What do the letters actually mean I hear you ask….? Well I haven’t a clue, and searching the internet didn’t help much as different people think it means different things. I knew of the Electra Glide when I was kid and didn’t know them then either, I’ll leave that to the followers of the marque. There are another 4 FLH bikes in the range which are basically the same bike with different degrees of dressing.
When you first look at it is clear it is an old design, the batwing fairing first appeared in 1969 and from the front it looks it, for some reason they (HD) have stayed with the design for a lot of years without changing it. It was frame mounted for a time in the 70’s, more aerodynamic and twin headlights, but that soon reverted back to what you have now.
Because of the length and weight of the bike at 2270 mm and 375kg it needed to be different in certain areas, a 26-degree headstock to ease the low speed steering, while a massive trail of 157.48mm aided straight line stability. As a comparison a Honda Goldwing rake/trail is 29.15 degrees and 109.0mm. Manoeuvring the bike is as simple as starting it to go forward and sitting on it to go backwards, it is too heavy to push from standing on any kind of slope and far easier to sit on to push back (no reverse gear).
Suspension is standard springs and oil up front while the rear shocks are air-adjustable to accommodate variable passenger and luggage loads in comfort. My pillion had no problems with the sitting position or the fact they had their own controls for the radio and intercom which is fitted as standard, a good move. The rider’s seat is large and soft to soak up any bumps, with all the controls to hand, or foot, and the handlebars are in a comfy position.
In front of you are dials for the speedo, revs, ambient air temp, fuel, volt metre and Radio/CD player, a couple of good speakers are either side. On the handlebars are all the normal switches, lights, horn etc, the indicators are on the same as a BMW-left for left etc + there are the controls for the intercom, stereo, cruise control. All are easy to reach and work in gloved hands.
The layout of the dials goes back to a time long forgotten, and while they do the job are not much to look at really, nowadays any boxes, screens etc are moulded into a cover to effectively mask the engineering underneath. The hog fairing and leg protectors look as if they have been fitted as a last minute touch and while there are wind deflectors on the fairing and legs there is still a large gap where your knees catch the wind/rain etc.
Stopping this leviathan are 32 mm 4-piston fixed front and rear Brembo callipers which has an anti-lock system, these work very well especially the rear which is different in itself as it is mostly reported to be the worst on any bike. It gives you a lot of feel and helps immensely when slow riding by using just enough to aid your balance.
Running on 9-spoke cast aluminium wheels with the front tyre being a MT90B16 72H makes it the largest front I have ridden on, and is another reason why the bike has the rake/trail it has. Riding this with more would be an absolute nightmare to steer because it would be so heavy on the front end.
To move all this weight the FHLTCU uses a 96-inch motor (1,584cc), air cooled, horsepower stands at 62.4 at 5,200 rpm, but torque is 77.8 lb-ft at 3,600 rpm. Anyone who rides a Harley can confirm that torque is what it’s all about. Not only that, but the Ultra’s flat torque curve delivers more than 70 lb-ft from 2,000 on up to 4,400 rpm.
It uses a 6 speed gearbox, a multi-plate clutch with diaphragm spring in oil bath, final drive is by a carbon fibre belt fitted with the IDS (Isolated Drive System) which uses rear wheel pulleys that in effect have a rubber cushion in the hub and absorb most of the shock transmitted through the driveline from the longer stroked 96 engines. Sixth gear is an overdrive gear for long roads such as motorways though you can use it anytime as long as your speed is up.
The three luggage boxes can carry an ok amount of kit, the top box will take 2 full face lids on their side and some extra items but the side cases are limited, the fact that they are only 7 ½ inches wide means you are restricted to what will fit. They are all fixed so inner bags of some kind will be needed.
So what’s it like to ride? It’s actually not as bad as I was expecting, the seating position is good with height adjustable footboards and a heel and toe gear shifter which should make it fit just about anybody. It has what is called a passive key fob that must be within several feet of the bike or nothing will happen except the turn signals will simply flash at you angrily. When the fob is more than 8 feet away, the security system arms itself and disables the ignition. If someone tries to have it away, the signals flash; a siren alarm is optional. Should you lose the fob or leave it sitting in your garage when you ride off, you can arm or disarm the system by using the turn signal controls to enter a PIN number. Make sure you know what it is thought or you’re really in it!
Once it is running and you pull away it is much like riding any other cruiser, the extra weight of the batwing fairing vanishes, and everything is within easy reach. This bike has a maximum lean angle of 30/32 degrees so cornering takes on a whole new meaning, the corners you normally take at 50 are now at 40 or less, the other option if keeping your speed up is the horrible noise of a metal and tarmac interface-and no I didn’t try it out!
You need to recalibrate your brain to steady mode, sit back, turn the radio/cd up, relax and just go with the flow. On the A roads you can maintain a reasonable speed being careful when in corners/roundabouts, the torque will pull you out of most problems you might find yourself in-within reason. Give it a handful of berries and it will accelerate with the best of them, you will hear the roar from the exhausts which changes tone as you change gears.
On motorways/dual carriageways you can set the cruise control to the speed of your choice, within legal limits of course and let the world pass you by. With a full tank at 22.7 litres and claimed figures of 45mpg on motorway riding, and 32.5mpg urban it will carry you around 200 miles and 160 miles respectively, which are good figures on any bike. With the riding position you should be able to do a tank in one go.
On Mayday I took the bike to Hastings for the annual run along with another 20,000 + riders, I left early to get there as the Kent people within the bmf handle the car park for the police so the bike was in a prominent place, but the only people that came over to look at it were children, and Harley riders.
So how much will one of these monsters cost you? The answer, a surprisingly low £13,995, with the only 2 comparable bikes on the market, the Honda Goldwing at a wapping £17.499 and the BMW K1200LT range at around £13,335 it is in the same ball park. The decision then is down to individual taste.
Would I buy one….? No. I’m just not a Harley fan but I understand why so many people buy into the brand, like most one make clubs there is that bit more camaraderie. As I said earlier it is the top of the range Harley Davidson and because of that it is something an aficionado of the brand may aspire too but I think there are better looking Harleys in this genre.
I don’t think that trying to bring the style up to date would necessarily work on this bike as it’s the originality, and old world looks that attract people to them in the first place. HD has proven over the years that there is demand for their product and long may it continue.