When it comes to American touring machines, Harley-Davidson finds itself in an enviable position indeed. As the domestic manufacturer with the longest uninterrupted production run, The MoCo has helped to shape and define what “tourbike” means to us, which is quite different from the rest of the world, to put it mildly.

U.S. Tourbikes, for several decades now, have been all about getting as much storage, comfort and luxe features packed onto the frame as possible, and the H-D Ultra Limited and Ultra Limited Low represents its top-of-the-line touring model without getting into the CVO division. Although this pair doesn’t get the sexy, 110-inch CVO motor, they do sport a whole host of Project Rushmore features, so we wind up with some of Harley’s top-shelf, rider-inspired gadgets that turn this line into something of a national opus.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, Project Rushmore is a campaign by Harley to gather ideas from its customer base and actively develop and impliment them on production models — sort of a suggestions box on steroids — so can one argue that these bikes are built by the people, for the people? OK, that may be going it a bit high, but join me anyway while I take a look at the Ultra Limited and Ultra Limited Low.

Continue reading for my review of the Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited and Ultra Limited Low.

  • 2015 - 2016 Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited / Ultra Limited Low
  • Year:
    2015- 2016
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    Twin-Cooled™ High Output Twin Cam 103™
  • Displacement:
    103 cubic inches
  • Price:
    26399
  • Price:

Design

2015 - 2016 Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited / Ultra Limited Low
- image 684467

Harley’s “dressers” have always had a stocky, solid look to them, and this pair is certainly no exception in spite of the 102.4-inch overall length. Part of the stockiness comes from the 64-inch wheelbase, which is about the same as its cruiser models but starts to get a little beefy when you add on the vented Batwing fairing, hard saddlebags and Tour-Pak.

The inner fairing mounts Harley’s Boom! Box 6.5 GT audio system touchscreen interface that provides control over the radio and digital jukebox functions as well as the onboard GPS feature. Fairing lowers and a tall windshield gives the rider as much protection as one can reasonably expect, it is a motorcycle after all, and the vents in the fairing relieve much of the head-buffeting effect from windshield turbulence. All good stuff for low-fatigue riding characteristics.

A voluminous Tour-Pak serves to prop up the ergonomically-designed passenger backrest complete with armrests, and is capable of storing two full-face helmets inside plus whatever you can bungee to the luggage rack. The fuel door, saddlebags and Tour-Pak alike come with the Rushmore-inspired, One-Touch latches that are designed to open and close — wait for it — with one touch, even when wearing gloves. No more putting your stuff on the ground while you wrestle with your bags, and the bike has a total of 4.7 cubic-feet of storage so you won’t have to stress about having sufficient dry storage.

Heated handgrips, Daymaker LED headlights and a CB radio function round out the tour-tastic layout of the Ultras.

Chassis

2015 - 2016 Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited / Ultra Limited Low
- image 684480

The Ultra range falls under Harley’s FL family, which means it rides on its heaviest frame and biggest front end. Sporting the standard double-cradle setup, the mild-steel frame uses a large, rectangular backbone as the main load-bearing structure, an arrangement that isn’t particularly pretty or subtle, but is effective.

Forged fender struts and a mild-steel, yoke-style swingarm finish out the standing rigging. The steering head comes set at 26 degrees, but an offset in the tripletree kicks the forks on out to 29.25 degrees. Couple that with the 6.7 inches of trail, and you have a very stable platform that tracks well at speed, but suffers for it a bit in the corners. In other words, you can’t get away with hitting the corners on one of these like you can on a Gold Wing, for instance, but don’t expect a wrestling match either.

A set of beefy, 49 mm, hydraulic forks floats the front end on 4.6 inches of travel, but are really rather mundane with a standard, right-way-up configuration and complete lack of adjustability. The air shocks in back come tucked away out of sight behind the bags, and provide 3 inches of travel along with a broad range of ride adjustment.

Harley’s cast aluminum, “Contrast Chrome Impeller” rims mount the 17-inch front and 16-inch rear hoops that are made by Dunlop to H-D’s specifications and come with the whitewalls set to the inside.

The brakes come loaded for bear with all-around, four-pot, opposed-piston calipers to bind the dual 300 mm discs on the front wheel and single, similarly-sized disc in back. Project Rushmore lends its Reflex Linked Brakes with ABS to the Ultra, so the bike comes with a two-way safety net that helps to balance braking effort while preventing skids from overbraking. Think of it as a comfort feature for your mind.

Unladen, the Ultra Limited runs a 29.1-inch seat height, and the Low knocks over two inches off that to an even 27-inches tall, unladen — hence the devilishly clever name “Ultra Limited Low”.

Drivetrain

2015 - 2016 Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited / Ultra Limited Low
- image 684469

Even with all the fairings and hang-on equipment, the 45-degree, V-Twin engine is still the star of the show. All chrome over black wrinkle paint, the mill shines like a beacon and draws the eye to that stereotypical Harley shape. Far from an all-show/no-go machine, this is Harley’s Twin-Cooled, High-Output Twin Cam 103. A 98.4 mm bore and 111.1 mm stroke leaves the mill slightly undersquare, and total displacement is right at 103.1 cubic-inches (1,690 cc).

As the name suggests, a pair of cams drive the pushrod valvetrain that times the twin-valve heads, as opposed to the Evolution-and-older Big Twins that ran a single cam for all four valves. Electronic fuel injection in the throttle body responds to inputs from the electronic throttle, so there is no direct, mechanical connection in the induction control. As usual, the power numbers reflect that Harley grunt with a whopping 105.5 pound-feet of torque at 3,750 rpm. Ladies and Germs, this is plenty for pulling hills and making strong roll-ons for passing purposes, even with the 900-pound wet weight (plus rider, passenger and gear, oh my).

A wet, multi-disc and hydraulically actuated clutch couples engine power to the six-speed, Cruise Drive transmission, and a carbon-reinforced belt drive makes the final connection to the rear wheel.

Pricing

2015 - 2016 Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited / Ultra Limited Low
- image 684464

The 2015 Ultra Limited and Ultra Limited Low rolled for a base MSRP of $26,099 and $26,999 respectively, and 2016 sees those prices bumped up by $300 across the board. Naturally, the King of Paint doesn’t miss an opportunity to pad the price with some premium pigments, and you can add as much as $1,300 to the base Vivid Black price if you go with one of the top-of-the-line custom-color options.

Competitors

2016 - 2018 Indian Roadmaster
- image 649544
2015 - 2016 Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited / Ultra Limited Low
- image 684463

Harley’s pedigree is indisputable, but it isn’t alone in the American-made tourbike market, and today’s foe is from a company even older than the MoCo; Indian Motorcycles and its Roadmaster.

Unfortunately for Indian, the company has gone tits-up a handful of times, and left significant gaps in design and production. One of these gaps occurred during the formative years of the full American dresser, so beyond the fully-skirted front fender and the look of the rear body panels that are distinctly Indian, the Roadmaster looks very much like the Ultra Limited nearly everywhere else. A full front fairing and legguards protect the rider, and the passenger gets a wrap-around backrest with armrests built in. As a matter of personal taste, I prefer the look of the Harley fairing, but I know some will dig the molded-in passing lamps on the Indian barn door. To each his/her own.

Neither manufacturer is exactly impressing me with the suspension over here. The air shocks in the back of both is nice and all, but adjustable front forks are becoming more and more common, and folks are going to start expecting to see it. Brakes are very similar as well with 300 mm discs across the board, and while the Roadmaster doesn’t have an equivalent to the Reflex brakes on the Harley, it certainly has an equivalent to the ABS.

As much as I like the looks of the H-D Twin Cam, I gotta say I like the Thunder Stroke 111 from Indian even more. The parallel pushrod tubes and finned valve covers call to mind the flathead engines of long ago, and even though it is faux, it’s definitely still cool.

Indian carries an edge in displacement, with 111 cubic-inches versus 103 cubes in the Harley, and this shows up in the power numbers with 119.2 pounds of grunt from the Thunder Stroke versus 105.5 pounds out of the Twin Cam.

H-D is known for being proud of its products, and the $26,399 tag on the Ultra Limited reinforces that assertion, so imagine my surprise when I discovered the Roadmaster costs more, and by a significant margin. At $30,399, the Roadmaster definitely pushes further into status-symbol territory than the Ultra Limited.

He Said

“I’ve always been a fan of the full dressers, and they keep getting better and better with the Rushmore and CVO features that have been added recently. This pair of bikes toes the factory line for the genre, and although the outward appearance remains more or less the same through the years, which is a good thing, there are plenty of improvements that aren’t readily apparent at a glance. I am still eyeballing something like this for my ’retirement bike’ one day.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “It’s a Harley-Davidson, and for some that says a lot. It’s a big, heavy, torquey bike that benefited quite a bit in Project Rushmore. The 103 delivers very consistent power and always seems like it has more to give. I love the big, easy-to-read gauges — dials are better for me to take in at-a-glance than a digital display. New-for-2016, the Ultras have a reduced-width primary housing and derby cover, so you have a slightly shorter trip to the ground on the left side. Anything that makes it easier to find the ground is welcome for those of us with short inseams. ”

Specifications

ENGINE:
Engine: Twin-Cooled™ High Output Twin Cam 103™
Valves: Pushrod-operated, overhead valves with hydraulic, self-adjusting lifters; two valves per cylinder
Bore x Stroke: 3.87 in. x 4.374 in. (98.4 mm x 111.1 mm)
Displacement: 103.1 cu. in. (1690 cc)
Compression Ratio: 10:1
Fuel System: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection (ESPFI)
Air Cleaner: Paper, washable
Lubrication System: Pressurized, dry-sump with oil cooler
DRIVETRAIN:
Primary Drive: Chain, 34/46 ratio
Final Drive: Belt, 32/68 ratio
Clutch: Hydraulically actuated, 9 plate wet, with high performance spring
Transmission: 6-Speed Cruise Drive®
Gear Ratios (overall) U.S.:
1st: 9.593
2nd: 6.65
3rd: 4.938
4th: 4
5th: 3.407
6th: 2.875
CHASSIS:
Frame: Mild steel; tubular frame; two-piece stamped and welded backbone; cast and forged junctions; twin downtubes; bolt-on rear frame with forged fender supports; MIG welded
Swingarm: Mild steel; two-piece drawn and welded section; forged junctions; MIG welded
Front Forks: 49 mm telescopic
Rear Shocks: Air-adjustable full travel air ride rear suspension
Wheels: Contrast Chrome Impeller Cast Aluminum
Front: 17 in. x 3 in. (432 mm x 76 mm)
Rear: 16 in. x 5 in. (406 mm x 127 mm)
Brakes:
Caliper Type: 32 mm, 4-piston fixed front and rear
Rotor Type : Dual floating rotors (front), fixed rotor (rear)
Front (dual)(diameter x width): 11.81 in. x .2 in. (300 mm x 5.1 mm)
Rear (diameter x width): 11.81 in. x .28 in. (300 mm x 7.1 mm)
Anti-lock Braking System: Standard
Suspension Travel:
Front Wheel: 4.6 in. (117 mm), Low - 3.86 in.
Rear Wheel: 3 in. (76 mm), Low - 2.15 in.
PERFORMANCE:
Engine Torque (per J1349) (North America): 105.5 ft. lbs. @ 3750 RPM (143 Nm @ 3750 RPM)
Lean Angle (per J1168):
Right: 31.9°, Low - 27.8°
Left: 31.8°, Low - 28.6°
Fuel Economy (EPA urban/highway test): 42 mpg (5.6 L/100 km)
DIMENSIONS:
Length: 102.4 in.(2600 mm)
Overall Width: 37.8 in. (960 mm), Low - 38.7 in.
Overall Height: 56.7 in. (1440 mm), Low - 54.7 In.
Seat Height:
Laden: 27.3 in. (695 mm), Low - 25.6 in.
Unladen: 29.1 in. (740 mm), Low - 27 in.
Ground Clearance: 5.3 in. (135 mm), Low - 4.6 in.
Rake (steering head): 26°
Fork Angle: 29.25°
Trail: 6.7 in. (170 mm)
Wheelbase: 64 in. (1625 mm)
Tires (Dunlop®Harley-Davidson®Series, bias blackwall front and rear):
Front – D408F : BW 130/80B17 65H
Rear – D407T: BW 180/65B16 81H
Fuel Capacity: 6 gal. (22.7 L) (warning light at approximately 1.0 gal.)
Oil Capacity (w/filter): 4 qts. (3.8 L)
Transmission Capacity: 1 qt. (.95 L)
Primary Chain Case Capacity: 1.4 qts. (1.3 L)
Coolant Capacity: 1.1 qts. (1.04 L)
Weight:
As Shipped: 861 lbs. (391 kg)
In Running Order: 896 lbs. (406 kg)
Gross Vehicle Weight Rating: 1360 lbs. (617 kg)
Gross Axle Weight Rating:
Front: 500 lbs. (227 kg)
Rear: 927 lbs. (420 kg)
Luggage Capacity Volume: 4.7 cu. ft.
ELECTRIC:
Battery (per Battery Council International Rating): Sealed, maintenance-free, 12V, 28-amp/hour, 405 cca
Charging: Three-phase, 50-amp system (585W @ 13V, 2000 RPM, 650W max power @13V)
Starting: 1.2 kW electric with solenoid shift starter motor engagement
Lights (as per country regulation):
Headlamp: LED 34-watt, 915 lumen low beam, 37-watt, 915 lumen high beam with switchable 20-watt, 1,220 lumen LED fog lamps. Total of 2,136 lumen output at low beam with fog lights.
Tail/Stop Lights: 8W/28W
Front Signal Lights: 8W/28W (CAN)
Others: High beam, running lights, front fender running lights, directional lights, neutral, low oil pressure, engine diagnostics, accessory, speakers, turn signals, security system, gear indication, battery, low fuel warning, cruise control, ABS, fog/aux lamp indicator
Auxiliary Lamps (except where prohibited by law): Two LED @ 20W each
Electric Power Outlet: Electric power accessory port in fairing and Tour-Pak®
GPS System: Boom!™ Box 6.5 GT audio system with GPS and touchscreen
DETAILS:
Warranty: 24 months (unlimited mileage)
Model ID: FLHTK
Colors:
Solids: Vivid Black with Med. Silver pintripe, Black Quartz with Pale Gold pinstripe
Two-Tones: Amber Whiskey/Vivid Black with Med. Red pinstripe, Deep Jade Pearl/Vivid Black with Lt. Green pinstripe, Billet Silver/Vivid Black with Burgundy pinstripe, Mysterious Red Sunglo/Velocity Red Sunglo with Med. Red pinstripe
Custom Colors: Purple Fire/Blackberry Smoke with Proper Purple (inside) and Charcoal Metallic (outside) pinstripe, Cosmic Blue Pearl
Price:
Ultra Limited: Vivid Black: $26,399, Color: $26,999, Two-Tone: $27,449, Custom: $27,699
Ultra Limited Low: Vivid Black: $27,299, Color: $27,899, Two-Tone: $28,349, Custom: $28,599
What do you think?
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