2017 FLTRXS Road Glide Special Review

by Dain Gingerellli

I was highballing north on US 395 along california’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, the Harley’s cruise control doing most of the work, when the slow-moving tractor-trailer up ahead forced me to reduce speed. I should point out, too, that this was no ordinary Harley-Davidson. I was riding a 2017 FLTRXS Road Glide Special, and its electronic odometer revealed that the Milwaukee-Eight engine had only recently been broken in by the crew at Harley’s West Coast fleet center. The big 107″ V-twin was loafing along at about 85 mph, the bike’s standard cruise control feature subbing for me while I relaxed and rested behind the RUSHMORE-inspired fairing. Life was good—until the big rig impeded our headway.

I gently applied the Reflex Linked brakes to cancel the cruise control command, hauling the speed down to about 60. A few cars approaching from the opposite direction prevented me from overtaking the slow-moving rig right away. Moments later an opening in the traffic set me free, so I purposely twisted the right grip, feeding raw gasoline and fresh air into the eight-valve engine’s thirsty combustion chambers. The single-cam engine liked that, and our speed increased proportionally until the Road Glide Special quickly found its new place on earth ahead of the lumbering big rig. Life was, once again, good for me.
Let me be clear about another point: I didn’t downshift to fifth gear while overtaking the truck. This new engine has torque (I almost feel guilty about not spelling that with a capital T!) in spades, making downshifting optional under most riding conditions. Harley claims 111.4 ft-lbs. at 3250 rpm, a figure that’s actually only a few ft-lbs. more than what the Twin Cam 103″ generated. What the 2017 figures fail to reveal is that the new Milwaukee-Eight’s torque curve is much broader than the 103″ engine’s. And I like the new torque curve. A lot.

AIM’s editor, Steve Lita, pointed out the technological highlights of Harley’s new engine in issue 341, and in issue 342 he gave a glimpse of what the new baggers that cradle the engine in their RUSHMORE frames are like. Now I’m going to tell you about what I consider to be the best bargain among those baggers: the Road Glide Special.

This bike has it all, and the marketing folks at Harley pretty much pegged it with the FLTRXS’s mission statement: “Long on features, comfort, and attitude.” Indeed, and beyond the standard RUSHMORE and new Milwaukee-Eight features, the Special sports Harley’s big Boom! Box 6.5GT touch-sensitive screen that’s positioned between the inner fairing’s two large speakers and right beneath the easy-to-read analog instruments.

Truth be told, though, I rarely use the infotainment feature. Oh, I’ll dabble with the navigation option now and then to save myself from being totally lost during an adventure, but otherwise I prefer to enjoy the drone of the engine’s exhaust note while racking up the miles. And what a sound the 2017 Road Glide Special’s new mufflers produce, a deep, rich, mellow tone, one that bikers have enjoyed for years. Harley engineers were able to attain this new, throatier sound by exorcising some of the mechanical-noise demons from the engine, primary drive, clutch, and transmission. Less clanging noise there creates a vacuum of sorts that can be filled with more decibels from the exhaust system, the end result a motorcycle with a noise factor that, in addition to complying with federal decibel regulations, sounds genuinely cool. Welcome to the 21st century of motorcycle engineering and marketing; the Road Glide Special clearly stands at the forefront of this new philosophy.

Enough about the features, let’s talk about the Road Glide Special’s comfort. I’m on record in past bike reviews stating that I love touring aboard Electra Glides. I still like those batwing fairing bikes but, in truth, when it comes to absolute comfort, this RG Special fits me like the proverbial glove. My 5′ 8″ frame and 30″ inseam are well-matched to the bike’s ergonomics. I can flat foot stops at traffic lights thanks to a claimed seat height of 25.9″ (laden), and the reach to the handgrips is relaxed and natural. The seat’s bucket shape is form-fit to my derriere, and the tinted stub windshield mixed with the fairing’s RUSHMORE ducting allows just the right amount of wind blast to entertain me without pounding me. The small winglets at the base of the aerodynamically shaped shark-nose fairing help with that, and because the High Output engine doesn’t have the Twin Cooled liquid-cooling option, there are no fairing lowers to further isolate me from the elements so I don’t feel like I’m wrapped fully in a cocoon. I’m on a motorcycle.

Now let’s discuss the Special’s attitude. There are two key elements to a bagger: it must be capable of toting a reasonable amount of gear for extended rides, and it must look cool in carrying out its mission. The RG Special’s two lockable saddlebags boast a claimed 2.3 cubic feet of storage capacity, and while I can’t exactly describe just what that equates to in real-world gear, I can say that I was able to pack three days worth of personal inventory plus my camera gear for the blast up US 395.
And the FLTRXS looked cool—you know, attitude— while making the run up 395. Start with the paint. Vivid Black remains the standard color for the base model, which places MSRP at a rather cool $23,999. Our test bike sported the Hard Candy Custom paint option (three new color choices are on tap for 2017, two of which are Hard Candy Custom colors), which boosts price to $26,999. Yeah, it ain’t cheap, so determine just how much attitude you want, and then set your budget.

No matter the color option, though, all Road Glide Specials ride with the same cool chassis features, giving each bike a stance that shouts Attitude! The parts mix includes the 19″ (front) and 16″ (rear) Enforcer cast aluminum wheels with Brembo calipers and Dunlop Harley-Davidson Series tires. The bike’s stance is further set by a lowered suspension that features Harley’s updated specs. Claimed front suspension travel is 4.6″ front, 2.1″ rear.

New for 2017, the 49mm fork legs are filled with Showa Dual Bending Valve (SBDV) technology to smooth the ride up front. Out back you’ll find a pair of coil-over spring shocks with hand adjustability to set preload. As a unit, plus the low-profile tires (130/60-19″ front, 180/65-16″ rear), the suspension sets the Special nice and low, the way a bagger should be. There’s a small price to pay, however, as shortened suspension means there’s less up-and-down travel to absorb some of the bumps in the road. To be sure, the new suspension technology works well over smaller road holes and frost heaves, but a series of repetitious bumps challenges the damping rates; expect some chatter or jack hammering at times.
For the most part, though, the ride remains controlled and rather refined. Moreover, after spending all day in the saddle, I never felt fatigued or beaten. I always looked forward to the next day’s ride. And for me, that and the attention to detail and attitude are what make the FLTRXS so special for me as a bagger enthusiast. AIM

Motorcycle Bagger Bargain Bag – ON SALE!

Do you ride an American motorcycle bagger? Want to check out some great custom baggers and bagger tech? Love a great deal?

Love a great deal on high quality motorcycle magazines focused on baggers?

Check out the special deal from Greaserag.com. 20 Motorcycle Bagger issues PLUS a free copy of American Glory – 100 Years of Harley-Davidson for only $19.95 plus s&h (while supplies last).

For more info or to order your bagger bargain bag, click on Bagger Bargain Bag now.

Harley Magazine Contest Motorcycle Bagger Free Subscription

Every issue of Motorcycle Bagger we run a number of custom Harley bagger motorcycles as well as at last one new Harley bagger review. In addition we run one classic American bagger motorcycle in each issue as a salute to the wonderful history of American motorcycling.

We need a good name for this feature and decided to let the readers come up with names and submit them to us. In American Iron Magazine we call that section the Classic American Iron.

The one we pick will earn the person a free one year subscription to Motorcycle Bagger. And no, we will not call it Old Bags or Saggy Bags! 🙂

Daytona Bike Week: What Motorcycle Gear To Pack?

I got pretty much every year to the Daytona Beach Bike Week to cover the activities for American Iron Magazine and the Harley enthusiasts who can’t attend. Yet when it comes time to pack my stuff it is odd to be in freezing New England trying to figure out what to bring to sunny and warm Florida.

In addition to the usual riding gear like boots, gloves, jacket and helmet I have to pack something in case it is hot, mild or cold. Sure I will have our company truck, but most days and nights I will be riding and reviewing a brand new 2011 Harley XR1200X Sportster so I need the right gear.

I guess the good news is I can pack more in the truck than I could even the cushiest Harley baggers, but I can still only bring so much. So I am bringing one helmet, a light jacket and a heavy one, a fleece (it can get cold riding back to the house at night), jeans and lots of shirts.

And I have to wear a clean STAFF American Iron Magazine, RoadBike and Motorcycle Bagger shirt at our bagger show and event at the Broken Spoke on Friday March 11.

Harley Bagger Show Daytona Bike Week

We are throwing a launch party and Harley bagger show at the Broken Spoke Saloon in Ormond Beach, FL on Friday, March 11 starting around 1 pm. This is during the Daytona Beach Bike Week festivities.

Part of the reason for this Harley bagger show and party is to celebrate the launch of Motorcycle Bagger as a regular bimonthly (6 issues a year) magazine. Bring your bike (bagger or not) and meet the staff of American Iron Magazine, Motoryccle Bagger and RoadBike.  We will be there with our photographers looking for bikes and people to photograph and feature in the magazines.

For more information visit www.MotorcycleBagger.com

Another Sunday Morning Motorcycle Ride?

The officer pointed at my old Indian waved me over.

This past Sunday morning, my riding partner and neighbor, Dean, rode over on his trusty 1959 Panhead. He wanted to show me his recently purchased, correct, and original bubble bags. The sun had just come up and the temperature was climbing out of the high 30s. I was bundled up for the cold when I fired up my trusty old 1931 Indian 101 Scout. While it had been more than a month since I had last rode this old Indian, it is a bike I have ridden a lot over the years and is one of my favorites.

We rode to our usual Sunday morning breakfast spot where we caught up with some of the usual suspects and their much newer motorcycles. After breakfast, Dean and I headed over to Marcus Dairy, the famed Sunday morning motorcycle hangout that will be torn down by the time you read this. On the 20-mile ride, we passed under a traffic light that flicked from green to yellow to red. A police car zoomed past us in the opposite direction with the lights on. Moments later, my Indian started surging. I looked down and saw raw gas pouring out of the old Schebler carburetor.

I knew it was a float-related issue causing the carb to overflow. Odds are either some rust or grit jammed the pivot pin, causing the float to stick too low in the bowl, or today’s crappy gas had finally trashed the float, causing it to swell and lock in place. Neither scenario was good, but the first is much easier to fix on the side of the road. I turned off the fuel petcock and pulled out a heavy screwdriver. I banged the carb several times and turned the fuel back on. It still overflowed. On the third try, the float popped back into position and I was good to go. The process only took about five minutes, by which time Dean had finally turned around and ridden back to see what I was doing. He explained his delay by saying that if the policeman had pulled me over, it was best for him to wait up the road rather than get involved in whatever would be going on.

As we accelerated back onto the road, another cop car pulled up with flashing lights. The officer pointed at my old Indian and waved me over. I was riding under the speed limit and doing nothing illegal. We slowed down. And so did the cop car which drove next to us. The policeman was studying our old bikes. Then he simply waved to us, smiled, flipped off the lights, and pulled away. Seems he just wanted to have a look at Dean’s Pan and my Indian and used the police lights to slow us down long enough for him to get an eyeful. What a jerk! He could have simply pulled up without the lights and had a look.

If you enjoy classic American motorcycles like old Harley and Indian motorcycles, check out our Classic American Iron site.

New Ride For Old Bikes
All of us enjoy a good motorcycle ride (if not, you’re reading the wrong magazine) but epic rides like the coast-to-coast Motorcycle Cannonball take more time than many of us can swing.

Most of our staff, including editors, art directors, and advertising salesmen ride. We’re always ready for any excuse to get out of the office and ride. So here’s the deal on a new ride for old bikes. We’re planning the two-day Motorcycle Kickstart Classic for October for any motorcycles with kickstarters — antique, classic, custom, or chopper. The weather should be terrific that time of year, so consider this your invitation to join us at Wheels Through Time in Maggie Valley, North Carolina, for an open house Wednesday, October 5. We roll out Thursday morning and should ride into the Barber Museum in Birmingham, Alabama, around lunchtime Friday, October 7, for the start of the museum’s Vintage Festival.

Named the Motorcycle Kickstart Classic, in honor of the art of the kickstart, this event is open to everyone who can kickstart his motorcycle (which you will have to do often on this ride). This event is sponsored by our American Iron Magazine, RoadBike magazine and Motorcycle Bagger magazine. For more info visit the American Iron Magazine site.

American Iron Motorcycle Bagger
Based on the popularity of our two special Motorcycle Bagger issues in 2010 we are expanding to bimonthly frequency (six issues) in 2011. Expect the same quality and depth of details you find in American Iron Magazine. The focus is on how to better ride, enjoy, maintain, and customize your bagger motorcycle. Also, expect tours, new products, tech, and reviews. The first issue will be on sale at Daytona Bike Week, and you can now buy a subscription at only $11.99 a year by purchasing online at www.MotorcycleBagger.com.

If you want to share photos of your bagger, send a letter and a few snapshots of you and your bike to Mailbag@MotorcycleBagger.com; post it on Facebook (like Motorcycle Bagger), or mail it to Motorcycle Bagger Mailbag, 1010 Summer St., Stamford, Connecticut 06905. Who knows, it might end up in print.

Ride safe, ride smart, have fun. – Buzz Kanter

Harley Bagger Magazine Daytona Party Bike Show

American Iron Magazine and Motorcycle Bagger are throwing a magazine launch party and bagger bike show at the Broken Spoke Saloon in Ormond Beach, FL.

The launch party for our new Motorcycle Bagger magazine and free bagger motorcycle show starts around 1 pm, Friday March 11 during Daytona Beach Bike Week.

Meet our editors and have some fun. We will be looking for custom and classic Harley baggers to photograph and feature in our magazines.