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