Phil Shares His Thoughts On Frame Mounted Vs. Fork Mounted Fairings

 

In the world of American made touring bikes, the battle for fairing dominance often comes down to personal taste (look and feel) over performance. I must admit, when initially shopping for my first bagger I was drawn to the look of the batwing fairing on the Harley Davidson Street Glide. The idea of cruising behind a set of 12” bars with my feet up on highway pegs just felt right in my mind. So in September 2017, I made that dream a reality and picked up a 2014 Street Glide.

Phil thrashing the Tail of the Dragon (Hwy. 129) on his 2014 Harley-Davidson Street Glide


On my first street bike and being just south of 60, I took some time getting used to handling a 900 lb. iron sled.  Casting caution to the wind in the ensuing months I began pushing the bike in both speed and cornering in the hope that my skill would elevate to hang with my more experienced riding brethren – I had a lot to learn. Over time I began to notice that sometimes in long sweeping high-speed turns (70 mph+) or higher the front end of my Street Glide would begin to wobble slightly. Nothing I couldn’t handle mind you, but a bit unsettling as I pushed my bagger to keep up with other riders. (I know, and you’re right- ride your own ride.)

During the first few years behind a “batwing” fairing I met many riders spending time behind the fixed frame “sharknose” Road Glide fairing. A common theme kept coming up when talking about the front end mounted batwing fairing vs the frame fixed fairing on the Road Glide. Fixed fairing guys would insist their bikes handled more like a naked (non-fairing) bike – particularly in high speed turns and at straight line speed. Regardless of the comments I couldn’t see myself comfortable behind the Road Glide fairing.

Phil sampling the Indian Challenger during the 2020 Daytona Bike Week


During the 2020 Bike Week in Daytona I had a chance to ride and review the Indian Challenger touring bike which was designed to compete with the Harley Road Glide – and I really enjoyed that Challenger.  The fixed fairing was light and farther away from my riding position than the H-D batwing.  Later in 2020 while shooting some Road Dirt reviews with Rob I had a chance to ride the fixed fairing Tiger Rally 900 and the Royal Enfield Himalayan adventure bikes.  Granted these bikes have much smaller fairings than a Harley or Indian tourer, yet they still point forward when turning – a concept I was slowly getting acclimated to.  

A pair of beautiful Road Glides, whetting Phil’s appetite


As we continued to cruise through the 2020 pandemic I began to feel the itch to move to a more colorful bagger.  I was enjoying my Pearl Gray Street Glide and it came in handy on our trip to Ironhorse Lodge in October. The bags were always packed with camera gear and I could keep up with more nimble bikes on The Dragon and Cherohala Skyway but I was bored with the color. During the last few months I had seen the Harley
Velocity Red baggers and was enamored with the color. My curiosity and interest in the fixed fairing Road Glide had also increased as I was enjoying my Fat Boy and the handling of a bike without any fairing.

Then it happened.

Love at first sight.


Hanging around our friends at Cycle World Athens prior to their Christmas Charity ride I stumbled across a 2017 Velocity Red Road Glide. The timing was tight and I knew I had to move on it fast. Following a more than fair trade for my bagger, I took home the Road Glide in early December. The move from a front end mounted batwing fairing ride to a frame mounted fixed fairing bike was complete, and the long-term comparison between them began.

In addition to the comfort, convenience and performance of a fairing there is a peripheral visual element of this mass of plastic and plexiglass during the ride that you may or may not sense. When turning a fork-affixed (batwing) fairing you turn the mass with the bars, leaning you into a harmonious turn with the mass visually pointing where you expect it to go. Your arms press down, and the front wheel and mass above it follow in unison to achieve your desired result (the turn). When riding after dark, the headlight also follows your hands and eyes illuminating where you are looking and heading. The downside to the batwing is that you are indeed turning this mass of weight with the front end. And depending on the features, that weight can make considerable difference. Most Harley fairings include two speakers along with the wiring and electronics for the “infotainment center”, instrument clusters and often other accessories attached to your bars, like cell phones and cup holders. In the end, your bars are turning considerable weight to make the bike maneuver. It is a peripheral look and feeling when riding and most get used to it.

Who wouldn’t be smitten by that color and stance? Photo by Riding High Harley-Davidson


The juxtaposition to a batwing is the “shark nose” frame-fixed fairing which carries much the same weight but has a completely different look and feel. If riding behind a batwing fairing feels like you’re inside a halloween mask peeking through Batman’s eyes, the fixed faring Road Glide feels more like you are sitting at an executive desk running a Fortune 500 corporation. The bars are free to flick left and right with ease like there is nothing there – because there isn’t.  All the fairing weight is fixed to the motorcycle frame so you are steering this bagger like you would a fairing free cruiser. The difference in handling of a fixed fairing bike is noticeable and notable. Light and unencumbered by added weight and a fairing that cuts through the wind without affecting the front end in turns gives you the feeling you’re not on a bagger at all. 

If there is any downside to the fixed fairing Road Glide (that I’m finally getting used to) it’s the peripheral vision mind game the front end plays while turning and leaning. You press down on the bars and lean the bike where you want to go but the fairing sticks its nose in the air in utter defiance, yet you still end up getting the bike to go where you want it. Once your eyes get used to that visual mind prank, the handling is a pleasure to be enjoyed, and after a while, you no longer see yourself playing Bruce Wayne.

So, what do you prefer- fixed fairings or fork-mounted fairings? Let us know in the comments below!

Phil G.

Fixed fairing or fork-mounted? What’s your preference? Photo by Harley-Davidson

30 Comments

  1. Avatar

    I didn’t think I’d like a frame mounted fairing, until I rode a few bikes with them. Definitely a lighter feel to the steering at the handlebars.
    Good discussion of both, Phil.

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      I ride a heritage softail sits low like the roadglide….Every time I rent a bike out west I get a road glide 5 to 7 days in the deserts of 4 corners. I get that bike up to 120 mph for 10 miles at a clip on the smooth desert floor and the only thing that shakes are my glasses LOVE THEM!!!

      Reply
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        Carmen, Thanks for your comments and reading our stuff – ride on! #RideLife

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        My dad rode an ’03 100 yr Anniv Heritage for years. Absolutely loved it, until his age precluded riding any more.
        Good to hear from you, Carmen!

        Reply
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    Owned one of each in the 80’s (FLH/FLT) and the frame mount was the better handler for sure. But as primarily a naked sport bike/Euro trash/road racer type rider those were my last Harleys. Like Bobby Dylan says “I was so much older then I’m younger than that now.”

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      Funny you should quote Dylan with that, as that chorus has been rolling through my head lately. America (“Horse With No Name”, “Sister Golden Hair”, etc.) recorded that song too, “My Back Pages”, on their “Back Pages” collection in 2011. Great line!

      Reply
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    A few months ago, I watched a YouTube video where the videographer makes a hypothesis and then backs it with visual evidence. The hypothesis was that MC’s do not turn by steering or turning the handlebars.

    What? Are you crazy? These were my initial thoughts. Until I watched his video. There’s one exception: Slow speed turns need the handlebars to turn.

    The reason for all this is explained using geometry. Round tires, set on edge, determines the direction. They demonstrated that fairly tight circles can be achieved without turning the handlebars away from straight-ahead….very much. Yes, there is a “slight” turning. Counter-steering helps explain it, too.

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      Great observations and insights, Phil. So true. Thanks for sharing.

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        Having owned both fixed and handlebar fairings, I believe the fixed fairing bike handles much better,reacts to steering inputs much quicker. It seems to me the handling aspect makes the RGlide a more desirable bike! I’m on my 4th Road Glide

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          4th Road Glide! Roger, that type of fairing clearly suits you, man!

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      Phil, thanks for your input – We would love to see that video – please share the link. It’s funny you mention this as I was on my Road Glide yesterday and noticed at speed it’s more of a pressing down on the bars and leaning which doesn’t really give you that visual mind trick of the fairing turning. Thanks for your input and for reading our stuff! #RideLife

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      Want a strong visual. Take a paper cup (larger top rim than bottom) put it on its side and roll it. Goes in a circle because of the difference in diameters. Now look at your motorcycle tire as you lean the diameter in contact with the road gets smaller and goes in circle.

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        I remember seeing that used as a visual decades ago, when I took my first MSF riding class. Never forgot it.

        Reply
  4. Avatar

    You are perpetrating a fallacy of the fixed fairing vs batwing fairing here. The idea that the batwing fairing turns with the bike versus the roadglide fairing..
    “You press down on the bars and lean the bike where you want to go but the fairing sticks its nose in the air in utter defiance”

    When you turn your motorcycle, except at very low parking lot speeds, you are leaning the bike and not turning the handlebars. Look up pictures of batwing and fixed fairing bikes going through turns and you’ll see the same stance and angle of the fairing. http://www.killboy.com has lot of bike photos on twisty roads to choose from.

    I’ve owned both; having switched from an electraglide to a roadglide same as you. I do agree the roadglide handles better…especially at higher speeds.

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      Clay, your comments and observations are much appreciated brother! Thanks for reading and #RideLife!

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      Two things I tell people: 1. Yes, I can see in a curve at night on a Road Glide; I’m not turning the handlebars. 2. If I’m making a tight slow speed turn, I’m not looking at the fairing – so no, it doesn’t bother me that the fairing isn’t turning.

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    Great article I have a road glide ultra now with the frame mounted fairing and find it much nicer both for riding and appearance. Thx

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      The Road Glide Ultra! I bet it’s a beaut, TJ. Thanks for chiming in, man!

      Reply
  6. Avatar

    Great piece I’m sharing everywhere! I didn’t think I’d like a frame mounted fairing, until I rode a few scoots with them. Nice blog Phil I’ll add a link right now from mine to yours!

    Pat.

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      We appreciate you, Pat! Our Canuck friend to the North! Or in Spain at the moment!

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  7. Avatar

    I ride with a batwing fairing never rode with a fixed fairing just seems a bit weird to have something in front of you that just doesn’t move with you and I do not like looking through plexiglass it messes with my vision and judgement great article though ride safe brother man!!

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      Thanks Mike, we appreciate you chiming in here with your thoughts. Ride well, brotha!

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    I have owned 3 Street Glides in 7 years and toyed with buying a Road Glide for a couple of years. At first I couldn’t get over the odd shaped shark nose fairing, being so use to the batwing. I test drove a Road Glide in 2017 and remained on the fence. After test driving a 2019 Road Glide Special I was hooked and started my search for the best deal and bought the 2019 Road Glide without hesitation. The ride on the fixed faring bike is more manageable and feels better in the turns and straightway. In my opinion it’s just a better handling bagger and the shark nose and twin headlight have grown on me to the point I love the look.

    Reply
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      Steve,
      Great comments on the article – thanks a million! The shark nose does grow on you over time.
      Thank you for reading and visiting RDTV. Keep the shiny side up! #RideLife

      Reply
  9. Avatar

    I’m a 50+ year Harley rider and owned a couple of EG’s with the batwing and tested several RG’s for our club magazine. The Road Glide is better handling I agree but looking through the large openings you can see the road and with the batwing, you don’t see this. Passing a large 18 wheeler you can feel the difference. The Road Glide isn’t affected as much by the wind as the Electra Glide. But I think the batwing fairing is the better looking one. And beauty is in the eye of the beholder so this shouldn’t be a point of discussion. Now I’m riding my SportGlide with the larger fairing and I love it.

    Reply
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      Cees,
      Thanks for your comments. We would totally agree with you around the Large truck passing.
      We appreciate you reading our content. Stay tuned for more articles in the future. #RideLife

      Reply
  10. Avatar

    “…comes down to personal taste (look and feel) over performance” kind of sums up the American cruiser market way beyond fairings. Thanks for another fun article.

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      We would agree with you, for sure!

      Reply
  11. Avatar

    So basically my first & second cruisers were batwing fairing style bikes but I finally got a fixed fairing 2012 Road Glide. The steering and turning is much easier. I love it, just had to get used to the shark fairing not turning with me lol. Kind of messed with me for awhile, but now I’m good.

    Reply

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