Harley-Davidson’s Half-Ton Hero

2018 Road Glide Ultra does holiday highway duty

2018 Road Glide Ultra
Harley-Davidson’s 2018 Road Glide Ultra is right at home on the open road, just so long as it’s actually the open road.Chris Cantle

Harley-Davidson's Road Glide Ultra is made for something better than California traffic. It's made for 80-mph wide-open throttle with a loved one draped across the seat behind you. It's made for packing a week's worth of whatever and pointing yourself at a horizon, assured that you can find it. What it's not made for is sitting at a dead stop in heat-sunk highway hell, idling while thinner, thriftier motorcycles blitz past, taking advantage of lane-splitting laws and four feet of nothing between a stopped-dead carpool lane and a somehow-more-congested fast lane.

2018 Road Glide Ultra
Top: With three big hard cases, the Road Glide is happy to haul a weekend around with you.
Bottom: Harley's 107ci Milwaukee-Eight looks right at home in the company of big, torquey radial engines.
Chris Cantle

For Harley's continent-crossing cruiser, this is a worst-case-use scenario. Its massive 1,750cc Milwaukee-Eight engine pours heat across your legs. All 937 pounds of baggage and fuel and speakers and electronics and chrome and steel—mass that typically makes for delightfully lazy hands-off stability—just wants to roll over and call it quits. And so do I. But it doesn't. And I don't. And with that agreed upon, everyone starts getting along.

2018 Road Glide Ultra
Left: The Road Glide Ultra distinguishes itself from the rest of the Harley family with its broad, hard-mounted fairing and giant twin headlamps.
Right: The distinctive fixed fairing has been a design feature since the introduction of the 1998 FLTR Road Glide.
Chris Cantle

The big Road Glide isn't the perfect tool for scything through Los Angeles traffic, but it's a damned fine thing to sit around on if you're not. The infotainment system plays nice with an iPhone, which can charge in a little glovebox on the right side of the fixed fairing. It gives you time to listen to the radio or appreciate the deep, red, bass-boat paint.

2018 Road Glide Ultra
Top: The 1,750cc V-twin is backed up by a similarly meaty six-speed transmission.
Left: While the Road Glide Ultra distinguishes itself with vastness, it also makes its mark with appealing details that go a long way to justify a $27,499 price tag.
Right: All that length—8.5 feet!—makes for lots of places for Harley-Davidson to tuck logos.
Chris Cantle

If the Road Glide Ultra can hold up under a 90-degree day of traffic torture, it’ll only get better on the open road. And it does. When traffic clears along the coast, the Harley gets to stretch its legs. Pacific Coast Highway near Santa Barbara is long and loping cruise-control country. Mellow sixth-gear bends in wide roads. It’s where the bike belongs. It’s where you turn off the stereo and where the big twin’s big rumble cuts loose.

2018 Road Glide Ultra
Top: Backrest, speakers, an intercom. The back seat is designed for comfort.
Bottom: When it comes to branding, Harley leaves no good surface left to waste.
Chris Cantle
2018 Road Glide Ultra
Left: Infotainment that interfaces with your mobile phone means endless entertainment options when you're stuck in traffic.
Right: The color-matched Harley-Davidson logo stretched across the trunk is our favorite—not too big, not too small, just right.
Chris Cantle