Most of my H-D mileage has been on Evo\'s and Twin Cams but there have been a few Shovel Heads, a Pan Head, and an Iron Head thrown in the mix over the years.
The bike that I had the problem with was a 2004 Ultra Classic that, at a few ticks past 45,000 miles, had the oil pump let go, taking the rest of the motor with it, leaving me in an awkward situation. The Drill Team I ride on had a performance in Memphis and I needed a running Harley Electraglide Classic or Ultra in 3 weeks. I’ve had a great run of luck over the years, but to get back on the road, I was looking the cost of replacing the motor with a remanufactured one, plus, of course, the added cost of an upgrade or two which you might as well do while you’re in there, right? After much figuring, lamenting, and re-figuring my wife looked at me and said, "Honey, you’re 60 years old, just get a new bike"; words every man is dying to hear, and she didn\'t have to say it twice.
I have always liked my H-D baggers, so naturally I began researching the possibility of a 2008 Ultra Classic to fill the void in the garage. As I was looking, I noticed that no major motorcycle publications tested a plain Ultra. They’ll test the CVO bikes, with a side bar on the more pedestrian versions which seems backwards to me. Even though the CVO bikes are really neat the regular Ultra is the bike most people will purchase. In addition, whenever a long term test is done, the manufacturer donates the bike and has their hand in the process. Now this is not a bad thing necessarily but I felt an independent long term test was needed. I contacted 2WF, and they sounded interested in the project. This evaluation will be void of the statistics you can find in a sales brochure, and focus on real-world seat of the pants impressions.
After a bit of reflection, I realized that I have always had good service from black Harleys so call me superstitious if you want but I decided that black would be my color of choice. For that reason, I picked-up a Vivid Black Ultra Classic with no alarm and no ABS, which had an MSRP of $ 20,695.
As has come to be a trademark of the Motor Company, the overall quality, fit, and finish are second to none; in a word excellent. The paint is so deep and free of flaws you can see the blue of the sky in its finish. The Motor Company also knows high dollar motorcycles are sold with permission from the passenger. With this in mind the tour pack was moved rearward providing additional room for the significant other to stretch out; this also makes removing the seat easier. Harley has removed the passenger hand rail for 08, though, and this is an item most riders miss. All controls, gauges, and lights on the dash are easy to read, but the ambient air temperature gauge is one item I find useless.
In one of my post retirement careers, I work as an MSF rider coach, so the first thing I did was ride the bike to a parking lot and learn the controls. The clutch has a progressive pull but releasing the clutch lever the same distance as on my old bike gives me more clutch engagement than before; not a problem just different. The fly-by-wire throttle is smooth when underway, but operates with a split second hesitation when coming off idle. It is not problematic however, and can easily be ridden around once you learn to expect it. My 04 Classic was in great condition prior the motor malfunction; however, the 08\'s updates seem well placed as it is head and shoulders above my dearly departed. The motor is 8 cubic inches larger and the 6 speed transmission lets the engine spin at 2,500 RPMs at an indicated 70 MPH. Another big plus is the additional gallon of fuel.
In an attempt to save some cash, I kept a few accessories from the old bike to dress up the new bike. The windscreen trim, backrest, low profile suspension, as well as several storage items all fit without a problem. The parade fan, however, was a different story. The engine block and primary cover are newly designed for 2008, so a fan designed for pre-2008 models cannot be fitted to the new 2008’s. The good news is that the fan may be a moot point anyway since the engine management system is all new. Harley redesigned it in an effort to reduce the heat many 2007 owners complained about. My first few weeks on this bike seem to confirm that claim, as the bike is cooler than my 2004.
Now that she was mine, I gave her a good looking over, and did have to tighten several fasteners on the bike when I got it home. In all fairness to the dealership, the service department was undergoing a managerial change, so that may have been the cause.
The Ultra turned 35 mpg until the odometer showed over 500 miles. Then it climbed to the low 40\'s. The new 6 speed transmission seems to not need a break-in period as it shifts smooth and precise right from the beginning. With the extra gear in there I did have to relearn shift points, and while I don\'t know the ratios off hand, the gearing feels taller. I will research the numbers in the future and let you know if the gear ratios are taller or just feel that way.
With the tire pressure and suspension set at factory specs, and after a proper break-in period, I rode the Cherohala Skyway and Deal’s Gap loop along with Dean who was on his new Ulysses. I\'m not going to tell you the Ultra Classic handled like a sport bike, but it is the best handling touring bike I have ever ridden on the Dragon. On earlier model Evo’s and Twin Cams I would use the bikes low end grunt to pull me through the turns; but on the new bike, I kept the motor turning between 4,000 and 5,000 RPM. With the power at the top end the bike pulled out of the corners faster than its predecessors. I did lose site of Dean on his Ulysses during the 11 mile ride, but I wasn\'t very far behind as he was just taking his helmet off when we met at the resort.
Dean and I completed the first service, to the specs in the owner’s manual, at home. All went well with one exception; the screws holding the derby cover on should be tightened to between 84 and 108 inch pounds but one was so tight we needed an impact wrench to remove it.
The following week I was off to Memphis, Tennessee with the Daytona Harley Drill Team for a performance. Due to a scheduling conflict, I was unable to leave with the team, so I ventured off by myself on the hearty round trip of just over 1,500 miles. The Ultra\'s cruise control, stereo, and C.B. radio made the miles pass easily, and the ride felt as if it went faster than it really did. When I couldn\'t find any radio stations to my liking, I plugged my MP3 player into the auxiliary jack on the front of the radio and played my own tunes. With the Ultra getting over 50 mpg and having a 6 gallon tank I could have gone approximately 300 miles on a tank full of gas. I say approximately as my body was ready to stop for fuel before the bike was so I found myself putting gas in every 200 miles or so.
After the performance I headed home with 4 other members of the team. This was my first ride with other bikes all equipped with C.B. radios. As it turned out, they are a great safety feature. Not just in casual bike to bike communication, but in reporting traffic, since the lead rider could see farther ahead to report upcoming road and traffic conditions. In essence, I was riding with 4 additional pairs of eyes.
At 3 weeks old she has over 3,000 miles on the clock. I plan to change the oil this week with HD fossil oil and at 5,000 miles I will switch to SYN-3. As a member of the Daytona Harley Drill Team, this motorcycle will see use in parades, performances, and a two hour weekly practice. In addition, it will work: teaching the Experienced Rider Course and as a test mule to test fit and demonstrate emergency lights for police work.
I did buy a 5 year extended warranty with the bike because if this one eats an oil pump I want it replaced at Harley’s expense. So far though I have had no regrets about buying the 2008 Ultra Classic at this point and hopefully that will continue to be how I feel for many, many miles to come.
I will be keeping you informed with regular updates on how the bike is running and how much upkeep costs. I know that every bike is different but hopefully we’ll be able to get a pretty close idea of how much owning a Harley Davidson Ultra Classic actually costs.