As regular blog followers will know, I’ve been banging on for some time about how nice the new “Project Rushmore” Harley Davidson touring motorcycles are.
‘Very,’ is a word that seems to comes to mind.
One slight problem… I’ve blathered on about the bikes, but had yet to ride one.
Driving home across a foggy Bodmin Moor last Tuesday, the hands free phone in my car burst into life with a call from Kevin Tomlinson at Plymouth Harley Davidson. I pulled over into a convenient lay by and Kevin told me that the Dealership had just taken delivery of a new Electra-Glide Ultra Limited Low model, it was road ready and would I like to test ride it?
Does Pinocchio have balsa bollocks?
Dead right I’d like to ride it!
Arriving at the Dealership this morning, I reported to Salesman Tim Williams, filled in the requisite paperwork and was led to a gleaming Ultra Limited Low.
“Feeling excited?” asked Kirk, the Service Manager.
“Nah!” I lied. “It’s just another bike.” Oh boy, I was telling whoppers!
I could hardly wait to get out on the road.
Tim took me through the niceties of the ‘Low’ as the engine warmed up.
I threw my leg over the saddle, kicked in first gear, let out the clutch and off we went. As I moved onto the A38 and headed West my first thought, “This bike feels…lovely!”
True, the machine was new and understandably a bit stiff, but she was throttle responsive and rode beautifully. I headed towards Dookes H.Q. on roads I know well and which would give me a good comparison to my beloved Softail.
As the miles rolled by, I became more and more impressed with the lovely machine that I was riding. On the twisties, she was nice and stiff; the front end stayed true to the road, though I wasn’t trying anything extravagant as the tyres were brand new as well! Throttle response was more than impressive, it was bloomin’ amazing! This is a big bike weighing in at nearly 400kg, but it felt light and crisp.
After covering about fifty miles I thought it would be good to pull over, take a breather and evaluate this neat machine.
Now just a word to explain this “Low” tag that Harley Davidson have given the model. The bike is based on the standard Electra-Glide Ultra Limited, but to make it more attractive to, shall we say more ‘vertically challenged’ riders, a number of modifications have been applied. The suspension has been lowered and likewise the seat has also been modified to lower the riding position, all this making the machine about 55mm lower than it’s bigger stablemate. The handlebar has also been moved back, to allow for shorter arms and the grips are a tad thinner, actually H-D have just simply omitted the heated grips which is a bit of a cheat in my view. The primary drive cover has also been slimmed down, which begs to question why on the standard size machine it has to be so big? Unless of course the ‘Low’ has something different inside there that I don’t know about.
Well, for me it’s a tad small, which might seem a bit bonkers for such a big bike! The low seat modifications push my knees a bit high and it all makes things quite cramped around the foot controls. The close handlebar is just that for me, too close. In addition, the low seat has less padding and these days so does the Dookes derrière, which made it a tad uncomfortable! The pillion seat is, however, just about as plush as you can get on any motorcycle. Final downside is that as a tallish chap the screen is a bit too low, leading to some wind buffeting at mid-range speeds, but this could be fixed as different screen sizes are available.
On the plus side, which to be honest far outweigh the fit issues, it rides beautifully. Cornering is precise and feels like you are on rails. Acceleration, wow, just breathtaking for such a big bike, but then with a 103cu inch (1690cc) engine it should be! Power is, however, tractable, right through the range and the sixth gear a delight for highway cruising; talking of which, the cruise control is superb and so simple to engage and manage. Incidentally, the engine is twin cooled, air with liquid around the valves ports. The hydraulic clutch surprised me by being light to use, yet also still having that undefinable ‘feel’ that to me is so important. Brakes are the best I’ve ever experienced on any touring motorbike by any manufacturer; they are linked above 25mph and really sit the bike firmly on the road when applied, ABS is standard. Twin disks on the front wheel and a single disk on the rear. The LED head and auxiliary lights are nice and bright, although I didn’t ride after sunset they certainly lit up the Saltash Tunnel quite well!
The bike is fitted with a super Satnav/Information/Entertainment module that Harley have dubbed an ‘Infotainment’ system. I never thought I’d like a stereo on a bike, but I loved this! Good clear sound, that cleverly increases the volume as engine noise increases! I’m not a great fan of SatNavs, but this seemed ok and I could get to use it in addition to the legendary Dookes sense of direction! The system will also link to mobile phones, iPods and other USB devices, neat. Supplied as standard are in helmet speakers and microphones. These enable rider and pillion to talk on the move, as well as using the stereo system without the external speakers and utilising voice recognition for SatNav commands. Dials for speed, engine revs, fuel and volts are well laid out, clear to read and light up effectively. The various switches and controls are placed logically on the handlebars and soon become instinctive to use.
As you can see in the photos, there is bags of luggage space…bad pun! Two hard panniers and a cavernous top box, which will itself hold two full face helmets and more. All are lockable, which will give extra security to the touring rider and all are made to be opened and closed when wearing riding gloves, a nice touch, well done H-D! Finish is top quality.
By the time I got back to the Dealership I had ridden nearly 120 miles and had a big stupid grin on my face. This is one fantastic motorbike!
To conclude, I loved this bike and I really feel that Harley Davidson have made a good move by identifying a potential market and going for it. I am sure that they will sell a lot of this model by taking that chance. At a tad over £22k for the two tone colour version that I rode these bikes are not cheap, but I believe that they do return very good value for money and H-D used prices always remain high. If you want a comfortable, stylish, yet performance minded mile muncher and you stand somewhere below six feet tall, this is the bike for you!
Many, many thanks to Dealer Principle Chris Iris, Kevin Tomlinson and Tim Williams at Plymouth Harley Davidson for the opportunity and loan of the test bike.
Now where can I get my hands on it’s bigger brother???