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A black 2023 Road Glide ST is shown riding on a highway.

The Dichotomous Performance Bagger: The 2023 Road Glide ST

Harley-Davidson has been in the business of defying convention for over a century, building two and three-wheeled powerhouses that force us to reevaluate our expectations in the saddle. Where so many bikes are engaging and potent, Harley-Davidson road hogs take that performance to the next level with their signature V-Twin rumbles and insatiable need for adventure. We see those characteristics firsthand in the 2023 Road Glide ST, a hot rod inspired by the King of the Baggers race series that, in true Harley-Davidson fashion, challenges convention.

A long-distance bagger destined for the track is contradictory by any account. Its large footprint, massive weight, and a long list of accouterments are the very things that make it a bagger. Why put it on the track? Harley-Davidson asks, “Why not?”

The King of the Baggers race series pits Harley-Davidson baggers against rivals from Indian. The unconventional race is so popular that demand for a street-worthy bagger with the heart of a racer skyrocketed, giving rise to the Road Glide ST. But what makes the Road Glide ST a performance bagger, and why are racing series like the King of the Baggers integral to the motorcycle industry?

a person is shown sitting on a black 2023 Road Glide ST.

A Performance Bagger: Unconventionality Redefined

The Harley-Davidson Road Glide is a Grand American Touring bike that serves as the benchmark in the segment, delivering the signature “potato potato potato” rumble expected of a Harley-Davidson V-Twin engine. That V-Twin is a Milwaukee-Eight 107 that produces 111 lb-ft of torque at 3,250 RPM and makes the 855-pound bike agile and responsive. That output is perfectly acceptable to most, but it doesn’t guarantee track-worthy performance, which was a problem for Harley-Davidson.

With the King of the Baggers race series reigniting interest in baggers, Harley-Davidson saw an opportunity to capitalize on that interest and build a street-savvy racer capable of going the distance. The 2023 Road Glide ST takes everything riders appreciate about the Road Glide as a gateway into the Grand American Touring lineup and makes it better and more potent. Think of it as the Road Glide leveled up.

The V-Twin Heartbeat

Harley-Davidson strips the Road Glide ST of a passenger seat and footpegs to reduce the bike’s weight, bringing the bike down to 842 pounds. While it’s still heavy compared to lightweight sport bikes, even a mere 13-pound diet does wonders. Harley-Davidson guarantees as much by outfitting the Road Glide ST with a beefier engine, the Milwaukee-Eight 117 V-Twin, which is the largest available in the manufacturer’s lineup. With a heavy breather intake and a high-flow exhaust, the Milwaukee-Eight 117 roars to life and delivers 127 lb-ft of torque at 3,750 RPM for pure thrills and incredible responsiveness. It begs to be unleashed, inspiring you to push the limits wherever you travel.

Lean Angle and Seat Height

When you think of a track-ready bike, most immediately envision a lightweight sport bike that is easy to maneuver. Its design makes it effortless to lean into corners, and its aggressive riding position gives you more control and better aerodynamics in the saddle. Nothing in this vision speaks to a bagger like the Road Glide ST, which is another way Harley-Davidson challenges us to think outside the box and imagine the once unimaginable.

The Road Glide ST is designed to maneuver at higher speeds despite its expansive and heavy footprint. It seems impossible to maneuver the behemoth, at least nimbly, but Harley-Davidson makes a few significant adjustments that heighten the performance bagger’s agility and handling as you push the envelope. We see this in the taller seat height, with Harley-Davidson raising the seat height to 26.7 inches on the Road Glide ST compared to 25.9 inches on the standard Road Glide. This taller seat improves the bike’s lean angle without compromising control and leaves plenty of room for the saddlebags expected of a bagger. The lean angles on the Road Glide are 31 degrees on the right and 29 degrees on the left, with the Road Glide ST angles measuring 32 degrees and 31 degrees, respectively.

The bike’s low center of gravity and upright riding position provide exceptional control over the bagger, making it easy to forget it weighs over 800 pounds. Instead, its agility shines, with the Milwaukee-Eight 117 V-Twin responding effortlessly with every twist of the throttle. The result is an extraordinary experience behind the handlebars that challenges every notion and expectation of how a Grand American Touring bike should perform.

A close-up of the engine in a 2023 Road Glide ST.

The King of the Baggers Race Series: A Lasting Impression

Would Harley-Davidson have developed a performance bagger like the 2023 Road Glide ST without a race series like the King of the Baggers? Eventually, yes. However, the significance of the King of the Baggers race series can’t and shouldn’t be ignored.

While it’s easy to say the King of the Baggers gave us the 2023 Road Glide ST, it’s done a lot more for the motorcycle industry. Automakers and motorcycle manufacturers thrive on competition, continuously working to outdo one another with better models that offer more power and innovative features. This healthy competition is vital for the industry’s evolution, whether it’s Ford and Chevrolet going head to head to build America’s favorite workhorse or Harley-Davidson and Indian competing to develop the ultimate two-wheeled powerhouse. These rivalries work in our favor.

This competition takes center stage with events like the King of the Baggers. The race series spotlights these rivalries and offers an entertainment value to viewers, but it also does something far more significant behind the scenes. The King of the Baggers race series inspires Harley-Davidson and its rivals to work harder and do more to exceed our expectations. With the world watching, Harley-Davidson pours more money into its facilities and teams to build bigger and better powerhouses worthy of the stage. The result is extraordinary, giving us performance baggers like the 2023 Road Glide ST.

Final Thoughts

The 2023 Road Glide ST gives everyday riders a chance to get in the saddle of a performance bagger that encourages them to lean into corners and test the limits of speed. It’s the culmination of years of ingenuity and finetuning. It also showcases what so many love and appreciate the most about Harley-Davidson, the manufacturer’s ability to think outside the box and defy convention.

By every account, the Road Glide ST deserves its time in the spotlight as a performance bagger that can handle long-distance adventures and a trip around the track or through the twisties. But there’s something more to consider and appreciate about the bike: what it says about the future of the industry. The Road Glide ST is a high-performance spinoff of the popular Road Glide, which confirms there’s always room for improvement and ingenuity, even in the bikes that have become cornerstones in the Harley-Davidson fleet.

The Road Glide ST marks another chapter for Harley-Davidson that promises more extraordinary performance and handling. With the King of the Baggers race series inspiring this performance, we see Harley-Davidson return to the drawing board and rekindle its ingenuity to satiate our needs and demands as riders. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship that draws more eyes to the Harley-Davidson lineup and gives us powerhouses like the 2023 Road Glide ST that defy the odds and deliver pure excitement in the saddle.

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