2011 Harley Road Glide Ultra First Ride

August 2, 2010
Bryan Harley
Bryan Harley
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Our resident road warrior has earned his stripes covering the rally circuit, from riding the Black Hills of Sturgis to cruising Main Street in Daytona Beach. Whether it's chopped, bobbed, or bored, metric to 'Merican, he rides 'em all.

The second new addition to the 2011 Harley family is the Road Glide Ultra. H-D has taken its popular bagger and dressed it out in full touring trim, adding vented fairing lowers and what Harley calls its PowerPak as standard equipment. The PowerPak consists of Harley’s 1690cc Twin Cam 103 engine, anti-lock brakes and the H-D Smart Security System. The extra horsepower of the TC 103 suits the Road Glide Ultra well because the new upgrades and accessories add 83 pounds in comparison to last year’s Road Glide Custom. Much of this weight comes in the form of the King Tour Pak the Road Glide Ultra is equipped with which features a big topcase with 2.26 cubic-feet of storage, a wrap-around rear tail/brake light combo, a passenger backrest and speakers for the 80-watt Harman Kardon audio system.

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Harley takes its popular bagger and converts it into a full-on touring machine in the guise of the 2011 Road Glide Ultra. Get a closer look of the RG Ultra and more in our 2011 Harley-Davidson First Ride Video.

The PowerPak package on the Road Glide Ultra is also standard fare on the Road King Classic and the Electra Glide Ultra Limited. It is offered as an option on the Street Glide and the Road Glide Custom, but the Road King, Electra Glide Classic and Ultra Classic Electra Glide get left out of the party and are still powered by the TC 96. Harley-Davidson was mum as to whether the TC 103 will be the mill of choice for the entire touring family in the future, but after watching our group of motojournalists scramble for seat time on the bikes equipped with the 103, I’d be surprised if it isn’t at the heart of all Harley tourers next year.

The big pushrod-operated V-Twin is the star of the changes differentiating the 2011 Road Glide Ultra and the 2010 Road Glide Custom. The new mill pushes out a claimed 9.6% more torque than the TC 96, achieved in part by upping the bore from 3.75 to 3.875 inches to push max output numbers to a reported 102 lb-ft of torque at 3500 rpm. But you don’t have to wait until 3500 rpm to notice the difference the extra displacement brings. The Road Glide Ultra comes off

The 2011 Road Glide Ultra comes complete with Harley-Davidsons Smart Security System  cruise control  and a four-speaker  80-watt Harman Kardon Advanced Audio System.
The 2011 Road Glide Ultra comes complete with Harley-Davidson’s Smart Security System, cruise control, and a four-speaker, 80-watt Harman/Kardon Advanced Audio System. It’s also better equipped for the long haul now with the addition of H-D’s King Tour Pak. The 2011 Road Glide Ultra is equipped with the King Tour Pak with a claimed 2.26 cubic-feet of storage space.

the line with extra urgency and there’s plenty of pull as low as 2200 rpm. It’s not snap-your-head-back power but is an even distribution of arm-stretching, low-end torque and adds the right amount of gusto needed to spice up Harley’s touring line. The extra power also adds a richness to the exhaust note coming out of the dual exhausts as H-D switched the Road Glides and the Street Glide back to a 2-1-2 arrangement for 2011.

The clutch lever pull is light and friendly and the throw is short as open road allows us to get up to highway speeds. A push with my left thumb engages the motorcycle’s standard cruise control mounted on the left handlebar. Though I’ve ridden the Road Glide before, the new Ultra version feels slightly different. The pressure point from the new seat is higher up on the lower back as the saddle is narrower up front and has a deeper bucket. Air is diverted around the rider more, courtesy of a higher windscreen, mid-frame air deflectors and the fairing lowers. But the weight and width of the King Tour Pak has altered the bike’s center of gravity and the Road Glide Ultra doesn’t quite have the nimbleness of the Road Glide Custom.

As the mountain roads get twistier and narrower and then funnel down to one-lane bridges over fast-moving creeks, we test the edges of the 17-inch Dunlop D407 Multi-Tread front tire. The fact that the Road Glide Ultra’s Shark-Nose fairing is frame-mounted keeps action at the bars from feeling too heavy and since Harley went from stamped and welded parts to a casted and forged frame on its touring bikes a couple of years back, its big tourers track loads better in turns. You can notice a tad more drag on the Road Glide Ultra’s rear end though, a combination of the added weight and altered aerodynamics.

A quick squeeze on the front brake lever and the four-piston fixed Brembo calipers put the bite on dual rotors and the feel of Harley’s brakes continues to improve yearly. Combined with the ABS that comes as part of the PowerPak, the braking system is much more confidence-inspiring than years past. Harley’s done a solid job of keeping its ABS unobtrusive by hiding the components in the wheel hub in an independently controlled setup. A good stab at the brakes is all it takes to get the ABS to engage and the corresponding foot or hand will experience a pulse letting riders know the system is pumping the brakes faster than humanly possible.

The 2011 Road Glide Customs shark-nose front fairing makes it easily identifiable.
For riders who liked the Road Glide just the way it was, fret not, the Road Glide Custom is still available.

The final part of the PowerPak is the H-D Smart Security System, a cool little hands-free fob that communicates with the security module on the bike, automatically self-arming and disarming when you’re within a certain range. When riders turn the bike off and walk away with the fob, the Smart Security System disables the vehicle starter, ignition and electronic fuel injection. And when you’re plunking down $22,499 for the Road Glide Ultra, riders will appreciate this safeguard to their investment. When you consider that you’re getting a bigger engine, ABS, and a sophisticated security system for $1995, the price of the PowerPak, it’s a deal.

And passengers will be much happier perched in their own backrest with its adjustable lumbar support, their feet propped up on their own floorboards. There are loads more storage for two-up travels, because the 2.26 cubic-feet of the GTX Saddlebags is doubled by the 2.26 cubic-feet of storage capacity offered up by the topcase. The PowerPak even boosts the sound of your tunes with two more speakers so riders can plug in their favorite MP3 player and crank up the 80-watt Harman/Kardan system.

The one point of contention with the 2011 Road Glide Ultra sure to cause a stir is that the new touring accessories detract from the aggressive, hot rod styling of the old Road Glide. The fairing lowers and King Tour Pak makes the Road Glide Ultra a better mount for long trips but at the cost of character. Any time you mess with the status quo, there’s going to be dissension in the ranks. But one ride with the extra power of the TC 103 on a bike with better brakes and double the storage should be all it takes to expose the merits of Harley’s newest touring motorcycle. The complete 2011 touring lineup consists of the Road King ($16,999), Electra Glide Classic ($18,999) ,Ultra Classic Electra Glide ($20,999), Street Glide ($18,999 + $1995 for PowerPak), Road Glide Custom ($18,999 + $1995 PowerPak), Road King Classic ($19,499), Road Glide Ultra and the Electra Glide Ultra Limited ($23,699).

With its wide bars  wide  comfy seat  big valanced fenders and whitewalls  the 2011 Softail Deluxe exudes class.
With its wide bars, wide, comfy seat, big valanced fenders and whitewalls, the 2011 Softail Deluxe exudes class.

And while we got to spin some miles on the two newest 2011 Harleys, the SuperLow and Road Glide Ultra, the 2011 Softail Classic caught our eye first as one of the most striking of the new Harleys with its classic styling. Vintage full fenders draped over spoke wheels and whitewall tires held by a stocky fork have timeless appeal. Stout in the middle with a five-gallon tank and tall chrome console, low-riding on an ultra-plush 24.5-inch high leather seat holding on to low-set, wide cruising bars, the Softail Classic is all about getting to your destination in style. Big floorboards allow for plenty of leg room in a kicked-back riding position while you click through gears with the heel/toe shifter. The Softail Classic is running with the Twin Cam 96 B engine and after having ridden the TC 103-powered Road Glide Ultra prior to the Softail, the livelier throttle response is quickly missed.

As a family, the Softails grabbed the last of Harley’s major 2011 headlines with the option of coming equipped with ABS. The tidy system consists of an ECU “brain box” in the electrical caddy in front of the rear tire. This ECU monitors the rear wheel control unit mounted behind the transmission and the front wheel unit squeezed in between the frame downtubes behind the front wheel. A tone ring is embedded in the hub bearings and the speed sensor is in the axles to provide a clean look. The system senses tire skid when brakes are applied and the ECU activates whichever wheel is experiencing skid, enacting the rapid series of pulses we had already mentioned for max braking force and to prevent uncontrolled wheel lock.

The other news surrounding the Softails is the addition of a few new buttons to the hand controls. The trip switch has been moved to left hand control resulting in the readout of the odometer has been made larger with more info including a small digital display window that provides riders with gear and rpm. The hazard on/off has been moved to a single button on right hand control and Harley has used fewer and smaller wires to make swapping out handlebars easier.

Harley-Davidson is offering ABS as an option on all 2011 Softails except for the Cross Bones.
Harley-Davidson is offering ABS as an option on all 2011 Softails except for the Cross Bones.

Harley-Davidson heads into its 107th year of production with an ambitious lineup of 30 motorcycles and two factory trikes. It is a company that is actively seeking to solidify its position with the 18-35 year old demographic and to expand its influence in the multicultural marketplace. To reach this demographic, Harley’s initiated more out-of-the-box marketing campaigns, setting up shop at events like Bonnaroo, a four-day, multi-stage music and camping festival held on a 700-acre farm in Manchester, Tennessee, and the SXSW music and film festival in Austin, Texas. It’s also been trying to take advantage of product placement in movies, like the upcoming Captain America movie where the lead character, Captain America, will ride a modified WLA which is really a converted Cross Bones. The Bar & Shield has undergone its share of challenges recently and has had to trudge through the same mire as other manufacturers, but it has made the difficult decisions and if its latest financial report is any indication, it appears to be on the way to righting a listing ship.

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2011 Harley-Davidson First Ride Review
2011 Harley Road Glide Ultra First Ride

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