Harley-Davidson is once again percolating its racing technology down from the track into street motorcycles. This time, we’re getting a pair of baggers that are lifted up, trimmed down and painted like a championship-winning racer. The Harley-Davidson Street Glide ST and Road Glide ST are baggers that you’ll actually want to scrap up the floorboards on.
When you see a bagger your first thought probably isn’t, “yeah, I’d track that.” I normally associate bikes like these with open roads and long trips. Harley-Davidson not only thinks that baggers are fun around a track, but shipped a bunch of journalists and YouTubers to let us find out for ourselves.
What I found out was that Harley built a pair of bikes that will not only give you a laugh on the track, but will still comfortably go on a road trip.
(Full Disclosure: Harley-Davidson invited me to the Inde Motorsports Ranch out in Arizona to try out its new ST models and meet its winning racing team. The Motor Company paid for my travel, food and set me up in a casita right next to the track. This time, an airline didn’t strand me somewhere.)
Harley-Davidson brought us out to the Inde Motorsports Ranch out in sunny Willcox, Arizona. The property isn’t just a track but an airport and an outdoor museum of vintage military aviation. Inde also has casitas overlooking the track and members can build their own villas on site. This is a place where you could fly your own plane in, race your car, then fly back out.
It was also a great place to put some Harley baggers to the test.
Harley-Davidson has a rich over century-long history in racing. Until recently, the Motor Company was known for tons of NHRA drag racing titles and its XR750 holds the crown for winning the most in American Motorcycle Association history. Then, the MotoAmerica King of the Baggers arrived in 2020 and introduced a bonkers form of racing.
Take big and heavy cruisers, kit them out for racing, then send them out onto a track. King of the Baggers has shown itself to be a popular form of racing and in 2021, the bar and shield took the championship title in 2021 with Kyle Wyman at the helm.
Harley-Davidson is following up its win by taking some of Wyman’s Harley-Davidson Screamin’ Eagle Road Glide Special and trickling it down to the consumer level.
Enter the Road Glide ST and Street Glide ST. Both of these motorcycles take Harley’s bread and butter FL and turn it into a sport tourer that feels as at home in the twisties as it does on a highway.
Inspired by the racing bike, Harley-Davidson has trimmed down the front fender and fitted a low-profile engine guard. The Motor Company says that these changes reduce the bikes’ visual weight.
You’ll notice that the saddle’s changed, too. It’s scooped to hold you in position, and yep, the passenger seat and pegs have been deleted. This is a ride for you and you only. The seating position isn’t as aggressive as the racing bike. Instead, you can lean in as you boogey the STs around corners or lean back for a road trip.
Other changes include standard-height bags. Such a decision reduces capacity from 2.7 cu-ft to 2.3 cu-ft but helps slim down the bikes’ looks. And speaking of weight, the Street Glide ST weighs 13 pounds less than the Special at 814 pounds. The Road Glide ST loses 11 pounds coming down to 842 pounds. This doesn’t seem like much when we’re talking about bikes a rider shy of 1,000 pounds, but we’ll go over that in a bit.
Finishing off the aesthetics is a paint scheme that calls to the racing machines. The logo on the tank is a throwback to Harleys from a century ago.
On the performance side, you might expect these ST models to come with the Screamin’ Eagle Milwaukee-Eight 131ci Performance Crate Engine like the race bike does, but that’s not the case. Instead, you get a Milwaukee-Eight 117ci V-twin in both machines. It’s good for 106 HP and 127 lb-ft torque, a bump over the standard 93 HP Milwaukee-Eight 107ci V-twins. The engine choice is notable here as before now it was reserved to Harley’s CVO line.
The Motor Company was asked why the 117 was chosen over larger, more powerful engines. Harley explains that it felt that this engine was perfect for this project. It felt that not all buyers would be interested more power and for the ones who are, they can add parts for that. Part of the idea behind these ST models is to bring the modifications that people have done themselves straight from the factory, but still have room for more mods.
Backing up the power are rear shocks from the Road King. Rear suspension travel is increased from 2.1 inches to 3 inches, matching the Street Glide Special and Road Glide Special. Both FL ST models have lean angles of 32 degrees to the right and 31 to the left.
Braking is handled by Brembos and you get a suite of gadgets from electronically linked brakes, traction control, ABS and Drag Torque Slip Control.
Our day with the STs started with track instruction. The important thing to note here is that the instructors worked hard to undo what many riders have learned in Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) courses. Your MSF instructor may have taught you to do all of your braking before a curve. But the instructors here taught the art of using your brakes as you lean into a turn, known as trail braking.
This is worthy of an article all of its own one day, but this instruction was geared so that we could get the most out of our 800-pound machines that morning. And that we did.
Taking anything onto a track is an exhilarating experience, but trying to set hot laps on baggers was an absolute giggle.
We left the parking area and right into the track’s first turn, which led right into the track’s straightaway and airport’s runway. For the purposes of the event, a slalom was set up. I expected these bikes to feel like wrestling, but they weren’t. Instead, both danced gracefully around the cones. The slalom opened up to a straight where we could open up the STs.
The Milwaukee 117 between my legs pumped out the Motor Company’s signature soundtrack, and the speedometer needle climbed past 70, 80 and just over 90 mph before it was time to initiate braking into a long, swooping turn. The lovely thing about these STs is that they’re just loud enough to enjoy the sounds of a V-twin but quiet enough that you aren’t going to piss off your neighbors leaving for work in the morning.
The rest of the track featured tighter turns, turns that were off-camber and some turns that were initially blind. We all put in at least a dozen laps, each a little faster than the last.
Now, while the bikes are awfully similar, they do have meaningful differences on the track. The Road Glide ST has a frame-mounted fairing and weighs in at 842 pounds. The Street Glide ST, however, weighs 814 pounds, and its fairing is mounted to the fork. The Road Glide’s fairing obscured some of my view of the tarmac. It also felt just a little less nimble than the Street Glide. This seemed to be both the smidge of extra weight and the much larger fairing.
So for the purposes of riding all out, the Street Glide ST gets my pick. Your visibility is excellent, and when you’re leaning in, it feels lighter, too.
That said, I doubt many owners of these are going to take these for track days, so the differences here probably won’t actually matter. What all of this really means is that if you encounter a canyon on your road trip, both of these will happily carve them, and you’ll be happy doing it.
After we got done flogging these machines on the track we took them for a ride out to Tombstone, Arizona. The ride consisted of roughly 50 miles on the highway then more miles riding on lonely Arizona backroads. On the highway, both bikes do what I’d expect a Harley to do. I can set the cruise control, point the bars where I want to go, then do it for hundreds of miles.
Granted, with these you do lose out on some luxuries. Your butt isn’t warmed by a heated seat, nor your gloves from the bars. And of course, you’re going to be traveling alone since it seats just one.
I did get to enjoy the Boom! Box GTS infotainment system and its 6.5-inch TFT display. This system has an output of 25 Watts per channel and fires out of two speakers on the fairing. My music had about the clarity of listening to a CD, but it was able to play at max volume without much distortion.
Our ride also got cold, with precipitation falling in the form of ice. I found both of the machines to be great here, keeping me warm enough and ice-free. Other, taller riders at the event noted a lot of wind buffeting coming from the Street Glide’s fairing. I noticed the Street Glide ST riders tucking just a little. Of course, Harley-Davidson has an expansive catalog of accessories, and taller Street Glide ST riders will likely find a windscreen to fit their needs.
One tradeoff for performance seems to be some comfort. The motorcycle’s suspension was noticeably firm. Road imperfections were transmitted right to your seat. You might expect a motorcycle in this class to be softer.
Another thing I will note is that letting the engine rip like a sportbike might produce unintended results. The engine has more than enough grunt to light up the tires if you want it to. But you might find yourself ramming into the 5,500-rpm redline far quicker than you’d expect. There were times that I was having so much fun that I completely forgot that these lumpy V-twins don’t have a huge rev range. Others at the event noted the same.
Harley-Davidson’s 2022 Sport Touring line trade some comfort, practicality and luxury for a performance-oriented experience. These are bikes that could have fun on a track then ride across the country to Daytona. These are bikes where having scraped up boards should be a mark of pride.
The STs aren’t extreme, but that’s intentional. Harley wants the ST line to have room for growth so tuners can craft these into whatever they want. But if you aren’t into that, these are still plenty fun and have the spitting image of the racing machines. Still, a part of me wonders how much more fun these could be if they came from the factory with the 131 engine.
Pricing starts out at $29,999 for either the Road Glide ST or the Street Glide ST. These bikes are targeted at younger buyers, and the Motor Company recognizes that the price might be hard to stomach for some. It expects many buyers to finance these machines.
For a final question, the Motor Company was asked about its plans for the future for performance baggers. Harley sees these as merely the start as the company will continue to ride the trend of making baggers faster. So if this is your jam, expect more of it in the pipeline.