The Harley-Davidson Road Glide is not for everyone…

Rossmeyer1 Rossmeyer2 Rossmeyer3

My first 1,000 mile touring day was unplanned. One of my riding friends, Don Davis, of Don Davis Aviation in Henderson, Kentucky invited me to go on a ride to Colorado. He and his wife, Jo, were borderline pioneers in aviation. They built a grass landing strip behind their home in Henderson and that would become home base for their flight adventures. From April through September Don and Jo would fly their bi-plane to county fairs all around the mid-west selling rides around those areas for a quarter. As airplane technology advanced they purchased a Cessna four place single engine airplane. That became the vessel that would transport them to the Colorado Rockies where they would play on the thermals until time and money ran short and they would head for home in Henderson. As time went on they developed Don Davis Aviation that became the city airport for Henderson, Kentucky. They sold and serviced airplanes and flew until their hearts were content. Both Don and Jo were very proficient pilots. All was well until Don suffered a mild heart attack and the FAA pulled his ticket. His flying days were forever over. When he recovered he drove to the closest motorcycle dealer and bought a motorcycle. Don’s new Gold Wing would have been intimidating to any first time rider but not for Don. He spent two days riding around on the landing strips and on the third day he and two close friends rode to Daytona Bike Week. Thus began the riding career of near 70 year old Don Davis.

Fast forward to the late 90’s. Don, Dick Fruit, a man they called T Bone and myself set sail for Colorado for Wally Dallenbach’s Colorado 500 Charity Road Ride. After many years of riding 12,000 to 15,000 miles per year locally, I was on my first long tour. On our return to Henderson, Ky we had a nice 700 mile day going. When my three 70 year old riding companions pulled off the Interstate in Missouri and rolled up to the pumps for fuel, I was sure we were going to fill up and head to a hotel. When I asked where we were putting in for the night, Don’s reply was, “I’m sleeping in my own bed”. Hmmm. That’s about 350 miles away and it is almost dark. Being 40 years old and not wanting to concede defeat, I said great. Let’s go to the house! My first 1000 plus mile touring day was in the record books and the 1991 Harley Davidson Tour Glide was the perfect companion. I had fallen in love with the excellent aerodynamics of the frame mounted fairing and all of it’s amenities. I will be forever grateful for that trip. It was a game changer for me as I was forever addicted to cross country touring. My annual mileage more than doubled thanks to those cross country adventures.

TourGlide

The 1991 Tour Glide was the machine that would help me enjoy my first 1,000 mile touring day. This one is a 1996.

Road Glide Ultra2

2015 CVO Road Glide Ultra we are riding now.

The Harley-Davidson Motor Company has a long history of tweaking, honing and refining a family of motorcycles over time. The Road Glide personifies that concept. Frame and power plant technology has steadily advanced but the basic motorcycle concept remains unchanged.

It is easy to get caught up in the touring amenities that the CVO Road Glide offers.The list is long. Satellite navigation/radio, electronic cruise control, rider/passenger intercom, Bluetooth cell phone compatibility, air ride rear suspension and more. The Boom! Audio! system is absolutely amazing in it’s ability and ease of use once familiar.

boom audio

Within this Boom! Audio! menu is everything a touring motorcyclist and their passenger could ask for.

It takes a few minutes to learn the intricacies of the system. One of the most appealing features is that every function (CB, Sat Radio, Intercom, Sat Nav and Tuner) can be enjoyed through the fairing mounted speakers or the helmet headsets. Once in the headsets, the rider and passenger control their own volumes for each of these functions via their respective easy to reach controls.

The basic motorcycle is what I am most interested in discussing however. The hydro-formed frame is rock solid. The wet weight is 916 pounds without rider, passenger and luggage. Low speed and high speed handling is first rate. With Colette and I loaded for weeks on the road, parking lot maneuvers are exacting and easy and at speed the steering is light to the touch but stable. This bike is not a sport touring motorcycle. What it is to me is a two up touring motorcycle that handles the twisties with ease. Obviously some respect for it’s size and weight is required but, make no mistake, ridden with respect, this is an entertaining two lane companion. On the Interstate highway system the Road Glide is perhaps the most comfortable and fun motorcycle in the world. The six speed gearbox combined with copious amounts of torque is a great combination. Hours in the wind tunnel developing the aerodynamics of the frame mounted fairing have paid dividends. Two large open vents on either side of the Daymaker headlamps provides gentle pressure relief. Above the dashboard there is another vent just below the windshield that provides pressure relief as well to make the rider/passenger cockpit a still air pocket. The fairing lowers mounted to the engine guards provide well concealed radiators for the new Rushmore engine and also have excellent rider controllable venting. Pulling out of the hotel in 40 degree temps I had the lowers closed and the gentle heat from the engine area provided excellent warmth into the still air pocket. Late morning the temp was rising into the mid-sixties and I opened the vents in the fairing lowers. That sweeps copious amounts of air right on to the 110 cu in  V-Twin and the cooling effect was instantaneous. In addition to the venting, HD has utilized the wind tunnel to design a couple of nicely integrated air dams or spoilers that are barely noticeable visually but obviously effective in smoothing and managing air flow in and around the rider/passenger compartment. One of the key benefits for me is that the air pocket created by the fairing provides an excellent environment to enjoy the sound system. The handlebar mounted batwing fairing on the FLH machines is elegant, classy and functional and will be chosen by most riders over the frame mounted fairing of the FLT chassis. The frame mounted fairing is not for everyone but it is definitely the one for me.

Road Glide Ultra4

In addition to the nice pocket provided by the Road Glide’s frame mounted fairing, head buffeting is non-existent.

The 1991 Tour Glide Ultra was an excellent motorcycle. I would love to find a well preserved and well cared for version of that motorcycle to add to the collection. I remain a huge fan of the HD 1340 Evolution engine. As much as I love and respect the original Tour Glide Ultra, the newest generation Road Glide is definitely going to make my next 1,000 mile day much more entertaining, comfortable and fun.

I do wish that Don, Dick and T Bone would be in the rear view mirrors for that ride but everything changes. It reminds me to enjoy the people, rides and motorcycles in my life every single day. This is the world of the changing.

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