Back after a two-year hiatus, the Road Glide Ultra rejoins Harley-Davidson’s FLTR touring stable that includes the Road Glide — which returned to the lineup in 2015 after a year-long hiatus — and the new-for-2015 Road Glide Special. Why the absences? Why, to get Project Rushmore work-ups, of course.

Since its introduction in 2011, the Road Glide Ultra has been the bike of choice for hard-core Harley tourers both in the saddle and on the pillion and its return to the touring lineup is a welcome event. The Road Glide, the base model workhorse of the FLTR group, continues the tradition of outstanding touring comfort and joins its sibling, the Road Glide Special for some new-for-2016 goodies.

Continue reading for my review of the Harley-Davidson Road Glide, Road Glide Special and Road Glide Ultra.

Design

2014 - 2016 Harley-Davidson Road Glide / Road Glide Special / Road Glide Ultra
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Typical of the FLT/FLH family, the bikes are big and heavy, very desirable in a serious touring bike. Setting them apart from others in the touring stable, the Road Glides come with a frame-mounted fairing. Some might consider that a negative, but I like it. The fixed fairing keeps wind buffeting from interfering with steering precision.

The Road Glides get a reduced-width primary chaincase cover for 2016 that gives you a little more room to reach the ground. It’s just a little, but every bit counts for the shorty-shorts among us — me included.

The King of Paint also brings in some new-for-2016 colors and colorways. The Road Glide and Road Glide Special get Hard Candy options for 2016 and the Road Glide Special also gets a new-for-2016 custom color. Those Hard Candy colors are so gorgeous.

The Road Glide Ultra, built for serious touring riders, has raised handlebars and a lower seat to create a seating position more conducive to long-distance comfort in the saddle and comes dressed with a Tour-Pak. The Road Glide Special sets itself apart from the base model with snazzy pinstriping as well as a premium Boom!™ Box 6.5GT infotainment system, Reflex™ Linked Brakes with ABS, and the Smart Security System, which are options on the base model, but come standard on the Special — making it, well, Special.

Chassis

2014 - 2016 Harley-Davidson Road Glide / Road Glide Special / Road Glide Ultra
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As members of the FLT family, the Road Glide range comes built on Harley’s largest and heaviest frame. A rectangular, stamped and welded backbone with tubular members, all made of mild steel, form the usual double-downtube, double-cradle frame. The steering head comes set at 26 degrees, and an offset in the tripletree adds up to a 29.25-degree total fork angle. This leaves us with 6.8 inches of trail on the base model and Special (6.7 on the Ultra), and a very stable platform at speed. Naturally, this good tracking equates to somewhat stiff cornering, and the Road Glide won’t take the corners as well as a Gold Wing for instance, though they are capable of 30-plus degree leans.

Fat, 49 mm forks are consistent across the board, and they provide for 4.6 inches of front wheel travel. However, the rear shocks vary model to model. The base Road Glide comes with low-profile air shocks and a shockingly low 2.13 inches of travel, while the Special rides on “Premium,” hand-adjustable shocks and an even lower 2.1 inches of travel. Boasting the longest stroke in the range, the Ultra comes with air-shocks and a whopping 3 inches of travel. Not much on paper, but these are considered tour bikes and Harley knows what it takes to make big, heavy bikes comfortable. And I do mean heavy.

In running order, the Road Glide and Road Glide Special both weigh in at 849 pounds, while the Ultra tips the scale at 916 pounds, and it takes some serious brakes to manage that kind of energy. The factory opted for 300 mm discs and four-pot, 32 mm-bore, Brembo calipers for both the dual front binders and the rear, and the optional ABS on the base model becomes standard equipment on the Special and Ultra for added safety and confidence. All three models run a 16-inch rear tire, but the Ultra runs a 17-inch front hoop while the other two roll on 19s, hence the difference in trail.

Drivetrain

2014 - 2016 Harley-Davidson Road Glide / Road Glide Special / Road Glide Ultra
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Harley used its Project Rushmore-inspired, 1,690 cc, High Output Twin Cam mill to drive the Road Glide and the Special. This air-cooled mill comes with a built-in oil cooler to further leech off waste heat and provide another layer of protection. The engine comes in the brand-typical configuration, which is to say a 45-degree V-twin, fuel injected with a pushrod valvetrain and two-valve heads.

As usual, the mill serves as the crown jewel for the bike, but Harley has been paying more attention to performance in recent years, and the power figures show that effort hasn’t been in vain. The High Output Twin Cam puts out a total of 104.7 pound-feet of torque at 3,250 rpm, a decent amount of power even given the overall weight.

The back-for-2016 Ultra gets an upgraded variant of this engine in the form of the Twin-Cooled High Output Twin Cam 103 that features liquid cooling around the exhaust port along with the usual air-cooling fins on the jugs. A slight bump in the compression ratio from 9.7-to-1 up to 10-to-1 increases output to 105.5 pound-feet at 3,750 rpm. Though Harley markets these rides as tour bikes, these performance numbers certainly qualify for the power-cruiser category. All three bikes come with the six-speed Cruise Drive transmission and belt final drive.

Pricing

2014 - 2016 Harley-Davidson Road Glide / Road Glide Special / Road Glide Ultra
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Price, as always with the King of Paint, includes a lot of colors and a lot of MSRPs, so let’s take a look at this FLTR lineup. The base model Road Glide starts out $21,199 for good ol’ Vivid Black. If you want it shot in Amber Whiskey, Charcoal Pearl or Black Denim, be prepared to cough up $500 more. The Hard Candy options — Hard Candy Gold Flake or Hard Candy Black Gold Flake — will run you $24,199.

MSRP on the Road Glide Special is $23,499 in Vivid Black with Medium Silver pinstripe. Colors options for $500 more include Superior Blue with Blue pinstripe, Black Quartz with Pale Gold pinstripe and Velocity Red Sunglo with Med. Red pinstripe. The custom Cosmic Blue Pearl will set you back $24,699 and the Hard Candy options — Hard Candy Gold Flake and Hard Candy Black Gold Flake — go for $24,199.

The Road Glide Ultra comes shot in two-tones Billet Silver/Vivid Black with Burgundy/Charcoal Metallic pinstripe or Mysterious Red Sunglo/Velocity Red Sunglo with Medium Red/Pale Gold pinstripe for $26,799. The custom colors — Purple Fire/Blackberry Smoke with Proper Purple/Charcoal Metallic pinstripe or Cosmic Blue Pearl — come in a little more at $26,999.

The security system that is standard on the Special and Ultra runs you $395 on the base model and ABS — again, standard on Special and Ultra — goes for $795 on the Road Glide.

Competitors

2016 - 2017 Honda Gold Wing / Gold Wing F6B
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2015 - 2019 Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Vaquero / Vulcan 1700 Voyager
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When looking for a competitor, I try to stick close to engine size, but sometimes that isn’t always possible. I also try to stay away from the main-stream choices because sometimes they’re done to death. When picking a competitor for the Road Glide, however, there is a competitor that is so obvious that I can’t ignore it: The Vulcan 1700 Vaquero from Kawasaki. Ha! Betcha thought I was going to say the Goldwing F6B, didn’tcha?

Both the Road Glide and the Vulcan fall squarely within what I would call the Boulevard Bruiser genre with strong power-cruiser undertones. Kawasaki extends the fixed fairing on the Vaquero down to include a radiator cowling and chin spoiler for a bit more in the way of “sheet metal” up front. It isn’t as clean as the Road Glide, but I suppose the extra fairing is better than looking at the radiator.

The upper lines start at similarly chopped-down and smoked windshields, and flow across the tanks to the deep-scoop seats that end with a tapered pillion pad for a semi-solo look. Footboards, engine guards and hard bags finish out both rides, but while the Road Glide sports chromed rocker-box covers, pushrod tubes, nosecone and primary chaincase cover, the Vaquero adopts a more sinister, semi-blackout paint scheme for the drivetrain. Both rides carry similar front fairings, but H-D runs a dual-headlight setup and the Vaquero runs as a cyclops for a very different look head-on.

Built for the American market, the Vaquero runs a big V-twin that is sure to appeal to our love for big engines. At 1,700 cc, the water-cooled Kawasaki carries just a few more cubes than the 1,690 cc Harley, and packs a bit more of a punch as well with 107.6 pound-feet of grunt at 2,750 rpm versus 104.7 pound-feet at 3,250 rpm from the Twin Cam. The Kawasaki also weighs in around five pounds lighter, so it definitely gains an edge in performance, however slim.

The Vaquero gains another advantage at the checkout. At only $16,699 MSRP, it’s significantly less expensive than the $21,199 Road Glide, plus ABS comes as standard equipment on the Kawasaki while H-D customers will have to shell out another $795 for the ABS option, and the sexy, optional paint packages will set you back even more. As for me, I’d go ahead and skin the checkbook for the Harley in Amber Whiskey, but I can easily see someone looking for this kind of bike with no brand loyalty as yet and giving the Vaquero a good look, as well they should.

He Said

TJ Hinton, says, “I’ve thought from the start that the Vaquero is one of Kawi’s best-looking cruisers. Of course, I’ve mainly attributed that to the fact that it looks so much like the Road Glide, even though I’ve never been a huge fan of the sharknose-style fixed fairings to be perfectly honest. The boulevard bruiser sub-category is booming, and I see this kind of bike everywhere, so I expect this ride to give H-D as well as some of the other bagger makers a run for their money within this slice of the market.”

She Said

“I was disappointed when the Ultra dropped out of the lineup. Having spent many happy hours in the saddle and on the pillion, I know it to be an awesome touring bike. I am glad to see it back in the stable and with hot Hard Candy color choices. The Twin-Cooled High Output Twin Cam engine started out as something of an experiment born from Project Rushmore feedback and it launched in a select few bikes. I’m guessing Harley got the message that riders and passengers don’t want to be cooked alive atop the bike, because this year, we’re seeing it more models than before.”

Specifications

Model: Road Glide Road Glide Special Road Glide Ultra
Engine:
Engine: Air-cooled, High Output Twin Cam 103™ with integrated oil cooler Air-cooled, High Output Twin Cam 103™ with integrated oil cooler Twin-Cooled™ High Output Twin Cam 103™
Bore: 3.875 in. 3.87 in. 3.875 in.
Stroke: 4.374 in. 4.374 in. 4.374 in.
Displacement: 103.1 cu in 103.1 cu in 103.1 cu in
Compression Ratio: 9.7:1 9.7:1 10.1
Fuel System: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI) Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI) Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
Performance:
Fuel Economy: Combined City/Hwy: 42 mpg 42 mpg 42 mpg
Engine Torque (rpm): 3,250 3,250 3,750
Engine Torque: 104.7 ft-lb 104.7 ft-lb 105.5 ft-lb
Lean Angle, Right (deg.): 32 32 31.9
Lean Angle, Left (deg.): 31 31 31.8
Engine Torque Testing Method: J1349 J1349 J1349
Drivetrain:
Primary Drive: Chain, 34/46 ratio Chain, 34/46 ratio Chain, 34/46 ratio
Gear Ratios (overall) 1st: 9.593 9.593 9.593
Gear Ratios (overall) 2nd: 6.65 6.65 6.65
Gear Ratios (overall) 3rd: 4.938 4.938 4.938
Gear Ratios (overall) 4th: 4.0 4.0 4.0
Gear Ratios (overall) 5th: 3.407 3.407 3.407
Gear Ratios (overall) 6th: 2.875 2.875 2.875
Chassis:
Exhaust: Chrome, 2-1-2 dual exhaust with tapered mufflers Chrome, 2-1-2 dual exhaust with tapered mufflers Chrome dual exhaust with 4 in. touring mufflers and touring muffler shields
Wheels, Front Type: Enforcer Cast Aluminum Enforcer Cast Aluminum Impeller Cast Aluminum
Wheels, Rear Type: Enforcer Cast Aluminum Enforcer Cast Aluminum Impeller Cast Aluminum
Brakes, Caliper Type: 32 mm, 4-piston fixed front and rear 32 mm, 4-piston fixed front and rear 32 mm, 4-piston fixed front and rear
Dimensions:
Length: 95.6 in. 95.6 in. 102.2 in.
Seat Height, Laden: 26.1 in. 26.1 in. 27.5 in.
Seat Height, Unladen: 27.4 in. 27.4 in. 29.7 in.
Ground Clearance: 5.3 in. 5.3 in. 4.7 in.
Rake (steering head) (deg): 26 26 26
Trail: 6.8 in. 6.8 in. 6.7 in.
Wheelbase: 64 in. 64 in. 64 in.
Tires, Front Specification: 130/60B19 61H 130/60B19 61H BW 130/80B17 65H
Tires, Rear Specification: BW 180/65B16 81H BW 180/65B16 81H BW 180/65B16 81H
Fuel Capacity: 6 gal. 6 gal. 6 gal.
Oil Capacity (w/filter): 4 qt. 4 qt. 4 qt.
Weight, As Shipped: 813 lb. 813 lb. 881 lb.
Weight, In Running Order: 849 lb. 849 lb. 916 lb.
Luggage Capacity -Volume: 2.3 cu ft 2.3 cu ft 4.7 cu ft
Luggage Capacity -Weight :N/A N/A N/A
Infotainment:
Screen:
Size: 4.3 inch 6.5 inch 6.5 inch
Type: Color Color Color
Color Choices: N/A N/A N/A
Day/Night Dimmer: N/A N/A N/A
Audio Output:
Watts Per Channel: 25 25 25
Speakers: 2 2 2
Speaker Size: 5.25 inch/6.5 inch - P&A Upgrade 5.25 inch/6.5 inch - P&A Upgrade 5.25 inch/6.5 inch - P&A Upgrade
Bass Port Rear Speakers: N/A N/A N/A
Distortion (THD): N/A N/A N/A
Internal Amp: N/A N/A N/A
External Amp: N/A N/A N/A
Wired Headset: N/A N/A N/A
Headset Specifications (if equipped): 16-64 ohms 16-64 ohms 16-64 ohms
Audio Sources:
AM: Standard Standard Standard
FM: Standard Standard Standard
MP3 - USB Connection: N/A N/A N/A
SD Card - via USB Connection: N/A N/A N/A
Jump Drive - via USB Connection: N/A N/A N/A
SD Card, Flash Drive and MP3 - via USB Connection: Supported Supported Supported
Audio Setup:
CB Presets: N/A N/A N/A
AM Presets: N/A N/A N/A
FM Presets: N/A N/A N/A
SiriusXM Presets: N/A N/A N/A
WB Presets: N/A N/A N/A
iPod Device Presets: N/A N/A N/A
Global Presets: N/A N/A N/A
Favorites: N/A N/A N/A
Configurable Mode Joystick: N/A N/A N/A
Seek/Scan: N/A N/A N/A
Interface Languages:
Languages: English (US/UK), German, Spanish (Mexico/Spain), French (Canada/France), Italian, European Portuguese English (US/UK), German, Spanish (Mexico/Spain), French (Canada/France), Italian, European Portuguese English (US/UK), German, Spanish (Mexico/Spain), French (Canada/France), Italian, European Portuguese
Voice Recognition:
Hands-free Mobile Phone - via Bluetooth: P&A Upgrade, Headset connection required P&A Upgrade, Headset connection required P&A Upgrade, Headset connection required
AM/FM/WB/SiriusXM (where available): N/A N/A N/A
Voice Recognition Languages: Phone functions only: English (US) English (US/UK), German, Spanish (Mexico/Spain), French (Canada/France), Italian, European Portuguese English (US/UK), German, Spanish (Mexico/Spain), French (Canada/France), Italian, European Portuguese
Communication:
Rider/Passenger Intercom: P&A Upgrade N/A N/A
Other Features:
Vehicle Information Screen (Air temperature, oil pressure and engine temperature): N/A N/A N/A
Software Update via USB interface: N/A N/A N/A
Text-to-Speech (TTS) Languages: English (US) English (US/UK), German, Spanish (Mexico/Spain), French (Canada/France), Italian, European Portuguese English (US/UK), German, Spanish (Mexico/Spain), French (Canada/France), Italian, European Portuguese
USB: USB/MTP/iPod/iPhone USB/MTP/iPod/iPhone USB/MTP/iPod/iPhone
Bluetooth: Phone/Media Supported Phone/Media Supported Phone/Media Supported
Electric:
Lights (as per country regulation), Indicator Lamps: High beam, running lights, front fender running lights, directional lights, low oil pressure, neutral, engine diagnostics, battery, cruise control, speakers, accessory, security system, gear indication, low fuel warning, ABS, miles to empty display, fog/aux lamp indicator High beam, running lights, front fender running lights, directional lights, low oil pressure, neutral, engine diagnostics, battery, cruise control, speakers, accessory, security system, gear indication, low fuel warning, ABS, miles to empty display, fog/aux lamp indicator High beam, neutral, running lights, turn signals, low oil pressure, engine diagnostics, cruise control, speakers, accessory, security system, 6-speed, low fuel warning, ABS
Gauges: New gauges: 10% larger speedometer and tachometer with 68% wider numbers; 28% larger fuel and volt gauges with 30% wider numbers; display features odometer, trip A, trip B, range to empty, and gear indicator; and larger telltale indicators Gauges 10% larger speedometer and tachometer with 68% wider numbers; 28% larger fuel and volt gauges with 30% wider numbers; display features odometer, trip A, trip B, range to empty, and gear indicator; and larger telltale indicators N/A
Colors:
Solid: Vivid Black, Amber Whiskey, Charcoal Pearl , Black Denim Vivid Black with Med. Silver pinstripe, Superior Blue with Blue pinstripe, Black Quartz with Pale Gold pinstripe, Velocity Red Sunglo with Med. Red pinstripe N/A
Two-Tone: N/A N/A Billet Silver/Vivid Black with Burgundy/Charcoal Metallic pinstripe, Mysterious Red Sunglo/Velocity Red Sunglo with Medium Red/Pale Gold pinstripe
Custom: N/A Cosmic Blue Pearl Purple Fire/Blackberry Smoke with Proper Purple/Charcoal Metallic pinstripe, Cosmic Blue Pearl
Hard Candy: Hard Candy Gold Flake, Hard Candy Black Gold Flake Hard Candy Gold Flake, Hard Candy Black Gold Flake N/A
Price:
Vivid Black $21,199 $23,499 $25,699
Color Option $21,699 $23,999 $26,299
Two-Tone Option N/A N/A $26,799
Custom Color Option N/A $24,699 $26,999
Hard Candy Color Option $24,199 $26,499 N/A
What do you think?
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