Harley Road Glide is a smooth cruiser

April 30, 2004|by ARV VOSS/Motor Matters

If you were a fan of Harley-Davidson's Road Glide model before, there's even more to like with the 2004 model. Several significant modifications were made to enhance this popular touring bike.

Some have said that the Road Glide and Electra Glide touring models are nothing more than Road Kings with fairings, which is way off base. Basic mechanical specs may be similar, but a lot of really worthwhile differences actually exist. Take the fairing for example.

The Road Glide fairing is a Sharknose affair with dual headlamps fixed to the frame rather than the front forks. In other words, it doesn't turn with the handlebars which is the case with Electra Glide models.

The Road Glide fairing rake now takes on an additional four degrees for more streamlined aerodynamics and a more aggressive look. Additional aesthetic enhancements for this year include: silver powder-coated engine (rather than black) with chrome trim; silver face gauges; bullet design directional signals front and rear, with the aft blinkers mounted on a shortened bar. The heavy cruiser rides on 9-spoke cast aluminum alloy wheels with a silver sparkle finish and a bigger rear tire for improved wear and a larger contact patch.


Power is generated by a 1450cc Twin Cam 88 air-cooled engine in an isolation mounting (available only with sequential port fuel injection). Exhaust is a crossover full-length dual side setup with slash-cut mufflers. The motor mates to a five-speed manual transmission, with a double-row chain primary and final belt drive.

Up front are healthy-sized cartridge-type fork tubes to soak up the road and smooth out the ride. A sweptback windscreen follows the fairing's contour, so enjoying the ride without encountering the world of entomology is assured. The front fender offers a smooth and clean look, with no trim or logo, while the rear fender wears a small nostalgic badge. A large comfortable one-piece saddle is featured, with greater lower back support, followed by a passenger cushion with a strap handle.

Hard saddle bags are now formed of a composite material rather than fiberglass for greater strength, and rear road guards are pass, though front road or "crash" bars are still provided for rider and engine protection. Forward floorboards are cushioned, with traditional passenger boards in place of foot-pegs. Bringing this Hog to a halt is effortless with disc brakes fore and aft (forward discs are a dual setup).

My Road Glide test bike was a 2004, fuel-injected model, finished in Smokey Gold (metallic) with silver scalloped graphics on the fairing, tank and saddle bags. No two-tone paint scheme is available for Road Glide models - only the silver graphics over one of five base colors, with Black costing $340 less than metallic hues. Base price was set at $17,635 with the "out-the-door" sticker rising to $20,537 with various taxes and license and freight charges.

SUMMARY: The Road Glide for '04 continues the Harley-Davidson cruising heritage and tradition not only with refined looks, but with practical and functional improvements as well. The bike is well-balanced, responding easily to steering input whether riding solo or two up - it actually seems lighter than it really is. The seating position is a comfortable 26 inches, and the clutch pull now requires less force for less fatigue in heavy traffic situations.

A 5-gallon fuel tank features a large, locking chrome filler cap centered forward atop the tank - the only possible downside here, is that most barrel keys will unlock the cap. Silver-faced, cockpit-style

fairing-mounted gauges center a large speedometer and tachometer flanked by a smaller fuel level, oil temperature, voltmeter and ambient temperature gauges. There's even a cigarette (or cigar) lighter and digital clock. A 40-watt per channel AM/FM/CD sound system rides above the other instrumentation with a digital readout format and preset station select buttons. Volume and station seek switches are mounted on the bars for ease of operation without taking one's eyes off the road.

The Harley-Davidson Road Glide is a no-nonsense touring bike that takes the motto "Live to Ride and Ride to Live," and makes it even more positive by adding the word "Comfortably." Tacking on "In Style" would also be fitting.


2004 Harley-Davidson FLTRI Road Glide

Base Price: $17,635.

Price as Tested: $20,537.04 out the door including tax, license and emissions where applicable.

Engine Type and Size: 1450cc air-cooled V-Twin Cam 88, isolation-mounted to frame, with electronic sequential port fuel injection and crossover full-length dual side exhaust with slash-cut


Torque (lbs.-ft.): 86 at 3,500 rpm

Transmission: Five-speed sequential manual.

Drive Train: Primary drive - double-row chain/final belt drive.

Suspension: Front - Tube forks with internal hydraulic

cartridge damping. Rear - Twin air shock absorbers.

Brakes: 11.5-by-20-inch cross-drilled dual discs front and 11.5-by-23 disc rear.

Tires: Harley-Davidson Dunlop MT90B16 72H front/MU85B16 77H rear-mounted on 9-spoke Silver Sparkle finish cast aluminum alloy wheels.

Wheelbase: 63.5 inches

Length Overall: 93.7 inches

Lean angle (left/right): 30/31 degrees

Curb Weight dry: 731 lbs.

Fuel Capacity: 5 gallons

EPA Mileage Estimates: 39 city/46 highway

Seat height: 26 inches

0-60 mph: Not tested

Copyright Motor Matters, 2004

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