As we lean into an impossibly long, high-speed sweeper on the outskirts of the Ocala National Forest, I realize I was thankful for two things: One, that we’d actually found one of the few decently radiused turns in Florida, and, two, the bike I was riding was a stout and highly capable tourer—but one unvarnished with frippery and fandanglery. A bike where you just turned the ignition on, thumbed the starter, and whacked the throttle. Nothing else to it. No hard drive to boot, no waypoints to plug in, no Bluetooth to connect.
The ride was free, elemental, just the wind in your face, the soul-stirring prattle of the super-smooth Milwaukee-Eight engine underneath, and a couple of analog gauges on the dash to occupy your lower horizon. Nothing to distract from the simple act of movement, of pushing through air. Even the machine itself seemed eager, unencumbered, better equipped to hit the next apex, sans the cyber baggage of the modern world. But that’s just my psychosomatic projection. Had I chugged too much of the H-D Kool-Aid?
The model I’m riding is Harley’s new Electra Glide Standard, which weighs all of 9 pounds less than the stablemate it’ll likely be most compared to, the Street Glide, but might be a ton away from it in attitude. The Standard’s diet consists basically of losing the Street’s infotainment system and other electronics, but the EGS is different than its more expensive cousin in other ways too.
Obviously, it costs less—$18,999 to start versus the Street Glide’s $21,289 or the Electra Glide Ultra’s $24,589. It’s less lavishly appointed, and while we’re at it, let’s call it less intimidating. There’s nothing at all flashy about the EGS. This is no-nonsense, meat-and-potatoes touring on a drama-free bagger. The seat is solo, and it sits lower. There’s no audio, no passenger pegs (though you can add them later), and just hints of chrome. The only paint option is black. The standard powerplant is the Milwaukee-Eight 107. In a nutshell, the Electra Glide Standard is your Street Glide Lite, or the non-alcoholic equivalent of the Electra Glide Ultra Classic, if the EGUC was beer. Which is not to say the Standard has no kick; it just doesn’t have all the added baggage.
The Electra Glide Standard ditches the Boom infotainment system and its accompanying speakers, deletes the Tour-Pak and opts for a 17-inch wheel up front (same as on the Electra Glide Ultra). There’s no standard ABS (though it is an option); you won’t even find a USB plug in the glove box, which now occupies the space the Boom system used to live in. There are only foam covers over the speaker holes, so clearly there’s space to add aftermarket audio to the bike if you want, and a Tour-Pak can be clipped on too, provided you pony up for the requisite mounting brackets. All that can add up quickly.
Mid-year releases aren’t meant to showcase bold new designs, and the unassuming Electra Glide Standard is the perfect example. You’ll be able to distinguish it from its other Touring brothers, but squinting is in order; the most noticeable visual cue is the clean, doodad-free front fender covering a 17-inch Impeller wheel, though you get your recommended daily allowance of bling from the chrome fork skirts and a similarly shiny fork brace that mounts the front turn signals. The batwing fairing and chopped windshield combo solidifies the brand recognition, with the wind-tunnel-tested unit still housing a lone halogen headlight and Harley’s “slipstream” vents directly above it to shunt incoming air behind the glass.
The mirrors, though, reside on lower-rent stalks rather than being cleanly mounting directly to the fairing as on the up-spec Touring models. Then there are carefully placed chrome accents and a trio of chrome rocker, cam, and derby covers, meant to “add a dose of nostalgia that draws a through-line all the way back to the first Electra Glide,” according to Harley-Davidson’s Vice President of Styling & Design Brad Richards. Solidifying the minimal theme are choice blacked-out components to provide contrast.
Spoiler alert: This isn’t the first Electra Glide Standard. The model was touted as a no-nonsense tourer when it appeared as a new model back in 2007. Of course back then it was rocking the Twin Cam 96 engine and air-adjustable suspension, but no cruise control. But “we felt the Street Glide cannibalized it,” Harley PR Manager Paul James says. “It was very basic…a good platform for customization. (The Standard)…is returning now because we see the need for a light-duty touring motorcycle with a batwing fairing. Then we have some younger customers who are minimalist. And some who are more frugal. And we thought it was important to hit that $19K price point.”
Which makes sense—especially the minimalist part. I try to think of what other major manufacturer makes a stripped-down (read: not luxury) but full fairing V-twin bagger, and other than Indian or Kawasaki (not really Yamaha), I come up with zilch (and arguably, those others aren’t really “stripped down” anyway).
Further differences reveal themselves on the ride, especially as we pick up the pace on one of Florida’s notoriously straight stretches of swamp road. Lounging out on the spacious floorboards, planted in the cushy, dished solo seat, I thought it all so familiar. Running the show is the same torque-rich M-8 engine I’ve flogged in so many other models, probably the smoothest and most accessible mill to come out of Milwaukee. One-button cruise control is over here on the left grip, the batwing upfront swatting aside pigeon-size bugs—yet I could feel something was missing.
The first disconnect came when I stomped my heel down for a shift and came up empty; there’s no heel-toe-shifter, just a straight one-arm unit. Inside the fairing, a row of four analog gauges line up to deliver crucial info along with a handful of indicator lights, but that’s it—no LED screens, no color touch display, no Christmas lights. That gaping glove box kept staring me in the face, and with the shorter, fatter front tire, turn-ins require a bit more effort than on the Street Glide, but the Standard also feels more planted.
On Florida’s arrow-straight asphalt though, all these things are barely noticeable. The Standard tracks as steadily as a rock, and with steering-head geometry at 26 degrees of rake and a healthy 6.8 inches of trail (same as the Street and the Ultra) there’s stability for days, even at highway speeds. With the Showa Dual Bending Valve nestled in the fork, ride quality is plush for an 820-pound machine cruising on the Gator State’s sometimes sketchy back roads, and even the dual emulsion shocks, with only 2.15 inches of travel to give, take reasonable care of the rear end. Even better is the fact that the left shock is equipped with a handwheel so you can dial in easy preload adjustments without tools (though you’ll have to remove the left saddlebag to get in there). Removing the bag also better reveals the fairly big gaps between the saddlebags and the back end—which have fillers on the higher-spec Street Glide. The full rear fender carries the usual whiskerbar for the turn signals, and those reflectors on the back of the saddlebags? No worries; we’re told they’re easily removed.
By the time we hit Gator Joe’s in Ocklawaha for lunch, the standardness of the Standard makes complete sense to me, particularly as a base model that’s been missing from H-D’s Touring lineup for a while now. Much as I liked the Boom! Box audio system on the models I’ve ridden, there’s just no way I’d tapped into even 50 percent of its potential functionality, nor did I really want to. But that’s the Luddite in me—lots of riders like having the electronic safety blanket wrapped around them en route. Want something to pinch or swipe? There’s probably a vulture-size bug on the windshield if you’re riding in Florida, so have at it.
The user-friendly rear suspension makes sense on the EGS too, as it needs less fiddling than air shocks. And even though they’re the same Premium Low Height units as on the Street Glide, the Standard actually has a lower effective seat height. With standard cruise control, standard H-D security, better than average suspension components both front and rear, and an excellent triple disc Brembo brake setup, the Electra Glide Standard makes a compelling case for starting out simple and adding as you go. With its emphasis on the “raw riding experience” I have no doubt it’ll appeal to a select group of riders looking for that very same touchscreen-free, blissfully Bluetooth-less touring vibe. I can relate.
As we settle down to some tasty gator tail (“made from locally caught alligator, slowly marinated and deliciously fried to a golden brown,” Joe says) at lunch overlooking muddy Lake Weir, I realize two things. One: The Electra Glide Standard is not a “beginner bike,” but a starting point. There’s nothing new about it, but having the lowest price in Harley’s Touring line will definitely get people in the door, especially if they won’t be buying stuff they don’t need. Does Harley want to sell you more accessories or point you to a more expensive model once you’re in that door? Of course. But you gotta start somewhere. Oh, the second thing I realized? It’s that gator tastes like chicken.