This afternoon I got the chance to road test a 2017 Harley-Davidson FLHXS Street Glide. The bike is equipped with Harley’s new Milwaukee Eight, 107 inch powertrain. (For a technical guide to the new motor click here)
A couple of notes:
- It was almost 100 degrees when I got the bike on the road
- My normal bike is a 2012 FLHX Street Glide with a 103 inch Twin Cam motor.
The first thing I noticed when the I started the bike was how quiet the cam side of the motor was. You could faintly hear cam chain noise and a little bit of valve noise but that was it. The primary side was a little bit louder because of the primary chain but even it was noticeably muffled. Throughout my ride, the motor stayed quiet and the street legal exhaust could be heard over the engine noise throughout the entire ride.
As soon as I pulled away from a stop I noticed the hydraulic clutch is very different from previous years. It was stiff to pull and the clutch didn’t catch until the lever was nearly fully released. This could be a problem for people with small hands or short fingers but something I would get used to. Until you get a feel for it, it does make for some slow starts. The lever did, however, have a very sturdy, rigid feel throughout the ride. After multiple recalls on hydraulic clutches I’m told Harley is using a new manufacturer and paid special attention to this part of the bike.
Rounding through some curves and turns, the suspension was initially uncomfortable. It seemed sluggish and tight. After a few miles I got used to it and actually enjoyed the fact that it “pushed” back through curves. It was almost asking me to be more aggressive. I came to the conclusion I was the problem with the suspension and as I got used to it the bike handled fine. I do think next time I will soften the pre-load on the rear shocks, which can easily be accomplished with the knob found on the left rear shock, and see if this makes the ride more comfortable.
When I got to a straight away I quickly opened up the throttle. After hearing so much about the additional power and displacement the Milwaukee Eight 107″ motor provides, I was expecting a rocket. It’s not a rocket but the bike gets you down the road in a hurry and it is definitely powerful. It did have a great deal of roll on power and I could easily reach passing speed without shifting down. In fact I felt like the bike seemed to pull harder during a cruising roll on then it did accelerating from a dead stop. This is probably a good thing for a touring bike like the one I was riding; I’ve never drag raced with my Street Glide but I’ve had to pass a lot of semis and cars at highway speeds!
As I rode back into town I got backed up at an intersection for several minutes. This is where things got interesting. Vibration. The counterbalance mechanism on this bike works! Sitting at idle the bars vibrated slightly but nothing like previous touring bikes. I could still see out of my mirrors and the bar ends only slightly moved. It was impressive.
More impressive then the counterbalancing was the heat management. My 2012 Street Glide does not have a catalytic exhaust and it has been remapped but it still gets very hot when I’m in stop and go traffic. This 2017, even with the stock exhaust and no mapping changes, ran much cooler then my bike. And remember, the air temperature was almost 100 degrees when I rode the bike. My leg never felt like it was burning or that I was going to break out in a sweat at any second like I have on other touring bikes. This was impressive.
As I pulled the bike back into the parking lot I have to say all and all I’m impressed. I would love to ride one that has been broken in. It will be interesting to see how the suspension wears in and if the motor noise and/or vibration increases as parts break in and get seated.
In a nutshell here are my thoughts on the bike:
- The heat management and vibration dampening of this bike are AMAZING!
- The motor runs quiet and lets you hear even the stock exhaust over the sound of the engine
- Overall the motor puts out a good amount of power, especially when passing or rolling on at cruising speeds
- While the hydraulic clutch feels sturdy, the clutch does engage towards the end of the lever’s throw and the lever is harder to depress then previous hydraulic systems
- The suspension is stiff but somewhat adjustable and holds strong while cornering
Overall I am satisfied with this bike. The heat management and vibration dampening alone make me recommend this to anyone looking for a comfortable cruiser. The roll on power and quiet motor are just added perks! Of course time will tell how reliable and sturdy the bike is, but given Harley’s track record of utilizing motor designs for many years, I imagine this bike and engine will hold up and are here to stay.