Which Harley Should I Choose For My Tour?

Electra Glide vs Street Glide for Touring
UPDATE: Since this article was written, The Lost Adventure has expanded the range of bikes offered for rental, self-guides and fully guided tours to include the Indian range.

We rode them Coast to Coast to explore the differences between this range and the Harleys. Read what we thought of the Indian Chief, Chieftan and Roadmaster.

There’s also an in-depth review of the Indian Chieftan.

If Harley’s are your thing, read on…

Which Harley Should I Choose For My Tour? If you’re not a Harley Davidson enthusiast, it can be a bit difficult to figure out what the actual differences are between models. While traditional and cool, names like “Street Glide”, “Road Glide”, or “Electra Glide” don’t really provide any clues as to the features of each bike. And even the written specifications of the bikes aren’t that helpful – many of the bikes share chassis and engine configurations. So how do you know which Harley to choose if you’re doing a Guided Tour or bike hire, covering thousands of miles? (Note: we also have BMW GS & RT, Honda Goldwing, and various Triumph models available. Contact Us! for your bike hire needs!)

First thing to understand is that there are four categories of bikes in the Harley Davidson lineup: Sporter, Dyna, Softail, and Touring. As there are not too many Dynas in the EagleRider fleet, we’ll stick with the most popular lines: Sportster, Softail and Touring.

1) Sportster: The Sportster has a few things going for it: low seat height, light weight (compared to other HDs), lighter handling and simplicity. If you’re concerned about your physical ability to put both feet on the ground while sitting on the bike or the weight of the machine, the Sportster is a good choice. It’s a wonderful bike for shorter rides. Unfortunately, it’s smaller displacement (883 cc) and petrol capacity (3.3 gallons) relative to the bigger Harleys becomes inconvenient on longer rides. On a long day’s ride, you’ll be fueling up quite a bit more often than bigger bikes, with their 6 gallon tanks. As such, we don’t recommend the Sportster as the ideal choice for touring. For riding around Hollywood or the Vegas Strip looking cool however, two thumbs up!

2) Softail: The Fat Boy and the Heritage Softail are the two most popular bikes in this line. Softails are named so because while they look like rigid, hardtail style bikes, they have a hidden shock absorber under the bike that soaks up the bumps. So you get a very clean look without exposed shock absorbers, and a much more compliant ride than a hardtail. These bikes also feature the HD “B” motor, which has a counterbalancer inside to decrease vibration. Softails have a unique mechanical feel due to this motor and suspension combination that’s hard to describe – we’d say it’s a slightly more hardcore ride than a pure touring Harley. Also these bikes typically feature pegs for passengers, not floorboards, and more narrow pillion accommodation than the touring models. The Heritage Softail provides the most pillion comfort of all the Softail models, so if you’re planning on bringing a passenger along, choose the Heritage.

Route 66 Motorcycle Tours

3) Touring: OK, we’ll admit it: the touring models are our favorites of the Harley Davidson range. Why? Because to us (and mind you we have over 100,000 miles of touring experience in America) they just feel the best to ride long distances on. Much of this is down to two things: their chassis, which features a dual shock air suspension, and the rubber mounting of the engine, which isolates the rider and passenger from much of the vibration. The touring chassis has just superb road feel, there’s something about it that’s very special. But even between touring models, there are significant differences. The Street Glide and Electra Glide feature the classic Harley “Bat Wing” fairing, which provides superior wind and weather protection, and includes speakers and a CD Player/radio. The Road King models, which we absolutely love, have a detachable windscreen, providing less wind and weather protection and of course no CD/radio. But it’s very nice to take the screen off on hot days or rides around town, provided you have someone to carry it for you.

The touring models all feature floorboards for the rider, and most also include floorboards for the pillion as well, which provides extra comfort and a feeling of increased stability for passengers. The Street Glide, however, uses passenger footpegs, which we feel are a bit less comfortable than floorboards (the Street Glide also has a slightly lowered suspension for a “slammed” look, which makes it somewhat less bump compliant than the other touring models). Lastly, the only Harley with a stock topcase is the Electra Glide Classic; we love the topcase as not only can it carry a lot of additional luggage, but it acts as a backrest for pillions. (Note: some locations can attach an optional topcase to Street Glides and Road Kings, ask about this when enquiring).

A Note About Weight and Size

Often times, people will mention to us that they don’t want to hire an Electra Glide Classic as they feel it will be too big, too heavy or unwieldy. They’re missing out because the Electra Glide is the most comfortable Harley, especially for a pillion. If you’re not height challenged, have average upper body strength and are an experienced motorcyclist, you should have no trouble with the bike, with any Harley really. They all have low centers of gravity. Of course, if you fully pack the panniers and top case, and add a pillion, you need to adjust and find the balance point, as you would on any bike. We find that balance only becomes an issue at low speeds, especially in parking lots. But again, that’s on any fully loaded bike with a pillion.

A Note About Ground Clearance on Harleys

If you’ve never ridden a Harley before, then you need to adjust to the Harley’s reduced ground clearance versus other bikes. A Harley is a cruiser, low, long, and lazy – if you throw it into a corner like a sportsbike you’re first going to hear a lot of grinding metallic sounds as it warns you “hey, I’m not that kind of bike!” If you persist in leaning further, chances are you’ll end up on your ear. You need to roll into corners on a Harley, and feel out how much clearance you have – this applies to almost every Harley, especially the bikes equipped with floorboards. Once you get used to it, you can ride a Harley in a very spirited manner through the corners, but remember: there’s an adaptation period.

We hope this article has been helpful to you. Please leave any comments below, and of course, if you’re interested in a Guided or Self-Guided Tour, or Bike Rental, please contact usWe’ll work with you to get the most competitive price on the internet!

Cheers,

Jim McDermott & Tim Orr

The Lost Adventure, Ltd.

 

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12 Comments

  1. Big Tony

    Hi, Which is the lightest easiest to handle Harley to tour?

    Thanks

    Reply
    • Tim Orr

      Hi Tony
      Id say the Heritage Softail is the best compromise. Not to big and heavy but really capable as a touring bike.
      Cheers
      Tim

      Reply
  2. Michael

    I am planning on a solo cross country trip around the first part of June 2017. Going and coming back to Georgia and making stops in Texas, Arizona and California (as of now) to see friends and family. I’m thinking of doing this over a 2-week period so I can enjoy the ride and scenery. Either on my way out or back home I will be riding Route 66 for as many miles as possible. I currently ride a 2014 HD Fatboy Low with apes and several upgrades. I love my bike because I feel like I am riding in it and not on it and I love that feeling. I know some people feel the opposite. Although it does cross my mind to make journey on my Fatboy Low, I will most likely be upgrading to a touring model because 2-up riding is becoming more frequent in my life and I find I enjoying longer rides. In any event, I prefer the “coolness” factor over comfort to a degree, which is all relative, but I understand there is a tradeoff. I have been researching and debating several bikes, Road Glide Special, Ultra Limited, EG Ultra Classic and Road Glide Ultra. (Only HD for me btw) If I end up getting a bike with rear luggage it will definitely have the quick disconnect as I will only use it on longer trips and when it is off I want the “cool” factor. Whichever bike I get I will customize it to my liking and one of those customizations will be to add 10″-12″ apes because I love the look, feel and control I have. I know they would look good on a RGS (imo as I’ve seen pictures) but I haven’t searched for apes on any other touring models. So, I was wondering what some of you might think about apes on touring and which bikes you think can easily be modified to feel like you are riding “in it” instead of “on it”. Also, would it be better to take a RGS and add the touring pak to it or take an EG Ultra Classic for example and add a quick disconnect. Just curious to hear what other people think and their reasoning. I started building a spreadsheet on all 4 of these bikes based on HD’s specs pulled from their website for a side by side comparison. I’m 58, great health with no issues and 6 feet around 190. Btw, it would be great to hook up with other riders on my journey should we be heading in the same direction.

    Cheers
    M.

    Reply
  3. Jonathan Mount

    Hi. I’m 67 years young and am going to “do” Route 66 next year at the end of April. Need to do it on a Harley of course, but not sure which one. I have some problems with my lower back but otherwise an reasonably fit. I’m 6ft tall and average weight! Have ridden BMW 1100 s and Triumphs most of my life and am worried about the weight of the bike and comfort for my back. Any suggestions would be most welcome. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Tim Orr

      Hi Jonathan
      Don’t write off doing it on an Indian. For my money the Indian Chieftain is one of the best bikes to tour in the states on ad still has the presence of a Harley. The electric screen is also a big plus and at your hight will work just right. If you would like a rental quote email me at info@thelostadventure.com
      Cheers
      Tim

      Reply
    • Rob

      I spent 13 days riding a street glide special in September from LA-palm springs-needles-grand canyon-bluff-Bryce canyon-zion nat park-vegas-death valley-mammoth lakes-yosemite nat park-san Francisco-Monterey-Pismo beach-LA and I couldn’t have chosen a better bike for 1 up riding. Im 52 yrs old 6ft 2 and approx 92kg . My SG came with a 10inch screen and not the standard short screen which was perfect. once on the move the SG is light of steering and handles wonderfully for a touring Harley with plenty enough ground clearance. I too suffer from back and leg pains mainly sciatica but had no problem on the 2700 mile trip , though due to the shorter suspension uneven road surfaces, bumps send shocks through the bike and can be painful . Cross winds near palm springs was a little nerving but guess that would be the case on any bike. My previous bikes have been BMW R1200R /R Nine T and pre war bikes and 70s Moto Guzzis and I fell in love with the SG .. I saw a few Indian bikes on the tour but although they may be technically a better bike I don’t think any Indian is better than a SG in the looks dept. A Road Glide Special might be a better tour bike because the fairing is not fixed to the forks/bars but again I prefer the look of the SG .. watch your credit card as my details were stolen and £3k was gone.. just got it back. petrol stations pumps often ask for a zip code which we don’t have so you often have to leave a card at the desk fill up and then use the card at the cashiers desk WRONG MOVE.. cash always best , same goes at Restaurants.. tank range isn’t that great for a big bike either

      Reply
    • William Brown

      Hope your ride went well. I put more than 20,000 miles/year on my Ultra Limited, and ride it an all weather from 17 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s especially comfortable in the extremes of winter riding. You simply can’t go wrong with this big, but it will ruin you for all other bikes.

      Reply
      • Tim Orr

        We hear you William and the new Milwaukee 8 is another great leap forward

        Reply
  4. Chris

    Jim,
    I’m 26 years old, 6ft5 and deciding what type of Harley would suit me best for the road trip (both single and with pillion)? Upper body strength is no issue and have ridden all sorts for 10 years. Is the only model you can suggest, the Electra Glide Classic?
    Chris

    Reply
    • Tim Orr

      Hi Chris
      Solo I’d say you have a huge choice of bike. Top of my list would be the Road King, Street Glide, Indian Chief or Chieftain. Two up then the Electra Glide and Indian Roadmaster are going to give you the most space. If you can both pack light then any of the above work well with the exception of the Street Glide as the stock saddle is not good for a pillion.
      Cheers
      Tim

      Reply
  5. andy scott

    Very helpfull
    as a vfr rider to me this is a heavy bike and was a bit concerned over the weight of the touring harley’ s my other concern is the feet forward position but I have been told you adapt very quickly and not to worry

    Reply

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