Ultra Limited Review
Crossing the entropic concrete of California’s Inland Empire freeway system on a hot afternoon takes determination, but the 2010 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Limited is the perfect muse to inspire a wanderlust that can only be sated with distance.
Even considering the heat of the day, my wife Jane and I could not leave the Ultra Limited confined to the garage. We set out to cross miles of Southern California highway in search of lower temperatures at higher elevations. Distance is a venue Harley-Davidson’s premier touring machine champions.
Traffic is just heavy enough to preclude engaging the electronic cruise control, but the throttle is light, the grips are comfortable in the hand, and Harley-Davidson EFI ensures precise response. A light green “6” illuminated on the instrument cluster informs me that I am in the fuel economizing overdrive.
At highway speed, turning between 2300 and 2500 rpm, the Ultra Limited’s Custom Vehicle Operations’ hand-me-down Twin Cam 103 powerplant provides ample torque to pass whatever vehicle is in my path. While I find the Harley-Davidson Twin Cam 96 engine slightly more responsive, the power range on the 103 is excellent for the big touring bike, making gear selection less critical when the scenery changes to tight mountain roads.
As with the other Electra Glide variants, the Ultra Limited is equipped with a large handlebar-mounted fairing and distortion free windscreen to provide an envelope of protection from the elements. The chrome engine guards are enclosed with a lower fairing to shield the legs and feet. The cocoon of still air created by the fairings is welcome in cooler weather, but when it is hot, greater air flow is required.
To accomplish this, the upper fairing is equipped with louvers along the lower edge that can be adjusted to channel air into or away from the rider. The Harley-Davidson lower fairing has vents near the down tubes that regulate airflow over the legs.
Approaching the base of the aptly named Rim of the World Highway, near an arrowhead etched into the mountain marking the location of Arrowhead Springs, I flick a switch to select an appropriate track on the CD-classic Neil Young. The integrated 80-watt Harman/Kardon-designed system has independently controlled speakers for the rider and passenger, provides AM/FM/Weather Band radio, CD with MP3 capability, CB radio, and intercom. Headset plugs are set into the center of the fuel tank and under the passenger’s left armrest. XM Satellite Radio and GPS navigation are available options.
On a whim, I make a quick right onto the little used Old Waterman Canyon Road and open the throttle. The 103 ramps up with a deeply satisfying roar emanating from the chrome Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Limited 2-1-2 exhaust pipes. Scrub oak passes my peripheral vision as the canyon quickly closes in around us, the temperature dropping significantly.
There are few sections on Old Waterman Canyon Road that can be called straight. One of my favorite turns is a carousel with a rapid elevation change that challenges one’s nerve in car or on motorcycle. With a rigid frame, air-adjustable shocks, Dunlop multi-compound D407 touring tires (17 front, 16 rear,) mounted on 28-spoke, chrome and black cast aluminum wheels and reasonable ground clearance, the Ultra Limited stays planted during aggressive riding. Brembo four-piston calipers squeezing three 320mm disks with ABS complete the confidence-inspiring package.
Arriving at Lake Arrowhead Village for lunch, Jane and I pull up alongside a collection of other Harleys parked near the village stage; a Pink Floyd tribute band is doing a sound check. With the heavy experimental sound of Echoes wafting from the stage, heads turn to take in the stunning metal flake Merlot/Cherry Red Sunglo paint scheme.
The rugged-yet-cultured Electra Glide aesthetic matches well with the mountain resort atmosphere. There is enough storage provided by the Tour-Pak tail box and saddlebags to reach your favorite destination, no matter how far away. With a power outlet in the tail box, your electronic accessories will be charged when you disembark.
Sitting on the patio of the Belgian Waffle Works overlooking the dock, Jane gives me her perspective of the Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Limited. Inarguably, the passenger compartment and the Tour-Pak luggage is spacious. The bike is smooth and with the nearly imperceptible amount of vibration at speed, the bike is a pleasure to ride all day. What truly strikes Jane is the quiet pride you feel when riding a machine that draws so much positive attention.
The glistening two-tone metal flake paint, the impressive blackout engine with chrome cooling fins, the classic American silhouette, the pulsing sound-it turns a simple stop into a grand entrance. Remembering back to a family barbeque, all of our relatives wanted pictures taken with the Ultra Limited and asked if it rides as nice as it looks.
Leaving Lake Arrowhead, we follow Big Bear Blvd. south of the lake and pick up the meandering Highway 38 to make our way off the mountain. As night overtakes us, the Ultra Limited glows with its impressive array of running lights mounted along the lower edge of the tail box and on the fenders.
The Ultra Limited is successfully designed to be a highway luminary, but it is also an extraordinarily enjoyable motorcycle for traversing mountain roads. Whether ridden aggressively or at a casual cruise, the 2010 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Limited satisfies an infatuation with two-wheeled travel.
Photography by Don Williams