2010 Road Glide Custom

This is the second new edition in this year’s touring line and by far the best looking Harley-Davidson motorcycle, especially in its vibrant Scarlet Red colorway. From its oversized front metal fender to its Airstream-style forward fairing, complete with a pair of inset headlights, and its tidy rear end, we applaud the Harley design crew as they managed to fuse styling elements from the classic hot-rod and motorcycling scenes together, giving us one gorgeous looking motorcycle. Seriously, out off all of Harley’s models, including the CVO line, this would be my top pick. And the best part? It only costs $18,999.

Aiding its hot-rod appearance is the low-slung stance courtesy of an inch-lower rear suspension. This brings the seat height to just under 30 inches from the ground. The rear of the motorcycle sports a unique LED taillight assembly that integrates the turn signals and stop light into one fixture. It not only looks better, but is easier to see too. The Road Glide Custom also gets a reworked 2-into-1 exhaust, which exits from a 4-inch diameter chrome muffler on the right hand side of the bike. The new pipes replace the previous twin muffler exhaust system, further cleaning up the rear end of the motorcycle.

Other less notable differences include its larger 18-inch black slotted aluminum wheel fitted with a low profile 130/70-series Dunlop tire, though we’re not as fond of these wheels as the 28-spoke ones on the regular Glide. There are three solid colors to choose from including Vivid Black, Scarlet Red and Black Denim.

Where the Electra Glide Limited comes with a fair number of bells and whistles, the Custom is stripped down offering only the basics as standard equipment. Of course there is a two-speaker Harmon/Kardon audio system, but with only has 40 watts of power it isn’t quite enough for an audiophile to enjoy his or her tunes when flying down the road. Cruise control, security system and ABS are all optional but we most missed the two rear speakers.

Although the center storage container is deleted, two smaller storage compartments are added on either side of the front fairing. Our only complaint is that you have to be stopped to access them as the handlebar is directly in the way.

After hopping into the seat, you notice just how low the rider sits in the bike. Yet, despite only the rear of the motorcycle being lowered, the tail end doesn’t feel disproportionately lower than the front and the rider still has a clear view of the road. Although the standard Harley-Davidson seat height won’t be a problem for taller riders, we still valued its lower height, which makes balancing the bike at a stop much easier. We also noticed that with the more compact, frame-mounted front fairing fumbling around at parking lot speeds was less cumbersome than on the Electra Glide.

The Road Glide Custom sources the standard Twin Cam 96 engine and like the Electra Glide it benefits from chassis upgrades that grace the entire 2009 Harley-Davidson touring line. Since the Custom weighs nearly 100 pounds less than the Electra Glide Limited, its smaller engine makes acceleration seem right on par with the bigger 103 engine. Motoring up steep mountain grades will require you to grab a downshift or two, but like always the 6-speed gearbox and friendly clutch help make gear changes feel solid and precise feel. And besides the audible clunk you hear at each gear change, it’s quiet too. Like the Electra Glide, its stopping capabilities are more than adequate even during aggressive, fast-paced rides.

Since the Road Glide Custom’s smaller front fairing is mounted directly to the frame, getting the bike to turn from side-to-side in the corners is noticeably easier, which is only exacerbated by its reduced rolling mass. But motoring through the fastest bends is where you’ll really appreciate this bike’s pavement-hugging capabilities. It’s almost as if the Custom has suction cups adhering it to the asphalt similar to what you’d expect a high-performance bike from Japan to do. Then again, the bike does use a dual-compound Dunlop rear tire just like you’d find on a new sportbike. Despite the rear suspension’s limited travel (3 inches), the back end of the motorcycle does an admirable job of soaking up rough tarmac. Sure it’s not quite as plush the Glide, but it’s still a comfortable platform to spend all day in.

We were also surprised at just how effective the forward fairing and fly windscreen were at deflecting wind and debris over the rider. Wind buffeting was never a problem and while we did encounter some rain during the course of our ride, as long as you’re wearing a helmet with a visor, as we were, the rain doesn’t get in the way either.

Quite often Harley’s get a bad rap for their overall build quality, but I have to say the motorcycles we tested are extremely solid machines. The paint job alone is far deeper and more lustrous than I’ve seen on many new cars. Plus the attention to detail and fit and finish is on par with some of the high-end motorcycles coming out of Japan these days.

At the end of the day if I could only choose from one Harley-Davidson as my personal ride there’s no doubt the Road Glide Custom would be it. Not only does it look awesome, it’s comfortable enough to ride all day, plus it shreds on curvy roads. Not to mention it’s got a passenger seat and a decent amount of storage.

Thank you, Harley-Davidson, for finally building me my ideal touring motorcycle.