“That is an impressive bike I’m maneuvering,” I think as I step back from the gas pump, collecting my receipt. I am struck by how big the new Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Classic Low looks from an observer’s point of view. It certainly doesn’t feel nearly that big from the saddle, and that is a good thing or I might be intimidated!
In fact, Harley-Davidson’s 2015 Electra Glide Ultra Classic Low is a full-dress tourer with all the bells and whistles of the Project Rushmore overhaul that has been tweaked ergonomically to fit riders under 5′ 7″. Standing 5′ 6″ tall barefoot, I am a prime candidate to report that the folks from Milwaukee got it right.
Slipping into the saddle of the two- up seat, I am surprised at how nicely the Ultra Classic Low fits me. There’s no scooching up toward the tank to reach for the brake pedal because my boot comfortably falls onto the floorboard, my leg in a naturally bent position. So, too, do my gloved hands easily reach the pulled back handlebars. Did I forget to mention how totally flat-footed I am, despite a 30.5- inch inseam?
H-D made some real-world adjustments to the Ultra Classic, such that the Low moniker is completely worthy of its name. The seat is 1.7-inches closer to the ground, the bars pull back two inches nearer to the rider, and the low-profile seat aids in reaching foot controls.
Even the diameter of the grips has been decreased, so the finger reach to the levers is shorter, and the left-hand lever effort reduced via the Hydraulic Assist and Slip clutch. These small numbers add up to an overall feeling of being in control of the bike instead of overmatched, and this is a huge boost to one’s confidence.
Tilting the Ultra Classic Low off its traditional locking Harley stand — made easier by the toe tab extension — is not as daunting as one might expect of an 879-pound bike (claimed weight, full of fuel). The front and rear suspension have been lowered an inch, which helps keep that heavy mass low and makes handling the bike at slow speeds manageable.
Highly responsive to rider input thanks to an extremely low center of gravity, I can maneuver the bike around town at will. Creeping along at just a couple of mph, I still feel confident. It is only when turning at very low speeds, or at a stop on uneven or slick pavement, that I feel less than secure.
With plenty of torque at the bottom from the unbalanced rubber-mounted High Output Twin Cam 103 motor, pulling away from a stop is smooth and predictable. Once underway, the weight of the bike slips away; the Ultra Classic Low becomes only as big as what I can see from my point of view.
It would be disingenuous to act like I’m not affected by the reaction I get when riding a Harley. The look of recognition from passers by, even those who aren’t familiar with motorcycles, as if they instinctively know it is a Harley-Davidson, and I see the look of appreciation for the premium motorcycle I’m riding. Because of the compacted ergonomics, I’m not visually swallowed up by the size of the machine.
Clicking through the gears via the heel toe shifter is an exercise in laid back cool. Twisting the throttle unleashes the head-turning iconic rumble of the still air-cooled V-twin as triple headlights and the batwing fairing lead the way. Yes, you’re a member of the club. You don’t have to do anything; it is all left unsaid.
Still, this is a touring bike, and the lonely open road is where it is meant to stretch its legs and pile on the miles. Everything you have read in this magazine previously about the Project Rushmore bikes applies to the Ultra Classic Low.
The High Output motor allows me to keep up with the traffic, no matter which Interstate I’m on. The chassis is more than capable of handling the newfound power, as it is all about stability, thanks to the beefed up front end. I can cruise though a tank at well above the speed limit with my only concern being a discussion with a CHP officer on a BMW R 1200 RT.
Always a personal preference, the standard windscreen didn’t quite work for me at high speeds. When sitting tall in the saddle to look over it, although I did not experience head buffeting, there was quite a bit of wind noise, even with the Slipstream vent open. I found myself settling into the seat and looking through the windscreen, instead, to avoid the ruckus. An important part of personalizing this motorcycle will be picking the correct windscreen height for your riding style.
For me, however, motorcycle touring is not just about straight-line runs. I enjoy riding through the various mountains and valleys of southern California, and the Project Rushmore upgrades to the Electra Glide platform have made it as capable as any full dresser through these landscapes. In the case of the Ultra Classic Low, the only drawback to the reduced height is that the floorboards drag sooner and with more regularity than on the standard dressers.
The handling is spot on, with just the right balance between stability and agility. I’m amazed at how easy it is to put the Ultra Classic Low into a corner, given that the bike tips the scales at a half-ton when loaded with the rider and a week- end’s worth of cargo in the bags. Exits are equally effortless, so long as you go with the flow of the bike.
Braking is outstanding, thanks to the Reflex Linked Brakes with standard ABS. A simple push of the foot pedal gives me the stopping power I need in all but emergency situations. This leaves my right hand less fatigued at the end of the day, as does the intuitive and effective cruise control.
As easy as the Ultra Classic Low is to ride at casual speeds, trying to rush things and muscle the big dresser will wear you out fairly quickly. It is a touring bike, so I sit back, relax, and focus on the smooth ride and the nature surrounding me. There is so much to see on a bike like this, and that inspires trips.
There is nothing special about the cargo carrying capabilities of the Ultra Classic Low — if you’re already familiar with the latest Tour-Pak case and saddlebags. If you’re not, let’s just say they are brilliant and elegant. As a bonus, because this is still an air-cooled motor, I get two glove boxes for smaller items and I appreciate their easy One Touch operation.
Getting lost isn’t an option if you use the standard GPS, which has a touch- screen that works with any gloves. The LCD panel also doubles as part of the monitoring of the Boom! Box 4.3 sound system. Yes, the Boom! Box system offers good fidelity and volume, with plenty of bass, but, for me, nothing beats the sound of this American V-twin going through its paces.
Coming on the heels of the Project Rushmore improvements, the 2015 Harley- Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Classic Low is an important motorcycle that opens up the world of full-dresser touring to a wider audience, and it does so in a way that doesn’t make the owner feel in any way slighted. This bike truly remains an Ultra Classic, even if it’s a bit Low.
- Helmet: Arai Signet-Q Tropic
- Communication: Sena 20S
- Jacket: River Road Sapphire
- Gloves: H-D Women’s Dual Source Heated
- Chaps: River Road Women’s Vintage
- Jeans: Icon Hella Denim
- Boots: River Road Women’s Square Toe Zipper Harness
Photography by Don Williams
Story from Ultimate MotorCycling magazine; for subscription services, click here.
2015 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Classic Low Photo Gallery: