2014 Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited | Road Test Review

2014 Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited-
Familiar but different. Iconic Batwing fairing has been restyled and now has a slipstream vent, the headlight and fog lights are LEDs, and the fairing lowers now conceal twin radiators for the Twin-Cooled High Output Twin Cam 103 engine (filling the space previously occupied by storage compartments).

In the right-here, right-now times we’re living in, much of what we buy is built and sold for the lowest possible price, or it’s made flashy and splashy just to get our attention. But as touring riders, we understand the value of refinement. We place high demands on our motorcycles, and we know that genuine quality is what endures over the long haul. Better design, fewer rough edges, more enjoyment.

That’s what Harley-Davidson’s Project Rushmore, a four-year, customer-driven effort to improve the Motor Company’s lineup, is all about. Product planners, designers and engineers teamed up to identify the changes that customers wanted most; time and effort was invested to make those changes, test them, refine them and gather more customer feedback; and noses stayed against the grindstone until everything was done right.

2014 Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited
Resplendent in custom Daytona Blue metalflake paint, the 2014 Ultra Limited runs stronger and cooler and is more comfortable and enjoyable than its predecessor.

In last month’s Kickstarts, Editor-in-Chief Mark Tuttle gave an overview of the many changes implemented as part of Project Rushmore, everything from reshaped buttons to partial liquid cooling on several models. After riding the Touring models that received the most extensive upgrades, he came away impressed. At the top of the non-CVO heap is the 2014 FLHTK Ultra Limited (Electra Glide has been dropped from the name), a decked-out luxury tourer that has been all but transformed by Project Rushmore.


The hell-hath-frozen-over news for 2014 is the introduction of precision liquid cooling on the Twin-Cooled High Output Twin Cam 103 V-twin that powers the Ultra Limited and Tri Glide Ultra, and the Twin-Cooled Twin Cam 110 that powers the CVO Limited. Increasingly stringent emissions standards, as well as the need for higher and more consistent engine output and better heat management, means that liquid cooling on big twins was inevitable. Harley-Davidson stylists and engineers went to great lengths to conceal the Twin-Cooled system, tucking coolant ducts out of view beneath the fuel tank and cleverly hiding the twin radiators and thermostatically controlled fans inside the fairing lowers.

2014 Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited
2014 Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited

According to Matt Hoffmann, senior project engineer at Harley-Davidson, the percentage of total cooling accounted for by the Twin-Cooled system depends on operating conditions, with liquid cooling providing roughly 25 percent of total cooling at highway speeds and 85 percent of the total at idle. “Combining the effects of air and liquid cooling allows us to optimize the performance of the Twin-Cooled system and still maintain the look, sound and feel of our Twin Cam engine,” said Hofffman. And should the Twin-Cooled system spring a leak or the water pump fail, the engine will run with air-cooling alone to reach service under its own power.

Partial liquid cooling allowed a bump in the compression ratio from 9.6:1 to 10.1:1, and along with a new camshaft that optimizes low-end torque and a higher-flow airbox, Harley-Davidson claims a 10.7-percent torque increase over the standard Twin Cam 103. On Jett Tuning’s dyno, our 2014 Ultra Limited test bike belted out 95.0 lb-ft of torque at 3,700 rpm and 79.2 horsepower at 5,200 rpm at the rear wheel—11.5 percent and 16.3 percent higher, respectively, than the standard Twin Cam 103-equipped 2011 Road Glide Ultra (85.2 lb-ft of torque, 68.1 horsepower; Rider, September 2010). Close to the 5,800-rpm redline, the Twin-Cooled High Output 103’s torque and horsepower advantage is even greater, exceeding 20 percent. Near sea level along the California coast, that extra grunt can be felt with every twist of the throttle, and there’s less need to drop a gear for a quick pass or a steep incline. Just as impressive is the dramatic reduction in heat coming off the engine, especially on hot days or when stuck in stop-and-go traffic. Heat from the radiators exits through vents on the trailing edge of the fairing lowers, away from the rider. The Ultra Limited is still equipped with the Engine Idle Temperature Management System (EITMS), which can be used to turn off the rear cylinder fuel injector at idle when engine temperature is high.

Central slipstream vent in the Batwing fairing
Central slipstream vent in the Batwing fairing stays open except when raining and helps reduce helmet buffeting. The vent plus the more aerodynamic shape of the fairing allowed the windscreen to be made shorter for better visibility.

Though more powerful and cooler running, the Twin-Cooled 103 has the same dimensions and architecture as before, with pushrods actuating two overhead valves per cylinder and hydraulic, self-adjusting lifters. The rubber-mounted motor shakes at idle and smoothes out under throttle, with motive force sent through a 6-speed overdrive transmission and belt final drive. Helical-cut gears and a heel-toe shifter make gear changes a quiet, easy affair. Replacing the cable-actuated clutch is a new hydraulic clutch that needs less maintenance, provides more consistent engagement and requires no additional effort, even though stronger clutch springs are used. The non-adjustable clutch lever still requires a firm pull, and I wish the gear position indicator didn’t go blank when the clutch is pulled in. The 6-gallon tank requires premium fuel, and during our 1,000-mile test we averaged 40.9 mpg.

Twin-Cooled system in Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited
In the Twin-Cooled system, an electric pump circulates coolant up and over the top of the engine, into the cylinder heads and around the exhaust valves, back over the engine and down, into one radiator and then the other. Everything is well hidden and it works extremely well.

The Limited’s steel frame and swingarm serve as a strong skeleton to support this 901-pound fully fueled machine, which weighs 16 pounds more than the 2009 Ultra Classic we last tested (Rider, November 2008). With small radiators and just 1.1 quarts of coolant, the Twin-Cooled feature accounts for only part of the weight increase. To better support all that weight, especially with the Batwing fairing bolted to the fork, the stanchions are now 49mm in diameter (up from 43.1mm), the triple clamps are stiffer and the steering stem has larger bearings. The fork has no adjustability, but the rear shocks are air-adjustable. Front and rear damping has been revised and the new Contrast Chrome Impeller cast-aluminum wheels are lighter and stiffer than their predecessors. The end result is more responsive handling and a more comfortable ride.

To increase the margin of safety, the Ultra Limited is equipped with H-D’s new Reflex Linked Brakes with ABS. For optimal low-speed control, the front and rear brakes operate independently below 20-25 mph. At higher speeds, the Reflex system becomes active; when either or both brake controls are used, a proportional control valve sends power to both front and rear brakes as needed. In practice, most riders won’t notice the difference, but they will surely benefit from shorter stopping distances, especially in emergencies. Each of the three 300mm discs are squeezed by 4-piston opposed calipers, and overall braking power is excellent. When the ABS engages there is some kickback at the lever and pedal, but the system operates smoothly without shuddering. The front rotors are now floating and have a more open design to showcase the Impeller wheel.

Ultra Limited Saddlebags
One-Touch latches on the saddlebags allow them to be easily opened and closed with one hand.

On touring motorcycles, comfort is king. Not only is engine heat lower thanks to the Twin-Cooled system, overall airflow around the bike has been improved. First introduced in 1969, the iconic Batwing fairing has been reshaped for a more dynamic, aggressive look and better aerodynamics. A new “splitstream” vent below the windscreen reduces pressure behind the screen and allowed the non-adjustable windscreen to be cut down by 3.25 inches for better visibility. At 65-75 mph, I felt only a small amount of wind at the top of my helmet, and it was quiet enough that I didn’t need to wear earplugs and was able to listen to the sound system clearly at about two-thirds of maximum volume. Extensive wind tunnel testing guided the Batwing redesign, which provides more hand coverage, as well as the shape of the fairing lowers and the new bullet-shaped turn signals. Closable vents in the lowers direct a large amount of air to the rider’s legs, and adjustable wind deflectors below the fairing block or direct air into the cockpit.

Sitting in the plush, deeply dished seat with my feet up on the large, rubber-insulated floorboards is like sitting in the lap of luxury, with plenty of legroom and no strain in my arms or back. My fiancée Carrie, a very discerning passenger, was tickled pink by the wider, longer pillion as well as the more supportive backrest, rating the Ultra Limited as one of the most comfortable motorcycles she’s ever ridden. The passenger armrests have been reshaped and the saddlebag guards and passenger audio controls have been repositioned, all in the name of comfort.

Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited Tour-Pak
The saddlebags and Tour-Pak are more sleek in appearance but have slightly more capacity.
LED lighting on Tour-Pak is new, and the rack is standard.

Other changes enhance comfort on a smaller scale. Reshaped buttons are easier to operate by feel; larger gauges with much wider numbers reduce eyestrain; One-Touch latches simplify opening and closing the Tour-Pak, saddlebags, jukebox media compartment, fuel door and slipstream vent. The restyled Tour-Pak and saddlebags are sleeker in appearance, yet both have slightly more capacity (4.7 cubic feet total), and the Tour-Pak rack and luggage liners are standard.

2014 Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited Tour Pak
The Tour-Pak also has a One-Touch latch, as well as a self-retracting tether. Lined with soft material, it holds a ton of gear and includes a 12V socket, multi-tool and document pouch.

The all-new Harmon Kardon-made Boom! Box 6.5GT infotainment system integrates audio, communications and navigation in a single, easy-to-use module that includes a 6.5-inch color touch screen housed inside the fairing. Four large, well-marked control buttons flank the screen and five-way joysticks on each handlebar switchpod control the system. Next to the touch screen is a compartment with a USB connector and a foam holder for a smartphone or MP3 player. The Boom! Box 6.5GT’s suite of features is too extensive to list here, but it does pretty much everything you could ask of a system like this. I found it easy to use, though there is a learning curve; audio prompts provide guidance when you need it. By pairing my iPhone via Bluetooth and using the optional factory headset ($189.95), I was able to use voice commands to tune the radio, place a phone call and navigate to a particular location. Overall, sound quality from the four-speaker, 25-watts-per-channel system was first-rate.

As part of Project Rushmore, Harley-Davidson’s own marching orders were, “Respect the heritage, but move it forward.” Every change to the Ultra Limited makes it a better motorcycle. Some make it more stylish, such as the character lines on the fairing, saddlebags and Tour-Pak or the low-profile front fender that better shows off the Impeller wheels, but most make it more enjoyable to ride. It runs stronger, cooler and with better airflow. It is more comfortable, easier to operate and has a comprehensive infotainment system. The Daymaker LED headlight and fog lights provide excellent nighttime illumination, and heated grips and cruise control are standard. The total impact of the new Ultra Limited adds up to more than the sum of its many refinements. Bar none, this is one of the best Harley-Davidsons we’ve ever tested.

2014 Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited

2014 Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited
2014 Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited

Base Price: $25,899
Price as Tested: $27,164 (custom color)
Warranty: 2 yrs., unltd. miles
Website: harley-davidson.com

Type: Air/liquid-cooled, transverse 45-degree V-twin
Displacement: 1,690cc (103.1ci)
Bore x Stroke: 98.4 x 111.1mm
Compression Ratio: 10.1:1
Valve Train: OHV, 2 valves per cyl.
Valve Insp. Interval: NA (self-adjusting)
Fuel Delivery: Electronic Sequential Port Fuel Injection
Lubrication System: Dry sump, 4.0-qt. cap.
Transmission: 6-speed, hydraulically actuated wet clutch
Final Drive: Belt

Ignition: Electronic
Charging Output: 650 watts max.
Battery: 12V 28AH

Frame: Mild-steel tubular double cradle w/ two-piece backbone, twin downtubes, bolt-on subframe & steel swingarm
Wheelbase: 64.0 in.
Rake/Trail: 26 degrees/6.7 in.
Seat Height: 29.1 in.
Suspension, Front: 49mm stanchions, no adj., 4.6-in. travel
Rear: Dual shocks, adj. for air pressure, 3.0-in. travel
Brakes, Front: Dual discs w/ opposed 4-piston calipers, fully linked & ABS
Rear: Single disc w/ opposed 4-piston caliper, fully linked & ABS
Wheels, Front: Cast, 3.00 x 17 in.
Rear: Cast, 5.00 x 16 in.
Tires, Front: 130/80-H17
Rear: 180/65-H16
Wet Weight: 901 lbs.
Load Capacity: 459 lbs.
GVWR: 1,360 lbs.

Fuel Capacity: 6.0 gals., last
1.0 gal. warning light on
MPG: 91 PON min. (high/avg/low) 46.6/40.9/37.2
Estimated Range: 246 miles
Indicated RPM at 60 MPH: 2,250

(This article Cool Refinement was published in the December 2013 issue of Rider magazine.)

2014 Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited Engine
New, higher-flow air cleaner, hotter cams and the Twin-Cooled system boost torque and horsepower. Heat from the radiators exits through vents in the fairing lowers.
2014 Harley-Davidson Ultra Limited Gauges
Fewer gauges (4 instead of 6) are larger and easier to read. Color touch screen for the Boom! Box 6.5GT infotainment system is a revelation.


    • purchased a 2015 ultra limited my salesman recommends taking out catalytic converter to reduce heat and improve performance . Any comments

      • Agree with removing the catalytic convertor from the head pipe to reduce heat. I’m looking at replacing my head pipe with a Jackpot ceramic coated head pipe, ceramic coatings also reduce heat. Then I will add an Arlen Ness Stage 1 Super Sucker air cleaner, and remap with Vance & Hines Fuelpak FP3. I like the Fuelpak because it is used to remap but is not mounted on the bike.

  1. Just purchased 2014 Limited rode it for 600 miles and really enjoyed it. Was not running great at purchase was told it needed to break in and that’s what it did motor blew up HD is replacing motor cant wait to get it back.

  2. Bought a 2014 ultra limited in October of 2013 it now has 13200 miles on it almost all on southern / hotter climate roads , it’s been totally dependable I’ve had no problems as of yet , the reflex brake system has been put to the test several times and is quite impressive , the infotainment / navigation 6.5 gt is a little finicky when used with the I phone Bluetooth I’ve noticed that the music from my pandora radio account will not come back on after an incoming phone call interrupts it when not using the helmet plug in connection if I’m wheeling my helmet and have it plugged in it works if not I have to stop and turn the bike off wait a moment and start it back up then it will return to Bluetooth and play pandora radio for me other than that this bike has been an absolute pleasure to ride , even when ridden for over 600 miles in a day !

  3. Bought a new 2010 Ultra Classic in 2010 When the local dealers still had 2009’s and 2008’s unsold for higher. I had one oil leak factory fault. Ottawa dealer wanted $1800.00 to repair the problem, Kingston dealer wanted $1200.00 and watertown NY. wanted $595.00 but the ten hour drive where I got it from would have fixed it free. Soyves NY charged me $259.00 plus tax. 7% and they adjusted everything plus did all the oil’s change too. I have been trouble free four years. Only changed tires. Do I up grade to a 2014 ultra classic that has recalls already? Moisture in the displays and fight for warranty if I want to save $1000.00 or more to shop around. The bugs are out of my 2010. The dealers have to give the same pricing and warranty. I bought a 2008 can-am spyder with extended warranty till 2011 Feb.1 and the Ottawa dealer had the wife’s bike more than she did.$6000.00 I payed for things that warranty should have. BRP in montreal Qc. gave the dealer in Mexico NY. full warranty to repair the lemon. Things I payed for in Ottawa were never done.Still did the same thing,spark plugs fowling,backfiring and stalling. The Trenton dealer took it as a trade $1050.00 on a new 2012 and the only problem she had was the left Fox shock didn’t work. The place in Trenton wanted $519.99 ea for the shock’s and told the wife the warranty ran out even though it was less than 1yr old. I called BRP again..upset the customer rep. said warranty till June,29/ 2016. I took it to Pete’s in Pembroke,four hour round trip. They covered the one shock only under warranty and charged $269.00 plus HST for the 7000 km. oil change.Warranty is only as good as the dealer!

  4. I’m reading this article on 6/28/2014, I found it amusing where at the bottom of the article it indicates it was published about five months in the future…

    “(This article Cool Refinement was published in the December 2014 issue of Rider magazine.)”

    Greg must be working with Jules Verne. 🙂

    • I think you should buy the Victory or an Indian.
      Electric water pump. How long will that last. The change to LED lights was to have power to run the electric fans and water pump. And the first post I read a motor blows up. This is spooky.

      • Rob, this says nothing about the quality. I live with more Maseratis, Lamborghinis and Mercedesses in the neighbourhood than Hollywood can imagine, but every brand has its warranty issues. Changing to LED is not only a wise decision to extend the life time of the light source, to save fuel (every Watt consumed must be generated by the engine with fuel consumption) but as main advantage that is created much more light than conventional light sources in and on vehicles. And don’t misunderstand, your drinking water at home is supplied and your sewage water is is sucked away by electrical pumps, working 24/7. Reliable? I think so. No reason why on a vehicle it should be less reliable. Unless one choose a Chinese brand, of course.

    • If you ride the big miles as I do, and I would think anyone buying the Ultra Limited would, consider the fact that there are Harley dealerships everywhere, and Harley puts travelers to the front of the service line. Those 2 reasons alone are enough reasons for me to tour on a Harley.

  5. I recently test rode the 2014 Ultra Limited and cannot get it out of my mind. My wife rode with me and we both are full grown if ya catch my drift. The bike was flawless Smooth and stable. Remarkably well balanced. The seats were extremely comfortable and there were no bars or plastic rubbing our legs. The speed is deceptive. You don’t feel it like you might think but you notice you’re passing every thing on the road. The infotainment system is amazing and the touchscreen is very convenient. all the controls are easy to use. I have large hands so the over sized buttons are really to my liking. I’ve been riding for nearly 40 yrs. I guarantee you haven’t ridden a Harley like this one. If you love to ride and want that touring/cruiser crossbred feeling you owe it to yourself to test ride the new Ultra Limited. The Rushmore Project is a home run. There will be 1 in my garage in the very near future.

    • Always rode sport tourers before, and there is one of these in my garage now. The bike surprised me at first with how quickly it takes off from stops and how well it corners, and how stable it is in curves. Nothing feels or looks cheap on this bike. It really is about torque and bikes that produce torque at low rpm’s make lower HP, many don’t understand this. I like all the accessories available thru Harley, and that they’ll let you try out seats before buying, and that if you’re traveling, and need service you are given first priority. These are all great things I never knew about Harley until I owned one.

  6. It sounds like the Motor Company got it right again. I’m glad to see they finally came over to water-cooling, albeit partial. I ride a 2012 Ultra (bought in October 2011) that currently has 50,000 worry-free miles. The only repairs were a short in one of the cigarette lighters (30 minute repair, free) and a slipping shifter shaft around 40,000 miles that was covered by a $50 extended warranty deductible, one day repair. The Heatmonster moniker is true, however, and I had the catalytic converters removed and the headers replaced with a Vance & Hines 2-into-1-into-2 exhaust with Screaming Eagle NIghtstick slip-ons. This dramatically reduced the heat and also boosted horsepower and torque by about 10%. Along with a Stage I upgrade, she rides like a dream, and I’ve ridden her in everything from 100+ degree heat to 17 degree weather with snow. Every passenger who’s been on the back for more than 200 miles has been lulled to sleep by the growl and smooth ride. My dealers were great, giving me about $2,000 in upgrades free. The fit and finish is flawless, and people still ask me if the bike is new, 3 years and 50,000 miles later. She cruises well at 75-80, but I don’t like going faster than that in a bike or a car. Acceleration is more than adequate, and pushing the limits of the engine is actually a bit scary when 900 pounds of bike shoots forward like a rocket. I’ve only rolled the throttle completely once or twice, and did not like how fast she shot out. It’s clearly there if you need it, but hopefully you will never need it. The brakes work so well I feel uncomfortable on my wife’s Softail, specifically because the Softail does not have ABS or twin Brenbo discs on the front. I make the Atlanta to Norfolk round trip run regularly on her, even in deep winter, and I don’t think I’d feel that confident and comfortable on any other bike. All in all, a well-designed machine. After reading about Project Rushmore, it seems like the Rushmore project incorporated all the changes I made to the bike’s performance as standard measures in the new bike, and then some. I would still wait 2 years for the bugs to be worked out, especially with the new cooling system, before transitioning. I’ve owned and ridden Kawasaki, BMW, Honda, Suzuki, and Harley-Davidson, and I have to say I am still surprised at how all the major brands continually upgrade their technology. If you are serious about cruising, I don’t think you can go wrong with this bike.

  7. As an inseam-challenged Harley rider, I’ve enjoyed my 2013 Softail Deluxe since the first day. Then I test-rode the 2015 Ultra Limited Low and can’t get it out of my mind. H-D designers really did shorter riders a huge favor with this bike — I felt comfortable on it from the time I left the dealer’s lot until I returned. From my impression, nothing needs to be added or tinkered with on this bike. I had my eyes on a Street Glide Special, but I think the Ultra Limited Low will be my next Harley.

  8. Dan, what you mentioned is often overlooked and underappreciated. For some reasons, there are many “Harley Haters” out there, despite how well the bikes are constructed and how well they run. The fit and finish on these machines is amazing. My chrome looks deep, unblemished, and new years later. I think you can reasonably argue that inline four water cooled engines make more mechanical sense on motorcycles, but they simply do not have the feel of the air cooled V-twins. While all major brands make quality bikes, other than the sound and fit and finish of Harley’s what really differentiates them from the other brands is the service. It is decades ahead of any other manufacturer. You can test ride any model on the floor with the flimsiest waiver I’ve seen in any car or motorcycle dealership. They actually “fit” the bike to you for free, switching components until the bike is truly customized to your exact preference. Every time I switched something on my bike for comfort, I just brought it into any dealership, they switched the part for free. If I liked it, I bought it. If not, they switched it back – again without charge. And I can usually schedule a service within 48 hours, and have the bike back that day. Not to mention that their roadside service is so awesome they will find a hotel for you and pick up you and your bike if you’re in an isolated area. That kind of service is unheard of in the motorcycle community, except for Harley-Davidson. For someone who rides as much as I do, there’s a real value to that. And the number of options for each and every little part is almost endless on these bikes, which is also unique to Harley Davidson. They seem to just “get” bikers. As a full-touring machine rider, Honda lost my business when I could not find a shop willing to let me test ride a “wing”. don’t buy ANY vehicle without a test ride. And Indian lost my business when I enquired about an extended warranty and the salesman asked, “exactly how much are you planning on riding?” What does THAT have to do with anything? It’s more than just the machine. It’s the fit, the styling, the sound, the options, the customization, the customer service, and even the open socialization you get when you ride a hog. I’ve owned all the major brands, but never feel in love with a machine like the two Harleys sitting in my garage. You know, at the end of the day, it’s okay to be a “domestic” brand and still get it right.

  9. As long as the engine does not need replacing the first 1k miles and you don’t mind searching for neutral all day, it’s a winner. Give the Kawasaki Vaquero a shot before you fork over the mortgage though. Just my 2 cents.

    I’ve never had a bike (8 different bikes) that you had to search for neutral almost every stop, unless you like holding in the clutch. I don’t know what kind of problems this could cause later on down the road with hydraulics, but searching for neutral takes some of the pleasure out of the ride. Sort of like not finding park in your car everywhere you go. There’s a lot to like about this bike, but there’s a whole thread on the neutral problem on the HD forum, and from what I can tell, HD is ignoring the problem. If you buy a 2014, you had better take it for a LONG test drive first.

    • I have over 9,000 miles on my 2014 Ultra Limited now, and I can heel shift into neutral first time, every time, and I never had a bike with a heel shifter before this one, so it’s not as if I’ve been doing it for years. Yes, at first it was tough at times, but the transmission breaks in and then it never seems to mis shift, at least mine doesn’t.

  10. Barry,
    I’m sorry you’re having such a hard time with the clutch, but that wears off pretty quickly on Harleys. You are right that they are difficult to get into neutral when brand new, but I find that wears out easily within the first 500-1k miles, and then there’s no problem. In addition, that issue is not isolated to Harleys – it’s a new issue. I had the same problem with the BMW 1600 cc sport tourer that I test rode, as well as my old Kawasaki Voyager 12. New clutches just need to loosen up a bit. There’s a reason all bikes have a 500 mile “shakedown” when new and a 1000 mile tuneup is recommended. That’s regardless of brand. I’m always amazed at how much the original cable loosen up to their full length within the first 1000 miles. On the other hand, even though I still maintain a regular service maintenance schedule on my bikes, I find very little changes occur between or during services after the 25-30k mile mark, when the bike is completely settled in. So the fact that you had trouble finding neutral on a new V-twin bike, made by Harley or anyone else, would not be a reason not to get one in my opinion. Inline 4’s are less troublesome in this area, but since the problem resolves itself with a few miles of riding, I would not let that decide a bike for me.

    • Thanks for your reply William. This is the first Harley I’ve owned, and the first bike I have ever had shifting problems with. There is a whole thread on the Harley forum just on 2014 FLHTK neutral problems, and like I said I have owned 8 bikes (5 Kawasaki, including my favorite the Vaquero, and 3 Big Dogs (worst electronics system ever brought the company down), but never once had problems with shifting to neutral. You never know how much it takes out of the pleasure of riding until you trade in your favorite bike for a Rushmore Project guinea pig Harley. The clutch is hydraulic, can’t be adjusted manually, so what hydraulic problems will crop up later from holding in the clutch at every stop until it goes away. One person is on 7,000 miles and still having the problem. If I had it to do all over again, keep the HOG membership, pins, key chains, t-shirts, and drink holders, and I’ll take my Vaquero with a 200,000 mile life back in a heartbeat. I live near Daytona, and I can tell you first hand Harley didn’t start Project Rushmore for you or me, they are trying to save their asses from going bankrupt. Take away the expensive clothes, and accessories, and they would already be gone. Compare this to Honda and General Motors, it’s the same scenario.

    • I too found “finding neutral” at first a real concern. Even thought about returning it (2014 Ultra Limited) back to the dealer. I really didn’t want to cause this was the sweetest bike I have ever ridden! But, have no problems w/ it after 500-1000 miles were put on to the bike. I owed it to myself to try, and boy am I happy I did. Great bike. Yes, there are a few bugs i.e…infotainment needed software upgrade and the recalls. But HD was happy to fix any and all for free. Also, the liquid cooling just wasn’t sure of either. The motor co, had never put such a thing on any of their bikes for overt 150 yrs, why are we doing it now (was the question in my head). So, that being said: I got a crack in the thermostat housing which leaked a tiny bit at the end of each run. Yes, I was pissed. You know, concerning how many $$$ this machine is. They fixed it under warranty. Thing is, I grew up on dirt bikes, so needless to say I pushed it to the limits. Still very happy w/ “the best street bike I have ever owned!!!!!

  11. I have a Honda ST1300ABS that I finally started using synthetic oil in because I was frequently hitting neutral shifting from first to second, so missed shifts are hardly unique to Harley. I put over 7000 miles on my 2014 Harley Ultra Limited just riding this summer and I’m not having a problem shifting into neutral. My ST1300 also had a hydraulic clutch and I haven’t found that to be a problem area. And Harley is the #1 selling motorcycle in the US, so even without the clothes and accessories they’re in no danger of going bankrupt.

  12. I think everyone’s experience is different, and I try not to label a brand based on my experience with one bike. I’ve also owned Kawasaki, Honda, and Suzuki bikes, and I’ve ridden BMW also. By far the worst bike I owned was a Honda, but I don’t tell people to avoid them, because I realize I just got a bad bike. When people ask me what’s the best bike, I always say the same – it’s the one you love to ride. That being said, if you got 200k miles off your Vaquero, why did you change? I would have stayed with that bike. It’s a beautiful bike. I owned a Kawasaki Voyager 12 and loved it with no problems at all. I only sold it when we started having kids and I promised my wife I’d put the bikes away for a while. I’ve now put 53k on my Ultra in 3 years, including one year I was deployed and couldn’t ride. It runs more smoothly than the day I bought it, and I ride all year around as long as the temperature is 17 degrees Fahrenheit or more. (I find water freezes instantly on the road below that temperature). I did have trouble getting into neutral the first 200 or so miles, but I blew through those miles in about two days. My wife experienced the same thing with her Softail for about 1,000 miles, but has had no other problems. That being said, I don’t buy any bike (or car) in the first year of production, specifically because I’m waiting for the kinks to be worked out. At the end of the day, you have to like the fit, feel, and function of your bike, and the service that’s available and provided. As I’ve stated in multiple forums, I think all of the major motorcycle manufacturers make reliable bikes. The standout differences are few but significant. Water cooled engines will always run more efficiently than air cooled engines, and the inline four configuration is more powerful than a V-Twin of the same displacement. In addition, overhead cams with four valves per cylinder are more efficient than pushrods and a linked single cam with 2 valves per cylinder. All that being said, overhead cam engines are significantly bulkier than those with pushrods, pushrods work fine below 5500 rpm, there is no substitute for the sound and feel of a V-twin engine with a linked cam at the base of the engine. Despite the impressive low-end torque of V-Twin engines, you won’t win races against an inline four with that configuration, but people who buy those bikes aren’t trying to race – they are trying to cruise, and V-twins are excellent for cruising. In addition, I don’t think any company surpasses HD in the quality of its fit and finish, with the possible exception of Indian, which undoubtedly has the best leather in the industry. A five year old Honda or Suzuki or Kawasaki looks its age. But the chrome and aluminum and steel and paint on a Harley are so high quality, they can look new years down the road. Just this week someone asked me if my bike, which has been ridden through rain, snow, hail, and blistering heat for four years, was new. You only get that with a Harley. But you buy what you want. Even knowing the limitations of the V-twin configuration, the engines are still reliable, and the record for the most miles ridden on a motorcycle – over one million – is still held by a Harley in that configuration with no one else even coming close. The real difference between brands, in my estimation, is the extreme number of modifications you can get on a Harley, the fact that the bike is customized and fitted specifically to you, the endless social venues sponsored by both the company and hundreds of other sponsors, and the ubiquitous shops to service the bike rapidly. All of those are unique to H-D. That has value, especially for the frequent rider. Despite the inherent limitations in the V-twin linked cam air cooled configuration, 90% of the bikes I know with over 200k miles on them are Harley in that same configuration, and I’ve seen too many 30-40 year old shovelheads and panheads rumbling down the road to count. So I know they got something right, despite the limitations of such an engine style. Now if they would only make all the bikes twin-cooled with retractable windshields, ABS brakes, and on-the-fly suspension adjustment, then they’d be unstoppable…

    That’s a long way of saying – yeah, you’re right about the clutch thing. But in the big scheme of things, that’s irrelevant in the long run. The good thing is you can always trade your Harley in – there’s an endless market for used Harleys. You have to ask yourself why you changed from the Vaquero, and was it worth it. If not – get another Vaquero! Either way we’ll see you on the road and I’d look forward to riding with you. Most of the guys I ride with don’t ride Harleys – and no one cares. They tease me about the noise in my bike, and I tease them about the lack thereof in theirs. Contrary to popular belief, most Harley riders have owned multiple brands and have nothing against them. We like ’em all – and our hogs. So I’ll join you on the road whatever you’re riding – as long as it’s on two wheels.

  13. Traded the Kawasaki Vaquero in to get a taste of the Harley madness, the excitement, the mystery of owning a piece of American history. As they say, you don’t know what you had until it’s gone. Damn, I miss my Kawasaki Vaquero.
    Harley salesman acted like a 2nd rate used car salesman, squeezing $ out of me, a vet buying a HD on Veteran’s Day. The one day I figured I wouldn’t get screwed. The excitement of buying a HD and my back killing me at the same time impaired my judgement. I paid over MSRP for a 2014 FLHTK Limited basic Gloss black. I have heard it is normal for a new Harley and supply/demand, but I don’t ever remember paying for anything over MSRP, especially a 2014 in winter when the 2015’s were on the floor. I asked for a break since it was Veterans day and he said Golden Corral was giving away free meals to vets. Of all things I was on meds the doctor gave me and they were screwing with my head and I had to go to the E.R. a few days later. I’m man enough to know I fkd up and should have gone home that day, but I also thought Harley salesmen had some class. Trust me, that will never happen again. Yes, the standard reply is “not all salesmen are that way.” It was just bad luck, bad timing, a bad day for me. Live and learn from your mistakes, ride and live to have a good life. Never buy another Harley. Live your way, I’ll live mine.

    • I paid about $1000 over msrp out the door, including tax and licensing for my 2014 Harley Ultra Limited, first service free and 50% off installation of parts up to $300 and no set up or freight fees. Don’t know what part of the country you’re in but in my area no one’s paying above msrp. I had dealers offering $500 off msrp and no set up or freight fees without even asking.

  14. Wow. That was bad. I paid much less than MSRP for my Ultra, and they then threw in $1500 worth of upgrades on top of that with no installation charges. They added that purchase to a store bonus back program that eventually got me another $1,000 in free stuff. I liked that dealer so much (They’re in Fairburn, Georgia) that when I bought a Softail a year later, even though by then I lived in Virginia, I travelled all the way back to Fairburn for the Softail because once again no one could come near to their deal. It really does depend where you buy it.

    • Hi William,

      Did you have to go in person to do the deal or would they do business with you over the phone? Reason I ask is that I am in NJ and in the market for a new Ultra Limited and would be willing to fly down to Georgia to get the bike if they can come up with a great deal like yours.


        • Sorry, guys, the emails was lost in a barrage of junk mail. The dealership is actually in Morrow, Georgia. I recently visited and found that it has new owners! It used to be Clayton County Harley Davidson. It’s now called Thunder Tower West, phone number 770-960-6000. There’s no guarantee that the new owners can cut the same deals as the previous owners, but it’s worth a try. Hope that helps.

      • Try Brains Harley Davidson in Langhorne Pa. They are great to deal with. Ask for Ron Small. Tell him that Ed Begley Jr sent you.

  15. Dan, for some reason some people just want to hate Harley, just like some people like to hate Ford or Chevy. My Ford truck was indestructible, never a peep of a problem in 8 years of ownership, yet I had plenty of friends you wanted to ridicule it for being a Ford (Found On the Road Dead, etc.) Still there are plenty of 50 year old Ford trucks on the road. The same is true for Harley Davidson. As Americans we like to ridicule native brands, but when you go overseas, everyone else recognizes our quality and wants American. I take it in stride. I don’t have to demean another brand of motorcycle to like the one I have. At the end of the day, I’ getting onto the beautiful machine I always dreamed with a crazy smile on my face. And it just keeps getting better, year after year. So I’m not phased by people criticizing Harley Davidson. After all, no Harley owner starts to apologize when people compliment his bike by saying, “yeah, I know it’s not a Honda….”

  16. I was lucky enough to be able to pick up a new Rushmore Ultra Limited as soon as it was launched here in the UK. 7k miles later (including riding in some of the worst weather conditions that have ever hit the UK) I can honestly say that I have never been happier with my choice of ride. I have owned 2 previous Ultras, a few other Hogs and quite a few other makes including a number of Goldwings and BMW tourers over the years. Sure I have had two recalls (clutch adjustment and brake hose re-route) but the bike is otherwise faultless. Compared to the previous model ( and I covered some 50k miles on those) this one is just so much more superior. It handles very well, stops with confidence – very important on the crowded roads here in the UK, and is extremely comfortable. The improvements Harley have made are more than cosmetic, the cooling works, the switchgear and saddlebag levers are well thought out. The sound system is superb and the comfort is top notch. Most impressive for me though is how well the bike handles. I am no slouch when I ride and I often ride out with sports bike owners. I keep up without a problem and that has surprised more than a few of them! Sure teething problems are being ironed out as more are produced but this time, Harley have got it right. Dealer service here in the UK is generally good but it does vary between dealerships. 14 years of owning Harley’s and I have never regretted switching from other makes.

  17. I took early 2013 my 2003 Softail Heritage from Holland (Europe) to Saudi Arabia. From 3 degr. C to 45 degr. C (37F to 113F) and the only thing I did was adding a JAGG oil cooler to the 88B carburator engine. We made in Europe as average over 10,000 miles per year and the half of this distance in Saudi Arabia, with sometimes terrible roads, sand and dust. Compared with other motorbikes here she is still in an excellent condition, gives me and my wife a good comfort on long rides (I personalized her for the long distance already when we bought her). The air cooled engine runs great, never a single misfiring and the behaviour on the road is stabile and reliable. We consider to trade her in for a 2015 Limited, although it is not easy for us to say goodbye to such a reliable machine. But we will get even a better one with the 2015 Limited.

  18. There’s another reason to appreciate these bikes – safety. 5 weeks ago, after riding rode bikes for 26 years without a serious incident, while turning left at an intersection with a turn signal, an SUV ran the light and slammed into the right side of my ultra at such high speed 1/3 of the engine compartment on the SUV was destroyed. The crash bars of the Ultra took the hit so well I had no fractures in my legs. I was, unfortunately thrown from the bike and suffered rib fractures and fractures to both arms from landing on the ground, but I survived what clearly could have been a fatal accident due to my protective gear and the inherent design of the bike. The bike was totaled, but the resale value was phenomenal. I paid $26,000 for the 2012 Ultra in October of 2011 and it had 57,000 miles on it at the time of the accident. My insurance company paid me $22,000 for the loss, and I immediately bought of 2013 Ultra Limited with a Stage one upgrade, top-of-the-line GPS, customized big-bore exhausts, LED lights, and chrome dash trim in mint condition, still under warranty, with only 2,000 miles on it for $19,000. I figured the Ultra saved my life once, I’ll stick with a winner.


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