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

Screamin’ Eagle Stage II Kits for Harley Milwaukee-Eight

Screamin' Eagle Stage II Kit for Milwaukee-Eight

Screamin’ Eagle Stage II Kit for Milwaukee-Eight

Take a Screamin’ Eagle Stage I equipped Harley-Davidson Milwaukee-Eight engine to the next level with a Screamin’ Eagle Milwaukee-Eight Stage II Kit from Harley-Davidson Genuine Motor Parts & Accessories. Screamin’ Eagle Stage I – Screamin’ Eagle air filter, Street Cannon mufflers and Screamin’ Eagle Pro Street Tuner – lays the performance foundation. Screamin’ Eagle Stage II adds a performance camshaft to achieve the next step up in performance. Harley-Davidson Genuine Motor Parts & Accessories offers two Stage II camshaft choices to tailor Milwaukee-Eight performance to specific needs.

The Screamin’ Eagle Milwaukee-Eight Stage II – Torque Kit (P/N 92500047, $389.95*) features a Screamin’ Eagle torque camshaft that delivers on-demand throttle response from low to mid RPM at cruising speed. Installed in the Milwaukee-Eight, this cam produces a 5 percent increase in torque over the stock engine that can be felt immediately off the line and continues to build up to 14 percent more torque at 4500 RPM, an ideal power band for passing slow-moving vehicles without a downshift and compensating for the weight of a passenger and luggage. Kit components include a Screamin’ Eagle SE8-447 cam, adjustable pushrods, pushrod covers, O-rings, and a cam cover gasket.

Riders will get an adrenaline-pumping burst of speed from the Milwaukee-Eight engine by installing the Screamin’ Eagle Milwaukee-Eight Stage II – Power Kit (P/N 92500058, $389.95*) with a Screamin’ Eagle power camshaft that starts to pile on power at 3000 RPM and continues to build by up to 24 percent more power than the stock engine at redline. This kit is ideal for riders who want to ride the bike aggressively while downshifting to lower gears to keep the engine operating in the higher RPM range. Kit components include a Screamin’ Eagle SE8-462 cam, adjustable pushrods, pushrod covers, O-rings, and a cam cover gasket.

Both Screamin’ Eagle Milwaukee-Eight Engine Stage II Kits fit 2017 Harley-Davidson Touring models, but do not fit Trike models. Installation is minimally invasive requiring only opening of the cam chest, retains Original Equipment Factory Warranty and is 50-state U.S. EPA compliant.

Installation requires the separate purchase and installation of a Screamin’ Eagle Stage I Kit, Cam Drive Retention Kit (P/N 25566-06) and may require Cam Spacer Kit (P/N 25928-06). All models require ECM calibration with Screamin’ Eagle Pro Street Tuner for proper installation. See an authorized Harley-Davidson dealer for details.

These and other Harley-Davidson Genuine Motor Parts & Accessories are available at more than 750 authorized retail locations in the United States and online.

*Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP), excluding taxes and shipping. Prices at local dealerships may vary.

Harley-Davidson Launches 107” & 114” Milwaukee-Eight Engines

The 2017 Milwaukee-Eight V-Twin will be offered in a 107″ version for Harley Tourers and Trikes and a 114″ variation for its premium CVO models. (Photos by Brian J. Nelson, and Harley-Davidson)

Stop the press! The rumors are true. Harley-Davidson has indeed developed a new engine called the Milwaukee-Eight. The eight valve V-Twin comes in both a 107” version for Harley-Davidson Touring motorcycles and Trikes and a 114” variation for The Motor Company’s top-shelf CVO line. The new valvetrain design comes with an impressive list of proposed improvements – more power, better efficiency, lower idle, less heat, and less noise.

American Iron brass Buzz Kanter and Steve Lita got a chance to speak with Harley’s Product Planning Director Paul James and Chief Engineer, New Products Alex (Boz) Bozmoski about the Milwaukee-Eight for an exclusive American Iron Magazine first look article in Issue #341 that hits newsstands Sept. 13. Additionally, American Iron Editor Lita has already gotten a chance to sample 2017 Harleys with both the 107” and 114” versions of the Milwaukee-Eight, and his first ride review will run in American Iron Magazine Issue #342. Click here for some of editor Steve’s first ride impressions.

More power, better efficiency, lower idle, less heat, and less noise – what’s not to like about Harley’s new Milwaukee-Eight 107! Find out how many of these claims are true in American Iron Magazine Editor Steve Lita’s first ride review in Issue #342.

Until then, here’s a few of the Milwaukee-Eight’s key features gleaned from the American Iron Magazine article along with the engines’ specs. If you’d like to hear the new Milwaukee-Eight, be sure to check out American Iron’s YouTube channel.

• Because these are touring machines, design emphasis was placed on rider and passenger comfort (vibration), heat control (from engine and exhaust), and functionality (improved electrics and electronics). From what we were told, Harley met these goals.

• While the engine weighs just about the same as the Twin Cam it is replacing in 2017—at least on the touring and trike models—we were told the Milwaukee-Eight is a clean sheet design, going back to a single cam configuration, with pushrod-actuated four valves per head, hydraulic lifters, and dual sparkplugs per head.

The Milwaukee-Eight 107″ heads look different for good reason. In addition to increasing from two to four valves per cylinder, the heads have been treated for advanced combustion design and flow work, said to generate almost a 50% increase in flow.

BJN37718

Visible in blue is the precision oil cooling passage.

The Milwaukee-Eight 107 heads look different for good reason. In addition to increasing from two to four valves per cylinder, the heads have been treated for advanced combustion design and flow work, said to generate almost a 50% increase in flow.

Pushrod-activated rocker arms control the two intake and two exhaust valves per head. Once set, valve adjustments are done for life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

• Harley said there are two versions in relation to engine cooling as well, as bikes without lowers will feature Precision Oil-Cooled engines, while bikes with lowers will employ the Precision Water Cooling system, with the radiators housed in the lowers a la RUSHMORE style. Before you get any bright ideas about retro-fitting a Milwaukee-Eight into an older bike, be aware that the engine mounting points have changed.

• The flywheel weight is the same as on the Twin Cam, but Harley has achieved 20% more rotational inertia with this engine. This aids in smoothing the driveline and producing a broad torque curve that pulls all the time. Redline is 5,500 rpm, slightly higher than a Twin Cam. A single internal engine counter-balancer is tuned at 75%, and the engine is rubber-mounted for less overall vibration to the rider and passenger.

• The heads have been treated to advanced combustion design and flow work, generating almost a 50% increase in flow. The intake and exhaust valve diameters are 40mm and 32mm respectively. Add the dual sparkplug (two per cylinder) design for a more complete burn, and you can see that this is not just a warmed-over Twin Cam design. There’s a new four-post-coil ignition with torque-based ECM with active knock sensors. There is independent control of the front and rear cylinder firing, with the front two coil outputs firing together and rear two firing together. Sequential Port Fuel injection is retained with a single throat inlet throttle body made of plastic. A bump up in compression ratio to 10:1 (107″) or 10.5:1 (114″) from the Twin Cam’s 9.7:1 means premium-grade fuel will be required.

• The single camshaft is utilized for its lower friction qualities, and it is chain driven. Thanks to a hydraulic lifter to pushrod connection from cam to rocker arm, you will never have to adjust the valvetrain from left to right, as they are now factory-set for life!

• It’s larger, more powerful, offers quicker acceleration, and produces 10% more torque. It should prove to be two to three bike lengths faster from 0-60 mph and one to two bike lengths faster from 60-80 mph in top gear.

The more powerful Milwaukee-Eight 107″ should make Harley’s tourers “two to three bike lengths faster from 0-60 mph and one to two bike lengths faster from 60-80 mph in top gear.”

2017 Milwaukee-Eight Engine Specs:
Engine:                 107″                  114″            TC 103 rubber mount
Cylinder angle:    45 degree      45 degree              45 degree
Bore:                      3.937″               4.01″                      3.875″
Stroke:                  4.375″               4.5″                        4.374″
Compression:    10:1                  10.5:1                       9.7:1
Valvetrain:      Four valves per cylinder      Two valve per cylinder
Ignition:            Four plug four coil               Two plug one coil
Torque: 114 ft-lb. @ 3250 /  124 ft-lb. @ 3250 / 104.7 ft-lb. @ 3250
Starter:                 1.6 kw               1.6 kw                  1.2 kw
Charging system: 24-25 amps / 24-25 amps / 17 amps
Fuel system:      ESPFI             ESPFI                     ESPFI
Oil capacity: 4.5 quarts      /   4.5 quarts    /          4 quarts
Idle speed:      850 rpm      /     850 rpm    /          1050 rpm

The new Harley Milwaukee-Eight will power The Motor Company’s 2017 touring motorcycles and baggers.

Harley-Davidson’s Big Twins over the Years
F-Head (JD) 1914-1929
Flathead 1930-1948
Knucklehead 1936-1947
Panhead 1948-1965
Shovelhead 1966-1984
Evolution 1984-1998
Twin Cam 1999-present
Milwaukee-Eight 2017-

Our First Ride Impressions of Harley’s New Milwaukee-Eight

Cornering on the 2017 Milwaukee-Eight-equipped Road King felt more agile than ever.

Cornering on the 2017 Milwaukee-Eight-equipped Road King felt more agile than ever.

American Iron Magazine editor Steve Lita was fortunate enough to get in a day of riding on the new 2017 Harley-Davidson Touring models featuring both versions of the new Milwaukee-Eight engine; standard 107″ and CVO models equipped with the 114″ version.

The first thing you notice when you start up the new Milwaukee-Eight is, well, the precise and consistent starting. Thanks to a new automatic compression release and a more powerful starter motor, the engine comes to life every time without a hitch or a hiccup, which can’t be said for Twin Cam models. Once the engine settles to life at a calm 850 idle rpm, you’ll recognize the traditional Harley rumble, albeit a little smoother. Don’t get me wrong, this engine is not sewing machine-boring, it still has that chugging cadence to it.

The 107" Milwaukee-Eight, staying true to Harley's Big Twin tradition while leaping forward.

The 107″ Milwaukee-Eight, staying true to Harley’s Big Twin tradition while leaping forward.

Click the bike into first gear and release the clutch, and you’ll be pleased with the easier feeling on your left hand. Roll on the throttle easy, the Milwaukee-Eight smoothly pulls this heavyweight up to speed. But gun the throttle, and get ready for an aggressive bark from the stock exhaust. Thanks to less drivetrain noise and the added cubic-inches, the exhaust emanates an aggressive tone. After my first ride I commented to Harley engineers how much I liked the sound of the bike.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have access to a timed acceleration course, but suffice it to say the seat-of-the-pants-feeling under hard acceleration was that the new bikes pull away from a stop or roll on at speed harder than before. This Milwaukee-Eight pulls hard all the way to the 5500 redline, and I found the rev limiter many times when not judiciously watching the tach. I felt consistent thrust all the way up the tach range without the power petering off. It just pulls, pulls, pulls, and then smack! You’re on the limiter. Step up to the larger 114″ Milwaukee-Eight, which is available only in the CVO models, and get ready for a kick in the butt over the 107″ version; you will definitely feel the difference in power output.

And the 114" Milwaukee-Eight, a CVO-only option that will blow your socks off.

And the 114″ Milwaukee-Eight, a CVO-only option that will blow your socks off.

All of that is great for straight-line riding, but what happens when you throw the new Touring models into a curve? Much improvement has been made to this line of bikes, and the new 2017 models can handle some twisties better than ever before. New front fork updates feature SHOWA Dual Bending valve (SDBV) technology, which is similar to current cartridge fork inserts, but more adept for mass production use. Out back is a hand-adjustable SHOWA emulsion shock. Turn the adjustment knob 23 times to allow for 25mm of total adjustment. No more worrying about blowing out air shocks. Confidence in riding through corners at high speed is greatly increased.

The 114" CVO Touring Model handles better than you could imagine for a Big Twin.

The 114″ CVO Touring Model handles better than you could imagine for a Big Twin.

My overall riding impression of these new Milwaukee-Eight-powered models is that Harley has taken all the right feelings and emotions of the previous engine and refined them, doing so with new high-tech components. The looks of the engine are right. It’s not some foreign, radical departure. Yet under the skin, the internal components work in better harmony than before. I think of this engine as a well-sorted Big Twin. It’s better than you ever thought the Big Twin family could perform.

For the full first ride review of the all-new Milwaukee-Eight Touring models, pick up a copy of Issue #342. In Issue #341, on sale 9/13, we give you everything you need to know about the new engine platforms.