With or Without: How are you fairing?

bikesWe must be hanging around with too many riders who own the full-fledged Harley touring bikes as I’m starting to have faring envy.

In the spirit of full disclosure, other than my first Honda street bike — a 1977 550F Super Sport –every other street bike that I owned up and until my last Honda – a 1998 CBR1100XX Super Blackbird – and both of our BMWs – the ’03 R1100S and an ’04 R1150RT – have had fixed fairings and cowlings with integrated windscreens.


Admittedly, the amount of protection these fairings provided from the elements varied from nearly noting on my Honda Hurricane to ‘I might as well be driving a convertible’ on our ’04 BMW R1150RT when the windscreen was in the full-extended position. But, they all provided some degree of wind blast protection.

When we bought our first Harley the attraction at that time was going back to something very pure like my ’77 Honda 550F, where you truly rode with your knees and nose in the breeze.  It was a wonderful feeling, very much like what we experience when we’re cycling, but only to a point.  And that point was something you’d reach quickly when the weather turned wet or cold or on a long-day riding at freeway speeds.

We attempted to morph our Wide Glide into a light touring bike with the addition of saddlebags, backrest, custom saddle and quick-removal, Super Sport windscreen.  However, we discovered what most Harley owners quickly realize once they put a basic windscreen on their bikes: it’s a pretty shitty solution that merely interrupts the normal airflow over the front end of the bike and riders to create a low-pressure pocket surrounded by turbulence that continues to buffet the rider, but with some degree of protection from the head-on windblast.

After making a couple 350-mile trips to and from Panama City Beach and riding from Miami to Key West and back, a larger touring bike began to make a lot of sense for us.  Not only would it be roomier and more comfortable, it would have more luggage capacity and better protection from windblast.

However, when I test rode the Street Glide & Ultra models with the batwing fairings and the Road Glide with its shark nose fixed fairing I immediately fell back into that “I might as well be driving a convertible” mindset that I had with the BMW R1150RT, especially on the batwing fairing: it reminded me of driving a 1960s – 1970’s MGB or TR6.  Instead of looking out onto the open road I was trying to peer over a dashboard filled with gauges where the road out to about 20 feet in front of the bike was hidden by the fairing / dashboard.   On the Road Glide, it was still very car-like but not as “in your face” as the batwing in that I felt like I was looking out over the console on a large sailboat even though the same 20 feet or so of road was hidden by the fairing.   Now, on the 2015 and up Road Glides, the integrated vents on either side of the headlights lets you see the road through the vents when they’re open and that’s got a pretty good placebo effect in terms of tricking you into thinking it’s a bit more open than the batwing or earlier model Road Glide fairings.

Version 2Anyway, the decision was somewhat made for us when we both saw the 2013 CVO Road Kings. They were the perfect compromise in that it had the bags for storage, lower fairings and a small sporty windscreen for windblast protection and the windscreen even had an air vent to eliminate the low pressure zone that would form behind a solid windscreen and cause excessive turbulence around the rider an passenger’s heads.  We put nearly 18,000 miles on our Road King with its small windscreen but often times supplemented by full-face helmets.  Had we not had those full-face helmets the elements, temperatures and wind buffeting on the long trips would have probably been pretty close to intolerable. Of course, all the time I kept reminding myself how nice it was to still enjoy that feeling of being on a true motorcycle, seeing the road through the minimal windscreen and knowing that when I got to my destination I could remove that windscreen in 30 seconds and be back on a real motorcycle with the unobstructed wind in my face.  Yeah, well… I can tell you that in the 2.5 years  / 18,000 miles we rode Blue that windscreen was left at home three times.  Why?  Because you get spoiled with all that wind protection and not having your hearing destroyed by wind noise!!

5243D614-B6C6-4E61-92DA-EC6F22582B0AWith all that in mind, I looked pretty long and hard at the 2015/2016 Road Glides after Blue was totaled with the thought that maybe, just maybe it was time for us to switch horses and step up our game.  I was pretty pumped about the move to a fixed fairing bike, so long as I’d still have my Wide Glide around for pure wind therapy.  However, Debbie was not in the same camp, especially when it came to the Road Glide Ultra models with the big top case and Lazy Boy lounge chair.  No, my sweetie still equates riding a motorcycle to being aboard something that looks and feels like a motorcycle.  After all, she drives her Honda S2000 roadster every day and at least in her mind (and to a certain extent in my own) riding a full-up touring motorcycle does border on being in a true roadster that has not top.  That then explains why the need to find an identical replacement for our CVO Road King Blue was so important!

However, now that we’ve been back out on the freeway aboard Blue surrounded by the batwing and fixed fairing Harley touring bikes I’ve definitely taken notice that their riders truly are less beat up by the wind than we are at 70-80 mph speeds.  And, even while I’m reminded that I found it somewhat boring riding home from Daytona on my buddy David’s 2003 Road King with an add-on, aftermarket batwing fairing from Reckless, it really was an easier ride than I’d experienced on our Road King with just the small Super Sport windscreen.

So here I sit getting mentally geared-up for our 450 mile ride down to Daytona Beach in 10 days secretly wishing I’d gone ahead and had a color-matched Dragonfly fairing made for Blue II.  But, truth be told, in addition to Debbie’s lack of enthusiasm for riding a motorcycle with a fairing, the darn things become pretty cost prohibitive once you start tacking on an $850 custom paint job to match the $950 black fiberglass fairing to your bike and then factor in some type of sound system if only to fill the ghastly voids in the inner fairings with something: let’s call that another $650.  And, having just gone through the process of totaling-out our first Road King CVO, I know full and well that the $2,650 spent on the add-on fairing would net about $800 if the bike were lost, stolen or totaled in just two years.

dfy1 dfy3 dfy2

Anyway, that’s what’s been going through my mind for the last week, along with the refinements I’d like to have in a bolt-on fairing, from providing my own custom paint scheme to adapting a stock Harley batwing to our bike, up to and including all of the gauges.  Hmm, now that I think about it, I do recall that someone not too long ago successfully morphed a Road Glide fixed fairing to a Road King CVO, now wouldn’t that be cool!

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About TG

I've been around a bit and done a few things, have a couple kids and a few grandkids. I tend to be curmudgeonly, matter-of-fact and not predisposed to self-serving chit-chat. Thankfully, my wife's as nice as can be otherwise we'd have no friends. My interests are somewhat eclectic, but whose aren't?
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