Other minor tweaks for 2020 are a second USB connector in the left saddlebag, while the new Tour version gets LED fog lights and bigger passenger grab handles.
The 2018 update was much more extensive with the introduction of Apple CarPlay, adjustable electric windscreen, major weight loss, new frame, double wishbone front suspension, Smart Key, four selectable riding modes, Hill Start Assist and Honda Selectable Torque Control (HSTC).
The flat-six engine was also revamped with four valves per cylinder.
What makes it “Special” is the big 114-cube Milwaukee Eight engine with a whopping 163Nm of torque.
Despite all that thump, there is no clunk on start-up. In fact, it is a refined mill married to a finessed transmission where neutral is no longer difficult to find.
What also makes it Special is the step up in rider-aid technology.
Their RDRS features cornering-enhanced traction control, cornering ABS, linked brakes, tyre pressure monitors,a slipper clutch (Drag-torque Slip Control System) to prevent rear-wheel lock-ups on aggressive downshifts and even assistance to prevent you rolling backward on hill starts!
The suite of rider controls combine to provide more confidence, especially in wet or slippery road conditions.
But they don’t get in the way of your enjoyment.
In fact, you don’t really know they are there until you need them.
On a couple of my exploratory rides through the Sunshine Coast hinterland, I ended up on dirt roads and was glad to feel the engine falter as the back wheel lost traction.
It’s a soft intervention that allows a little bit of wheel spin, but not out of control.
If the conditions get extra slippery or the roads are wet, simply toggle the left switch block traction control (TC) button to bring up the blue cloud and rain symbol on the dashboard. This totally eliminates any wheel spin.
Step up to cornering aids
I also accidentally discovered the joys of Harley’s step up to cornering-enhanced linked braking and traction controls on the tight and twisty Bellthorpe Range Rd.
I came around a blind corner a little too eagerly only to find a peacock strutting its stuff across the gravelly road.
My right foot was not perched ready over the rear brake to tuck the bike into a tighter line, so I grabbed the front brake, instead.
Normally this would stand the bike up and point me directly at the peacock. But because the brakes are linked and “enhanced” for cornering, it allowed me to steer around the strutting bird.
The sprinkling of gravel also activated the Cornering Enhanced Antilock Braking System (C-ABS).
While no amount of electronic rider aids is a replacement for a step up in skill levels, it does save your bacon when a bit of inattention and bad luck could otherwise have dire results.
As for the Vehicle Hold Control (VHC), it’s actually quite handy at the traffic lights.
All you do is add a bit of extra brake lever pressure when you come to a stop and it will hold the bike and allow you to relax at the lights without having to hang on to the brakes.
It lets go as soon as you let out the clutch or activate the throttle for a smooth and faultless hillstart. That’s reassuring when you are on a steep incline with a full load and a pillion!
I’m not a big fan of built-in infotainment systems where the music is inaudible at anything over 80km/h.
However, the integrated BOOM! Box GTS infotainment system on this bike works well.
I love the fact that the bike asks you if you would like to guided to the nearest service station if you are low on fuel or tyre pressure.
It has a TFT display with edge-to-edge Gorilla Glass that is touch sensitive, even with gloves and in the wet.
You can also control all functions from the two handlebar toggle switches.
For an extra $300 (approx) you can fit a wireless interface module that adds Apple CarPlay for access to some of your iPhone apps.
Or you can press the speech button to activate Siri and tell the system what to do.
Next year, Aussie buyers will also have access to Harley’s subscription-based OneConnect app that alerts the owner to tampering or theft and provides real-time tracking.
Suspension was updated the previous year.
It comes with Showa Dual-Bending Valve forks with bigger pistons for improved damping that takes away that “jackhammer” affect through the grips while retaining a sharp and light steering feel.
At the back, Harley moved from air shocks to emulsion shocks with 15-30% more preload adjustment using a single hand-adjustable knob behind the left pannier.
Ride quality is firm, but not harsh.
However, the rear shock is a bit short for bumpy roads and heavy loads, although I never got it to bottom out.
The first hint of summer arrived just in time for my test.
It’s always going to be hot sitting on top of massive V-twin behind a “barn door” fairing.
However, Harley has advanced the ignition, dropped the rear header down from the exhaust port and moved the catalytic converter rearwards to make it cooler for the rider.
It still gets hot in slow traffic and your pillion’s right leg cops a lot of the hot air that has been moved backwards.
Unfortunately, even the short sporty windscreen blocks a lot of cooling air.
Yet it also creates a bit of turbulence around the top of my helmet.
I’m 183cm, so shorter riders might find it ok. You can also buy taller screens.
I added a windscreen extension which reduced the turbulence but also diverted cooling air.
This torque monster delivers plenty of raw grunt, but with finesse.
It will also provide a step up in comfort and safety on long trips, thanks to its suite of hi-tech rider aids.
VIVID BLACK $A39,250 ($NZ42,250)
FUEL SYSTEMElectronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
EXHAUSTBlack, 2-1-2 dual exhaust with tapered mufflers
SEAT HEIGHT, UNLADEN690 mm
GROUND CLEARANCE125 mm
RAKE (STEERING HEAD) (DEG)26
TYRES, FRONT SPECIFICATION130/60B19 61H
TYRES, REAR SPECIFICATION180/55B18 80H
FUEL CAPACITY22.7 l
OIL CAPACITY (W/FILTER)4.9 l
WEIGHT, AS SHIPPED359 kg
WEIGHT, IN RUNNING ORDER375 kg
LUGGAGE CAPACITY -VOLUME0.071 m3
ENGINE TORQUE TESTING METHODEC 134/2014
ENGINE TORQUE3163 Nm
ENGINE TORQUE (RPM)3,000
LEAN ANGLE, RIGHT (DEG.)32
LEAN ANGLE, LEFT (DEG.)31
PRIMARY DRIVEChain, 34/46 ratio
GEAR RATIOS (OVERALL) 1ST9.593
GEAR RATIOS (OVERALL) 2ND6.65
GEAR RATIOS (OVERALL) 3RD4.938
GEAR RATIOS (OVERALL) 4TH4
GEAR RATIOS (OVERALL) 5TH3.407
GEAR RATIOS (OVERALL) 6TH2.875
WHEELS, FRONT TYPE6Gloss Black Prodigy
WHEELS, REAR TYPEGloss Black Prodigy
BRAKES, CALIPER TYPE32 mm, 4-piston fixed front and rear
A combination of stiffly sprung modern motorcycles and old war wounds have many mature-aged riders searching for motorcycles with the most comfortable ride.
I’ve ridden a lot of different bikes over the years and what stands out is how soft old bikes were and how stiff modern bikes are.
This trend is to improve handling and cope with larger and heavier riders. However, it presents problems for riders who suffer from old motorcycle injuries or arthritis.
You could buy an old bike with sagging springs for a softer ride, but they handle poorly. The soft springs also mean you hit the bump stops which pounds your body every time you clout a reasonably sized bump or pothole. And isn’t that a too-frequent occurrence!
If you want a bike that handles yet still has a plush ride, there are some modern motorcycles that offer both.
But first let’s rule out bikes that are uncomfortable.
That means just about every over-sprung, under-damped Ducati and most sports bikes, except those special editions with uprated suspension from experts such as Ohlins, Sachs, Kayaba, etc.
It also means ruling out “slammed” cruisers such as many of Harley’s line-up, especially anything with the word “Lo” in the model name.
In fact, many cruisers that are considered comfortable have short rear springs that won’t save your spine if you hit a big bump.
Making a bike more comfortable
If you can’t find a comfy bike, get one with decent-length springs and fit better suspension with decent damping.