2016 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Ultra Review

The Throne of Luxury, Outfitted in Leather and Chrome

2016 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Ultra
2016 Harley-Davidson Road Glide UltraJulia LaPalme

THEY SAY: "If your dream is big, this one's for you."

WE SAY: "We're dreaming of a distant destination."

At the introduction of the new Road Glide Ultra, Harley's brass pointed out that the previous RG Ultra led all other H-D models in annual mileage put on by owners. That emphasis in mind, the bulk of my time on the newly Rushmore-ized 2016 Harley Davidson Road Glide Ultra was on open highways with my favorite ballast aboard, wife Martha. (I'm gonna be sleeping on the couch for that crack.)

As you might know, the Road Glide Ultra was gone for two years while Harley tooled it up for the liquid-cooled, 103ci engine and a number of other improvements given to the basic Road Glide as part of the sweeping Rushmore updates, including things like a radically reworked frame-mount fairing with better aerodynamics, totally new luggage with brilliant new latches, and a big-screen infotainment system. Where the Road Glide and Road Glide Special are more custom-styled baggers, think of the Ultra as H-D’s true touring version, with a standard top box.

2016 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Ultra, dashboard
Infotainment is standard on the Ultra.Julia LaPalme

Real touring takes two, and the truth is that my wife requests that I “refrain from riding like a jackass” with her on board, so the RG Ultra is the ideal choice for a comfortably paced trip. She loves the passenger accommodations and says, “From the back seat, the Road Glide is roomy and comfy, with a huggy backrest and big flat passenger footrests. It’s easy to snap photos from the road and shift positions to keep the blood flowing in the nether regions.” She spent most of the 425 miles each day listening to music on her Bluetooth headset, taking in the scenery, and noting how “nicely” I was riding. Never did she ask for an early stop.

2016 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Ultra, brakes, brembo brakes
Brembo-made brakes are standard on the Ultra.Julia LaPalme

It’s a happy place for the rider, too, if you’re the right size. Our taller staffers weren’t thrilled with the Ultra’s aerodynamics, but I found them to be perfect for my 5-foot-9 frame. Taller windscreens are available, but I found a turbulence-free ride by carefully choosing which of the vents to open—there’s one at the base of the windscreen (open) and two surrounding the headlight (closed for cold weather), and extra closable louvers in the lowers. I’m not naturally a fan of the cruiser slouch, but the Ultra would have been just fine had my textile riding pants not slithered all over the seat. Swipe left on that match.

The tall-geared, rubber-mounted engine is, however, the perfect match for the Ultra’s rail-car stability, carrying it along at supra-legal speeds with just a hint of rumble. Contented at 65 mph, tolerant of 75, and just starting to whine above 85—that’s your working range. True, the tall gearing saps much of its roll-on performance, especially two-up with the excellent hard luggage brimming, but a downshift or two gets the 103ci engine back up the power curve. Peak torque of 92.4 pound-feet arrives at 3,600 rpm with horsepower topping out at 75.9 at 5,000 rpm, just 500 short of the redline. The Ultra is never fast by motorcycle standards, in part because it weighs 926 pounds with the 6-gallon tank full, but it rarely feels painfully underpowered.

2016 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Ultra, passenger seat
A cushy passenger perch with thick seat, massive backrest, and speakers. Could be a wet bar back there for all we know.Julia LaPalme

TECH SPEC

EVOLUTION
It’s a Rushmore-ized Road Glide with the liquid-cooled engine and a top box.
TECH
PRICE $25,799
ENGINE 1690cc, liquid-cooled 45° V-twin
BORE X STROKE 98.4 x 111.1mm
COMPRESSION 10.0:1
VALVE TRAIN OHV, 4v
FUELING EFI, ride by wire
CLUCTCH Wet, multi-plate
TRANS/FINAL DRIVE 6-speed, belt
FRAME Tubular-steel double-cradle
FRONT SUSPENSION Showa 49mm fork; 4.6-in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION Showa shocks adjustable for spring preload; 3.0-in. travel
FRONT BRAKE Brembo four-piston calipers, 300mm discs with ABS
REAR BRAKE Brembo four-piston caliper, 300mm disc with ABS
FRONT TIRE 130/80B-17 Dunlop American Elite
REAR TIRE 180/65B-16 Dunlop American Elite
RAKE/TRAIL 26.0°/6.7 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 29.7 in.
WHEELBASE 64.0 in.
MEASURED WEIGHT 926/890 lb. (tank full/empty)
FUEL CAPACITY 6.0 gal.
FUEL ECONOMY 44/31/35 mpg (high/low/average)
RANGE 210 mi. (including reserve)
WARRANTY 24 mo., unlimited mi.
MORE INTO AT harley-davidson.com
VERDICT
MC Grade: B: An all-American tourer that’s composed and comfortable, at least when the roads are smooth.
2016 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Ultra Motorcycle Review
There’s your classic American full-dress touring profile, albeit a bit more shark-nosed than you expect. Aerodynamics are a huge part of the Rushmore updates for the H-D touring line, and the RG Ultra’s are exceptional for shorter riders. Tall boys might want a different windshield.Julia LaPalme

As my wife and I ventured off the main highways, the Ultra helped me maintain inner calm. Limited cornering clearance—something Harley says rarely appears in the “voice of the customer” owner feedback—makes you choose an easy pace and smooth style. All is serene and sight-seeingly delightful until the road goes to hell. Then the fork (with one cartridge) and twin air shocks (pressured to the max) come unglued, allowing the Ultra to bottom violently. “More than once, Mr. Cook’s Wild Ride took us on beautiful but not recently maintained back roads,” reports Mrs. Cook, “and the first time we hit a lump in the tarmac, I felt my vertebrae do the bone-cracking equivalent of playing telephone, sacrum to cervical 1.” You can go to the aftermarket and make the Ultra’s suspension better, but you shouldn’t have to on a $26,000 motorcycle.

Harley’s version of linked brakes needs work, too, because the transition from independent and mixed braking is far too abrupt and unpredictable. Too bad, because the bike’s manners otherwise contribute to smooth piloting, from the predictable steering, broad clutch-takeup range, and the amount the bike’s size seems to shrink as you put on the miles. The effort put into the Rushmore updates have made the Ultra so user friendly in so many ways that I can completely see why owners put on so many miles.

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