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2014 Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic review

Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic
Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic touring bike

The Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic is unusual for a couple of reasons – Harley asked riders some questions and found the answers blowing in the wind.

Sorry about being a bit cryptic, but Harley asked its riders what they wanted and some of the resulting updates were developed in a couple of university wind tunnels.

Motorcycle manufacturers rarely use wind tunnels and often don’t listen to their customers, just assuming they always want more power and performance. However, Harley’s Touring customers said they wanted more comfort and convenience.

Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic
Images by David Cohen



To remedy some of the comfort concerns, Harley engineers went to the wind tunnels to reduce buffeting, improve cooling airflow and make the cockpit a quieter place in which to enjoy the exhaust note and the music on their audio systems. The result is the 2014 Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic, a bike you can ride all day in supreme comfort.

Some of the other convenience updates include:

  • Ergonomic switches that are easier to use;
  • Bigger instruments that are easier to read;
  • Cruise control on the left switch block rather than the right so you don’t have to grapple with the throttle and switch with the same hand;
  • Five-way toggle to easily navigate your way around the on-screen infotainment system;
  • Sleeker top box that actually holds 10% more luggage;
  • Narrower-profile air filter so it doesn’t rub against your right knee;
  • Sideways-opening top box so the pillion doesn’t have to get off; and
  • Outward-opening panniers that you can access with a flick of a switch with one-hand while remaining seated. How good is that!

Harley-Davidson Ultra ClassicTogether with better audio systems, more comfortable seats, lighter-pull hydraulic clutch, linked brakes and LED and halogen headlights, it makes the 2014 Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic the ultimate touring bike.

Harley also had to listen to the bureaucrats who have been calling for greener motorcycles with better fuel economy and lower emissions. Harley’s answer was the 103 Twin-Cooled High Output engine with partial water-cooling. It is only available in the Ultras in the Touring range because the lower fairings can disguise the two small and discrete radiators.

What it means for the riders is greater fuel range for touring, effortless roll-on overtaking and more comfort from the slightly cooler-running engines. Out on the road, all these updates combine to make a great touring package. I’ve ridden the bike mainly in hot conditions in Colorado and Queensland and the aero updates and Twin-Cooled engine make it a slightly cooler proposition. Can’t wait to ride one in winter! The new “wet” engine is livelier and more fun, the updated features more comfortable and even at high speed the audio system is as clear as a bell; the best I’ve heard on any bike.

Point me toward the horizon!Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic

Harley-Davidson FLHTCU Ultra Classic tech specs

  • Price: $37,250 rideaway
  • Engine: Rubber-mounted, Twin-Cooled 1690cc High Output Twin Cam 103
  • Compression: 10.1:1
  • Headlights: LED Daymaker
  • Panniers: one-touch latch opening, Tour-Pak topbox with one hand opening
  • Transmission: 6-Speed Cruise drive with hydraulic clutch
  • Suspension: 49mm forks, dual air adjustable shocks
  • Tank: 22.7 litres
  • Brakes: Reflex linked system with ABS
  • Wheels: 130mm, 17-inch front; 180mm,16-inch rear

Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic

  1. Im about to lash out a heap of cash for a new bike. The Ultra Classic, the Road King, along with the Indian Vintage are on my list. I’m just wondering if you have any comments that may assist in my decision making process? I’ve just retired & mainly do 300 – 400 km day rides, with one or two long road trips planned each year. As this will in all likelihood be the last bike I buy, I want to get it right. (I might even wait for the new Thunderbird LT to appear) Cheers. Paul

    1. Paul,
      You really are spoilt for choice with big touring cruisers these days. There’s also the Rocket III, Victory Cross Roads and Cross Country, and some great metric cruisers.
      You need to decide whether you want the extra luxury and weight of a fairing like on the Ultra, or you want to stick to the traditional styles of the Vintage, Road King and LT.
      If you are doing big distances, you will also have to do some sitting time to find the most comfortable riding position. That will depend on your size.
      All those you mentioned are great handling bikes, with good brakes, solid engines and reliable transmissions, so you won’t go wrong no matter what your decision.
      Do you have any specific questions?

  2. Thanks Mark, I guess one issue that concerns me, coming from a sports tourer is cornering clearance. I managed to get a test ride on a Street Glide and was quite surprised with the clearance, but also rode a Thunderbird Storm and loved the ride until I had to corner. The cornering clearance was terrible. I presume the Road King & Ultra would have a similar cornering clearance to the Street Glide. (I hope to get a test ride on the Road King and Ultra soon) What I was wondering was how the Vintage compares, clearance / handling wise? I live 1700 km from the nearest Indian shop, so to go down the Indian path really could be more of a problem than it’s worth, unless the bike is a lot better than the Harleys? Hopefully there will be a LT up here soon, I’m not sure on their release date or even their price, although I assume they’ll be cheaper than the HD’s and the Indian. I think you’re right though, I can’t really go too far wrong no matter which way I go. Thanks again. Paul

    1. Clearance is an interesting issue. Some manufacturers quote static clearance angles, but it is the dynamic angle that is more important. That is, the angle of lean before you scrape the pegs when actually riding the bike. This is less than the static angle because of your weight on the bike, the compressed suspension as you brake for the corner and any surface irregularities. The Harley static angles might not look great compared with other models, but the new Touring models have improved suspension that vastly improves their real-world handling. Having recently ridden Harley Touring, Indian Chiefs and several Victory bikes on some bumpy and twisty roads, it is difficult to separate their dynamic lean angles. Cruisers have vastly upgraded their abilities in recent years.
      Of course, it also depends on how you ride them through the corners. May I suggest you keep an eye on our website next month for a competition to give away a cruiser riding course with training expert Mark McVeigh of motoDNA (
      As for Indian servicing, read this:

  3. Thanks Mark, you’ve been a great help. Now I just have to decide which way to go. Again the issue of motorcycle training is an interesting one for those of us in fairly remote regional areas. But I will keep it in mind. In a former life I was a part time motorcycle instructor in SA. But we can all learn more. Cheers, Paul

  4. Hey Mark, Just to finish this off, I thought I’d let you know that I have lashed out on a HD Electra Glide Ultra Classic. Your review was spot on. I managed to get a test ride on the latest model and have opted for the same colour as the one you tested. By the way, it seems that even though it’s not common knowledge, HD have reduced the price on the Ultra Classic – down to $35k. Still a lot but it made my decision easier. Hopefully it arrives this week, or early next week. I also went for Screaming Eagle slip on mufflers… hopefully they’re not too noisy! As I’m up in FNQ the comments you made in the other test on the Limited put my mind at rest regarding heat issues. Thanks again for your reviews.

    1. Glad you like the Ultra. One other thing I noticed is how fresh I felt at the end of a long day’s ride, even one with a lot of twisties. The steering feels surprising light and the bike is more nimble than the laws of physics would suggest.
      Have fun!

  5. I have a neighbor who is very unhappy about his ultra. Poor mileage 20 to 25 mpg and the headlight leaves dead spots when turning.

  6. Much of what said is true. The list for an Ultra Limited is around $27,800. By the time you had HW pegs and a back rest you have about $29000 with tax and tags. I got mine for 25000$. It is unsettling to know that you have to buy a 400$ curved windshield to take out terrible buffeting problems when they know they have them. This thing cost more than some cars I have bought new. The clunking shift and horrible whine in transmission is extremely annoying. My 1982 Sturgis doesn’t whine at all. Also the chattering you hear in trans makes you wonder.

  7. I like the ride yet the transmission whine and clunk in shifting is very annoying. The chattering in lower back road speeds makes you wonder how long this thing can last. My 1982 Sturgis doesn’t whine at all. After spending 29,000$ after tax and tags my Ulta Limited still needs a curved windshield that cost 400$. The buffeting is horrible. You shouldn’t have to buy another windshield when a bike cost more than a lot of nice cars. They should at least take yours in trade or pay a little difference.

  8. Is this pricing in Australia? Pricing in the US is not this steep, expensive still but for goodness sake, I didn’t even pay $37K on a car.

  9. I have a 2014 Ultra Limited. It’s great to ride if not for all the little crisp that keeps going wrong. The radio stops working won’t come on. The dealer said they can’t find any thing wrong. Three recalls, now my cruise control won’t shut off using my breaks, only my clutch. I can no longer install software updates. Takes some of the fun out of it. Wondering what’s mext

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