Let me start by saying I am blessed. When Lurch offered up a raffle in the private Facebook group I didn’t think that I had a chance of winning. I just don’t have that great of luck. I think the last thing I won that way was a set of tickets to go see the B-52s at the Yakima Sundome along with a copy of the Love Shack album. That was a hot minute ago.
In case you haven’t listened to the podcast or watched the video (seriously, what rock are you living under), I was gifted an entire Harley-Davidson Empire Black Machine Cut collection for my 2017 HD Road Glide Special (that identifies as an ultra). In May of 2022 I rode up to Yakima (I live here in Central Oregon) delivered my bike to the LAB crew and borrowed one of theirs. They kept the bike for a week and I rode back up a week following to grab the bike and do a podcast.
Since then, I have put almost 7,000 miles on the bike using the collection and I have some thoughts. 5,000 miles was in a single 11-day trip to Sturgis and Wisconsin from Madras OR. I’ve put some highway miles on, scraped some floorboards on Iron Mountain Road, and had a heck of a time doing it.
I was a little worried about the shape of the Empire boards. They look fantastic. However, I have big feet. Size 14 and I wear public safety duty style boots which are anything but thin profiles. The shape is similar to the Defiance boards. I had tried the defiance boards on a demo bike and found the rear of the boards way too narrow to consider. It felt like it took too much attention to keep my heels from slipping off the boards.
With the Empire collection, I had no such worry. In fact, with the new highway pegs, the new shape is a net benefit. Harley does not advertise their dimensions so you can’t compare on published specs. Holding the stock boards next to them the Empire boards look slightly longer. Psychologically, knowing they were open in the center made me feel like maybe my feet were not getting as hot as they might in the 100+ temperature days I rode in this summer.
The rubber still helps isolate you from the vibrations of the motor and keeps your feet firmly planted. Even in torrential downpours and after a flash flood I found the rubber to keep my feet well planted.
I love these boards and would never consider going back to the stock version.
When I first got my road glide special one of the very first upgrades was putting passenger floorboards on the back for the wife. That meant I had a set of foot pegs available for highway pegs. I put these on using the Engine Guard Footpeg Mounting Kit from the Motor Company (PN 50964-98). These put the footpegs close to the bar. It worked pretty well for a long time. I didn’t have any idea it could be this much better.
The Empire Highway Footpegs are almost mini boards. Even using the same mounting hardware, you get a good purchase on them when you put your whole foot on them. Equally as important, they are very comfortable when you just put your toes up on them and leave the heels on the floorboard. This is where that new shape of the Empire Floorboards pays off. The wider front gives good purchase to your heel as you ride down the road with your toes up on the highway bars. These were a big improvement.
I had thought about buying different mounts for my highway pegs because I just never quite had it right with the old pegs. The upgrade to the Empire Highway Footpegs solved everything I thought I might be able to make better and they are now my forever (As much as anything on a Harley is ever forever) highway pegs.
This is the one place where the collection may be a miss. It is a narrow miss but it is a miss. For me, they are fantastic. They look 100% better than my old plain floorboards but as with most things, function matters. Since I don’t ever put my feet on them except to zip up my rain gear I trust my here to give the evaluation. She can put some miles on back there so I asked her to evaluate them.
Above I mentioned that one of the first upgrades I did was put on Passenger Footboards. What I put on was the Harley Passenger Footboard and Mount Kit (PN 50379-07B). My wife has put a lot of miles on the bike with me using these floorboards and a few years ago we added the Kuryakyn Adjustable Passenger Pegs (PN 7059 in black). She was very satisfied with the setup.
The new Empire Passenger Footboards have a very different shape and sit slightly forward from the position the old footboards sit. If my wife had never experienced the other boards she would probably be just fine with the new ones. However, that movement slightly forward puts her feet in a different place and makes the Kuryakyn Adjustable Passenger Pegs less useful. Her riding boots for big trips are Z1R Women's Savage Black Leather Boots. For these boots, all is good with the new floorboards.
If we were going out, sometimes she likes to wear what we would call her “hooker boots.” These would be a more fashion-forward boot with a narrower and taller heel. I know, they aren’t very protective but darn, she looks good in them. That boot and these boards are a no-go. The cutout is going to play havoc with them.
To be clear, day in and day out, the Empire Passenger Footboards are staying on the bike. If we take a multi-day trip? I will pull off the Empire Passenger Footboards and put back on the basic Passenger Footboard. It is a quick job and worth it for her to be comfortable.
Large Rear Brake Pedal Pad
I like this Brake Pedal Pad. It is oversized and easy to find. The rubber perimeter makes it a positive experience and it is a big improvement. The only worry I have is that the pad is already starting to wear at the outer lower corner. This is a piece that looks good and functions well. I am a little worried about that wear and the replacement cost is $83 so it isn’t chump change. Still, I like this pad and can see replacing it if the wear gets too bad.
Just to be clear, this is reviewing the touring version of this part (PN 33600333). A new version has been released for models with the Revolution Max Engine.
This is the part I was most worried about liking. It is a substantial departure from the old style and is a rubber top surface with the machined metal lower. I liked the look but wasn’t sure how I would feel about it in use. I use a heel shifter so I bought a second piece so that the front and rear shifter matched. From the minute I started using it I never noticed these. They look much better than the old ones and I don’t notice them at all. A net plus.
I had the Kahuna Heated Grips on my bike. I liked these grips a lot and they got a lot of attention. In fact, that makes me realize that no one has commented on the Empire stuff except the people who know how I got it. It is kind of an odd thing. It changes the look of the bike quite a bit for the better. I think that the unified look is so good that the individual parts kind of get lost.
The grips are comfortable and hot as hell! In normal use, they are comfortable on the hands. I don’t ride often without gloves. On the few occasions I have with these grips I noticed that in extremely warm temps (think 115) they get a little tacky to the touch. Otherwise, they have been very comfortable with or without gloves. The metal strip is a nice reference point to where your hand is positioned related to the grip. I am not sure that helps but I like the certainty of it.
When turned on, Harley advertises that the grips are “thermally mapped to provide a more uniform heat and are designed to achieve a maximum operating temperature approximately 20° Fahrenheit warmer than previous accessory heated grips.” I believe this. I have yet to turn them to 10. At 41 degrees, just this week, I turned the grips on to 5 with no gloves on (I was just riding to work I said, it will be fine I said). They were too hot to keep on just moments after I turned them on.
These are keepers. I would fight you for them if you tried to take them off my bike.
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I was very happy to be getting these. I had wanted a pair of contrast-cut mirrors a couple of years ago. When I couldn’t find anything I wanted to invest in. I ended up buying a cheap China pair off Amazon. They were ok for a year or so but they were starting to get loose and surface rust was showing up here and there.
The Empire mirrors are a long way north of the pair they replaced. These are much more substantial. They are well-designed and well-finished. The mirrors sit solidly on the bike and the glass is extremely clear. The shape allows a wide field of view and adjustments stay where they were put.
These mirrors have a permanent place on my bike. I really like them, except for the fact that they collect bugs. This is the only downside. The contrast-cut pieces provide great places for bugs to collect and it is a little difficult to get them out without intentional work. Grasshoppers in particular are very difficult to clean off.
The last two pieces, the derby cover and timing cover both deserve mention but not much focus. They are very well manufactured, and they are substantial for what they are. Other than that, I don’t have much to say other than they look awesome.
I was a little worried about the Derby Cover from the appearance side. You see, my bike is a blend of black and chrome. It started all chrome just like all of the 2017 bikes and I was working toward blacking it out. Then in 2018 all the Specials came blacked out and it no longer seemed like a murdered out bike would be nearly as special. That's why in 2018 I started trying to find that balance of chrome and black on my bike. It's one of the reasons that I was so happy to get contrast-cut parts. My primary is chrome and I thought it might be weird with the black contrast cut against the chrome primary case. I didn’t need to worry. It looks awesome and adds to the blending of black and chrome pieces on my bike.
I love these parts. Every one of them is solidly built. The fit and finish is outstanding. These parts are substantial. There isn’t one of them that is not as good as stock and most are quite a bit better. The only miss for me (actually my wife) is the passenger footboards and that is a very small nitpick. They were still comfortable for her on our 600+ mile trip to Seattle and back right after we got the parts. She isn’t asking for me to switch back but given her feedback, I will pull them off and put the old ones on if we are going for longer trips.
Aesthetically, the look is unified and not over the top at all. With all the parts on there, it looks like they were part of a coherent plan to upgrade the bike. You probably need to have an educated eye to know they are aftermarket because they are so clean.
A huge thank you to Ryan and Law Abiding Biker. The cost of these parts is the one downside of this collection. If you were to put on all the pieces together at one time it is going to cost you about $2200. That is a lot of cash to lay out. Is it worth it? I don’t know that I would have spent it all at one time but I sure do like the pieces and after having them now, It would be easier to justify the cost. I love the fact that Ryan’s first thought when we got all of the parts from Harley was to give back to the community that supports the efforts of Law Abiding Biker. It's just one more way he is proving he is aligned with their mission of “Bikers Helping Bikers”
Ride Safe, Ride Often
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