2011 Electra Glide Ultra Limited Motorcycle Review

A while back a gal pal and I were sitting around having a grand old time getting fully loaded. Before that night ended, my friend pointed out that she personally associated me with the term, especially in regards to my drinking and gun collection. That was a good night, but that’s another story.

The funny thing is that a short time later it was just that phrase that caught my attention while I was trying to choose what model Harley I wanted to ride home from the 70th anniversary Sturgis Rally. Let me explain.

One of the main reasons I picked the 2011 Cherry Red Sunglo/Merlot Sunglo Electra Glide Ultra Limited (MSRP $24,699) you see here was because I heard the bike comes fully loaded. My many stalkers know that I’ve never been a fan of full-blown, luxury touring bikes that feature batwing fairings and windshields, but it was time to take one for the team.

In all seriousness, the way I see the Ultra Limited fitting into the H-D Touring family tree is as a newer, more evolved limb of the Electra Glide branch. What I mean is, all the extras you get with this bike are mostly things that can be found in the P&A catalog. However, on this model it’s all stock. For example, the heated handgrips and the Tour-Pak’s 12-volt power supply and luggage rack are standard on the Limited, but can be purchased separately and then installed on any lower-rung Electra Glide with relative ease. Other Limited treatments include custom versions of the stock 28-spoke cast aluminum wheels, upgraded instrument displays, and a special paint scheme.

In 2011, the Motor Company started offering would-be-buyers a new Power Pak factory option on several Touring models. Basically, for just shy of $2,000, you can now get a larger Twin Cam 103″ engine, antilock braking system (ABS), and Harley-Davidson Smart Security System with hands-free fob. This is all standard on the Ultra Limited, and it’s worth noting that when the model was first introduced in 2010, it was the only way to get a factory-installed 103 in your ride.

Personally, I have always been a fan of these motors, although they can run a bit on the hot side, especially when installed on touring bikes that limit the airflow to the rider in the first place. To address the heat issue, an integrated oil cooler is a standard addition on this sled. Regardless of the specific numbers the 103 engine puts out, I found that it had plenty of usable power and torque.

On the ride home, I mostly used the bike on highways and fast secondary roads, and I found that I averaged about 40 mpg. Not bad, considering I have a heavy throttle hand, and my bike was fully loaded in more ways than one. This beast was so reliable on that ride that it almost became routine to fully load the 6-gallon tank with fuel, hit the highway, set the electronic cruise control, find something to listen to on the Harman/Kardon 80-watt, four-speaker stereo, and watch the country fly by until I had to do it all over again in about 250 miles. It is probably worth noting that during these stints I would cruise in sixth gear at 75 mph at 2700 rpm, but I found the sweet spot to be at 3000 rpm going roughly 85 mph.

Overall, I really have no complaints about this bike, besides the fact that I’m personally not a fan of any combination of a fork-mounted batwing fairing and clear windshield. I was hoping that the newly-sculpted-for-2011 seat might make a difference, but no. I was still in that full upright sitting position looking through the windshield.

The smoked Lexan adjustable air deflectors mounted below the batwing fairing did a decent job of circulating some air as did the midframe air deflectors and removable vented lowers. However, I found that in order to really cool off I needed to ride on the back of the seat where I could get some fresh air and see over the tall Lexan windshield without stretching my neck like a giraffe. By the end of my journey, it was the norm for me to ride that way, unless I had a passenger onboard, all of whom seemed to be in heaven riding on the back of this bike, with the Tour-Pak-mounted backrest, wraparound armrests, rear speakers, and height-adjustable footboards. Talk about fully loaded.

Like all of its family members, the Limited comes with Brembo four-piston calipers — dual up front and single in the rear — and air-adjustable rear shocks. The brakes do a great job of stopping the whole load, and I especially appreciated the ABS connected to them. Like the other Electra Glides, the whole package rolls on a 17″ front wheel and a 16″ rear wrapped with Dunlop rubber, 130 front, 180 rear.

The things I liked the best about the Limited are the heated handgrips that allowed me to wear thinner gloves on cool days. (Thinner gloves sound so soft. Don’t take that the wrong way.) Then there’s the 103″ motor. Also, I was surprised to find out that the simple addition of a Tour-Pak rack made my life easier when packing since I could easily strap a bag to it for things I might need quick access to, like my foul weather gear. Since this bike comes with bag liners, it would have been cool if it came with a soft rack bag made specifically for the Limited. Again, I’m sounding soft.

Over the years, I have made the ride from Sturgis back home to the Northeast almost a dozen times, but never has it been as plush as it was this past year when I rode the Ultra Limited. If you are in the market for an Electra Glide, it’s my opinion that you’d be better off getting fully loaded with the Limited model. Heck, it’s not even $3,000 more than the next bike down, the Ultra Classic Electra Glide. And that’s a bargain considering all the additional stuff you get.

Now, excuse me. My gal pal just came over, and we’re heading to the liquor store and gun shop so we can make sure we’ll be fully loaded. Soft no more. AIM

NEW BIKE REVIEW by Joe Knezevic

Story as published in the August Issue of American Iron Magazine

2011 Harley Davidson Blackline Softail FXS

NEW MODEL PREVIEW By Chris – Maida Harley-Davidson’s newest Dark Custom

The H-D crew was rocking it pretty hard at Don Hill’s, a major punk and alternative club in lower Manhattan last January! The event was the launch of its new Blackline Softail. Willie G and wife Nancy were on hand, as well as Karen Davidson who also launched a new line of H-D clothes to go with the new bike. Of course, a number of engineers and H-D media people were also present, all of whom were a pleasure to hang with. Whoever picked Don Hill’s for the launch really aced it! Right up there with the legendary CBGB, you just don’t walk into DH’s. The rope is up and you wait your turn, but that was not the case for those invited to this special unveiling. As you can see by the photos, we had a great time, and most of the H-D staff and a number of hot models were painted with the Blackline name. Nice work, H-D!

But enough of that; on to the bike! The Blackline Softail is “stripped to the legal limit,” as our H-D press kit states. The style of the Blackline is thanks to  Industrial Designer/Stylist II, Casey Ketterhagen at the Motor Company. According to Casey, he first built the concept bike shown below with no regard for DOT regs. He was then told to move as much of that look as possible over to a modern Softail chassis while staying inside DOT requirements. Casey worked with Softail Platform Staff Engineer Korry Vorndram to build a stock H-D that is barely legal.

Besides DOT constraints, the amount of cash allotted to the build was also a limiting factor.  For example, if you can use an oil tank that’s already been certified, you have more money to come up with a totally new handlebar setup. And that’s exactly what Casey did on the Blackline, as you can see on the accompanying rendering. The gas tank trim is another totally new part, as is the headlight and speedometer. Though H-D lists 104 parts as new on the Blackline, many are stock components with a new finish, but that’s not a slight of hand by H-D. If it has a new part number, it has to be listed as a separate (new) part.

Since you can get the full specification sheet online, we’re not going to reprint it here. However, I do want to mention one spec that’s close to my heart: the Blackline boasts the lowest seat height in the H-D lineup for 2011. Being 5’4″, that means a lot to me! AIM

Story as it appeared in the May 2011 issue of American Iron Magazine.

2011 Harley-Davidson Dyna Fat Bob

NEW BIKE TEST By Joe Knezevic – My favorite bike from Milwaukee
Let’s say hypothetically you were fortunate enough to have a suitor who offered to buy you a brand-new Harley-Davidson and all you had to do was pay to register and insure the bike. Do you know what bike you would choose? If I were given that offer, without a doubt I would choose a Dyna Fat Bob. Sure, I might go with the 2010 CVO version, but I would be just as grateful for a stocker like the 2011 Sedona Orange model seen here.

From the moment I first met Fat Bob, I felt like we had a bond. After my initial ride at the 2008 model launch where the bike was introduced, I knew I was going to really like the bike. So much so that it didn’t even bother me when I heard fellow journalists say “Look at Fat Joe on a Fat Bob.” In actuality, I thought that comment had a nice ring to it; it made me feel like Bob and I were best friends who just happened to be fat, and everyone else was just jealous at how well we complemented each other.

When I take a step back and look at the Fat Bob there are so many things that this bike does for me, I’m not surprised at how quickly it has squeezed to the top of my list of favorite Harleys. First and foremost, the rubber-mounted TC 96 engine and six-speed CruiseDrive transmission has a black powdercoated finish and features polished covers which, in my opinion, is the best look for a Twin Cam powertrain. From there, I’m drawn to the 49mm wide front end that is topped with drag handlebars and twin chrome headlamps. It’s also hard to miss that the bike is grounded by fat 16″ wheels (a 130 up front and a 180 out back). Add to that the aggressive tread pattern on the tires, and this bike has a nice, mean stance. Next, I appreciate how the classic 5-gallon Fat Bob fuel tank and Bobtail rear fender work so well together. On top of all that, the Fat Bob comes with forward-mounted foot controls, making it comfortable for a fat guy like me. I guess overall this bike just looks like it is made in the US and obviously made to be ridden.

This model is meant to be lots of things for the Motor Company, and I think it has succeeded. As I said in my first review of this model back in April 2008, to me, the Fat Bob is a throwback to all those FLHs that people bobbed back in the day. Even though it’s a modern bike, I believe it fits nicely into the Harley family tree from a historical sense. It may not be the smoothest riding Harley or have the quickest handling, but it does the job well enough for me especially since it has a starting price of $14,999.

In case you haven’t already figured it out, I like the Dyna Fat Bob, and I think it likes me. Whether it’s from a styling, comfort, or performance point of view, this bike delivers what I want in a cruiser. Sure, it’s not the most comfortable ride, but that’s what touring bikes are for. The handling is a bit slow thanks to the fat front and rear tires, but it’s not supposed to be a sportbike.

Heck, no bike is perfect, but this one does enough things well that it might be perfect for me. As always, there are some simple upgrades I would do right off the bat if I owned one. Those changes include making the bike more conducive for taking longer trips by upgrading the seat and adding some simple carrying capacity. And while I was at it, a new air cleaner and pipes to let the 96″ breathe better couldn’t hurt. Since this bike is owned by Harley corporate, I’ll see if H-D will let me make those changes to our test ride. If so, I’ll be sure to run those install stories in future issues of American Iron Magazine.

So next time you see a long-haired, fat, verbose guy riding a Fat Bob, be sure to stop him and say hello. If it’s me, I’d love to hear what you think of this bike and how I look on it. More importantly, you’d better have an answer for me when I ask you which Harley you would pick if someone offered to buy you one. You already know my choice. AIM

Story as it appeared in the May 2011 issue of American Iron Magazine.

Harley Magazine Review Sabertooth V-8 Motorcycle

Like to blend in with the masses? Are you the type that shuns attention? Then don’t buy this bike!

As I told you in my coverage of the Virginia Beach Bike Classic and Myrtle Beach last year, I blasted down the East Coast to both events on this Ford V-8-powered beastie. I had so much fun on this bike, especially on the highway, that I racked up about 1,600 miles before I returned it. And the attention it got was astounding, but then it’s not every day you see someone blowing past you on the interstate with eight cylinders of Go Juice humming away. The way I was surrounded by guys in cars and pickups, you would have thought I was handing out free NASCAR hats! Forget about making a gas stop; there were cellphone cameras all over. Guys were leaving their wives to pump the gas while they talked with me about the massive, but sleek, machine before them. (I’m such a showoff!)

Okay, enough of that. Let me tell you a bit about this Sabertooth WildCat ($40,110). This bike sounds as bada$$ as it looks! The carburetor-equipped, 350″ Motorsports engine runs smooth as silk, with just the right amount of lumpy idle. (Due to EPA regs, all bikes will now have EFI.) Power output is great, and the sound from those short dual headers is outstanding. When in second gear (you only have two), it’s easy to keep things mellow but rumbling. That is, until you crank open the throttle. Cruising speeds are 2500 rpm at 70 mph and 3000 rpm at 85 per. First gear goes up to 90 mph. (I know because I hit that before I got out of a toll plaza!) Second, I’m told, goes up to 170, but I didn’t go that fast, though I got pretty close a number of times. As you would expect, a flick of the wrist sends you rocketing; to blast from 70 to over 100 takes only a couple of seconds or so.

In the handling department, it took me about 100 miles to become comfortable throwing the Sabertooth around a parking lot and into turns, which you must drop into for a good turning radius, as it is with any other long bike, be it chopper or V-8 monster. The Sabertooth is well-balanced for such a heavy bike (1,050 pounds). Hands-off operation on the highway required just a slight lean to the left, which is pretty standard for a machine with a 300 rear tire.

What about that two-speed tranny? Shifting was good and clean. To upshift, pull in the clutch, shift into neutral, then shift into second. But do not let out the clutch as you transition from first to neutral and then second (no speed shifts). I found that upshifting at about 35-40 mph gave me the smoothest transition. Of course, you can do it at a higher speed, but you have to wait a tad longer before getting into second. To downshift into first, you must be going 20 mph or less. As for the manual, cable-actuated clutch, which is one feature I really liked about the Sabertooth, it has about the same pull and feel as a V-twin performance clutch. On my bike, there was no reverse, so I had to be careful of where I nosed in, since a downgrade would have been impossible to get out of without mucho assistance.

As you can see, the chassis is remarkably sleek for such a big bike. When stopped behind me, many people didn’t know the Sabertooth was fitted with a V-8. The bike is basically as wide as the frame that’s around the 300mm rear tire. Even the engine is about the same width. However, when I’d make a turn, I could see jaws drop as people realized what was powering the bike that had been sitting in front of them.

The bike’s air suspension system worked well once I got used to it. Since I’m a short stack, I would drop it down when around town, so I could get a flat foot on the ground when stopped. Once I was on a stretch of road devoid of stop signs and lights, I’d just switch on the air compressor and count to 25 slowly. This put the suspension fully up, which gave me decent ground clearance for turns, sweepers, and going into gas stations. And since we’re on the subject of gas stations, the Sabertooth has an appetite like its namesake. You get 20 miles per gallon if you don’t play with the throttle, and that tank holds exactly 6 gallons (new bikes now have 8). You hit reserve after 100 miles/5 gallons. There’s no slack to be had here. Once you hit reserve, find gas within 20 miles, or you’re on the side of the road. And the Sabertooth is no picnic to push!

As good as my time on the Sabertooth was, the bike did have one flaw and a few minor glitches, which I chalk up to teething issues. The flaw only rears its ugly head when you crank open the throttle at a slow speed. Under hard but only half-throttle acceleration, the belt skips on the rear pulley. Personally, I’d prefer a 630 chain or two back there, but then again, I like to play. The crew at Sabertooth told me they went with the belt since that’s what most riders are comfortable with nowadays. Their fix was to go to a larger front pulley, which Sabertooth says has fixed the belt problem. That is, except for the WildCat X model, which doesn’t need it since it has a 360 rear tire and drive chain.

On my test bike, which was an early version, if you dropped the suspension all the way down, the top of the rear fender hit the seat support tube. The bumpers for the rear swingarm were not positioned properly, since they should protect chassis and rear fender should the air system ever fail. However, this glitch was corrected on my test bike and all newer machines so equipped.

Once I got stuck in stopped traffic on the highway for a long time. Before I shut the bike down, I noticed that at idle, the battery charging rate is too low, and the battery is at a slight discharge. If you find yourself stopped in traffic for an extended period of time, keep an eye on the voltage meter. In normal stop-and-go traffic this is not an issue, since as soon as you’re at any rpm above idle the charging rate is fine. I’ve been told all new bikes have a larger alternator pulley, so discharging at idle is no longer an issue.

When under power, there is a slight squeal from the rear wheel area at very slow speeds, which I think is just brake dust on the belt and pulley. The bike also has what I call good mechanical noise: tranny whine, etc. I don’t like my machines to be too sanitized, especially a bada$$ one. The sound of machinery at work is a good thing.

Since I’ve a pair of short sticks to walk on (29″ inseam), I would burn a leg once in awhile on the rear of the rocker covers (both sides), but this would only happen when I didn’t pay attention and let my knees pull in toward the engine. Guys with longer legs shouldn’t be concerned with this.

Another every-once-in-awhile glitch involved the starter system, but it has nothing to do with the actual electric motor. The wire that goes to the starter solenoid is located right by your right foot, so it’s easy to knock it loose from its clip. Once I figured out the problem, if the starter just clicked when I pushed the button, I slipped the wire back on and I was good to go. So you don’t have to mess with this, this connector has been changed to one that doesn’t pop off.

One look at that seat tells you it’s not for touring! In fact, it becomes a slab of wood after a few hundred miles. Of course, only an idiot goes touring on a V-8. However, since I may not be the only idiot out there, the seat has been given the gel insert treatment. That’s cool with me, since I’d like to try out Sabertooth’s new Pro-Street model, the StreetCat, on a trip later this year.

In closing I should thank the guy who let me put so many miles on his bike: Brian Montgomery of Tennessee! Brian, as I told you, I almost didn’t return your bike, since it was so much fun to ride, but being the upright guy I am, I just could not keep it any longer. Of course, the fact that you were going to send up a few good ol’ boys to help me see the error of my ways had nothing to do with it. AIM
–Chris Maida

Sabertooth Motorcycles
1oo Hurricane Creek Dr.
Dept. AIM
Piedmont, SC 29673

Motorcycle Review Pitbull

Testing The Big Dog Motorcycle

Back in 1998, I tested the then-new Pitbull from Big Dog. That machine was a bare-bones bike, sporting the only hardtail in Big Dog’s lineup. I loved it! I also froze my butt off riding it around Connecticut since it was late February. I rode this 2010 Pitbull at the same time of the year, but, being 11 years older and a little smarter, I did it in Florida during Bike Week. Much better!

Big Dog Motorcycle Pit Bull

Both the Pitbull and I have changed over the years, and, depending on your point of view, hopefully for the better. The newer version sports lots more in terms of creature comforts than its forefather. Where the earlier version was a basic street blaster, the new Pitbull is much more refined and comfortable. It’s also heavier and longer, having a total dry weight of 691 pounds and a total length of 8-1/2′ (101.8″). The evolution of the Pitbull reminds me of the changes the Ford Thunderbird went through from its birth in the late ’50s to a luxury car by the late ’60s.

Ready for some specs? The Pitbull is powered by a S&S/Big Dog proprietary 117″ (1916cc), fully-polished, Evo-style motor that you can get equipped with either a carb or EFI fuel delivery system. Since the shiny stuff is plentiful on this bike, a fully polished and chromed primary system and six-speed BDM Balance Drive setup is the only way to go. That powertrain spins a chrome billet aluminum rear wheel wrapped with an Avon 280/40-20″ rear tire. A matching front wheel, which is wrapped with an Avon 130/60-23″ front tire, is held in place by a chromed and polished 41mm front end. These large diameter wheels definitely give the Pitbull a different stance than the original version I rode back in the last century! Stopping power is via rotors that match their respective wheels and a set of polished, four-piston, differential-bore calipers.

As for my impressions of the bike, the first thing I noticed as I pulled from the curb was that the Pitbull is well-balanced. I could ride it without my hands on the bars by just shifting my body weight. However, as with ultra fat rear tire bikes, I had to scoot my butt to the leftac about 1/2″ to make it track straight with no hands. The bike is heavier than most rigids I’ve ridden, but I’m sure that’s due to all the billet-aluminum components. Also, you have to make your turns a little wide due to the bike’s long stance. And even though it’s a hardtail, it handled well on the highway. However, the front end was a little bouncy on uneven but decent pavement.

As for fit and finish, I fit the bike well and had no trouble reaching the forward controls with my short legs (29″ inseam). I was definitely flat-footed at a stop. The Pitbull’s components all fit it well, too. And Big Dog’s paint and finishes were excellent, as always.

In the Stop and Go departments, the brakes worked well and were correct for this weight bike. However, the rear brake made a groaning sound sometimes when I applied it. When I asked Big Dog about this they stated it could have been due to the Florida humidity. Another possibility is that since it was a new bike the rotor may not have been seeded properly.

My favorite part is the Go, and this S&S 117″ mill always fired right off; sometimes needing a little choke on a cool morning. It also had nice power output at all throttle positions. The pipes also were a good match for this engine and provided a nice rumble even though they were EPA-approved. Since the Pitbull is fitted with a BAKER proprietary primary system and six-speed transmission, tranny shifts were much smoother than a stock H-D tranny, as usual. The clutch’s action was nice and smooth with no surprises. Yes, smooth is the correct term for both the clutch and tranny. Even popping the bike into neutral was cake, but I did that as seldom as possible since the Pitbull was a helluva lot of fun to ride.

Maybe I can convince the powers that be at Big Dog to send another one up to me in Connecticut for “extended testing.” But let’s do it next spring. Winters in the Northeast have gotten worse in the last 11 years! AIM

–Chris Maida as published in American Iron Magazine, the world’s best selling Harley magazine.

Big Dog Motorcycles