First Times Ride: 2014 Harley-Davidson Street Glide Special

The Harley-Davidson Street Glide is a technologically advanced version of a good old-fashioned American road warrior.
(Albert Lee / Los Angeles Times)
<i>This post has been updated, as indicated below </i>

This summer Harley-Davidson announced a new line of motorcycles and a plan to take the company in a new direction. The 2014 Street Glide Special is an example of the road ahead.

This is an all-new variation on the 100-year-old American manufacturer’s heralded “touring” line of Electra Glides and Street Kings, yanked into the 21st century by a bunch of high-tech additions.

Among them are a dramatic new dashboard presentation that offers GPS navigation, AM-FM stereo, iPod plug-ins for your personal jukebox and a hands-free voice recognition system for your telephone calls. Plus a bunch of other stuff that I couldn’t even figure out.


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The bike also features hard saddlebags with a new one-hand-does-it latch, new styling on the faring and fenders, and new color schemes, including one called Camouflage Sand Denim.

The Street Glide Special also comes standard with cruise control, auto-canceling turn signals, newly improved front disc brakes and dual halogen headlights.

In other words, it’s about as easy to ride as a bike this big can be.

But make no mistake, it’s big -- like, 8 feet long, and 775 pounds big. And it’s not even the biggest Harley in the new 2014 line!

It’s a land yacht. It’s a steamship. While riding some motorcycles may make you think of Paris to Dakar, Senegal, or Laguna Seca, the Street Glide made me think of the Panama Canal. It’s that graceful and smooth and comfortable – especially above 50 or 60 mph.

The massive 103-cubic-inch engine, incredible low-end torque and freeway-friendly gear box make that possible. Despite the bike’s size, the big power plant is capable of more acceleration and higher speeds than anyone could need. At 80 mph on the freeway you might notice, as I did, that you aren’t even in sixth gear yet, and still have a ton of power you’re not even using.


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I personally don’t have any Harley history, and as I’ve written elsewhere have had some difficulty adjusting to the Harley riding style. I learned to ride dirt bikes, motocross style, with my feet directly below me, and then learned to ride street bikes, cafe style, with my feet behind me. So riding a Harley, or any laid-back cruiser, feels alien and strange.

But I get some of the mystique. The Street Glide Special is so big and beefy that I actually felt more muscular just sitting on it.

And rolling up the Pacific Coast Highway on a sunny September weekend, somewhere between Point Dume and Point Mugu, I hit a sweet spot around 50 mph and I felt like I understood.

The 2014 models are in showrooms now. This one will set you back about $21,000.

Updated: An earlier version of this story referred to the featured motorcycle as the Street Glide. In fact, this model is an upgrade from that machien and is known as the Street Glide Special.


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