The Pan America adventure bike is joining the Harley-Davidson lineup soon. But for now, the vast majority of the brand’s sales come from cruiser motorcycles. And while companies like Royal Enfield are getting into the segment, Harley’s bikes are typically the standard. In fact, Popular Mechanics considers the 2020 Harley-Davidson Street Glide the best cruiser on the market. However, is it really?
Why the 2020 Harley-Davidson Street Glide is Popular Mechanics’ best cruiser
Popular Mechanics acknowledges that its choice for best cruiser motorcycle, the Harley-Davidson Street Glide, is partly based on emotional appeal. However, the bike offers more than just that.
The base $21,999 2020 Harley-Davidson Street Glide has a 1746cc V-twin that makes 104 lb-ft and 78 hp at the rear wheel on Cycle World’s dyno. Officially, the V-twin makes 110 lb-ft at the crank. Based on the dyno results, that means it makes roughly 83 hp.
But the Harley-Davidson Street Glide offers more than just its engine. It has a full fairing with a windscreen, locking hard bags, and, for 2020, standard ABS on its Brembo brakes, Cycle World reports. The bagger also features a Boom!Box infotainment system with Bluetooth, a USB port, navigation, and 2 speakers. Plus, standard cruise control.
There are more-powerful Special and CVO models, but you don’t need the extra output to enjoy the Harley-Davidson Street Glide. It rides comfortably, Cycle World reports, and the fairing provides good wind protection. The V-twin also provides good low-end torque, making low-speed riding and sudden acceleration a breeze.
Tall individuals, though, may find the windscreen a bit inadequate, Roadshow reports. Plus, at 829 pounds, this cruiser motorcycle is fairly heavy. Riding it is made easier with the optional RDRS package, which adds TPMS, linked braking, traction control, a slipper clutch, and upgraded ABS, Cycle World reports. But it’s an extra $995.
Other Popular Mechanics cruiser motorcycle recommendations
A cruiser motorcycle doesn’t have to be expensive.
If you’re OK without the fairing and hard-sided bags, Popular Mechanics also recommends the Indian Scout Sixty. At 544 pounds, it’s significantly lighter than the Harley-Davidson Street Glide. And while it doesn’t have all of the larger bike’s features, $9799 gets you a cruiser motorcycle with ABS and a 78-hp 1000cc V-twin.
Or, if you want some more performance, you can get the $12,399 Indian Scout with ABS. It weighs just 17 pounds more, but it has a 6-speed, rather than a 5-speed transmission. Plus, its 1133cc V-twin makes 100 hp and 72 lb-ft.
A closer rival to the Harley-Davidson Street Glide is the Indian Challenger. The latest model costs $1000 more than the Street Glide. However, its 1768cc V-twin makes 122 hp and 129 lb-ft, Cycle World reports. Plus, the Challenger weighs roughly the same as the Street Glide.
The 2020 Indian Challenger’s features mirror the ones on the Harley-Davidson Street Glide. The Indian has cruise control, locking hard-sided saddlebags, and touchscreen infotainment. Navigation isn’t standard on the 2020 base model, but ABS is. The bagger also comes with multiple riding modes, as well as keyless ignition and an electronically-adjustable windscreen. Which, Cycle World notes, prevents some of the buffeting the Street Glide rider sometimes experiences.
The ‘alternative’ alternative
Popular Mechanics’ final alternative is the Honda Gold Wing, which, while an excellent touring motorcycle, isn’t a cruiser. But, if that’s what you’re after, the Gold Wing has one big advantage over the Harley-Davidson Street Glide: it offers an optional dual-clutch automatic.
But there is another cruiser potentially worth considering over the Harley-Davidson Street Glide: the 2021 BMW R 18 Classic. It doesn’t have the Street Glide’s full fairing, though it does have a windshield. But it does have saddlebags, ABS, multiple riding modes, cruise control, and a less-maintenance-heavy shaft-drive engine, Cycle World reports. Plus, the base model starts at $19,495.
At 805 pounds, it’s slightly lighter than the Street Glide. Plus, the BMW R 18 Classic’s 1802cc flat-twin makes 91 hp and 116 lb-ft. And if you want, you can get it with a reverse gear. However, it lacks both an infotainment and an audio system.
Which is the better buy for you?
Ultimately, the best way to decide between these cruiser motorcycles is to ride them. Whichever one you feel most comfortable on is the one to get.
If you’re fairly new to the segment, the heavier Harley-Davidson Street Glide, Indian Challenger, and BMW R 18 likely won’t be for you. And going with the Indian Scout or its Harley-Davidson Sportster rival means saving a lot of cash.
However, if you’re comfortable with the extra weight, the baggers offer plenty of on-road comfort and amenities. But if you want amenities like a radio or built-in navigation, that’s something the BMW doesn’t offer.
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