I've always been a sucker for H-D's convertible concept, even if none of the models that rolled with that feature set ever resonated with consumers over the years. The CVO Convertible came and went, and the Switchback wasn't long for this world either. You'd think the idea of having two (or more) bikes wrapped into one is pretty dang appealing—except that the end result usually gets bogged down in a bundle of compromises that doesn't do any one thing particularly well.

But here I am, staring a 2019 Sport Glide in the face. It'll be my long-term bike for a couple of months and even though I'm cautious, I'm hopeful. For one thing, even at first glance, it's way better looking than the sacrificial lambs that came before it (which leads me to wonder, how did the Dyna Switchback manage to look so uptight?). And even though this is not a brand-new model—the Sport Glide came out last year as a mid-year 2018 model but is unchanged for 2019—the SG is an up-to-date, sleek, and obviously cohesive design with modern flair, though it still manages to roll in some classic touches.

2019 Harley-Davidson Sport Glide on road in front of bushes.
The long, low profile is punctuated with removable bags at the rear and a distinctive mini batwing fairing and Mantis wheel up front.Mirifoto

For one, it’s got that long, low, semi-lean silhouette that’s kicked out a bit (a 30-degree rake), a hint of Super Glide merged with Low Rider capped by a massively shrunken “batwing-inspired” fairing (says Harley) and a couple of low-profile saddlebags. The seat height is a handy 26.5 inches off the ground, and if that’s not low enough for ya, the Sport Glide also boasts a narrowed primary drive and exhaust to make it easier on shorter-legged riders. There are chrome and blacked-out highlights woven throughout, especially on the 2-into-1 exhaust system and throughout the engine bay, for a good-looking balance of light and dark. But it’s the bags and fairing that define the Sport Glide’s mission statement here—a light-duty touring bike that can quickly and easily be converted to a naked cruiser. The storage and wind protection tees up the “touring” part of that formula, and both pop off literally (and toollessly) in under two minutes as well. The problem is, they also adhere to the “light-duty” part of the phrase, but we’ll get to that later.

2019 Harley-Davidson Sport Glide fairing removed.
Click two latches, pull up and bam! Off with the fairing, simple as that.Mirifoto

Another plus is the powerplant—that crazy-smooth and super-grunty Milwaukee-Eight 107-inch engine (there’s no 114-inch option here) again nestled in the updated Softail chassis. Having ridden most of the revamped Softail line at this point, we’re big fans of both the engine and the stiffened frame, and in this application, they positively shine. (We picked up the Sport Glide from the fleet center and promptly put 1,000 miles on it.) Other carry-over Softail bits include an LED headlight up front and the H-D Security System and keyless ignition.

Up front you get a big beautiful, angle-spoked 18-inch wheel, which Harley dubs “Mantis” and, with only one disc taking up braking duties on the left side, that wheel is displayed to full effect. We weren’t thrilled to see a single disc on anything with “sport” in the name, but we’ll grudgingly admit the four-piston caliper does a pretty good job mashing on that 300mm disc and slowing its roll, plus ABS is standard. Holding that front wheel is the only other inverted fork in the Softail line, but unlike the Fat Bob’s, this 43mm unit holds the single cartridge internals, not the Showa Dual Bending Valve, plus it’s a bit longer. The Sport Glide also gets the preload-adjustable monoshock that you can handily dial in via an external handwheel on the right side (though the actual shock is the shorter 3.4-inch-travel Softail version). We had no issues with bump absorption front or rear, though we really didn’t wander off into any seriously rough stuff either.

2019 Harley-Davidson Sport Glide Softail monoshock.
The Sport Glide gets the lower version of the Softail monoshock, but it’s generally up to handling regular size bumps, and easily adjustable via an external dial.Mirifoto

Ergos are more typically cruiser-slouch than upright touring, with forward controls to splay your legs out on and a bar that’s pretty wide but also pretty low. Even with the low seat and forward controls, the riding position is fairly neutral, though I’d prefer something that pulled back a bit more and perhaps an inch higher (though that would likely interfere with the detachable fairing design), but that’s just a personal observation. The saddlebags are made of rigid nylon/plastic so they do give a bit, to the point where you might call them flimsy if you really overstuffed them. You’ll have trouble even fitting an open-face helmet, but I had plenty of room for a weekend’s worth of clothes and supplies, and the 5-gallon tank too, is good for more than 200 miles between fill-ups, so the touring chops (however slim) are there.

2019 Harley-Davidson Sport Glide driving down road.
Ergos are generally neutral and everything falls into place naturally, though you will find yourself in a cruiser slouch thanks to the forward controls and low handlebar.Mirifoto

On the road over the course of nearly 1,100 miles, the Milwaukee-Eight was bulletproof, delivering great power and tons of low-end torque, almost from idle (peak torque comes at 2,990 rpm). This thing will pull you along without complaint, even fully loaded and on high-speed sweepers it was nothing but rock-solid. Getting into the tighter twisties woke me up a bit though; while lean angle is mostly adequate (28 degrees) it’s less forgiving on the right side and I got caught out more than once dragging my boot heels in the turns. But the handling is so intuitive that I really got to know the bike and its capabilities within hours of saddling up, so adjustments were easy and the Sport Glide responded to my inputs without bitching even midcorner and at speed. It was mostly me doing the bitching.

2019 Harley-Davidson Sport Glide with M-8 107 powerplant.
Smooth and grunty and more than capable of long-haul cruising, the M-8 107 powerplant fits both the size and intent of the Sport Glide.Mirifoto

With more than 78.2 hp and 105.5 pound-feet of torque as measured on our dyno the Milwaukee-Eight in this configuration is the right mill for the job, and so far I've got no reason to go tearing the thing apart in search of extra ponies. Fueling, likewise, is like silk, with no hiccups or lean spots. There's a little hesitation off idle but, as it stands, the Sport Glide will take off like a scalded cat if you slam the throttle hard enough.

What I would—and will—change is the fairing on the Sport Glide. As lovely and flowing as that piece of plastic looks, it does exactly squat to protect you from the wind (or the rain, which I got plenty of) which strikes me as a pretty important consideration for touring, even of the light-duty variety. It’s really more of a cowling, so I’ll be looking for a taller replacement pronto.

2019 Harley-Davidson Sport Glide without fairing on road in front of trees.
The batwing DNA is undeniable, but in stock form the fairing serves only to keep gusts off your abdominals. If you want to really tour, think about switching it out.Mirifoto

So while you can’t really call the Sport Glide a sport cruiser, you can still definitely bomb around on it—even if it’s 699 pounds fully fueled. The fairly steep price tag of $18,649 is offputting, but we’re stoked to see this better execution of the convertible concept. The bike’s got potential to be a true (or better) tourer, which we’ll try to address over the coming weeks too. Stay tuned.

2019 Harley-Davidson Sport Glide hard nylon/plastic bags.
The hard nylon/plastic bags offer structure, but they’re also a bit flexy. They do hold a decent amount of gear though, come off easily, and are lockable.Mirifoto
2019 Harley-Davidson Sport Glide cruise control, ABS and keyless ignition.
On the Sport Glide, cruise control comes standard, which is a huge help on long hauls. ABS and keyless ignition is included too.Mirifoto
2019 Harley-Davidson Sport Glide 5-gallon tank.
Chrome won’t get you home, but this 5-gallon tank will. Gauge display is generally pretty legible but can be tricky to see at speed—you have to look down.Mirifoto
2019 Harley-Davidson Sport Glide 18-inch slant-spoke Mantis wheel
Harley designers wanted the new 18-inch slant-spoke Mantis wheel to be fully exposed and visible, which is part of the reason there’s only one brake disc (on the left side).Mirifoto
2019 Harley-Davidson Sport Glide without bags and fairing.
The Sport Glide in its naked, unadorned form, sans bags and fairing.Mirifoto