Harley-Davidson has solved a raft of “first-world problems” with its new Touring range.
It’s not as if they have discovered a cure for cancer or how to feed the poor, but they have solved some very important problems that, for me at least, were deal breakers.
I have loved the big Touring models ever since they introduced the stiffer frame a few years ago.
However, I couldn’t own one because they are hot and have a few fiddly bits and pieces that, to me, are deal breakers.
We have just returned from a long ride through the Colorado Rockies on the international media launch and the verdict is in – I could easily see myself buying one of the new partially water-cooled Twin-Cooled Ultras.
It’s not necessarily because of the styling which is a lot sleeker, the new and more powerful engine, or the handling which is now livelier … Instead it’s little things like the cruise control button, the audio system and rider comfort.
First of all, the cruise control has been moved from the right switchblock to the left. That instantly solves the first-world problem of having to juggle the throttle while trying to set your speed. Now it is so much easier.
Ok, it’s not earth-shattering, but I found the previous set-up a nuisance.
In fact, all the controls have been improved with contoured shapes that give them better feel. They also have a more intuitive layout.
Take for example the controls for the infotainment system. They are now operated by two five-way joystick switches on each switchblock. It might sound complex, but it’s not.
Harley didn’t guess the most convenient switch system, but used eye-tracking cameras on the handlebars to watch riders and determine which controls were easier to use and didn’t require the rider to look away from the road ahead.
There are two Harmon-Kardon systems available with the GT model only available on the Ultra Limited in Australia. It will probably become an option in future years.
G stands for GPS and T for touch which makes its operation easier yet again.
The audio system also has bigger 6.5-inch speakers and lower distortion levels (down for 20% to 1%) so you can now hear everything quite clearly with an open visor, even at speeds up to 180km/h (or so I’m told … ahem).
Another deal-breaking gripe about the previous models was the pannier latches. They required two-handed operation and were basically clumsy.
They have been replaced by a single latch on the inside where the rider can easily get to them one-handed so they can reach in and grab something without having to get off the bike.
Rider seat comfort has also been improved and for someone with a bony rear end like me, it is a deal maker.
The Ultra seat is plush, but also narrower in front, which accommodates shorter riders.
We rode for several hours over the past two days and while I squirmed a bit on the Street Glide and Road King seats, I had no problems in the Ultra.
Pillions should also appreciate the 2-inch wider rear perch which has an extra inch of depth and armrests that are more horizontal and have a grippy surface so your arms don’t slip off. The pannier guard has also been moved back so it doesn’t impose on the pillion’s legs.
But here is the real clincher for me: cockpit temperature.
I have ridden the faired and half-faired Touring models in hot conditions and they are simply intolerable.
Fairings may offer protection from the elements – something we tested in stormy weather – but they also serve to roast the rider.
However, the new lower vents, lower windscreen (yet with less buffeting) and the cooler Twin-Cooled engine available only on the Ultras, makes riding in summer so much more pleasurable.
Harley says the temperature at the heads which are right near your inner thigh are now about 90C cooler.
I haven’t even begun to tell you how much quieter, smoother, more responsive the engine is, let alone how much more dynamic lean angle and steering feeling you get out of the wider forks and retuned suspension … That’s just cream on top after the American icon solved the real first-world issues of rider comfort and convenience!