2021 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Revival Test: Touring the Deserts

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The name Electra Glide is iconic. “Bright One” in Greek, […]

The name Electra Glide is iconic. “Bright One” in Greek, the Electra name has magic, even if the legend it’s based on is a tragic one. Add in Glide, and you have the images of effortless travel down the highway with the wind in your face. Harley-Davidson Electra Glide rolls nicely off the tongue and inspires travel fantasies.

Electra Glide Revival Test: Price

When I first saw the 2021 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Revival, I was simply stunned. The styling of the new Revival grabbed my attention as securely as any motorcycle on the market. While I admire the look of the 1969 Electra Glide—the first year with the iconic batwing fairing—I don’t have much interest in riding one farther than around the block. In my experience, vintage bikes are to be seen and heard, rather than ridden—it helps them keep their mystique.

The new Revival improves on the comparatively clunky look of the ’69, and the difference in performance isn’t even debatable. It’s a motorcycle that makes me want to do a coast-to-coast run, enjoying the adulation of the motorcycle along the way. Yes, I know that no one is looking at me.

As it’s a limited run and the first of the new Harley-Davidson Icons Collection, I didn’t expect to get a ride on the Revival. Still, it never hurts to ask, and it turned out there was one in the Harley-Davidson fleet. Yes, I’ll take it, thank you very much.

Electra Glide Revival Test: MSRP

Part of the Electra Glide legend is the 1973 motion picture, Electra Glide In Blue. It stars Robert Blake, who picked up a Golden Globe Best Actor nomination for his portrayal of Arizona Highway Patrolman John Wintergreen in the movie.

I remember seeing ads for the movie as a kid. The tag line, “He’s a good cop on a big bike on a bad road,” didn’t entice me to see. I was into dirt bikes rather than touring rigs at that age—I didn’t even have a license. So, before taking delivery of the Electra Glide Revival, which is only available in blue, I streamed the movie.

What is pitched as something of an action film—stunts are performed by the legendary J.N. Roberts and Bud Ekins in the sole chase scene—is instead a classic 1970s counterculture film set in a desolate Arizona desert. It pits the corrupt establishment against mostly peaceful hippies and, well, I don’t want to reveal any spoilers, even 48 years later. If you like offbeat, check Electra Glide In Blue out.

Electra Glide Revival Test: Specs

Given time restraints, riding to the Atlantic Ocean and back was out. However, Electra Glide In Blue was set in the Arizona desert, giving me an excuse to visit my dad in Williams, Arizona. There’s no way to get there from here without crossing the desert—perfect.

Getting the Electra Glide Revival in late May meant one thing—it would be hot riding across the Colorado, Sonora, and Mojave Deserts, even if it was going to be pleasant in Williams’ high-mountain setting. That’s fine—I’ve been riding motorcycles in the desert my entire life, so the heat doesn’t bother me. Temps were looking to be in the mid-90s or so, which is totally manageable.

I’d need some appropriate gear, and the new Cortech Trans-Am vented leather jacket got my attention as perfect for the ride. It has a vintage look with patches, racing stripes, and quilted padding, so it looks just right on the Electra Glide Revival. The Associate gloves and The Ventura jeans by Cortech matched up nicely. I had some Harley-Davidson Tremont riding shoes in the closet—much better across the desert than leather boots—and heat-friendly MP Magic 37.5 Tech Merino Wool socks. Fly Racing provided CE-rated back protection, and new Loop Experience Pro earplugs got the nod for hearing protection. The crowning piece, literally, of my ensemble is the Bell Bullitt helmet—pure 1960s full-face styling, but with modern safety capabilities. Finally, a pair of Fatheadz Big Daddy shades kept the sun from frying my eyes. All set.

Electra Glide Revival Test: Photos

The route was straightforward, given I was riding 450 miles in a day. Interstate 10 took me east into Arizona, where I split off on U.S. Route 60. Arizona State Routes 71 and 89 took me north to I-40 for a short eastward run into Williams.

The night before I left, I had a couple of anxiety dreams related to the seat height of the Revival—it’s more than four inches higher than the Electra Glide Standard. It was completely irrational, of course, but we can’t manipulate our dreams. Actually, there ended up being a bit of a problem with the seat position, and I’ll get into that later.

I was expecting to use the built-in Apple CarPlay function on the trip. However, you need dongles to make that work, so I plugged my iPhone 7 into the USB port in the barely-big-enough fairing cubby hole. That allows some connectivity, though no CarPlay.

I wanted to use a modern Bluetooth intercom device, should I feel the desire to listen to music on the way—I usually don’t. My 1969 album playlist was all set: Green River by Creedence Clearwater Revival, Let It Bleed by The Rolling Stones, The Stooges, The Velvet Underground, Kick Out The Jams by the MC5, In the Court of the Crimson King by King Crimson, and Tommy by The Who. Unfortunately, the Bell Bullitt is not amenable to mounting any sort of intercom unit I had on hand, so I was going to have to go with the Revival’s sound system—or so I thought.

Leaving from LA is uneventful—it is early, and I am going against traffic. Although I’m not caught in any massive traffic jams, there are always plenty of cars on Southern California freeways if it’s daylight. The Revival easily maneuvers through them, allowing me to make good time despite varying congestion levels. Everything is off to a great start.

My first stop is Redlands for gas. From there, I can make it to the less expensive fuel in Arizona on the next gas stop. As I pull off the Bell, my Loop earplugs fall to the ground. I pick one up and it is oily; the other one has bounced off into oblivion, never to be found. Read my review of the Loop Experience Pro earplugs—the problem was new-user error. As I was using the Loops for the first time, I had wisely packed my trusty Ear Peace M earplugs as a backup. In they go.

I unscrew the Revival’s gas cap, set it on the top of the 76 station pump, and start filling up its five-gallon tank. A delivery man walks over to admire the bike and ask questions. If you ride the Revival, get used to it—it happens all the time. With the tank filled, I head for the desert. On a roll, I skip the photo op of the Cabazon Dinosaurs—kitschy and clichéd, but still worth a look from the Interstate as I ride by.

The mid-morning heat has arrived as I drop down into the low desert via the San Gorgonio Pass. While it’s not intolerable, it also can’t be ignored. I pull off at Indian Canyon Drive for a bottle of water and the obligatory photos of the Revival backed by the San Gorgonio Pass wind farm’s iconic turbines.

Back on I-10, my next eastbound destination is Desert Center—population 216. It’s getting hotter as the sun heads toward its apogee, and the hot wind is blasting by me at about 85 mph or so. I’m hardly the fastest vehicle on the road as the temperatures creep into the 90s—sometimes my speed does, too.

Electra Glide Revival Test: Desert Center

When climbing up long inclines at extralegal speeds, I notice that my right calf is getting hot—really hot, as in, “Ouch!” hot. I reposition my leg on the floorboards when I get that stinging, burning feeling to keep it away from the rear cylinder valve cover. I’m pushing things, definitely—high speeds and high temperatures up steep grades.

While the name Desert Center sounds important, it’s now a ghost town, with only a Caltrans yard and United States Post Office operating. The gas stations, restaurants, and markets are all closed and deteriorating. It’s a can’t-miss stop on my ride, and out comes the Sony α6000 for a few shots.

I continue my relentless march to the Colorado River, which serves as the California/Arizona border. An unassuming bridge connects the two states.

My first Arizona stop is Ehrenberg’s Flying J Travel Center, leaving the masks, low speed limits, and high fuel prices of California behind me. I open up the lid covering the fuel cap and realize something very quickly. The Revival’s fuel cap is in Redlands, still sitting on the pump.

Okay, so I fill the tank up, not quite to the brim, and try to figure out if I’ll see a Harley-Davidson dealer along the way—I won’t. It’s not the end of the world, as the hinged outer cover is still there.

Back on I-10, with the intuitive cruise control engaged, I decided it’s time to tap into the playlist and check out the Revival’s sound system. I fire up Spotify, and I don’t hear anything. I crank the volume all the way up—nothing. Songs show up on the TFT display, and the volume is shown as being at 10. However, I don’t hear a peep out of the speakers.

It’s not a tragedy, as I enjoy the sound of the Milwaukee-Eight 117 and the wind. I am glad that I had the EarPeace earplugs in, though. While the Bell Bullitt is a stylish helmet—one that I primarily use on urban rides—it is extremely noisy at highway speeds. Even with the earplugs, the ride is far from quiet.

I’m starting to get hungry by this time, so I’m keeping my eyes open as I transition eastbound onto U.S. Route 60. I pass by a few restaurants—all closed midday during the week—or at least they looked closed. I’m not going to stop and knock on the door of each one.

Before I enter Salome, I spot a NAPA Auto & Truck Parts store hiding behind a large AmeriGas propane tank. I pull up, walk in, hot and sweaty with my helmet off, and am greeted with smiling bare faces. I explain that the Revival needs a gas tank cap. They look at the inventory, and, indeed, they have a Harley-Davidson gas cap in stock. However, it’s the wrong kind and doesn’t fit.

The gentlemen come out to eyeball the opening and see if they have something that will work. As expected, they’re impressed by the Revival. I don’t blame them. A couple of guys from Growers Oil Co. next door join in the inspection. I explain that I’m riding from LA to Williams to see my dad; I can feel their friendly envy, though they were clearly a bit disappointed that it’s a new bike and not a nicely restored ’69. In the meantime, one of the NAPA guys goes back in and returns with a cap for some model of Chevrolet automobile. Yep, it fits. Ten dollars later, I’m on my way.

Soon, I’m on Arizona Route 71, which takes me northeast to Congress. Happily, no politicians were to be seen, and I fill up at the surprisingly busy Shell station, where 71 dead-ends into Arizona Route 89.

Once on Route 89, the mountain ranges of Yavapai County beckon, making the ride to Prescott a highlight. After the initial fast and twisting climb into Yarnell—which the Revival made short work of—temperatures dropped into the 70s. From Yarnell, it’s a relatively straight and unobstructed run through Peeples Valley, though I’ve been told to keep an eye out for John Wintergreen’s successors.

I’m getting hungrier as I go. I’m disappointed to see the Ranch House At Yarnell and T-Bird Café closed. I’m starting to think I won’t be eating until I get to Williams.

As Route 89 heads north out of Wilhoit, the road tightens up—we’re talking lots of tight corners and few straightaways for passing dawdlers. Fortunately, the road is lightly populated, and I only have to go on the left side of the double-yellow a few times. Pulling over doesn’t seem to be in the blood of Arizonans.

The tall seat height does make a difference when cornering the Revival at lower speeds. It’s a bit top-heavy with my weight so high, so it drops into corners and requires some muscle to get back upright. Still, I fall into a pleasant rhythm, and this nicely paved road is a delightful challenge. Scraping is minimal, and I’m not holding anyone up—I waved two guys on sportbikes by.

The white-walled Harley-Davidson branded Dunlops on 16-inch wire-spoked wheels are flawless, and the triple 300mm discs are intuitive to initiate. The Harley-Davidson RDRS Safety Enhancements electronics suite is presumedly doing its job completely transparently.

I’m thinking that Prescott is my last shot at food. However, the downtown is a teeming tourist trap, and I’m not in any mood to deal with crowds or parking the Revival in a place where I can keep my eye on it. Even though my stomach was noticeably empty, the enjoyment of the ride far exceeded the power of any hunger pangs.

Keep in mind that almost ten years ago, I rode a Harley-Davidson Switchback 950 miles from Park City, Utah, to Los Angeles without stopping for so much as a snack. Once I get going, I’m difficult to stop.

Passing through Prescott, I decide it’s time to rethink the music option. I turn on the sound system, and music flows from the speakers! However, the music isn’t particularly loud, as I have a helmet on and earplugs in. Subsequent sound checks on the open highway reveal that, if I put my head close to the speakers, I can hear them. Even though I’m in Arizona, I’m not tempted to give it a shot without earplugs and a helmet. If you want a loud system, check into a Rockford-Fosgate upgrade.

When Route 89 returns to highway status north of Prescott, I settle in for the last part of the ride. Then, while passing through the well-populated town of Chino Valley, a little shack catches my eye. I ride past Pepperjacks of Chino Valley, and quickly make the decision to turn around. It’s a little indie burger place—frequently a good choice. Time to eat.

I walk up to the window and order a #3—Western Bacon Cheeseburger—and a chocolate milkshake. It takes a bit of time to cook, and I field questions from a couple of guys waiting for their food. Wherever I stop, the 2021 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Revival is the center of attention.

Electra Glide Revival Test: Route 66

The burger arrives, and my expectations are exceeded. It’s a handmade burger with freshly cooked bacon, and it is tasty. The shake is the fitting accompaniment on a warm day. There’s a reason Pepperjacks has 4.6 stars on 388 Google Maps reviews. The Revival didn’t even have a problem navigating the long gravel parking lot.

Hitting Route 89 again toward I-40 at Ash Fork, the Revival gets another chance to stretch its legs. Yeah, I’m forgetting about the Arizona Highway Patrol, figuring that they must have something better to do on a weekday afternoon than worry about how fast I’m riding a motorcycle. Along the way, I see their interest in an automobile-bound motorist, so I back it down a notch or two for a few miles.

I head eastbound at the deserted intersection of State Route 89 and Interstate 40, and it just takes a few minutes to ride the 15 miles to my dad’s exit on the west side of Williams. He’s waiting for me, as I sent him a Glympse so he can trace my progress. Yeah, I know, surveillance capitalism at work—it’s free, and I’m the product.

Williams was the last Arizona town on Route 66 to get bypassed when Interstate 40 was built. Known as the Gateway to the Grand Canyon—a registered trademark, no less—Williams has prospered despite the loss of Route 66 traffic. Although the downtown has suffered from the COVID-19 restrictions, there are still many thriving Route 66 themed businesses. It’s a friendly town of 3,288 people.

Riding around town, the Electra Glide Revival gets plenty of stares. People probably think that it’s another tourist attraction, as it is period-appropriate for Williams’ downtown. While stopped for a photo, a guy walks up and starts asking questions. He tells me he has a Road King on order, but looking at the Revival, he’s having second thoughts. His main concern seemed to be convincing his wife to okay the additional cost.

My dad, a former Harley-Davidson owner, is suitably impressed by the Revival. A good friend of his comes over to ooh and aah the bike, which looks great in my dad’s roomy garage. The blue paint, plus the faux fiberglass paint on the fairing and bags, looks fantastic from any angle, from far away to up-close.

It’s a common complaint of mine that travel stories often give the return portion the short shrift. This story won’t be much different. A big reason is that the temperatures have ratcheted up. My main goal is to get home as quickly as possible, and that means more Interstate slab time than carving up backroads—or so I thought.

Although it’s in the 40s when I leave Williams—elevation 6765 feet—it’s getting warm by the time I hit Kingman. There, my base layer comes off as it’s about 80. It doesn’t take long to hit 100 degrees well before noon in the charmingly named Needles, California. I always enjoy crossing the Colorado River on I-40. The highway bridge isn’t much to look at, but to the south is an interesting suspension bridge for a pipeline, and there’s an impressive trestle bridge for the railroad to the north.

From the Colorado River, it’s a long climb to Barstow, with a series of peaks and valleys to traverse. You’re pretty much always going downhill or uphill. The Milwaukee-Eight 117 makes short work of the grades, though my right calf is getting burned by the rear valve cover again on the uphill portion. I’m learning to keep my leg out, but not quickly enough.

A ride on Interstate 40 isn’t complete without a side trip on the National Trails Highway—the lightly signed San Bernardino County Route 66—to Amboy and the iconic mid-century modern Roy’s Motel and Cafe sign on old U.S. Route 66 in Amboy. It is nice to escape the Interstate drone and replace it with higher speeds on a lightly patrolled two-lane highway. Besides Roy’s, a highlight is getting a wave from an engineer on a train running the tracks that parallel the road.

Electra Glide Revival Test: Roy's Motel and Cafe

Gassing up in Barstow, I pass on Interstate 15. Instead, it’s off to another Route 66 relic—a stretch of National Trails Highway that arcs to the west to connect Barstow and Victorville. It retains the rough rural desert feel of the 1900s, and is worth a detour if you have the time. Yes, the thermometer is still camped out in the 90s.

I cut over to Adelanto on Air Expressway—a road I have somehow never been on. Next up is a short ride down U.S. Route 395 to pick up California Highways 18 and 138 for a sprint across the desert on the north side of the San Gabriel Mountains.

On the way, a bit of traffic causes me to explore for a shortcut before I make it to the 18. That ends up with me negotiating the Electra Glide Revival down a dirt road for a while near the obscure Adelanto Airport Residential Airpark. Although no Pan America, the Revival was fine on the high-quality dirt road.

The 18 and 138 are fast two-lane roads, with plenty of truck traffic in your face, regardless of the direction you’re traveling. Getting hit with the windblast of semis with approaching speeds of 150 mph refuses to shake the Revival’s confidence. The latest Harley-Davidson Grand America Touring platform, as it is now called, is as stable as you like.

A sensible rider this close to home jumps on the Antelope Valley Freeway (California Highway 14) and quickly finishes the long ride. However, after so much time spent with the bike fully upright, I can’t resist Soledad Canyon Road, a twisting two-lane ribbon that shadows Highway 14 to the south.

Two 450-mile rides in high temperatures were a hearty test of the 2021 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Revival. It’s a wonderful motorcycle, and that showcase seat doesn’t just look good—it’s incredibly comfortable. A fully integrated wireless infotainment system would be nice, and I did manage several second-degree burns on my calf due to a confluence of factors, but otherwise, the Revival is flawless.

Harley-Davidson President and CEO Jochen Zeitz is hoping to revive the fortunes of The Motor Company, and motorcycles like this are a decisive step in the right direction—the Era of the Big V-Twin isn’t over yet.

Action photography by Kelly Callan

Travel photography by Don Williams

RIDING STYLE

2021 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Revival Specs

ENGINE

  • Motor: Milwaukee-Eight 114 V-twin
  • Bore x stroke: 4.016” x 4.5”
  • Displacement: 114 cubic inches (1868cc)
  • Maximum power: 97 horsepower @ 5020 rpm
  • Maximum torque: 118 ft-lbs @ 3250 rpm
  • Compression ratio: 10.5:1
  • Cooling: Air
  • Lubrication: Dry sump
  • Transmission: 6-speed Cruise Drive
  • Clutch: Hydraulically actuated w/ assist-and-slip functions
  • Primary drive: Chain
  • Final drive: Belt

CHASSIS

  • Frame: Mild tubular steel w/ two-piece stamped and welded backbone
  • Front suspension; travel: Non-adjustable Showa 49mm Dual Bending Valve fork; 4.6 inches
  • Rear suspension: Spring-preload adjustable shocks; 2.2 inches
  • Wheels: Wire-spoke
  • Front wheel: 17 x 3.00
  • Rear wheel: 16 x 5.00
  • Front tire: 130/80 x 17; Dunlop Harley-Davidson Series D402F
  • Rear tire: 180/65-16; Dunlop Harley-Davidson Series D407T
  • Front brakes: 300mm floating discs w/ 4-piston calipers
  • Rear brake: 300mm fixed disc w/ 4-piston caliper
  • ABS: Cornering-aware

DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES

  • Wheelbase: 64 inches
  • Seat height: 30.9 inches
  • Rake: 26 degrees
  • Fork angle: 29.25 degrees
  • Trail: 6.8 inches
  • Fuel capacity: 6 gallons
  • Estimated fuel consumption: 43 mpg
  • Curb weight: 862 pounds
  • Color: Hi-Fi Blue/Birch White/Black Denim

2021 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Revival Price: $29,199

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