7 p.m. Wednesday to 1 a.m. Thursday
Well, what could be more American than riding off into a California sunset on a Harley-Davidson? Glowing with patriotism, I pointed the Ultra toward the sinking sun and thundered west. The ergonomics work pretty well for someone 6-foot-2, though the saddle is certainly wider than I need it. No surprise there, I guess.
I dived headlong into the infotainment system, but I didn't find it as intuitive as Aaron Frank had raved about in his First Ride (MC, Nov. 2013). Although, as the sun plunged below the mountains and out of sight, I was pleased to see the screen automatically change to a night setting before becoming blindingly bright—a nice touch.
The face of a frustrated rider. Auxiliary lamps look cool and provide more light, but you
True darkness highlighted another problem: a lack of lighting on the handlebar-mounted controls. (Lighted Hand Control Switches are a $249.95 option, available in H-D's 1,000-page P&A catalog.) I was consistently bailed out by Ari over our intercom: "It's the one on the other side of the rocker from the right blinker" came the melancholy voice, jaded from the same frustrations.
Once at the edge of the Central Valley, California Route 58 snakes into the hills, and with each passing turn I came to realize the highly praised Daymaker headlights weren't cutting it. A quick stop confirmed that they were aimed too low, but unfortunately the adjustment required more tools than we had. It didn't help that the auxiliary lights are mounted so that they can be swiveled side to side but not tilted up or down.
By the return leg of my loop, temperatures had fallen drastically and I was glad for the good wind protection. Buffeting around my helmet at freeway speeds was the only real annoyance. As I blasted back to home base under a nearly full moon, I reflected on what a truly effortless bike the Ultra is to ride. Nearly 1,000 pounds of Milwaukee iron grumbling in a parking lot becomes a modern luxury liner at speed. No vibration, a light touch on the bars even on twisty roads, and a lovely all-American sound whenever you want it.