I need to start this riding impression with a confession. Until recently, I had to grit my teeth whenever I heard Harley-Davidson riders pass me, especially if they are riding at walking pace and their bikes’ exhausts thunder as if they are sitting on a 400 kW machine. I say until recently, because the other day I fell in the same trap.

Why the Electra Glide?

The three bikers on the CAR team recently took three Harleys on test, including this Sportster. It encompassed two days riding all three bikes back-to-back and in total we rode over 500 kilometres.

With this trip in mind, the moment we picked up the bikes I immediately grabbed the key to Electra Glide. After all, bikes like these fall in the same category as Honda’s Goldwing and BMW’s 1600 GTL. They are perfect for cruising, to such a level that you can relax (relatively speaking) behind the small windscreen and truly absorb the lush and green landscape the Western Cape offers at this time of the year.

Click here to view a video of our trip.

What does it offer?

A lot. There are comfy pews for both rider and pillion. A radio/CD player (my U2 collection got a much-needed airing on this trip) and a specific feature that is very welcoming on any long-haul trip: cruise control. Pack lightly, and you and your passenger might actually be able to get a weekend’s luggage into the top box and two side panniers.

On the road

Powered by what is currently Harley’s largest capacity engine, the Electra Glide sticks to the national speed limit with ease. There is more wind buffeting than its competitors, but the torque and the pulsating rhythm of the V-twin engine quickly takes your attention away from these foibles.

Crushing the scales at 400 kg, you need to think and plan carefully when you enter a town and want to execute a sharp turn or parking manoeuvre, but you get used to it quicker than you think.

Summary

I understand this big cruiser culture better now. And that is exactly what it is. If you want an efficient cruiser with the latest technology, the BMW is without a doubt the bike to pick. During the time on the Electra Glide I kept thinking of the Welsh car manufacturer Morgan. In a sense Morgan couldn’t be bothered by the latest technology and developments in the car industry. Goodness, its three-wheeler model is actually selling very well. It is the same scenario with Harley-Davidson.

The balance between old and new is mixed with a specific recipe. Keep that in mind the next time a Harley potato-potatos past you with your fingers aiming for your ears.

Test notes:

PP: The closest thing to a luxury car on two wheels.

WL: Harley-Davidson’s best long-distance cruiser.

NL: Big on comfort, features and long distance ability. Actually nothing small about the Electra Glide, including the price tag!

Specifications

Engine: V-twin, four-stroke, air-cooled

Displacement (cm3): 1 690

Power (kW/r/min): n/a

Torque (N.m/min): 134/3 500

Transmission: five-speed

Tyre sizes: f: 130/80 B17 r: 180/65 B16

Frame: tubular steel

Seat height (mm): 745

Fuel tank capacity (L): 22,7

Mass (kg): 400 dry weight

Warranty: 2 years

Service Intervals (km): 8 000

Price: R310 000 (starting price)

Special thanks to Harley-Davidson South Africa for the test bike.

Note: We feature our Harley-Davidson road trip in the upcoming August issue of CAR.