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Harley-Davidson Road Glide Special (2023) - Review

BikeSocial Publisher since January 2017.



2023 Harley Davidson Road Glide Special Review Details Price Spec_01


Price: £27,795 | Power: 93bhp | Weight: 377kg | Overall BikeSocial Rating: 3/5


For many riders Harley Davidson’s touring bikes are an acquired taste. Partly because you need to acquire lots of money to own one, but often because, as riders we have blind prejudice from years riding sports bikes and too many cliches about ancient Harleys.

That’s a shame because modern Harleys are really good. Very comfortable, easy to ride for hundreds of miles a day, well-equipped, different enough to make any trip enjoyable but capable enough that it doesn’t take all your attention to ride them.

There’s no getting around the price, but resale values are strong so once on the ladder, the costs to swap and upgrade become less of an obstacle.

Harley has three touring models. The Ultra-Glide is the full faired, bells-and-whistles mega-tourer. It has full luggage, a passenger armchair and all the subtlety of breaking wind through a trombone in a gold lame tracksuit.

The Street Glide is a bagger with bar-mounted Batwing fairing, panniers, single seat, sat-nav, stereo and as cool as any motorcycle gets.

The Road Glide is what HD describe as a ‘performance bagger’ with increased ride height and ground clearance, a frame-mounted fairing, panniers, sat-nav, stereo and is the basis for Harley’s awesome bagger race bike.

All three bikes are based on the same engine and chassis, but they feel very different to ride. 


  • Different, in a good way…mostly

  • Loaded with gadgets but very easy to use

  • The more you ride it the better it gets

  • Needs a heel/toe gearchange

  • Handling needs more commitment than a Street Glide

  • Honda’s Gold Wing is a better bike by any measure

Heirloom Red Fade colour scheme adds a whopping £5200 to the price.


Review – In Detail

Price & PCP
For and against
Engine & Performance
Handling & Suspension (inc. weight & brakes)
Comfort & Economy


2023 Harley Davidson Road Glide Price

The basic price in black paint is £27,795. The grey finish on our test bike adds £440 and there are eight other colour options costing between £440 and £5200.

Harley’s PCP package with a £4000 deposit, paid over 37 months and with a 5000 mile a year allowance would need £373 per month and a final balloon payment of £16,186. Increasing the deposit to £6k and dropping the mileage to 4000pa brings it down to £296 per month and a £16,695 final payment.

Three-year-old examples are currently selling in dealers for around £21k, so assuming a dealer makes £2k on the part-ex that should pay off your final payment and leave a decent chunk of the deposit on your next one.


Check out the gap between the gear lever and the footboard though, and imagine how much fun you have changing gear in a hurry.


2023 Harley Davidson Road Glide Engine & Performance

Harley’s current Milwaukee eight 114 engine is so named because it has four-valve heads (8v in total) and 114 cubic inches. That works out at 1867cc (one cc is 0.0610237 of a cubic inch so to convert CI to cc, multiply the Ci by 16.38). There are several versions of this engine – some are old-school air-cooled, some have oil and air cooling and some, like this one, have water-cooled cylinder heads and a small radiator at the bottom of the engine, just behind the front wheel.

The Harley’s power output is academic. 93bhp is about 50 per cent more than HD tourers used to make, but as always, it’s the torque that counts and this engine makes 116lb-ft at a lowly 3250rpm.

The Road Glide’s engine feels strong and revs quickly considering each cylinder has around two pints of air to fill and displace 42 times in a second. Honda’s Gold Wing makes 10lb-ft more torque but needs 1250rpm more to do it. It also makes 10bhp more and feels faster, revvier and smoother. Oh, and the Honda has DCT and a reverse gear.

But that’s fine – you didn’t buy the Road Glide to be smooth or win a game of Top Trumps. You bought it for the way it delivers. And mostly, it delivers. Low down power is as strong as you hoped for and if there are vibes, then some Harley magic, somewhere in the chassis does a good job of isolating the rider from them.

It’s not an engine designed to rev hard, but you’ll be surprised how strongly the power keeps on building when you want it to.

The only niggles are that, as part of a package there are times when you just need it to deliver a little more quickly. Modern traffic is fast and sometimes, overtaking on a big Harley tourer takes a little more run-up than you expect. The nature of the motor lulls you into chugging along at a lazy 2500rpm, enjoying the experience, being part of the ride. And then you see the gap, stomp on the gear-lever, feel the engine, transmission and chassis fighting each other. The overtake saps a bit more of your concentration than you’d like. It’s not a lack of power, more a lack of co-ordination between engine, gearbox and chassis.

I’m not sure if that describes it adequately and maybe the Home Counties riding experience is unsuited to what Milwaukee’s designers had in mind, but I found myself fast enough to keep finding the next queue but not quite fast enough to get past it easily.

It’s not that the Road Glide is slow, just not as easy as you’d like to swap slow for fast. On the motorway it cruises at 80mph with ease and plenty to spare. The gear ratios are lovely for cruising and chugging through town and the fairing does a decent job of keeping the wind and rain off your upper half.

The gearchange is awful though. Too stiff and too big a gap between the footboard and the lever for changing-up. It makes every change a reminder of the bike’s worst feature. A heel-and-toe gearshift (which seems to have disappeared from the current HD touring range) would fix this at a stroke. Honda’s DCT Gold Wing runs rings around the current HD gearbox.


Handling is good once you get used to it, brakes are much, much better than Harleys used to be too. Being smooth is the secret.


2023 Harley Davidson Road Glide Handling & Suspension (inc. Weight & Brakes)

No one buys a big tourer and is surprised by the weight. 387kg fully fuelled is 20kg more than a Gold Wing and 13kg more than a Street Glide. I’m guessing the extra kgs over the Street Glide come from the frame-mounted fairing which is huge.

The benefit of being frame mounted is to leave far less weight on the handlebars (the fairing, headlights, stereo unit and speakers are all mounted on the frame, not the handlebars), which takes a huge weight off the handlebars and theoretically improves high-speed stability, and low speed steering and manoeuvrability. The Road Glide’s handling is rock-solid at high speed. The low-speed stuff is harder to judge. I was hoping that less weight on the bars would give more confidence at the moment you come to a halt when other big Harleys have a tendency for the handlebars to feel as though they are tucking under. The Road Glide is a little better, but not much and you still need to pay attention turning it around in the road or moving it around the garage. I don’t want to keep comparing the Road Glide to a Gold Wing, but the Honda’s reverse gear shows how it should be done.

On the open road though, handling is as good as all modern Harleys. It steers easily, holds a line through corners at reasonable speeds and is stable on the brakes. Suspension is soft – it’s a tourer – but still controlled and consistent as you apply and release the brakes. You still have to ride it like a Harley and if this is your first one be prepared to enjoy learning how to do that. It’s worth the effort.

Harley claims additional ground clearance on the Road Glide to other models. Scraping the undercarriage is an old road tester’s cliché, which most owners never experience (because they don’t try and ride their Hog like a sports bike. Once you’ve worked out how to corner a Harley quickly ground clearance is rarely an issue anyway, but if you’re bothered, then this might be a reason to buy a Road Glide instead of a Street Glide.

Braking on modern Harleys is a lot less stressful than it used to be. High quality four piston Brembo front calipers with effective-but-not-intrusive ABS allow you to be as clumsy or subtle as you need with a light lever action and plenty of feel.

The rear brake is less refined, especially with footboards. You have to lift the front of your foot off the board making it harder to be subtle when adding a little rear brake for stability mid-corner, for example. And the pedal action is quite stiff, needing more pressure than you expect. It’s worth persevering to get the technique right though because it’s an effective unit and stopping 388kgs plus rider in a hurry needs all the brakes you can gather. Plus, the front and rear brakes are linked so using hand and foot is the smartest way to get all the power.  


Rider gets a comfy seat, wide bars to hang onto and a fairing to take the wind off. Passengers get a reasonable seat but nothing to hang onto or brace against.


2023 Harley Davidson Road Glide Comfort & Economy

When Harley put their minds to it, they can build a motorcycle as comfortable as anyone else. I’ve toured on Harleys through the UK, America, Spain and Ireland and always found them easy and enjoyable to ride. Part of that is because you ride in a more relaxed manner, part of it is because the riding position and seats just work. Pillion accommodation is hit and miss though. The passenger seat on the Road Glide is lovely, but there’s nothing to hold onto without fitting a sissy bar and that would spoil the looks. The best option for pillions is to point them in the direction of a training school and encourage them to pass their test and buy their own. Easy if it’s your partner, less so if it’s your granddaughter.

Fuel consumption is good for such a heavy bike. Expect to average an easy 45-50mpg with 55mpg on motorway runs. That should mean somewhere around 260 miles from each 22.7 litre tank. Running costs are not unreasonable for such an expensive bike. Harley recommend servicing intervals are 10,000 miles but they also suggest 5000 mile or even 2500-mile checks depending on annual mileage.


Cruise control, sat-nav, music, connectivity and the full suite of electronic rider aids.


2023 Harley Davidson Road Glide Equipment

The Road Glide might look like a throwback to the 1960s but is a thoroughly modern motorcycle. There’s a six-axis IMU hidden in there somewhere controlling lean-sensitive ABS, brake linking, traction control and slipper clutch. It also has vehicle hold control when stopped on a hill.

Toys include cruise control, sat-nav, phone and USB connectivity for music, an AM/FM radio and 25 watts per channel speakers for those who like to listen to music while riding slowly. Above 50mph, the speakers are pointless and I’m guessing that most owners of a £27k motorcycle these days also have comms in their helmets, but Harley’s sat-nav is a joy to use and simple too.



2023 Harley Davidson Road Glide Rivals


Honda Gold Wing | Price: £25,599

Honda’s current Gold Wing is an exceptional motorcycle. Six-cylinder smoothness and DCT transmission make fast or slow riding effortless. The suspension is superb, screen is adjustable electrically and it’s easier to manage at low speeds than the Road Glide. Luggage capacity is disappointing though

125bhp/125lb-ft | Weight: 367kg


Indian Challenger | Price: £27,595

The Road Glide’s closest challenger. Indian’s liquid-cooled engine makes more power, weighs 27kg less, has an electric screen and slightly wider panniers. The differences between them are small until you look at resale values when you’ll be very glad you bought the Harley (or managed to negotiate a substantial discount on the Indian).

Power/Torque: 120bhp/131lb-ft | Weight: 361kg


BMW K1600 | Price: £21,000

BMW’s bagger is a completely different proposition to the Road Glide, but still a good comparison because it does lazy touring surprisingly well for a 160bhp rocket ship. Well priced, well equipped, and always entertaining to ride.

Power/Torque: 160bhp/129lb-ft | Weight: 336kg


From some angles it’s a beautiful looking bike. Others are in the eye of the beholder.


2023 Harley Davidson Road Glide Verdict

I’ve always assumed that when I buy a Harley (and one day I will) that it will be a Street Glide because every time I ride one, I love it. But I was curious to try the Road Glide because having the fairing frame mounted seemed like the answer to the low-speed clumsiness that is the Street’s biggest issue.

Turns out that it doesn’t seem to matter where the fairing mounts, the low-speed clumsiness remains. The Road Glide’s fairing is a lot less pretty than the Street Glide and not that much more effective in poor weather. At higher speeds, on the motorway, the Road Glide has a little more stability and loses the very gentle weave that you sometimes get on the Batwing-faired HDs.

In the end it comes down to what you want from a bagger. They fail as two-up tourers because there’s not enough luggage or passenger comfort. As a single-seat ‘let’s just head off for an unplanned weekend’ adventurer they work really well and for some of us, the look and image is much more enjoyable than an adventure bike. Baggers are for those whose idea of cool cruising is a vintage Cadillac convertible instead of an oversized comedy 4x4.

Modern Harleys have all that vintage style with the ease of use that comes with fuel injection, digital ignition and 21st century electronic safety aids. They handle well, brake well and are reliable too. Only the gearbox remains as a reminder of the old days. Removing the heel/toe gearshift has emphasised that issue to the point where it spoiled the test for me.  

The other problem Harley has is that where they used to have the bagger market to themselves, they now have serious competition from Honda, BMW and Indian. It’s a big outlay and the bikes are very different. I’d spend some decent time getting test rides on each before making a decision.


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HD has a really simple set of controls for everything.


2023 Harley Davidson Road Glide - Technical Specification

New price

From £27,795



Bore x Stroke

102 x 114.3mm

Engine layout

45-degree V-twin

Engine details

4-valve, air/liquid cooled push rod, fuel-injected


93bhp (69KW) @ 5250rpm


116lb-ft (158Nm) @ 3250rpm


6 speed, belt final drive etc

Average fuel consumption

51mpg tested

Tank size


Max range to empty


Rider aids

Lean sensitive ABS, TC, slipper clutch


Steel cradle frame

Front suspension

49mm telescopic fork dual bending valve

Front suspension adjustment


Rear suspension

Twin shocks

Rear suspension adjustment


Front brake

Twin 300mm disc, four-piston Brembo caliper

Rear brake

single 300mm disc, four-piston Brembo caliper

Front tyre

130/60-B19 Dunlop Harley Davidson

Rear tyre

180/55-B18 Dunlop Harley Davidson

Dimensions (LxWxH)




Seat height



387kg (dry/wet/kerb)


2 years/ unlimited miles


10,000 miles or annually

MCIA Secured Rating




Looking for motorcycle insurance? Get a quote for this motorbike with Bennetts bike insurance


Alarm, immobiliser, steering lock and security marking give a 4/5 MCIA secured rating


What is MCIA Secured?

MCIA Secured gives bike buyers the chance to see just how much work a manufacturer has put into making their new investment as resistant to theft as possible.

As we all know, the more security you use, the less chance there is of your bike being stolen. In fact, based on research by Bennetts, using a disc lock makes your machine three times less likely to be stolen, while heavy duty kit can make it less likely to be stolen than a car. For reviews of the best security products, click here.

MCIA Secured gives motorcycles a rating out of five stars (three stars for bikes of 125cc or less), based on the following being fitted to a new bike as standard:

  • A steering lock that meets the UNECE 62 standard

  • An ignition immobiliser system

  • A vehicle marking system

  • An alarm system

  • A vehicle tracking system with subscription

The higher the star rating, the better the security, so always ask your dealer what rating your bike has and compare it to other machines on your shortlist.