2018 Harley-Davidson Sport Glide | Utility Player
While one would have thought that expanding the Softail line to eight bikes for 2018 was enough, Harley-Davidson has added a ninth motorcycle to the all-new 2018 Softails—the 2018 Harley-Davidson Sport Glide.
We took the Sport Glide out for an extended spin on the day it was revealed to the world.
1. The 2018 Harley-Davidson Sport Glide uses the same Softail chassis and Milwaukee-Eight 107 engine we quickly fell in love with. We’ve been down this route a number of times already, so you can read about the new Softail features here and the Milwaukee-Eight motor. Suffice to say, you’re getting the best Softail chassis and H-D powerplant to date.
2. Ergonomics on the Sport Glide are comfortably neutral. Despite a low seat and forward pegs, the bar/grip/seat triangle is about as natural as it comes. There’s no reaching for anything, and only the tallest riders will feel cramped. The handlebar bend is fairly flat, yet the grips are close enough to the rider that the fall right into your hands. The 2018 Harley-Davidson Sport Glide entices you to empty the five-gallon tank in one sitting.
3. Although it has Sport in its name, don’t think of the Sport Glide as a sport cruiser. Yes, it has the great new Softail handling, so you can ride it at a good pace—that’s the case for most of the new Softails. The 2018 Harley-Davidson Sport Glide is about a comfortable and confident ride, with the ability to convert it from a weekend tourer to a Main Street cruiser in a couple of minutes.
4. Short-distance tourers will love the fairing and bags. Neither are intrusive, yet both get the job done within reasonable parameters. The bikini fairing is broader in person than it looks in photos, and it does direct the wind away from your body. The hard saddlebags won’t fit anything larger than a half-helmet, but you can throw in plenty of clothes for that after-ride dinner at a distant discreet destination—most laptops will fit, too.
5. In-town, toss the accoutrements and go naked. It is startling how quickly you can remove the fairing and the saddlebags. The bags can be locked on, so you don’t have to worry about them walking. Sans the fairing and bag, you have a nice-looking—if a bit nondescript—urban cruiser. While it doesn’t have the panache of something like a Fat Bob or Heritage Classic, your friends will think you have two different motorcycles. Feel free, of course, to take off just the fairing or the bags only, if that fits your style. With the bags only, there is definitely a cool bagger vibe happening.
6. Just as the ergonomics are neutral, the handling is fully intuitive. This is a motorcycle that you can get to know in seconds. The Sport Glide does exactly what you want it to do, and it does it without hesitation or complaint. It’s not one for mid-corner corrections, though you can make them happen if absolutely necessary. Unexpectedly, cornering clearance is fairly limited, with the heel of my boots dragging far more often in the twisties than I anticipated. Still, the handling is confidence inspiring, and nothing happens that will startle the rider.
7. The Showa suspension is fine as-is, with only the shock spring-preload being adjustable. Rough roads don’t upset the 2018 Harley-Davidson Sport Glide, as the generous 64-inch wheelbase and relaxed 30 degrees of rake give the motorcycle plenty of stability. As is the case with other Softails, the new suspension effectively inoculates the rider from sharp hits and jolts, providing an uncommonly smooth ride on a variety of unwelcoming surfaces. Going with inverted forks seems to be more of a fashion statement than a performance enhancement—it’s not like they’re the Dual Bending Valve variety.
8. One disc really is enough up front. When I saw the name Sport Glide, I immediately noted that the front end had only single-disc braking. Given that it’s a cruiser at heart, the 300mm disc is fully sufficient. The rear brake is pretty good, though the pedal a bit too far inboard, and there is plenty of engine compression braking. As insiders at Harley-Davidson noted—the single disc allows the striking new Mantis front wheel to get better exposure. ABS is there, if you need it in compromised traction conditions.
9. Convertible bikes have been a tough sell. The CVO Convertible came and went quickly, and the Switchback didn’t have a particularly long life. They’re a great concept—two (or more) bikes in one—but they often sacrifice a strong personality. The 2018 Harley-Davidson Sport Glide suffers from that a bit. However, if dealers can get a rider on one, the functionality of the Sport Glide might just overcome its under-the-radar persona.
Action Photography by Brian J. Nelson
Click to page two for full specs and a photo gallery.