Harley Davidson – 2009 Multi-Model Press Launch

Steve Bond heads to California to check out their classic tourer – the Electra Glide, the “but I can’t be bothered to put me feet down at stops” Tri Glide and the new V-Rod member, the Muscle.

Words by Steve Bond. All pics by Tom Riles/Kevin Wing unless otherwise stated.

For 2009 Harley have released some new model variants, upgraded the chassis on their touring range and gone all ménage a trios with the new Tri Glide three wheeler.

Steve Bond heads to California to check out their classic tourer – the Electra Glide, the “but I can’t be bothered to put me feet down at stops” Tri Glide and the new V-Rod member, the Muscle.



All tourers get new frames and a reworked chassis.

For 2009, Harley-Davidson’s Touring models are all-new even though at first glance, they appear basically the same as the 08s.

The engineers were given carte blanche with the touring line, with the only caveat that the 96 cubic inch motor and 22.7 liter fuel tank (introduced just last year) were not to be touched. Other than that – have at it boys.

Where the previous frame was just a collection of hand welded steel tubes, all of Harley’s ‘09 touring models – Road Kings, Street Glides, Road Glides and Electra Glides get an all-new frame, which is made from various robotically-welded, forged, stamped and cast pieces.


EITMS keeps the rear cool when idling.

To go with the more rigid frame, the suspension was revised with stiffer spring rates front and rear. The swingarm is longer (adding 10 mm to the wheelbase), as well as stiffer and wider to accommodate a larger 180-section rear tire.

Standard on all Touring models this year is EITMS (Engine Idle Temperature Management System) an engine management system, whereby if the (air-cooled) engine reaches a certain temperature and the vehicle is stopped, the rider has the option to engage a system that shuts off the fuel to the rear cylinder.

With only the front cylinder firing, the rear is basically just blowing air, thereby cooling the cylinder, reducing emanating heat and preventing possible engine damage. Once the throttle is opened, the rear automatically kicks back in.


New 17 inch wheels with four piston Brembos.

In an effort to route more heat away from the rider and passenger’s delicate legs, the rear exhaust header now curves forward before joining the front header in a collector containing the catalytic converter.

Moving the cat from the mufflers to the collector means the two-into-one-into-two exhaust system produces fewer emissions (incoming gases are closer to the exhaust port and therefore hotter) and mufflers can be changed (sigh, as they undoubtedly will be) without affecting emission levels.

Other changes include 17-inch front wheels (except for the Road King Classic which keeps a 16-inch front), air adjustable shocks and revised engine mounts.

I’ll take the Electra Glide


The classic Electra Glide, err … Classic.

For the day’s ride, I had my pick of any 2009 model and chose one that I’ve spent some time with before and, as such would have a good base for comparison – Harley’s workhorse tour-monger, the Electra Glide Classic.

The strong, free-revving 96 cubic inch motor and 6-speed transmission once again proved why it’s the mainstay in Harley’s lineup. With a torque curve flat as Saskatchewan, sixty miles per hour in sixth (roughly 100 km/h as this was a US model) equated to a very relaxed 2,500 rpm

With sixth being a very usable overdrive, the Electra Glide has a lot of legs for serious highway work. And even at a California freeway-legal 75 mph (125 km/h) it was still only spinning 3,000 rpm. (BTW, the ‘08 Road King I had just prior to this press launch averaged 5.3L/ 100km (52 miles per Imperial gallon) and there’s no reason the other models would be much different.)


Bat Wing fairing comes loaded with dis-an-dat dials.

Capacity of the topbox and saddlebags on Electra Glide models is up by five pounds (2 kg) each and the passenger accommodations have been reshaped for milady’s comfort.

Going up the country

Firing up the Electra Glide in the hotel parking lot, I activate the 40-Watt Harmon Kardon stereo and the cockpit is filled with Springsteen’s “Thunder Road.” How appropriate.

Once underway, the suspension feels firm but not harsh – damping is very controlled over the smooth roads and even over the bumps, the Electra Glide’s composure never got rattled.


Bondo is amazed with the ability to handle corners sans sparks.

Initial turn-in is quite easy with very neutral steering. Most motorcycles (even full-dress touring bikes) can handle smooth, broad sweepers but where things unravel is over bumps or during quick left-right-left transitions.

Under those conditions the old model would feel vague and have fits of wallowing and chassis windup but the 09 just carved its way through. I wouldn’t say it’s neurosurgeon-precise when arcing through corners but it holds its line very well under conditions where you’d have trouble keeping the previous model in the same postal code.

The combination of larger wheels, a more rigid chassis and improved suspension have an unexpected and most-welcome benefit of increased ground clearance. Over the entire day of what I’d call fairly aggressive riding, I only scraped the floorboards a couple of times – and that was when there was an unexpected mid-corner bump or dip.

Under the same conditions on the previous model, I would’ve had the boards ground to dust or been off harvesting the undergrowth in no time.

The new chassis responds quite well to something totally foreign to a full-dress touring bike – trailbraking into corners. The twin Brembos up front are well-matched to the weight and capabilities of the Electra Glide with good feel and feedback.


Electra Glide has good weather protection.

On a couple of occasions, when trailbraking into bumpy corners, the ABS sensed that the front wheel was on the verge of losing traction and kicked in, giving me that “crushed eggshell” feel at the lever and reducing braking power. It was a bit disconcerting at first but good to know the system works – you just have to be prepared when that happens.

The riding position was very good; the seat cushy but not mushy (although it still locks me in one place) and the floorboards were far enough back that I could shift my weight around to stay comfy.

Once we got into the higher elevations, a cold fog rolled in and I was looking for the heated grips. Sadly, none were to be found on my California model (standard on Canadian models) but I was thankful for the Electra Glide’s excellent wind and weather protection.

Granted, twisty mountain roads might not be the ideal habitat for a 375 kg full-dress touring motorcycle – even if they’re greatly improved, they’re still not sportbikes. But, for the long-distance rider who’d like to enjoy a bit of sporting once he gets to the Rockies, Harley Davidson’s 09 Touring models are a huge step forward.



Three wheels – will it be enough to keep the Boomers on board?

Harley Davidson has made three-wheelers before – they produced the Servi-Car from the late 1930s until 1973, but most of those were for police and commercial use. So the Tri-Glide can honestly be called the first trike produced by a major manufacturer for public consumption.

Harley figures that the Tri Glide will extend the motorcycle experience to those who may be getting on in years or have physical conditions that might prevent them from balancing and riding a two-wheeler – i.e. aging Baby Boomers who’ve fallen and can’t get up.

Three’s a crowd

The Tri-Glide brings with it OEM design, quality, service and warranty to the three wheeled motorcycle segment. From the back wheels forward, it’s all 2009 Touring platform with slight modifications to specifically handle the unique steering and cornering forces generated by a three-wheeled vehicle.


Tri-Glide is no home-made trike.

The forks are slightly longer, the rake is kicked out to 32 degrees and a steering damper is installed to smooth out negative inputs from road irregularities and cornering forces. A belt drive delivers power to the new rear axle / differential assembly while the rear suspension features dual air-adjustable shocks.

Power is ably provided by the 103 cubic inch (1688cc) Twin Cam engine and six-speed Cruise Drive transmission. An optional electric reverse is available for $1,195, along with all the Ultra Classic options including cruise control, Harman-Kardon stereo, GPS etc.

Wheels are matching seven-spoke cast aluminum units that really add to the factory-built look. The front wheel wears a 16” motorcycle tire, while both rear wheels have square-section automotive P205/65R15 buns. Dual discs up front are lifted directly from the Touring models while a single disc adorns each rear wheel.

Fit and finish is top drawer and the aft section is perfectly colour-matched to the tank and front fender. Each rear fender and the rear bodywork is easily removed for repair or replacement. Together the trunk and topbox combine for 186 liters of storage space with a 36.5kg (80 lbs) totally capacity.

Lean thee not


Anyone for an ice-cream?

Away from a stop in a straight line, the Tri Glide is just like a motorcycle. Clutch, throttle and ease away – even shifting is the same. It’s when you get to a turn that things get all CMG-ish. It ain’t gonna lean, so to go right, push really hard on the left handlebar while pulling the right one towards you. There’s no counter-steering with a trike!

Once in the turn, you need to keep applying pressure or the bars will straighten out. Although steering effort is reasonable  at parking lot speeds and around town, when the speed goes up, so does steering effort. The other controls worked flawlessly and it seemed to accelerate as rapidly as any of the Touring models I rode despite the additional

The Tri Glide will undoubtedly be a hit with Harley’s target demographic – with an added bonus that owners will be eligible for HOG (Harley Owner’s Group) membership with all accompanying social benefits thereof.

For me, when I look in the trunk of a vehicle such as this … I want to see ice cream.



Bondo obliges with a smoke show … and then does a burn out.

“Grab the front brake really hard, bring the revs up to about six grand and dump the clutch.”

Wait a second. Here’s an official representative of a major manufacturer not only permitting me to do a burnout on its brand new motorcycle (an activity normally strictly frowned upon) – I’m getting first-hand instruction!

The drag strip at Infineon Raceway near Sonoma, California seems like the 2009 V-Rod Muscle’s natural habitat. It’s long, low and lean just like a drag bike and the dual “outsider” pipes mimic the muscle-car look.

Dressed in drag

The Muscle comes at you all angles and attitude with gaping, mesh-covered air scoops up front, angular rad shroud, sweeping dual side-pipe exhausts and a chopped and restyled rear end accented by a huge, 240-section rear tire.


Rear end sees the plate on the side to keep it all clean and lardy looking.

To keep it clean the front LED turn signals live in the mirror stalks while a curved, LED stop / turn / taillight is integrated into the rear fender, tucked up under the edge. A side-mounted license plate, first seen on the Rocker and Nightster completes the rear end.

The bike’s low profile is enhanced by the stepped and squared-off “bumstopper” seat, which keeps the rider from sliding off the back of the bike under heavy acceleration.

Power is provided by the strong and smooth DOHC 1250cc V-Rod motor, the only change is slightly remapped EFI to match the free-flow, satin-finish large “Muscle Car” type mufflers sweeping down both sides of the bike.

The protruding exhausts require a fairly wide stance when stopped and I noticed multi-coloured residue left over from many different racing boots and leather pants melted onto the collector – a great way to discourage inappropriate footwear!

Newbie stripper


Engineered for the straight line.

It was my first time on a drag strip and my time steadily dropped until I hit a plateau where every run was 12.2 – 12.3 with terminal speeds of 112 mph. My best run of the day was a 12.134 at 113.8 mph – not bad for a rookie on a brand-new production cruiser with less than 100 miles on the clock.

Matt Hines and Ed Krawiec, (two of Harley’s Pro-Stock factory racers) were present and they were both into the mid-11s – which shows how far a stock Muscle can be flexed.

I was surprised how well the Muscle stood up to the brutality of full-throttle runs at the drag strip all morning. It didn’t overheat or scatter itself on the starting grid; the clutch must be bulletproof as it never grabbed, slipped or chattered and even the stock rear tire looked to have lots of tread left.

Easy does it



Ready for the local main street …

A morning spent on the drag strip meant that I didn’t have much street time, but as you’d expect from a bike geared for the strip, it fell short in some areas. The foot forward controls place a lot of weight on the old tailbone and the kicked out front-end and large rear tire result in fairly slow steering.

This can cause clenched teeth and tightened sphincter when riding quickly on twistier roads, not helped by the lack of ground clearance. I’d recommend that owners flex their Muscles in a leisurely manner through the curves …

However, if you were expecting the phrase, “And then it all went horribly CMG”, you’ll be disappointed. The burnouts and drag strip runs went off without a hitch and were a lot of fun. And I can honestly say it’s the first time I’ve ever Muscled my way into a strip joint (Bah-dum, tisch – Ed).

The Muscle is basically a V Rod dressed up in different, albeit somewhat striking pajamas. Apex strafing? Not the V Rod’s natural habitat. Easy day trips and around town? Perfect. Don’t follow leaders – watch the parking meters.


  Electra Glide Classic
Tri Glide Ultra Classic
V-Rod Muscle

Black $20,919.00,
Colour $21,479.00,
Two Tone $21,929.00
$29,999.00 Black $18,939.00,
Colour $19,279.00

1584 cc 1688 cc 1250 cc

four-stroke twin cam, V-twin, air-cooled four-stroke twin cam, V-twin, air-cooled four-stroke
dohc V-twin, liquid-cooled

(crank – claimed)
n/a n/a 122 hp

92 ft-lbs @3,500 rpm 92 ft-lbs 86 ft-lbs @ 6,500 rpm
22.7 litres

Fuel Injection Fuel Injection Fuel Injection

Final drive
Belt Belt Belt

130/80B17 MT90B16 120/70ZR19

180/65B16 P205/65R15 240/40R18

Twin disc with four-piston caliper Twin disc with four-piston caliper Twin disc with four-piston caliper

Single disc with four-piston caliper Hayes Brake dual-disc rear brake system with integrated park brake Single disc with four-piston caliper

780 mm (30.7 “) n/a 678 mm (26.7 “)

1614 mm (63.5 “) n/a 1702 mm (67.0 “)

375 kg (827.0 lb) n/a 290.3 kg (640.0

Vivid Black;
Pewter Pearl;
Flame Blue Pearl;
Red Hot Sunglo;
Two-Tone Vivid Black/Pewter Pearl; Two-Tone White Gold
Pearl/Pewter Pearl;
Two-Tone Flame Blue Pearl/Pewter Pearl
n/a Vivid Black;
Dark Blue Denim;
Red Hot Sunglo; Brilliant Silver


  1. I own a ’09 Electra Glide Classic with the 96ci engine. It is such an incredible joy to ride that after a long trip, I want to get on and keep riding. When I can’t ride, I go out in the garage just to look at the lustrious sunglo red paint. I’ve found it to be a very high quality ride with lots of torque. Cruising in 6th gear out on the highway is effortless. The lady I wish to impress loves riding on it also (my wife)

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