Last year, Harley-Davidson released eight new Softail models. It saw the demise of the Dyna range of bikes and brought us an updated Softail frame. The most talked about bike at the launch was probably the Fat Bob. It looked different to all Harleys that have come before and with its 114ci engine it ushered in a new direction for the Milwaukee brand. Earlier this year, Harley launched the 9thmodel in the range and they called it the Sport Glide. Its arrival was a low key affair and because it was only available in a 107ci it did not get all the attention it deserved. Luckily I got my hands on one and spent some quality time with it.
Styling wise, the Sport Glide looks like a scaled down version of the Street Glide. It was conceived as an urban runabout that can double as a light tourer. The whole design of the bike wants to create the impression of movement. The front wheel, for instance, has slanted spokes to add to that effect. That carries through to the shaped saddlebags, and even the slashed exhaust. But that is all marketing speak. I think the bike looks gorgeous. It has a classic Harley-Davidson feet-forward design and the overall package can only be described as elegant.
The Sport Glide draws strong design cues from the Street Glide, from the front Batwing fairing, all the way to the Bagger-styled saddlebags. These bags are removable with a very simple mechanism and they are of a clamshell design. This means that the bags can be opened while the rider is seated. The one on the left is slightly deeper as it does not have to clear the exhaust. With the locking mechanism inside, the bags are fairly slim and can be used for short trips away. The Sport Glide’s fairing is also removable, which makes this a very versatile bike.
The instrumentation is contained in a binnacle on the tank, and I am not a great fan of this, as looking at the dials cannot be achieved by a simple downwards glance. There is an LCD that tells you things like revs, and range to empty. Word of caution though, when the range comes down to 40km, I already felt the bike splutter.
Riding the Sport Glide was a familiar feeling. The new Softail frame and mono-shock at the back does a good job of making the Sport Glide fun to ride, even when the road gets twisty. The engine runs smoothly and has a sizable kick when you open the throttle. In sixth the engine hardly ticks over at highway speeds, and I returned a fuel consumption of 24 km to the liter in one stretch. That is more than 60 mpg in American speak.
The Sport Glide has LED lights all round, and the new Daytime running lights look the part. Also part and parcel of the new model is cruise control.
On the road, the Sport Glide has decent manners, and my riding boots can vouch for the limited lean angle on these bikes. It remains a delightfully easy bike to ride, and it is climbing the charts of my favorite Softail. The ease with which you can remove the panniers and fairing makes this an incredibly practical commuter and weekend getaway bike. The only thing I might change is a higher screen, but other than that, I enjoyed the Sport Glide a lot and would gladly take one of these home. –
Words and Pictures – Brian Cheyne