Getting to the annual HOG Rally is half the fun. This year, a contingent of motorcycle media rode Harley-Davidson Touring bikes from Rockhampton to Cairns on the Bruce Highway over three steamy days.
The Bruce is a long, hot, boring ride, which was only made more exciting by just missing a sink hole that closed the highway near Bowen. But if you want to cure a long, hot boring ride, take a Harley Touring bike, especially the Harley Ultra Limited, with all the “fruit” like I rode.
Long days in the saddle don’t seem so long when you are so well accommodated. The seat is very comfortable, the floorboards generous and the rear air shock is plush, taking all the pothole punishment the Bruce Highway could throw at us. It also soaked up a lot of the bumps that had the other riders out of their seats when we took a more adventurous detour on the Old Marlborough Rd north of Rocky.
The Harley Ultra Limited also cured the heat. The new Touring models were developed in two university wind tunnels, so the engineers concentrated – not just on handling dynamics – but also cooling and warming the rider.
Harley has also introduced partial water-cooling in the Ultra Classic and Limited with the radiations neatly hidden in the fairing lowers. It makes the engine run a little cooler, although it is difficult to feel any real difference.
The hot and juicy climate of North Queensland had me perspiring profusely from the moment I climbed aboard. And for the first half day I was regretting being on the Ultra. Then I started to play with the wing vents under the mirrors and directed cooling air straight at my torso. I also opened the foot vents and the difference was amazing. Even at 70km/h it was quite cool, despite the oppressive heat and humidity.
I learnt the hard way in a brief but heavy tropical shower that I should also close the vents in the rain or the water will be directed on to my shoes and my crotch. I also needed to close the vent under the windscreen.
That vent makes the windscreen one of the best I have experienced. There is almost no buffeting even up to speeds I can’t divulge! It allows wind to rush behind the screen, equalising the pressure in front and behind so there is no turbulence.
It created a quiet and relaxing atmosphere behind the screen so I could listen to the entertainment system. On the Ultra, you get the top sound system with the low-distortion speakers, GPS and touch-screen infotainment system. It certainly takes the boredom out of a highway ride like this.
I was so happy in my little bubble I was singing and dancing almost all the way to Cairns. Unfortunately the guys from HD TV caught some of it on film, so that’s one for Funniest Home Videos!
And at the end of the ride, we detoured up on to the Atherton Tableland to ride the entertainingly twisting and winding Gillies Highway down to Gordonvale. Here the Harley Ultra Limited also showed its other ability to entertain with exceptional handling.
It scraped floorboards, pipes and chassis all the way down the hill in a dazzling display of complete composure that would stun mere mortals. And at the end I wasn’t tired or sore because the Ultra is so nimble and light to steer, despite its bulk.
They truly are the best handling touring cruisers and a cure for long, hot boring rides.
HARLEY-DAVIDSON TOURING TECH SPECS
Prices (rideaway): $38,250 (Ultra Ltd), $37,250 (Ultra Classic), $33,995 (Street Glide), $32,495 (Road King)
Engines: Rubber-mounted, air-cooled 1690cc High Output Twin Cam 103; Twin-Cooled 1690cc High Output Twin Cam 103 (Ultras)
Headlights: Dual halogen or LED Daymaker
Panniers: one-touch latch opening, Tour-Pak topbox with one hand opening (Ultras)
Transmission: 6-Speed Cruise drive with hydraulic clutch (except Road King Classic)
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