Spot the difference: Harley-Davidson Street Glide old vs new

Published: 21 October 2016

For 2017 Harley-Davidson have introduced a new engine, dubbed the 'Milwaukee-Eight', which increases torque by 11%, while at the same time improving economy and smoothness. A single small oil-cooler provides cooling for the new cylinder heads, instead of the traditional air cooling.

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To see if the new engine is a big enough improvement, we took a 2017 Street Glide powered by the new engine, and put it head-to-head against the outgoing Street Glide. The full test is in the October 19 issue of MCN, and above is a gallery of pictures from the test - see if you can spot the difference!

MCN's Liam Marsden was the second rider on the test and had this to say: "Historically I’m not a fan of Harleys. I find them heavy, slow and lacking in refinement. But Harley owners would probably tell me that’s ‘character’. I’ve always felt Harley seemed reluctant to make any significant changes to their bikes for fear of alienating their current fan base.

"So when Harley announced the new Milwaukee-Eight engines I was a little sceptical. Riding the outgoing Street Glide was actually a bit of a surprise, the engine felt smoother than I remembered, but the heavy clutch, lumpy low-down delivery and snatchy throttle remained. All things that at first were annoying, but as they day were on I settled into the Glide’s plush seat and was able to ride round them. Apart from the heavy clutch, which gets worse the more you have to use it, like round town.

"I was unsure if I’d be able to tell a difference with the new model – Phil kept emphasising just how subtle the changes were. It’s certainly evolution rather than revolution, but the differences made themselves known almost instantly.

"Starting the bike up was the same, and it settled into that familiar Harley idle. But the moment my tired fingers pulled the clutch in a whole new world opened up. The clutch came back incredibly easy – using just two fingers was suddenly a realistic option. Gears were selected in a much slicker fashion. The snatchy throttle from the outgoing model is completely gone, replaced by a light, super-smooth action. 

"The engine, the most important piece in the puzzle of this new Street Glide feels much better. It’s eager to spin up, like somebody gave the old, ageing engine half a Viagra. In comparison the old engine feels like its parts were running through custard. And not good custard either, more like the lumpy stuff the dinner ladies would pour over you sponge pudding leaving it inedible. The lumpiness lowdown is also gone, making the new model a much more pleasant ride in towns.

"But are all these subtle changes enough to attract a new breed of rider to Harley? Well, you could argue that’s not Harley’s goal. They’re most likely trying to keep their current, loyal band of followers happy while bringing Harley a bit more up to date. There’s no doubt the changes make Harleys a much more appealing choice to a wider group of riders. But for me, if they’re serious about bringing Harley into the 21st century proper, the changes needed to be much more pronounced, and Harley need to be much braver. Harleys still aren’t on my radar as a serious option, and at the current rate of evolution they might not be for some time."

 

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