Three’s Company: Reviewing the Differences Between the Harley-Davidson Street Glide, Electra Glide, and Road Glide

When it comes to enjoying extended rides on your motorcycle, particularly when you spend most of your time cruising at high speeds on highways or interstates, the first thing that likely comes to mind is the idea of embarking on the journey with a fully-faired touring motorcycle. These faired motorcycles are widely regarded as the ultimate choice for long-distance riding. Equipped with spacious front fairings that shield the rider and passenger from wind, along with rider-friendly features like Infotainment systems and ABS, not to mention powerful engines that effortlessly meet any highway demands, opting for a touring bike for your extended motorcycle trip seems like a no-brainer.

The Harley-Davidson Road Glide, Electra Glide, and Street Glide are prime examples of touring bikes that perfectly meet all the necessary requirements. At first glance, these motorcycles may seem quite similar, as they all fall under Harley-Davidson’s touring (FL) line and share the same frame, along with numerous technical specifications. However, it’s important to delve deeper into the history of the Touring line to truly understand the distinctions among these three bikes. To do so, we must journey back to the 1960s.

Electra Glide

The original touring frame served as the foundation for the earliest motorcycles that went into production. One such model was the Electra Glide, introduced in 1965. This iconic motorcycle succeeded the Duo-Glide and got its name from the electric starter, which had been introduced the previous year. Initially equipped with the Panhead engine in its final year of production, the Electra Glide received a horsepower upgrade in 1966 when it transitioned to the Shovelhead motor. A significant milestone arrived in 1969 when the bike debuted the now-familiar single-headlight, fork-mounted Batwing fairing. Over the following decades, this front fairing design has become inseparable from touring bikes, defining their distinctive look.

Road Glide

While not tracing its roots as far back as the iconic Electra Glide, the origins of the Harley-Davidson Road Glide can be traced back to 1979 when its predecessor, the Tour Glide, made its debut. Setting itself apart from other bikes of its time, the Tour Glide featured a groundbreaking fixed front fairing that was directly attached to the frame. This unique feature garnered attention and laid the foundation for what would later become the legendary Road Glide.

Fast forward to 1998, and the Road Glide as we now recognize it was officially unveiled. Interestingly, this year marked the exclusive availability of the Road Glide with a carbureted fuel system, setting it apart from subsequent models that adopted fuel injection technology. Furthermore, the engine underwent several advancements over the years, and Road Glides were eventually equipped with the powerful Twin Cam 88 motor.

Setting itself apart from its predecessor, the Electra Glide, the Road Glide featured a distinctive frame-mounted dual-headlight front fairing, affectionately known as the Shark Nose. Since its introduction, this iconic front fairing design has remained unchanged, captivating riders with its timeless appeal and aerodynamic prowess.

The Harley-Davidson Road Glide has undoubtedly left an indelible mark on the motorcycle industry, combining a rich history with cutting-edge innovations. From its humble beginnings with the Tour Glide to its modern-day incarnation, this legendary bike continues to capture the hearts and minds of riders around the world.

Street Glide

When it comes to touring motorcycles by Harley-Davidson, the Street Glide stands out as the fresh face in comparison to the Road Glide and Electra Glide models. Unveiled in 2006, the Street Glide emerged as a sleek and refined version of the Electra Glide, boasting a range of upgrades such as a compact windscreen and a lowered rear suspension, resulting in a slightly reduced seat height. Retaining the iconic Batwing design of the Electra Glide, the Street Glide maintained its own identity while weighing slightly less than the Road Glide. This no-nonsense touring bike was purposefully crafted to excel on the open road and give the Road Glide a run for its money. Discover the modernized touring experience offered by the Street Glide today.

Touring Lineup Changes

Harley-Davidson’s lineup of touring motorcycles has undergone significant revisions in 2009 and 2014, particularly with the introduction of “Project Rushmore.” In 2009, Harley-Davidson implemented changes to the frame, swingarm, and engine mounting system for touring frame bikes. Additionally, they updated the exhaust and offered new factory options for front wheels. However, the more substantial transformation arrived with Project Rushmore in 2014. This ambitious initiative aimed to enhance rider experience and long-distance comfort by equipping touring bikes with a range of features. Notable additions included Daymaker headlights, GPS navigation, an Infotainment system with voice controls, and a waterproof media/phone compartment. Mechanically, Project Rushmore introduced a powerful high-output 103CI motor and the Reflex-linked ABS system.

Having explored the historical evolution of the three touring-line motorcycles, let’s delve into the intricate details of their current models, which surprisingly share a remarkable similarity at their core. While there are slight variations among the models, we will explore those differences below.

Engines

The lineage of these three motorcycles can be traced back to the iconic Panhead engine, which first appeared in Electra Glides in 1965. Over the next few decades, it was succeeded by the Shovelhead and later the Twin Cam 88 motor. The Twin Cam 88 engine made its debut in the Road Glide in 1998 and underwent upgrades to become the Twin Cam 96 before being replaced by the powerful 107 motors in 2014. The Street Glide also initially featured the Twin Cam 88 engine, but it was eventually replaced by the advanced Milwaukee-Eight 103 engine in 2012.

While previous iterations of these motorcycles had some overlap in terms of the engines used, the current models of the Electra Glide Standard, Road Glide, and Street Glide all share a common powerhouse: a fuel-injected Milwaukee-Eight 107 engine paired with a 6-speed transmission. These engines boast a similar displacement, generating approximately 111 ft-lb of torque. Moreover, all three motorcycles offer an estimated fuel economy of around 43 mpg, courtesy of their 6-gallon gas tanks.

The lineage of the Electra Glide Standard, Road Glide, and Street Glide motorcycles can be traced back to the legendary Panhead engine, which was first introduced in 1965 on Electra Glides. Throughout the years, it underwent significant advancements and transformations, evolving into the Shovelhead and later the Twin Cam 88 motor. In 1998, the Twin Cam 88 engine made its debut on the Road Glide, and after undergoing enhancements, it became the Twin Cam 96. However, in 2014, the Twin Cam 107 engine took over, offering even more power and performance.

In terms of engine specifications, the current models of the Electra Glide Standard, Road Glide, and Street Glide all share a cutting-edge Milwaukee-Eight 107 engine with fuel injection, perfectly complemented by a 6-speed transmission. These high-performance engines exhibit a similar displacement, delivering an impressive torque output of approximately 111 ft-lb. Additionally, all three motorcycles provide an estimated fuel economy of around 43 mpg, thanks to their 6-gallon fuel tanks.

Through a continuous lineage of engine advancements, the Electra Glide Standard, Road Glide, and Street Glide motorcycles have reached new heights of power, efficiency, and overall performance. With their state-of-the-art Milwaukee-Eight 107 engines and remarkable fuel economy, these motorcycles are poised to deliver an exhilarating riding experience.

Features and Fairings

Introducing the remarkable Electra Glide Standard motorcycle, designed to captivate purists seeking an unadulterated riding experience. Unlike its counterparts, this model deliberately omits GPS and Infotainment systems, emphasizing a true connection with the road. By shunning distractions, riders can fully immerse themselves in the joy of the journey.

Harley-Davidson positions the Electra Glide Standard as a beacon for those who yearn to disconnect and relish the open road. With its minimalist design, this motorcycle embodies the essence of simplicity, featuring a single-saddle configuration and a distinctive Batwing-style front fairing.

This deliberate exclusion of Infotainment and GPS technology might initially raise eyebrows. However, it’s important to note that such features can potentially detract from the core experience of motorcycling. The Electra Glide Standard champions a back-to-basics approach, where riders can focus solely on the thrill of the ride.

By maintaining a streamlined aesthetic and purposeful functionality, the Electra Glide line has forged its reputation. With its signature absence of a Daymaker headlamp and passenger seat, this motorcycle remains true to its roots. As Harley-Davidson themselves suggest, it invites purists to embrace the freedom and distance that the open road offers.

Experience the allure of the Electra Glide Standard—a testament to the pure essence of motorcycling, providing unfiltered excitement and unencumbered exploration.

When comparing the Road Glide and Street Glide motorcycles, one key difference stands out, allowing even novice riders to distinguish between the two models. The Road Glide boasts gauge pods positioned below the Infotainment screen within its Shark Head style fairing, while the Street Glide showcases gauge pods above the Infotainment screen in its Batwing-Esque front fairing. Both motorcycles are equipped with the Boom! Box 4.3 Infotainment system. However, the Road Glide’s display is relatively modest compared to the Street Glide package, which offers a choice between a standard 4.3″ screen or an optional 6.5″ screen.

In the Special, ST, CVO, and Limited trims, the Infotainment options receive slight upgrades while maintaining a consistent layout with the base models. All models are upgraded to the Boom! Box GTS Infotainment system. The Special and ST trims come with standard audio speakers, the CVO features a Rockford Fosgate Stage II speaker setup, and the CVO Limited includes a Rockford Fosgate Stage I speaker kit. Additionally, the Special, ST, CVO, and Limited trims are equipped with a 6.5″ full-color TFT display.

Dimensions & Specifications

As expected from motorcycles sharing the same frame, the Electra Glide, Road Glide, and Street Glide all have identical 64-inch wheelbases. The rake and trail of each motorcycle are remarkably similar, with a maximum difference of only 0.1 inches across all trim levels. Similarly, tire sizes and ground clearance remain closely matched among the models.

When it comes to saddle heights, the Road Glide and CVO Road Glide offer the lowest options, accommodating vertically-challenged Harley-Davidson riders with a seat height of 25.9″. The Street Glide, Street Glide Special, CVO Street Glide, and Electra Glide Standard all share a seat height of 26.1″, while the slightly taller Road Glide Special matches this height. The Road Glide ST and Street Glide ST, with their slightly sportier nature, feature a seat height of 26.7″. However, it is the CVO Road Glide Limited that takes the crown with a seat height of 28.2″.

Turning to the topic of weight, it is no surprise that the top-tier CVO Road Glide Limited is the heaviest, weighing in at 963 lbs. On the lighter end of the spectrum, the mid-level Road Glide ST and Street Glide ST are the lightest options, weighing 842 lbs and 814 lbs, respectively. As you move down the trim levels, the weight decreases: the CVO Road Glide comes in at 893 lbs, while the CVO Street Glide measures 866 lbs. The Street Glide and Street Glide Special are almost identical, weighing 829 lbs and 827 lbs, while the Road Glide and Road Glide Special tip the scales at 855 lbs and 853 lbs. Finally, the Electra Glide Standard weighs 820 lbs, making it the second-lightest option after the Street Glide ST.

Performance & Drivetrain

When evaluating the power of touring bikes, the available torque plays a crucial role in determining the motorcycle’s responsiveness and acceleration when the throttle is opened. Monitoring the engine torque RPMs in conjunction with the torque value provides an approximate understanding of how the engine performs during long stretches on the highway.

Starting with the Electra Glide Standard, Road Glide, and Street Glide, each model offers 111 ft-lb of torque, with the engine torque value at 3250 RPM. This torque value is slightly lower compared to the specifications of the other motorcycles. The Road Glide Special and Street Glide Special provide a slight boost, delivering 118 ft-lb of torque at 3250 RPM, surpassing their base

model counterparts. The Road Glide ST and Street Glide ST take it a step further, offering 127 ft-lb of torque at 3750 RPM, providing a higher torque output at a higher RPM to enhance power at higher speeds. This makes them the motorcycles with the highest available torque. The CVO Road Glide and CVO Street Glide boast 126 ft-lb of torque at 3750 RPM, placing them on par with the ST variants. Meanwhile, the CVO Road Glide Limited experiences a slight reduction with 125 ft-lb of torque at 3500 RPM.

In light of the recent buzz surrounding Harley-Davidson’s sportier ST lineup, let’s delve into the lean angles of each touring motorcycle and their respective trim levels. Despite the ST trim style drawing inspiration from the King of the Baggers races, the ST trim does not necessarily offer the greatest lean angles. Surprisingly, it’s the CVO Road Glide and CVO Road Glide Limited that boast the highest lean angles. The CVO Road Glide features a lean angle of 34 degrees on both the left and right sides, while the CVO Road Glide Limited offers a lean angle of 33.4 degrees (left) and 34.3 degrees (right). The Road Glide ST, Street Glide ST, CVO Street Glide, Road Glide Special, and Street Glide Special all provide a lean angle of 31 degrees (left) and 32 degrees (right). The Electra Glide Standard, Road Glide, and Street Glide offer a more conservative lean angle of 29 degrees (left) and 31 degrees (right).

So, what’s the better deal?

If you’re currently in the market for a new Harley-Davidson touring bike, choosing between the Electra Glide, Road Glide, and Street Glide can be a challenging task. While these models share some similarities, they also have distinct differences that can impact your decision. To make an informed choice, test-riding the motorcycles is essential since minor details like lean angle and seat height may be crucial deal-breakers for certain individuals. Additionally, personal preference plays a role, such as choosing between the Batwing look or the Shark Head presentation for the front fairing.

If you’re seeking a purpose-built motorcycle for pure road use and don’t require an Infotainment system (or are content with using your smartphone for information), the Electra Glide is an excellent entry into the world of Harley-Davidson touring bikes. It encompasses the fundamental features found in all Harley-Davidson touring models, and its 107 motor provides ample power without overwhelming the rider. Furthermore, it stands out as one of the lightest motorcycles in this comparison and offers a relatively low seat height.

For those interested in motorcycles with basic Infotainment features and a choice between the Shark Head or Batwing-style front fairing, the Road Glide and Street Glide present cost-effective options. Both models come with Infotainment packages and offer 107 engines. If you desire enhanced infotainment and a slightly more robust engine, consider the Road Glide Special and Street Glide Special, which feature the Milwaukee-Eight 114 engine and the premium Boom! Box GTS Infotainment package.

If performance, speed, and handling are your top priorities, the Road Glide ST and Street Glide ST will meet your expectations. These models are equipped with upgraded 117 motors, along with minor dimensional modifications to improve overall power and handling. Notably, they also offer a weight reduction compared to other Road Glide and Street Glide variants. Finally, for those craving all the bells and whistles, the CVO and CVO Limited trims provide a superior Infotainment package and the larger Milwaukee-Eight 117 engine.

It’s challenging to make a wrong choice among these bikes, but it’s essential to consider your specific needs. Each model caters to different preferences, so carefully evaluate how you intend to use the motorcycle. With the help of this guide, you’ll be better equipped to determine which of the three options suits you best.

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