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ROAD TEST H-D ELECTRA GLIDE

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h! Electra Glide in Blue!’ said Ferg when we met in town, referring to the 1973 film of that name. ‘Very tasty’ was the comment. Though I admit I had to come home and utilise my Ph.D. in Google to refresh my m memory of the flick. m

The clichéd title had stuck with both of us as a catchphrase, not bo bot for the integrity of the Robert Blake police drama, but because it was the first movie, we can recall, which featured the model designation of a motorcycle in its title. (I think it’s the only one?) And Electra Glide is such a famous name in motorcycling. The first FL Electra Glides appeared in 1965, and as author Mac MacDiarmid asserts in his comprehensive encyclopaedia ‘The Ultimate HarleyDavidson’ (Hermes House); ‘Of all H-D models, surely the enduring FL Electra Glide is the one that best epitomises the breed.’ Brave claim, Mac, but after spending a week living with a magnificent Flame Blue Pearl and Vivid Black FLHTK Electra Glide Ultra Limited, I’d have to agree that it’s everything I like about a big block Harley. (And confuses me about Harley names!) Don’t believe any of the internet dribble about ‘Harleys don’t do this or that’, because this is a very competent, really pleasurable, good fun motorcycle. It goes, and chucks around, like a Sportster did four or five years ago – and it weighs 400kg. I read a bit more from the esteemed Mac and he proceeds to completely dump on the original Electra Glides. Referring to the 1966 model he claims ‘this never was a state-of-the-art machine’ and bemoans the reliability of the first electric starters and lack of decent front brakes. Fortunately in the ensuing 44 years that whole situation has changed and the 2010 unit is up there with any machine – if uber-tourers are your riding pleasure. FUN TO RIDE Don’t let the touring and luxury deportments fool you either, it really is a fun to ride motorcycle. Well balanced, nicely mannered, torquey and even (I know this sounds unlikely) feels like quite a ‘zippy’ bike. I did one of those ‘Hellllooooo, niiiiice!’ things in my helmet the first time I twisted the grip in earnest. Co-pilot looked at me like I was drunk

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when I got all fizzy about it when she came home from work on pick-up day. Harley claim the 103 cubic inch (1690cc) ‘Police’ motor has 11% more torque than a Standard Ultra with the Twin Cam 96 (1584cc) engine, the extra capacity achieved courtesy a bore of 98.4 and stroke of 111.1mm. As is the H-D way now, there are no published horsepower figures, but a claimed 136Nm of torque is the selling point. Whatever their horsepower number, they are fun to saddle up and take for a ride. The whole shebang shakes like a Harley should at idle, then when it’s going, it’s probably the smoothest V-twin I have thrown a leg over. It just purrs along on its rubber mounts. Kick it down a couple of cogs and it torques up nicely and equally smoothly. I felt an occasional faint vibe through my H-D brand FXR boots, but only when I was searching for vibe, overall I thought it’s a very sweet unit. THE EFI’S AS GOOD AS ANY The EFI was also noteworthy. This unit is also as good as any I’ve tested. It didn’t stumble once in the entire test. I ran it on 95 Octane and it seemed un-bumbleable. Harley says it ‘delivers easy starting cold or hot and self-adjusts to changing elevation and atmospheric conditions.’ Fuel economy also got better with each kilometre of the run-in and the estimated range to empty (by the trip computer) got longer with each km of engine loosening. Wick it up and it gets along, but at the price of burning the fuel required to shift 400kg plus rider passenger and gear, but shift it nicely, it does. I almost did stumble a few times though. For a unit that only had 120km on board when I picked it up, the gearbox was very good and easy to select. All of these car size engines have a noticeable run-in transition but this one’s box was particularly nice from the get-go. The only problem was that it is so easy to click in and out of gear that I accidentally knocked the heel shifter into neutral with my size twelves on a few takeoffs. Very Keystone Cops. It’s a very easy 6-speed gearbox. LIGHT ON ITS FEET As soon as the ‘Limited’ is moving it feels quite light on its feet. It’s not a hard chore to get the footboards on the ground, but with so much bike around you it feels like


ROAD TEST H-D ELECTRA GLIDE

For many it’s the ultimate full-dress touring bike. For Big Dave, however, Harley-Davidson’s latest Ultra Limited Electra Glide was much more than that.

WORDS: Big Dave PICS: Geoff Osborne

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ROAD TEST H-D ELECTRA GLIDE

a steeper bank angle than it actually is. Ultimately the 33 degree lean angle is the limiting factor, but it’s good fun, and quite reliable, getting there. It does the posted ‘75s’ at 100km/h easily. This is the first of the new (2008) Touring chassis models that I’ve tested on New Zealand roads and…wow. I understand what all the fuss is about. I’m serious about the fun bit. This is a PT Boat disguised as a Battleship and I don’t blame you if you don’t believe me till you ride one. Yes it weighs 400kg, and backing it out of the Bunker took due care, but the CoG is low, the wheelbase is 1635mm, it has a state-of-the-art chassis, air adjustable rear suspension, nice upright ergos, and very direct belt drive. It responds well to input and getting a cheek off the plush saddle. Brakes are triple 300mm Brembo with ABS – as standard on all Touring model Harleys. The beautiful contrast chrome wheels are ‘normal’ size 17” front with 180 section rear, fitted with custom dual compound Dunlop rubber. It’s a lovely bike to spend a week or a grand tour on. BY THE BOOK Meanwhile Mac’s book also told me

about the various model designations and how even a hand change option was available until 1972. The tradition of options has also continued to this current model. The Ultra Limited differs slightly from the ‘standard’ Ultra Classic Electra Glide. How? I hear you ask. Well, standard ABS and ‘police’ (as in the one they currently use in the H-D US police bikes) engine, a smart security system, upgraded luggage, a chrome top box rack, accessory power supply, unique paint (and it’s beautiful), trick wheels and some dashboard bling. What a dashboard it is too. Comprehensive, old-skool looking, analogue dials are arrayed around the Harmon-Karden stereo unit, which works well and was clearly audible under my Arai Chaser at open road speeds. Volume and other stereo controls are located on the left hand switch block, or the dash. It took me a few days to come to grips with switch arrays, but I like the button-per-side Harley indictor set up (self-cancelling) and the cruise control, and myriad of other features work well when you remember what they all do and put them in an environment they were designed for.

Photos like these certainly do justice to the beautiful electric blue test bike. But they don’t convey how slim and – believe it or not – lithe the big Electra Glide feels when you’re in the saddle.

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CRUISE CONTROL? ROAD TEST H-D ELECTRA GLIDE

‘Cruise control?’ Nearly everyone is somewhat incredulous when I mention it. They shouldn’t be – it has merit. Riding around the Coromandel Peninsula or to Akaroa there’s not much use for it, but crossing the Hauraki or Canterbury plains, in open road situations, it’s just one less thing to worry about. Speaking of which, the seat is delightfully plush and there is plenty of room in the rider’s chair. Co-pilot rates the rear comfort ‘As good as any. Highest category.’ The rear throne is integrated into a large top box and the panniers are long and quite deep and the blingy rack unit adds extra capacity. The bodywork is very efficient at creating a bubble for the rider and the Co-pilot said she felt no buffeting in the back seat. The screen isn’t adjustable, but the height worked for me OK anyway, and there are shorter or taller options available. And the fairing lowers keep a lot of the weather off and also have small storage compartments built in. The upper bodywork has wind deflectors that are admirably efficient. They can direct a steady flow of air right up your sleeves. Ideal on a summer day like the one on which we did the photo shoot. It was warm and I borrowed the H-D brand flow-through mesh jacket from AMPS and was as comfortable as a bloke could be on a motorcycle. Wind deflected and all. It was a beautiful day on a beautiful

‘Like a PT boat disguised as a Battleship’ is how Big Dave put it and he’s absolutely on the nail. Smooth, torquey big-bore ‘police-spec’ engine option is the perfect match for the solid yet well-suspended frame and comprehensive running gear package.

machine. The engine is chrome. All chrome. A work of art to look at. The whole bike in fact I found very pleasing to the eye and very pleasing to ride. The 2-1-2 exhaust system is modernday quiet and finished in similarly lustrous chrome. A GOOD RUN I gave the ‘Limited’ a good run through plenty of freeway, open roads and a decent blat up State Highway 22 and found it’s a really good fun, capable, enjoyable bike. People who are familiar with Electra Glides say, ‘Yeah, like you didn’t know???’

People who aren’t familiar look at it and say, ’Get out!’ It’s opulent, I mean, a wicked stereo on a motorcycle? C’mon! But it also has an engine with pleasing character, the highest levels of all day riding comfort and a nice set of road manners for a very large touring motorcycle. At $38,500 ride away you’d expect it to be well mannered. What you get for that hard-earned cash is a supremely comfortable grand tourer, which doubles as a blinged-up cruiser, while being a pretty good fun bike to ride, right out of the box. Ultra nice. No blues. KR

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ROAD TEST H-D ELECTRA GLIDE

SPECIFICATIONS HARLEY-DAVIDSON ELECTRA GLIDE ULTRA LTD ENGINE Type: Air-cooled twin cam 103 cu in V-twin Displacement: 1690cc Compression ratio: 9.6:1 Bore x stroke: 98.4 x 111.1mm Starting system: Electric Engine management system: CDI Fuel system: Electronic sequential port ESPF1 fuel injection Clutch: Wet multi-plate Transmission: 6-speed H-D Cruise Drive Final drive: Belt FRAME

Basic look and feel is what Harley-Davidson has been doing for decades. Under the surface though the Electra Glide is as state-of-the-art in a technical sense as any sports V-twin from Italy. Those who haven’t ridden a Harley-Davidson for a while will marvel at the power and sensitivity of the brakes as much as they will at the smooth, unflappable way the electronic fuel injection system handles the demands of a large capacity V-twin engine – not to mention the short, precise snick-snick of the new 6-speed gearbox. You’ve got to love the bling factor too with cruise control, MP3/iPod-compatible sound system and fantastically comfortable pillion accommodation. Only niggle from within the KR ranks comes from the Ed who would prefer a push-button adjustable height function on the low-line windscreen.

Type: Tubular mild steel w/ two-piece stamped and welded backbone w/ cast & forged junctions Swingarm: Mild-steel Suspension: Front: Telescopic fork 41.3mm Rear: Twin air adjustable shock absorbers Brakes: Twin 300mm rotor disc w/ 4-piston fixed calipers front & single 300mm rotor disc w/ 4-piston fixed caliper rear Wheels: Cast aluminium 28-spoke chrome 17” dia front & 16” dia. rear Tyres: Dunlop D408F 130/80-17 front & Dunlop D407 180/65-16 rear DIMENSIONS Wheelbase: 1635mm Rake: 26° Trail: 170mm Length: 2525mm Seat height: 745mm Dry weight: 400kg Fuel tank capacity: 22.7L RRP: $38,500 Test bike: Harley-Davidson & AMPS GEAR Helmet: Arai Jacket: Harley-Davidson Jeans: Triumph Boots: Harley-Davidson

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HARLEY ULTRA CLASSIC