Electra Glide Ultra Limited

Twenty-five years ago Costa brought his first Harley – a used 1981 FLHS. Images of long hair and a svelte figure come rushing back, but how does the latest Electra Glide offering compare?


Words: Costa Mouzouris. Pics: Costa Mouzouris

My first Harley was a member of the Electra Glide family, a used 1981 FLHS. Iron-barrelled Shovelhead engine, four-speeds — and it vibrated. Hard. What parts didn’t fall off, cracked. It flexed in the middle through sweepers (normal since it rolled on square-edged Carlisle tires), and it scraped parts so hard in turns I should have charged for making rain grooves in the pavement.

the-bike.jpgCosta’s 1981 Electra Glide had a soft chassis but still holds a soft spot for the boy.

Doesn’t sound very appealing, really, but it didn’t leak (surprising for the day), and one thing that it did have loads of was character. And it got me laid.

Back then those wheeled vibrators oozed sex appeal. You didn’t see one on every corner and for the most part, bad boys rode them. I was 20-something, had a wild head of hair, a Grizzly Adams beard and I cast a svelte shadow.

Twenty-five years later and I’m all cleaned up, retain only remnants of my facial hair — which is turning grey — and middle age has swollen my gut into a beer-keg-like bulge.

The 2010 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Limited has cleaned up too. It no longer quakes, parts don’t fly off, and like me it has gained a few pounds.


Twenty something, hair and two ladies, Happy times.

Okay, like me, it too has lost most of its sex appeal. But fortunately this much-evolved touring rig retains its fair share of character.


The modern Electra Glide traces its roots to the 1983 FLHT, which was based on the rubber-mounted FLT model introduced in 1980 (unlike my FL, which had a rigid-mount chassis dating back to the ’50s). Rubber mounting greatly improved the ride, ridding the bike of the metal-fatiguing, rider-beating shaking, but the bike still had a weak chassis that refused to stay completely put through turns.

The basic chassis design of the FLT-based bike hadn’t changed much until finally a new frame was introduced last year.


Set the cruise control, sit back and enjoy the ride.

This new frame incorporated a revised rubber mounting system that has completely transformed the machine. Where the previous model weaved about, the new bike tracked straight whether leaning or upright, loaded or light. Heck, you can even set the cruise, hop onto the passenger seat and let the machine ride you; it’s that planted.*

* Not recommended unless you’re on a closed course, dressed like the Michelin man and have an Editor ‘Arris certificate of proficiency in steering with your arse cheeks.

Our test bike is the latest 2010 model, and aside from having almost every conceivable touring accessory as standard, it also comes equipped with Harley’s big-bore Twin Cam 103 V-twin.


The Electra Glide Ultra uses the bigger 1,690 cc engine.

The Ultra Limited is the only non-CVO bike in Harley’s line-up (aside from the Tri Glide Trike) to use the larger 1,690 cc engine; all other non-CVO Harley big twins use the 1,584 cc Twin Cam 96, while the CVOs make do with the 110 cu.in. (1,803 cc) engine.

Despite its increased displacement, the Ultra Limited averaged 5.8L/100 km (49 mpg), giving it a 393-km range from its 22.7 litre fuel tank. A power claim is absent from Harley’s literature, but that doesn’t matter when what is published is the 102 lb-ft peak torque (a 10 lb-ft increase over the Twin Cam 96), which arrives at a modest 3,500 rpm.

The Twin Cam 103 has more than enough power to cope with a loaded machine, passenger included. It has a fairly strong run from just off idle and pulls with authority in a very linear manner until its modest 5,400 indicated rpm, though you’ll never need to spin the engine that fast thanks to the low-end torque.


Fatter 180 tire doesn’t affect handling.

Gearing is tall and the engine lugs along at a leisurely 2,500 rpm at an indicated 110 km/h in sixth gear. At that speed the bike is almost completely free of vibration, keeping the rider rather comfy and the mirrors — which offer a nearly unobstructed rear view — crystal clear. Because of the tall gearing, two downshifts were needed to get by slower traffic quickly along single-lane highways.


Despite a fatter 180-series 16-inch rear tire (the older chassis used a 130-series) the bike leans effortlessly and feels rock solid through turns. The new chassis a great improvement over the last generation, allowing neutral steering that’s remarkably light for a machine that tips the scales at a lardy 408 kg (900 lb) wet.

Make no mistake, the bike is a handful to manoeuvre at low speeds, but once moving it is surprisingly light on its feet.


Brembo front brakes are effective but a tad spongy.

Hauling the heavy beast down from speed are Brembo brakes, and though the front brake lever was somewhat spongy, braking was still powerful and the effort required to haul the mass down, moderate.

The rear brake is much improved over the last Harley touring bike I rode with better feedback, though you’ve still got to lift your foot to operate the car-like brake pedal.

Suspension compliance is firm, yet not harsh, and even sharp-edged frost heaves didn’t upset the bike (an amazing difference from 25 years ago — or even two years ago).  Air adjustability in the rear shocks allows for quick compensation for a heavy load.


La-Z-Boy seating keeps arse cheeks happy over the long haul.

La-Z-Boy seating provides a comfy ride throughout the day for both rider and passenger. Seat height is modest at 780 mm (30.7 in.), though the bike is a bit wide at the inseam and I had to stretch to get both feet flat on the ground.

Having ridden the bike late into the riding season, I can attest that the rider is well protected from the elements by the fairing and fairing lowers. The fairing has deflectors that pivot to either divert air away from the rider in cold weather, or provide a cooling blast when it’s hot.

Likewise, there are panels on the inner edges of the fairing lowers that pivot to control airflow. To keep engine heat from baking the rider, Harley has installed rear deflectors, though I can’t say if they’re effective as I tested the bike in single-digit autumnal temperatures.


Fat grips include electric heating (knob incorporated into end of bar).

I was pleased then to find heated grips as standard (easily adjustable via a dial knob on end of handlebar), which worked well to keep digits cosy.

The only hitch in rider comfort is the buffeting that shook my helmet constantly, produced by the upright windshield. It was also tall enough that I had to look through it — I prefer the clear view offered by looking above windshields.

This is one thing that hasn’t improved over the years, but it’s the trade-off for having that classically styled “batwing” fairing, which predates Woodstock.

There are plenty of convenient features that will make long hauls easily bearable.


Radio buttons are easily manipulated with gloved hands.

The Harman/Kardon sound system is easily audible at speeds below 110 km/h without blasting the volume like a teenager in a modded Civic. Of course, that didn’t prevent me from turning up the volume for some classic Cash.

Fortunately, most of the radio buttons are easily manipulated with gloved hands, particularly the on/off button, which I hit as soon as the local “classic rock” station polluted the airwaves with a whining Oasis tune.

Saddlebags are roomy and easily accessible, and there’s probably more storage space in the top case than there is in a Smart car.

Storage pockets in the fairing lowers are conveniently placed and the covers snap on and off easily while riding; I had placed my gloves in there and retrieved them while on the go.


Plenty of storage capacity.

The cruise control works just fine, and because the bike uses a fly-by-wire throttle, the right grip doesn’t move when the cruise accelerates or decelerates, something the older bikes did because of their cable-operated throttles.


I put on a meagre 450 km during my test ride, not really doing justice to the Ultra’s long-distance capability. This is a bike I’d like to load up and take to South Dakota for the annual Sturgis rally.

And I’d ride the 3,000 km with the radio off. I’d listen to the engine’s deep, inviting bellow (without the need for caustic aftermarket pipes) that simply doesn’t get tiring with time, recalling a time when a trip like that was an adventure, not knowing if my bike would make the distance with all its parts intact, and what impressionable young lasses I’d encounter along the way.


Deep sound from standard pipes keeps everyone happy.

The Ultra Limited would make the journey effortlessly and in comfort. These days, however, you’re more likely to pull into a truck stop and park next to a group of middle-aged, potbellied Harley riders trying to recapture their youth, which is about as sexy as a plumber’s hairy butt crack.

The brand has lost most of its sexy aura; back then, women were either completely repulsed by or totally attracted to the badass biker on his Hog. I had a particular liking for women that were so repulsed they couldn’t resist the attraction. Today, they’re just indifferent; you may as well have pulled up on an airhead Boxer.

But at least the bike retains some character, mostly thanks to its air-cooled, 45-degree V-twin — you’ve gotta love a big engine that shakes at idle like it’s positively hypothermic.


Not as smooth as a Gold Wing but with added character.

Harley’s other touring rigs, the Street Glide, the Road Glide and the Electra Glide Classic, all start at a more affordable $22,569, and if you don’t need the extra power of the Limited or the added frills, they might be better choices. But if you add ABS, cruise control, security system, and the bigger engine, as well as other items that are standard on the Ultra, its $29,339 price doesn’t seem like a bad deal.

That’s on the upper end of the luxury-touring scale, though, and almost as much as a Honda Gold Wing, a bike that has become the benchmark of luxury liners: powerful, comfortable and uber-smooth.

One thing you won’t find on the Honda, however, is the aforementioned character, and for many riders, that has no price.


2010 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Limited



1,690 cc

45-degree V-twin, air-cooled

Power (crank – claimed)

Torque (claimed)
102 lb-ft @ 3,500 rpm
22.7 litres
EFI with electronic throttle control

Final drive
Six speed, belt drive



Dual 300  mm discs with four-piston

300 mm disc with four-piston

780 mm (30.7″)

1,613 mm (63.5″)

Wet weight (claimed)
407 kg (901 lb)

Three two-tone schemes and two custom colours

Two years, unlimited mileage




  1. I own a ’09 Electra Glide Classic in sunglo red. 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)

  2. I still can’t get over that picture of Costa from way back when. Now, for you young’ones out there, it’s interesting to know that Costa could ride the Harley like no one on the Mont-Royal Camillien-Houde Racetrack ever saw. Maybe it’s the tinted rosy glasses from yesteryears but I swear I remember following Costa under and over taking a pair of sportbikes through turn one (the right hander after the light on Côte Ste-Catherine) going up hill with sparks flying… Made us all rethink how we rode and what we rode… I’m amazed we are still alive!

  3. I agree with Rui. No, really. This time I do.

    The Motor Company made a huge improvement with the 09 touring platform. Somewhere in the bowels of the CMG archives, there’s a report of the press launch I went on in California where we rode the new bikes through the mountain roads around Sonoma and over to the coast. They really did work well and on the famous road around Lake Berryessa, we basically bullied a bunch of Gold Wing riders to let us by. I bet they were shocked when a gaggle of Electra Glides and Road Kings left them in the dust.

  4. All the “real bikers” on here like to crap on the MoCo, but I’d say in the past few years they’ve really improved the product. Esp. the touring line – ’07 added the 96 motor and a 6 speed, ’08 added brembos and 6 gallon tanks, ’09 with the new frame (albeit with up to 40 extra pounds).

    May not get Costa laid, but it’ll put a smile on your face after a 9 hour day in the saddle.

  5. Teenaged girls ???? WTF!
    We don’t want no stinkin’ teenaged girlz …
    We’re lookin for freekin Cougars !!! Yup ..
    Maybe even a couple of Housewives from New Jursey !!!
    Yah !

  6. If appealing to teenage girls is your quest, my research has shown a bright yellow sport bike will do the trick. The trick is to keep them interested after removing your helmet. As I don’t desire teenage girls, this didn’t pose a problem.
    My point is that I think young ladies taste in bikes, and perhaps men too, has evolved to something sportier that might go the distance with out critical components failing in the middle of a performance situation. :grin

  7. Quote “Today, they’re just indifferent; you may as well have pulled up on an airhead Boxer”.

    Are you sure it’s the bike Costa? :grin

  8. “Back then those wheeled vibrators oozed sex appeal. You didn’t see one on every corner and for the most part, bad boys rode them. I was 20-something, had a wild head of hair, a Grizzly Adams beard and I cast a svelte shadow.

    Twenty-five years later and I’m all cleaned up, retain only remnants of my facial hair — which is turning grey — and middle age has swollen my gut into a beer-keg-like bulge.”

    Coata says it all in his State of the Industry” address. Im only hoping that BB King and Luciel are moaning “The Thrill is Gone” into his one good ear.
    Sad very sad Middle aged dead 🙁

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