Harley-Davidson’s big touring Ultra Limited isn’t limited by much at all now with its 107 Milwaukee Eight engine and upgraded suspension.
This has always been one of the most comfortable and powerful touring motorcycles on the market and now it’s even more comfortable and more powerful.
And all this goes to making it an even better tourer.
The bigger capacity 107 cubic inch (1745cc) engine, up from the 103 (1688cc), not only provides more beefy acceleration, but is also cooler on the rider and pillion and quieter.
Borrowing from our own review of the Harley Road King, the Milwaukee Eight is so called because they have gone from the Twin Cam to a quieter single chain-driven camshaft with four lighter valves per head. There’s eight valves in all, hence “Milwaukee Eight”.
Finer internal tolerances and lighter components have made it mechanically quieter which means Harley’s engineers have legally been able to ramp up the volume and bass in the exhaust.
It also means you can hear the stereo on the Ultra Limited even better without fighting against mechanical noise bouncing back off the front fairing at you.
The new Ultra is now a cooler bike to ride because the developers advanced the ignition, dropped the rear header down from exhaust port and moved the catalytic converter rearwards.
I had just tested the Road King which only has a screen and doesn’t have lowers, yet found the Ultra a cooler bike to ride.
While the heat shifted on the Road King from scorching the inside of the thigh to the back and outside of my leg and to the pillion’s ankles, there was no such change in the Ultra.
It’s still a hot beast in slow traffic on a hot summer’s day, but it’s less than the previous model.
There are also no particular “scorching” zones like on the Road King and the pillion says she was quite cool.
There are two reasons the Ultra is cooler.
First, it has twin radiators in the lowers which cool the engine. When you stop, the fans sometimes run on for a while to cool the radiators.
I reckon the other ingredient in making it cooler are two small plastic flanges that sit behind the rear cylinder head and under the seat. They effectively deflect heat out and away from the rider and pillion.
Like the rest of the Touring range, the Milwaukee Eight also gets upgraded suspension.
It now has Showa dual bending valve forks that eliminate the jackhammer effect through the bars on rough roads.
At the rear are new emulsion-technology rear shock absorbers that can be easily adjusted with a single knob.
They also don’t need to be readjusted all the time like the old air shocks that slowly leaked.
Simply set and forget.
Ride is substantially improved as a result even with heavier loads as they have 15 to 30% more pre-load adjustment.
It’s certainly a plush ride with that set-up and the deep-cushioned seats.
I attended the world launch of the new Touring Milwaukee Eight models and found:
The transmission is slicker with neutral easier to find and less “clunk” between changes;
It idles smoother (and a little higher), revs easier and doesn’t feel as asthmatic at high revs;
Seating position is slimmer thanks to a narrower primary and the bevelled air filter; and
Steering feels sharper and more direct.
My impressions on all these points remain the same after a longer ride here in Australia.
It costs $1745 more than last year, but all these improvements combine to make this a great touring bike to munch up long Aussie days in the saddle.
We didn’t get to test the Daymaker headlights at the US launch, but we did on our recent test. They are simply amazing with an even, wide long spread of bright light.
My only complaint is with the instruments … and it almost seems churlish of me to mention it, but here goes.
Riding in Australia requires a constant monitor of the speedo, but the analogue speedo on the Ultra is simply too small and it is difficult to see exactly what speed you are on.
Therefore, you have to hit the home button on the “home” toggle switch on the left handlebar, then flick the right toggle to the right and down two places to “Navigation”, then hit it again for the “Map” which shows your exact speed. Then you can set the cruise control.
But now you have lost the time display!
I suggest the “home” button takes you to an info screen that gives you all the relevant data (speed, time, ambient temperature, etc) in one clear display.
Told you it was a churlish complaint on a bike that is just so damned good!