A few issues ago, we went back to the East Coast for the introduction of all of the technologically advanced touring bikes from Harley-Davidson. We got to put some miles on the new bikes, but it was kind of a sensory overload. We hopped off of one bike and right onto another. And they had us on the schedule to ride the Sportster, Softail and Dyna models, when in reality we were just there to ride the touring models. Don't get us wrong, we had a blast darting around on all of the Harley-Davidson models, but our bread 'n' butter are the baggers. Then we got wrapped up in all of the technical seminars about the new antilock brake system, the drive-by wire that eliminated the throttle cables, the 6-gallon fuel tank, the new cush drive and all of the changes like the front upper engine mount.
So we came back to our office with 10 pounds of stuff to cram into our 5-pound magazine. And at the risk of sounding arrogant, I think we did a pretty good job introducing the new touring models and explaining the new technology, but we really didn't get to write much about the way they actually rode-give a real impression of what it is like to live with each bike for a while.
So we came home and booked some time on the biggest, baddest bagger in the Harley-Davidson fleet, the 2008 FLHTCU Ultra Classic Electra Glide. We figured we would start at the top and work our way down. What we mean by biggest is that Harley has seen fit to include lower fairings with storage, adjustable wind deflectors, an 80-watt, four-speaker advanced audio system by Harman/Kardon with CB and intercom, King Tour-Pak with brake lights and LED side lights, cruise control, air-adjustable rear suspension and Brembo brakes.
We arrived to pick up this bike, and we were surprised at how light and well balanced it felt. Honestly, the bike looked like it was going to feel heavy and steer lazily because of its sheer size. But hats off to the Harley-Davidson engineers for figuring out exactly where the weight needs to be distributed to make the big touring bike feel several hundred pounds lighter than what the scale tells us. About the only real trouble we had moving the bike around under "human power" was the seat height. Everybody who rode the bike is around 6 feet tall, give or take, and most of us struggled with the bike at some point. Whether it was backing into a parking space that was slightly uphill or trying to move the bike from a straddled position on our slippery garage floor here at the office, we all found that we ran out of inseam before we were able to accomplish these tasks. And it isn't anything that a lower profile seat from the H-D Parts and Accessories catalog wouldn't fix.
What can we say about the fuel-injected 96ci motor and the six-speed transmission that hasn't been said before? The powerplant delivers a ton of torque, and the six-speed transmission keeps the rpm down to allow Harley-Davidson's premier touring bike to deliver an advertised 54 mpg on the highway. The best part about the 96ci engine is that it delivers low-end torque, so that every time you roll on the throttle as you're coming out of a corner, the power is available right then. There is no waiting for the motor to wind up into the powerband; it is simply twist 'n' go. And the ever-increasing displacement of the Harley-Davidson motor doesn't hurt either.