THERE simply is no substitute for cubic inches, bigger is always better right. Well that’s certainly the case with Harley-Davidson’s 131 Screamin’ Eagle crate engine, especially when it’s been shoehorned into one of our favourite touring bikes, the Road Glide Special.
We first had the opportunity to pound some kilometres into the big orange Road Glide in the second half of 2020. We were very impressed with the performance and riding comfort offered by this bike in standard guise.
But this is no longer that bike. Well, the bike part is the same, the power plant is not. Harley-Davidson has fitted their 131 Screamin’ Eagle engine to the bike, and the 2147cc V-Twin is the biggest, most powerful, street compliant engine they’ve ever created.
The Screamin’ Eagle 131 is a bolt-in replacement for 2017 onwards Harley-Davidson touring motorcycles originally equipped with a Milwaukee-Eight oil-cooled or twin-cooled engine. And it sounds exactly like a Harley-Davidson should.
It’s angry, and sports the brand’s character-defining rumble. The sound inspired a little grin from this reviewer, as he hurriedly put on his helmet and headed for the open road to see what joy the 131 could bring.
Opening the throttle provides the first hurdle though. As the power clamped on, it cut out. We tried it again. Same result. And then a lightning bolt struck. What if we disengage the traction control? Problem solved.
Although there’s a little lag (and we mean a little) when first twisting the throttle on, pick up and power performance is a significant improvement over the standard 114 engine. That lag is courtesy of the fact the bike hadn’t been put on a dyno yet.
It also demonstrates just how keen we were to steal this bike away from Harley-Davidson to test out the 131. What surprised us more though was just how smooth the motor is, and how incredibly well mannered it is for normal day-to-day riding.
It runs a little hotter than you might be used to, but that’s to be expected from any large capacity performance motor. On the back roads though, away from traffic, the extra torque and horsepower means the Road Glide will just keep pulling, like a freight train.
The Screamin’ Eagle engine combines the 4.5-inch stroke of the Milwaukee-Eight 114 engine with new 4.31-inch bore cylinders with a patented design. Four-valve cylinder heads are CNC-ported and fitted with 1mm larger-diameter valves.
This optimises air and fuel flow and velocity, with fully machined combustion chambers shaped to optimise efficiency. The engine is completed with a high-lift SE8-517 camshaft and high-performance cam bearing, and high-compression (10.7:1) forged pistons.
A 64mm throttle body and intake manifold, and high-flow (5.5-grams per second) fuel injectors round out the package. It’s a combination that produces 90kW of power an a little over 177Nm or torque at the rear wheel.
Aftermarket add-on kits from third party performance houses are seeing numbers pushing past 111kW. The Screamin’ Eagle 131 crate motor will set you back $9,610 plus fitment costs, which when added to the cost of a touring bike purchase, creates a conundrum.
That perplexing puzzle is whether it’s worth buying a new touring bike, plus a crate motor, or simply grabbing a CVO edition bike (for which there’s a comparable Road Glide model, for example).
The CVO Road Glide is a spectacular bike, with all the trimmings, custom paint and the more than capable 117 cubic inch motor. It is right up there as one of the most beautiful and capable, out of the box, touring machines on the market.
In its own right, the standard Road Glide Special is also a very capable bike that you can smash out kilometre after kilometre of comfortable riding on. The 131 Screamin’ Eagle motor elevates the touring experience to the next level.
For us the decision between a Road Glide Special with a 131 Screamin’ Eagle engine in it or owning a Road Glide CVO comes down to riding style and purpose. If you’re happy to cruise and take in the scenery and just enjoy the ride, you really can’t go past the CVO.
However, if it’s performance you seek, and you want to pair that with your own unique take on a touring bike, utilising the mass of genuine accessories available, then a big tourer with that 131 motor in it, is where it’s at.
Horsepower on tap and lots of torquey goodness make the Road Glide Special with the added 131 Screamin’ Eagle motor a package of pure happiness and bucket loads of fun.
Open the throttle and the only thing you’ll be trying to contain is the huge smile and school girl giggles under your lid. On that note, we’ll leave you with one more thought. Imagine if Harley-Davidson put the 131 motor into its CVO models.
Our test bike, fitted with the 131 Screamin’ Eagle power plant, was supplied by Harley-Davison Australia. To find out more about the Harley-Davidson 131 Screamin’ Eagle crate engine, contact your local Harley-Davidson dealer. Pictures courtesy of Jessica Jenkin Photography.