distributed torque and a very rugged soundtrack offer a charming blend of enjoyment and charisma. That each are also massive means they pack considerable road presence too, something equally as important at home in the Middle East. I do wonder how that heat shielding will work during the height of summer, but the Pacific Coast Highway has given me little cause for concern in that regard.
I won’t lie though. I am looking forward to a proper cup of coffee.
- Words and photography by Bjoern Lauen. Select images courtesy of Stefano Gadda and Tom Riles