Harley Davidson’s Electra Glide Ultra is an incredibly impressive feat of engineering. It’s kinda car, kinda horse carriage, kinda lounge, and kinda, but only kinda, motorcycle.
But it’s too darned comfortable. And that’s a problem. A surprise problem.
I had a plan, you see, to reunite The Pillion with long-distance touring. She rode with me one time across Australia, from Perth to Hobart and back again, on the back of a 1981 Yamaha XV1000, back in the days before Yamaha Harley-ized the XV and named it Virago.
A few years have passed (okay, about 30) and these days The Pillion reckons one hour in the saddle is plenty. And that’s fine. Really it is. Except that some places are more than an hour from home, and it might be nice to get there by bike, right?
Maybe if I could find a way to get The Pillion onto the back of a comfortable bike — a really, really comfortable bike — she might decide that our long-distance touring days aren’t necessarily all behind us, right? And if she liked it, maybe I could see our future with such a machine taking up some space in The Shed. Good plan, eh?
So … I knew a bloke who knew a bloke who might be persuaded to hand over the keys to one of the most comfortable motorcycles ever made.
Enter the Ultra.
With it’s big, strong motor.
And it’s truckload of coolness.
And, most importantly of all, it’s sumptuous back seat.
Now, I’ve always thought The Pillion didn’t like the way I leaned my bike around corners like Casey Stoner (well, kinda). I thought she didn’t like the way her head was buffeted by the wind at highway speed. I thought she didn’t like the way she was squashed in the eight inches or so between my backside and the el-cheapo aftermarket top box behind her. I thought she would love a big comfy seat, all to herself.
I was wrong. And wrong. And wrong and wrong again.
After our first twenty-minute session on a very nice stretch of winding country road, we pulled over for a quick status update.
“So, waddayathink?” I asked.
“It’s comfortable,” she said. “Kinda too comfortable, really.”
“Great.. er … say what?
It’s just like I’m sitting in a car with my helmet on.
“Well, I just can’t see the point,” she continued. “You don’t lean through the corners. I don’t feel any wind. I can’t put my arms around you. It’s not like riding on a motorbike. It’s just like I’m sitting in a car, with my helmet on.”
Right. It seems my future does not include a big tourer. Not yet anyway.
Is there one in yours? Maybe. The big Harley is a brilliant machine. Truly huge, but truly comfortable, powerful and, in it’s own huge, comfortable and powerful way, a hoot to ride.
But it’s no good to me if The Pillion doesn’t like it.
And then there’s the cost.
At near enough to $40,000 it’s priced in car territory. (Although you can pick up a good second-hand one for mid $20k, so don’t buy that old story that Harleys don’t drop in value — you’ll burn a third of your purchase price in the first few years ownership, just like pretty much any other new bike, or car, for that matter.)
And at near enough to 400kg, it weighs about half a small car.
Or to put it another way, one of these huge extravagant beasts weighs — and costs — as much as two (count ’em, that’s two) brand new Honda CBR1000RRs.
Think about this for a moment. Before you wander in to your friendly Harley dealer and plonk down a year’s earnings, consider buying a new CBR for yourself, AND a new Honda 750 Shadow cruiser to share with your favourite pillion, AND a (maybe just slightly used) CRF250X to share with your mates.
But, of course, you won’t have a Harley …