Test | 2011 Harley Davidson Road Glide Ultra - Baggers Magazine
Helmet: Shoei Qwest
Jacket: Harley-Davidson FXRG
Jeans: Levi's 501
The world of Harley-Davidson Touring motorcycles that ride on the rubber-mounted FL chassis consists of the iconic Batwing faired Electra Glide (EG) with its single headlight, the stripped down unfaired Road King, and the Sharknose fairing on the Road Glide (RG). Since the new bagger frame design in '09, H-D has steadily refined other aspects of the bikes, such as last year's Road Glide Custom and the availability of a larger 103 cubic inch motor on the Electra Glide Ultra Limited. For 2011 H-D focused attention on the Road Glide.
At first glance the main difference between an EG and an RG is the headlight arrangement in the fairing. The EG has a single unit while the RG has two. Although the RG fairing was introduced on the 1979 Tour Glide (10 years after the Batwing), its modern, sculpted look is often more reminiscent (and derided by many H-D traditionalists) of a foreign-made motorcycle. Other than aesthetics the major difference between the two Touring fairings is how they attach to the motorcycle; the Batwing is mounted directly to the forks and turns with the handlebars, whereas the Sharknose fairing is rigidly mounted to the frame and remains fixed regardless of handlebar movement. The fixed fairing necessitated dual headlights as the lights are always pointed straight ahead which is not the case on an EG.
The main goal behind the fixed fairing design is stability. Some riders feel the extra weight of a fork mounted fairing affects steering and handling, especially in a strong crosswind. Much of the turbulence from the road or wind can be transmitted directly to the handlebars while the frame mounted unit transfers unwanted energy directly to the frame. Additionally, some find the fork mounted fairing harder to maneuver at slow speeds since the rider needs to turn the fairing as well as the frontend components.
This newest RG carries the Ultra moniker that adds accessories usually reserved for the top of the line machines. Amenities included with Ultra designated RG include lower fairings attached to the engine guard, Tour-Pak trunk with audio, CB radio, cruise control, intercom, and mid-frame air deflectors.
Perhaps the biggest bonus going for the FLTRU (the U is for Ultra) is the addition of the PowerPak setup. The PowerPak is the triple goody bag of 103ci (1690cc) motor, ABS brake system, and the hands-free fob Smart Security System. There is no option to get the RG Ultra without the PowerPak. The PowerPak is a standard feature on the '11 Road King Classic, Electra Glide Ultra Limited as well, and will be available as a factory-installed option on the '11 Street Glide and Road Glide Custom models. It's a great value direct from the factory as equipping other eligible models with these three options would set you back $1,995, or $1,195 for just the security package plus ABS.
If later on if you wanted to add these options and factor in labor charges the value becomes greatly magnified.
Cockpit and Seating
Spacious and comfortable are the first two adjectives that come to mind when first throwing a leg over this machine. Since the bars and fork need to swing within the fairing the windscreen, gauges, and radio are further away from the rider than on an EG. The stock, clear Lexan windshield measures 16 inches tall putting the top of the fairing right in my line of sight. An inch either way would remedy this and is completely dependent on individual height and posture (see page 14 for my resolution). Reach to the stainless steel handlebars feels longer than on any of the EGs and particularly well suited to taller riders, although, my 5-foot, 9-inch body didn't feel strained by the reach. I had always thought the RG fairing was wide, but it's almost 2 inches more narrow than an EG fairing.
Within the inner fairing lies the speedometer with multiple trip functions, tachometer, and gauges for fuel, oil pressure, ambient temperature, and battery voltage, along with the audio head unit and speakers. Surprisingly, there's even an old school, 12V, cigarette lighter-smoke 'em if ya got 'em! I'm sure there are other reasons, like charging a cell phone, which the outlet could be used for.
Being a Touring bike comfort is important and the new two-up seat fits the bill with a shape that improves reach to the ground. With me sitting just over 27 inches off the ground it was easy to sit flat-footed while stopped. An added feature is increased lower back support that cradles you in the seat. Passenger accommodations are roomy and the Tour-Pak provides a built in backrest with wrap-around armrests. Additionally, the passenger has roomy floorboards to rest their feet.
Audio and Electronics
Cruise control is a nice feature to have during the long haul. With nicely integrated, intuitive controls under the right handgrip it's possible to engage/disengage the cruise, and alter your speed without taking your eyes ff the road. The system is amongst the best in the motorcycle world and works flawlessly combined with the Electronic Throttle Control in H-D parlance. Otherwise known as fly- or ride-by-wire, there are no throttle cables to control the air and gas into the motor. A sophisticated computer controls all aspects of gas mixing via a motor in the throttle body through the magic of electrical wires as you twist the grip.
Under both grips are also the controls for the harman/kardon Advanced Audio system with AM/FM, CD, mp3/AUX, intercom and CB capabilities. 80 total watts of power are distributed to four speakers: two within the fairing and another pair mounted to the sides of the Tour-Pak. Independent control of bass/treble, fade, balance, and speed-specific volume control is easy to adjust. While I personally don't care for the passenger audio controls mounted to the Tour-Pak they are there too. The last thing I want when out on the road is the ability for my passenger to change the station, song, or volume. With that said here's a riding rant-anecdote for a happy touring partnership: Communicate, don't dictate.
Even at highway speeds with helmet the audio is easily heard and sounds darn good. Harman/kardon is renowned for its high-quality audio components and the tried and true h/k H-D system did not disappoint. With the auxiliary input on the front of the radio it's easy to plug in any mp3 device. Road surface and bumps had no effect on playing CD's.
One of the biggest selling points of a bagger is how much stuff can you pack on/into it; especially if there's a Donna or Donald riding in the p-position. To start off with, the, RG Ultra has hard, locking saddlebags, a spacious King Tour-Pak, as well as storage in the adjustable-vented lowers and two convenient compartments on either side of the fairing. In this case Ultra definitely stands for capacity. Best of all it is usable capacity. Other brands lay claim to (mathematically) have more storage space, but on H-D Touring rigs it's space that can easily and safely hold gear. Sure, most people still need two hands to open (and especially close) the top-loading saddlebags, but they keep your gear dry, safe, and accessible while on the road or commuting. On the safety front, the Tour-Pak features wraparound tail/brake lights.
Motor and Transmission
At the heart of the new RG Ultra is the 103ci big bore Twin Cam motor that's more than capable of fast launches as well as uphill passing. The black powdercoated engine with chrome accents has plenty of real-world torque thanks in part to its gearing. Like all Big-Twins, motor power is transmitted to the rear wheel via the Six-speed Cruise Drive transmission operated by a light-pull, mechanically actuated clutch. A lower downtube-mounted oil cooler additionally helps keep the air-cooled motor happy.
Electronic fuel injection brings the motor to life as expelled hydrocarbons exit via a Siamese, chrome 2-into-1-into-2 exhaust culminating in tapered mufflers hugging each side of the beefy swingarm. For a stock bike the exhaust sounds decent and throaty.
Chassis, Suspension, Brakes
Felt vibration is kept to a minimum through the rubbermounted attachment of the motor to the frame. A four-point motor mount system (including the transmission) reduces rider fatigue during the long haul. The two-piece frame is suspended with twin, air-adjustable shocks in the back and a conventional, non-adjustable fork with triple-circuit damping. Suspension feel is plush yet a bit soft for spirited riding; the front end is particularly undersprung, diving under heavy braking and damping is average. This isn't necessarily a knock on the handling as the bike is a luxury tourer, not a sport-designed machine. The RG Ultra weighs in at a claimed 888 pounds yet rides like a much lighter bike.
Out back, the rear shocks do an adequate job of soaking up the bumps while still giving the road-feel back to the rider. Adjustable from 0 to 50 psi via a hand air pump the shocks can be adjusted for load and riding style, I always pump mine up to the max, as I feel there's usually too much weight towards the rear, especially when packed with gear and riding two-up.
Braking is amazing thanks to the triple disc setup and four-piston Brembo calipers. Feel through the brake lever is smooth and linear allowing good modulation of the front brakes. When the situation dictates and maximum stopping is needed the ABS system kicks in and hauls the bike down fast. This feature is especially nice when riding in the rain. Having ABS gives riders a chance to focus on getting out of a hairy situation and not have to worry about sliding either tire from a lockup. When the passive ABS activates there is a gentle pulsation transmitted through the brake lever(s). In addition, there is no linked braking so, for example, if the rear brake is stomped and the ABS comes on the front brakes are unaffected.
On the Road
Harley gave the people what they wanted in this ride and delivered the goods for the touring enthusiast. Riding the RG Ultra is a luxurious endeavor and begs you to want to get out on the open road. I'll reiterate plush and comfortable and throw in utilitarian at the same time. Whether your idea of a great ride is a Sunday putt around suburbia, the grid of the city, or taking a vacation this motorcycle can do it all. With six gallons of onboard fuel it's easy to cover more than 200 miles between stops.
I've been saying it since the intro of the '09 Touring bikes, but these modern FL machines are a night and day difference compared to the previous H-D offerings. Increased stability and confidence along with extra carrying capacity make for a more enjoyable and safe ride. You get a lot of bike for the money with top-notch fit and finish, brakes, audio, storage, and the engine.
While the 96ci Twin Cam is a worthy motor with lots of low-end torque, the 103 engine feels perfect cradled within the RG. Don't be misled by power ratings you may see on the internet-it's all about torque and more importantly where the power is in the rpm band. Torque is what snaps you back in the seat when you crack the throttle and it's easily obtained right off idle with the PowerPak option. I rarely, if ever, found myself downshifting for a pass even in the tall Sixth gear. Other than the signature first gear clunk the transmission is smooth and quiet with neutral always easy to locate whether going from First or Second gear.
Ground clearance and lean angle is more than adequate for most riders. I rode this bike hard and even when railing on the floorboards the bike maintained stability and predictability. The Dunlop Multi-Tread tires gripped the road well whether the conditions were cold and/or rainy.
Speaking of rain, the lower fairings did a good job protecting my feet. Although the lowers do provide some wind protection when the vents are closed they also seal in some of the engine heat. This is great during the winter but even with the vents fully opened there is still more felt heat than without the lowers.
Be on the lookout at your dealership for the RG Ultra. I have a feeling there aren't going to be many of them left out there for long. It's also a great idea to hit up the H-D demo trucks around the country and find out for yourself which new model of Touring bike is just right for you.
|TYPE||Air-cooled, Twin Cam, two valves per cylinder|
|BORE X STROKE||3.875 in. x 4.38 in.|
|FUEL SYSTEM||Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)|
|FUEL CAPACITY||6.0 gal.|
|TRANSMISSION||Six-Speed Cruise Drive|
|FINAL DRIVE||Belt, 32/68 ratio|
|SEAT HEIGHT||27.3 in. (w/180lb rider); 29.1 in. (w/o rider)|
|WEIGHT (WET)||888 lbs.|
|RAKE (STEERING HEAD)||26°|
|FRONT FORKS||41.3 mm telescopic, triple circuit damping|
|FRONT||17 in. x 3 in., Black, 28-spoke Cast Aluminum|
|REAR||16 in. x 5 in., Black, Slotted Disc Cast Aluminum|
|TIRES||Dunlop, bias, narrow whitewall|
|BRAKES||Anti-lock Braking System|
|CALIPERS||Brembo 4-piston fixed front (dual) and rear|
|ROTORS||11.81 in. (fixed)|
|Vivid Black, Brilliant Silver Pearl,|
|Cool Blue Pearl (tested), Merlot Sunglo|
|MSRP||Vivid Black $22,499; Others $23,059|
|WARRANTY||24 months (unlimited mileage)|
|Chrome, Profile Laced|
|Aluminum wheels $460|
Harley-Davidson Motor Company
See your local H-D Dealer