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Discussion Starter #1
A couple thoughts on the bike and it's performance:
There are always two parts to any analysis; the personal preferences and comfort of the rider and then the actual performance and functional details of the bike.
I rode the Challenger back to back with a 2019 Road Glide for comparison. I'll try to limit my personal preferences and focus on clear differences.
Context: I am an Engineer and have had sport bikes all my life and currently own a 2015 Chief in addition to my Ducatis.

So:
Motor:
This thing gets up and goes! Fantastic power and torque. More go than the Harley for sure. Still sluggish compared to a sport bike but a lot more fun in the motor department than the Harley.
Motor is a little bit "buzzy" and likes to rev. Not as relaxed as the Harley motor and I can see many HD faithful not liking the PP108 because it is far more "lively" and a lot less "lazy" or relaxed. My buddy rode the Challenger after me and made that exact same comment.
Vibration at speed was a lot more noticeable on the Challenger. I am NOT a HD fan boy but I have to say that M8 motor is very very nice and butter smooth at any speed. Smoother than the Challenger motor at anything other than idle. I was very very impressed with the Road Glide motor.
Challenger 9/10 Road Glide 7.5/10

Gearbox:
Gearbox is slick and finding neutral was simple even on a brand new motor (5 miles). Better engagement and shifting action than the Road Glide and easier to find neutral. Engaging a gear on the Road Glide felt like something out of the stone age; like dropping a bolt into a moving machine. Very unsophisticated action.
Challenger 9/10 Road Glide 7/10

Controls and Ergonomics:
Challenger controls were good, the touch screen is well placed but the instruments pick up a lot of glare and are hard to read in some lighting situations. Road Glide controls are OK, touch screen is in the wrong position and I wasn't impressed with the turn signal design being on both left and right hand controls.
Seat was very comfortable and a little better than the Road Glide (for me).
Overall ergonomics on both bikes were similar for me and both fitted me well (5'11" x 180 lbs with 32" inseam).
Screen was good on the Challenger but I still had some buffeting at both high and low settings. Much less on the Road Glide because the screen is much further away and thus turbulent air has a little more time to settle down before hitting the helmet.
Challenger 8.5/10 Road Glide 6.5/10

Road manners:
At very low speed the Road Glide has a tendency to dip on hard lock because of the design of the forks and steering head. I believe this is a left over from years old design. Challenger has no such tendency and has a more balanced geometry. Steering is a little quicker on the Challenger.
Triple clamps are much more stout on the Challenger.
Center of Gravity on both bikes makes them easy to pick up off the side stand.
At parking lot speeds, the Challenger was easier to manouver (for me).
At high speeds (>60mph), the Challengers' modern chassis exhibits none of the unsettling slow weave of the Road Glide (where the Road Glide feels like there is a hinge in the middle of the bike; seriously HD? this is 2020!)). Challenger chassis definitely links the front and back wheels better than the Road Glide and high speed stability was better on the Challenger because of this.
Challenger handling is impressive for such a big bike and definitely lighter on its feet than the Road Glide.
Challenger 8.5/10 Road Glide 6.5/10

Brakes:
I was surprised at how good the Road Glide brakes were and expected the Challenger brakes to be considerably better but perhaps the Brembos have a lot more work cut out for them on the Challenger because of its mass...... the brakes were better than the Road Glide for sure, but not as big a difference as I expected. 330mm rotors and FULL floating discs would be a step up for sure.
Challenger 8/10 Road Glide 7/10

Suspension:
OMG where do you start?
The Road Glide has to be one of the worst suspension set ups I have ever experienced in my life.
NO rear travel and harsh damping makes for a brutal ride over anything but smooth to medium tarmac.
Front end of the Road Glide was just mushy with little damping and no rebound.
I CANNOT imagine riding long distances on this thing,.... yet that is what it is made for. Go figure!
Challenger was the opposite and just soaked up bumps beautifully while at the same time providing lots of feedback about surface condition.
Challenger wheel control was very good and resisted ridges, grooves and tar snakes better than the Road Glide.
Challenger is light years ahead here.
Metzler tires are about as good as you can get and having them as standard fitment is great.
Challenger 9/10 Road Glide 4/10

Of course there are many features I did not cover...
Overall the Challenger is a full generation ahead of the Road Glide as a total package. Harley will need to develop a whole new platform to compete.
For slower riders less interested in pure performance and wanting a super relaxed riding experience I think the Road Glide will still appeal.
The Challengers' more "on edge" feel and greater sense of urgency may not appeal to everyone but you cannot deny it does everything considerably better.
And you get more for your money as well!

Well done Polaris.
Now just get the bugs out of this thing and build a service and satisfaction oriented business model that matches and supports the superior engineering you are showing us on this bike. Do this, and over time you will continually eat into HD market share. You've got the bikes and engineers to do it... just remember the customers' experience (and thus the brands' value in the eyes of the consumer) continues when they leave the showroom!
 

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Brakes:
I was surprised at how good the Road Glide brakes were and expected the Challenger brakes to be considerably better but perhaps the Brembos have a lot more work cut out for them on the Challenger because of its mass...... the brakes were better than the Road Glide for sure, but not as big a difference as I expected. 330mm rotors and FULL floating discs would be a step up for sure.
Challenger 8/10 Road Glide 7/10

Re: the brakes...I thought the same thing, but a forum member pointed out the Challenger does have floating rotors. They seem to be the same floating rotor design used on some BMW models, like the R 1250 RT. The FTR appears to have the same rotor design as the Challenger.
 

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Front rotors are fixed not floating. Rear brake is floating. Absolute power of front brake may be a little misleading because of the ABS including the lean angle computer.
 

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The vibration or buzz in the engine is mostly to do with the timing not being advanced enough at higher RPM. This is done to keep the CAT hot. With a good tune the engine will be smooth as can be.
 

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TigerGA - you are 100% wrong. The front ROTOR is fixed. It is solid mounted to the wheel. It cannot move. In the flip side, the CALIPER can move. So if you mean the front brakes are semi-floating, then technically that is correct. Do your homework.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Grayrat
The front rotor is what is called Semi Floating.
This design provides a near perfectly tight fit when cold but loosens when the rotor is hot.
When I say near perfectly tight, you can grab the rotor and move it a very small amount at the carrier holder when cold. Check it out.
Indian also state Semi floating which is what they provide.
Just FYI, go into a Ducati store one day and check out the rotor play on a Full Floating disc! It’s a lot!!
 

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there are different designs of floating rotors. Floating and semi floating. But it is certainly not hard mounted like previously suggested

Bmw does use the exact part number floating rotor on some of their bikes.


And greyrat, please explain how you think the front calipers move? They are hard bolted to the lower fork tube.


There seems to be some issues with challenger brakes on certain bikes. Perhaps there is air in the system or the brakes aren’t being bled correctly. As the challenger I rode, it felt like the bike would endo if I grabbed too much brake



Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

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TigerGA - you are 100% wrong. The front ROTOR is fixed. It is solid mounted to the wheel. It cannot move. In the flip side, the CALIPER can move. So if you mean the front brakes are semi-floating, then technically that is correct. Do your homework.
I did do my homework, that’s why I posted the correct info. The front rotors ARE semi floating. See my above post for a spec sheet pic on the Challenger...front brakes listed as semi floating. Semi floating rotors are bolted to the wheel, but do allow for movement. Some BMWs use the same setup, like the R1250RT. I’m sure there is an engineering/performance or cost reason why IM (and manufacturers like BMW) went with semi floating over full floating.
 

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Interesting you found helmet buffeting with the screen in full up position. I rode the Chieftain and Challenger back to back and on the Chieftain I found that I would get buffeting with the screen up or down. With the Challenger with the windscreen fully up I was in a perfect pocket of air up to 100 mph (I never went faster). With the screen down I got air on my helmet but I didn't get any buffeting. I'm 5'6" and was using a half helmet that day. The buffeting was so bad on the Chieftain that I my vision was blurred through my glasses.

I have test ridden a '17 Road King, '17 Springfield, '20 Springfield DH, and '20 Chieftain DH and none of those could compare to the Challenger in the handling and performance department. I did find the RK and the Springfield almost identical in the ride comfort, handling, and engine smoothness.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
A couple other thoughts I forgot to mention:
  • The bike did sound a little weak on startup so I would probably be tempted to upgrade the battery.
  • I thought it a shame the rear brake, gear shift and primary drive covers were black and not chrome (personal preference I know).
  • That screw staring at you right in the middle of the tank cover is an unfortunate and untidy detail.
  • Bags are not as sturdy as my Chiefs' bags and felt a little flimsy when the lid was open.
  • Small compartments in the fairing are pretty small and I couldn't really get my gloved hands inside them.
  • Did not experience any issues with the clutch pull or engagement point as some have complained.
 

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I too wonder about the bike example you had for the brakes. The 2 I rode had great braking that could only be described as top notch.

I've noticed even with the many FTRs I rode between 2 dealers, that everyone of them felt much different complete with different lever pull..
 

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I can imagine there would be differences in the clutch adjustment as well as how the brake pads were or weren't scuffed-in. Even the possibility of brakes needing bled of air could happen occasionally. Sometimes improperly set-up bikes slip by perhaps. Any number of things could cause these variables in a mass produced vehicle but good set-up techs should catch some if not most that are unacceptable.
 

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I can imagine there would be differences in the clutch adjustment as well as how the brake pads were or weren't scuffed-in. Even the possibility of brakes needing bled of air could happen occasionally. Sometimes improperly set-up bikes slip by perhaps. Any number of things could cause these variables in a mass produced vehicle but good set-up techs should catch some if not most that are unacceptable.
100% agree.

I never understand reviewers loving or throwing a bikes brakes under the bus off hand.
Who cares if they're Brembo? Put garbage pads on....guess what?
New bikes do not come with top of the line pads.

Great shoes make a big difference....

I loved MY ride on the Challenger and it was the first time I wasn't thinking about things I'd upgrade if it were mine.

I have those thoughts every time I ride my Chieftain....and it's finally getting "dialed in" after a fait amount of effort and a few $$.

My 111 (with cams) has way more vibration than the Challenger I rode (from 2500 rpm up).

Great post -- I really enjoyed the great review. Didn't enjoy the stupid brake argument, lol.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
All true guys.
Having only 5 miles on it means the pads needed to bed in. There’s no doubt they are good. Maybe my reference point is too high coming from 330 mm Brembos on a 400 lb bike.
 

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I have had probably 10 panic stops where a stale light changed on me and I was doing 55mph. My particular Challenger stops straight , smooth and quick. It stops way better than any of my Chieftains. I read these " poor braking " reports in some amazement.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Just to be clear... I don't in any way think the braking is poor. It is very very good, especially considering the weight of the bike.
 

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First check if you buy a bike with radially mounted calipers is if the calipers are properly aligned, so the pads are 100% parallel to the rotor. Which is super easy: Loosen both caliper bolts one turn and check if the caliper can slide a bit left/right. Have someone pull the front brake lever, tighten the bolts. Same on the other side.

I would think they need about 26 ftlbs (~35 Nm), I haven't looked this up but that's pretty normal for these bolts.
 

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Just to be clear... I don't in any way think the braking is poor. It is very very good, especially considering the weight of the bike.
I was full steam ahead with my plans to deviate from H-D and buy a Challenger, until I read your posting. Don't misunderstand. You assessments were very educational and I thought well done. But I have a couple questions...

My style of riding is to do extremely long distance rides. These can consist of a few thousand miles over a week, to 12K miles over a couple of months. In your first test, you talked about the buzzy Challenger engine compared to the lazy Road Glide M8 engine. I think I get what you're talking about. So, are you an extremely long distance rider? If so, is the Challenger a better engine to ride over an H-D chug lazy engine when riding a...let's say...10K ride?
 
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